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Minister takes note of hunger striker

Transport Minister Austin Gatt immediately asked Arriva to speak to hunger striker Emanuel Cini once he announced his protest against the transport reform.

“Once Mr Cini made his intentions public, the minister asked Arriva to speak to him and try to ensure his needs were met. We’re informed by Arriva this contact was made. Meanwhile, like any other suggestion we have received, Mr Cini’s particular complaint is being evaluated between Transport Malta and Arriva,” a spokesman for Dr Gatt said.

Mr Cini, of Cospicua, claims to be on hunger strike, now entering a fifth day, after spending three weeks inside because of his mistrust in the new bus system.

Apart from being HIV positive, Mr Cini also suffers from a rare condition, toxoplasmosis, which has a stroke-like effect. Whereas before he used to catch one bus, the 22, from Cospicua to Marsascala, where he used to take a dip in the sea and go for therapy at Inspire, since the new service rolled out he has not caught a single bus. This is because it now takes three buses to get where he wants, and with reports of bad service abounding he does not want to risk waiting in the July sun.

In an online video he recorded at 6 a.m. yesterday, Mr Cini hinted he would stop at nothing to see Dr Gatt resign.

“If I am taken to hospital against my will and I am unconscious or something of the kind, I refuse any kind of intervention, this is the way it has to be,” Mr Cini said, referring to a document he had signed earlier.

“I want (the Prime Minister) to fire Austin Gatt and that is the final line... let’s wait and see,” he said.

Dr Gatt’s spokesman said that while people had every right to complain or protest, “it is not clear why Mr Cini is choosing to harm his health, which from what we can understand is already fragile even without a hunger strike, to put his message across”.

“It appears Mr Cini is acquainted with the internet and is very articulate. We can’t understand why he has waited for so long to say what he felt on the public transport route he needs to take,” the spokesman said, adding the routes have been public since November 2008.

“Mr Cini can rest assured his message is being heard. There are already routes planned which will help him make his trip in comfort,” Dr Gatt’s spokesman said, adding, however, the ministry understood why Mr Cini might not have been impressed with the service so far.

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