Graffiti: bring out the band - Arnold Cassola

Graffiti: bring out the band - Arnold Cassola

At my time of writing, the video showing an RIU police officer savagely sticking his elbow into a Graffiti activist’s throat and pressing, has made the rounds on the internet and has had over 110,000 views in less than 24 hours.

The video was not nice to watch. It is never nice to watch someone being hit or beaten up, but it becomes particularly unacceptable when this overreaction by a police officer happens at a peaceful demonstration of civil disobedience.

Were the demonstrators being violent? Did they carry dangerous weapons? Were they inciting people to attack the police or other people present? None of this. They were being rowdy. But does being rowdy entail a reaction like that of the “elbow Rambo” police officer? The answer is “absolutely not”.

Police officers deserve the maximum respect because they are there to risk life and limb in order to defend honest citizens. That is why I was there in Valletta together with many others in solidarity with police officer Simon Schembri when he was brutally assaulted and run over.

But when a police officer overreacts in a disproportionate way, such behaviour has to be redressed. So I believe that the Malta Police Association’s disappointment with the Prime Minister’s comments is completely misplaced.

We all watched the video, and it is true that the majority of the policemen there behaved in a decent way. But if the Police Association believes that the methods of “Elbow Rambo” are not excessive force, then I believe we are not on the same wavelength at all.   But let us get to Thursday’s events. Graffiti were there because they were representing all those of us who have had enough of being taken for a ride by politicians and authorities that act as mouthpieces for the government of the day.

The way we, present citizens and residents, as well as future generations, are being robbed and cheated of the enjoyment of our seas, of clean air and of our countryside because of the unsustainable development in all areas, has become simply unbearable. 

So here we are again all being taken for a ride by the politicians who promise that they are going to protect 24 areas in Malta

Do you remember Environment Minister José Herrera’s proposal to schedule Wied Għomor among the public domain areas? Finally someone in authority had realised that this only green lung in the Swieqi, San Ġwann and St. Julian’s area had to be protected and spared from the continuous attacks by developers, intent on monetising what’s left of the valley.

Yet, when the list of sites proposed for public domain status was published, we found out that Wied Għomor had not been included. Consequently, we ended up having various developers proposing new monstrosities for the valley during this year.  An oversight, my foot. 

And what did we discover last week? This newspaper reported that: “More than a year after 24 sites were proposed for public domain status, authorities are still assessing ownership issues and it remains unclear when the sites may be formally granted protection.”

So here we are again all being taken for a ride by the politicians who, in order to keep us quiet and to shut up our continuous verbal protests, promise that they are going to protect 24 areas in Malta, but in reality they don’t for a whole year.

Meanwhile, greedy developers rush in with their proposed projects, trying to make hay while the sun shines while the government has narcotised us for some time. 

Well, Graffiti have rightly decided to have no more of this nonsense. And they have acted on the issue of commercial premises in ODZ, disguised as petrol stations.

In 2014 the petrol station policy was revised to allow these monstrous developments to take up 3,000 metres of ODZ land. Thanks to this trick, mega petrol stations have been approved, also with the full backing of the PN and PL, in Magħtab, Burmarrad, and in Luqa.  The outrage of the normal citizen was so great that Herrera promised (again!) he was amending the law to decrease the size. This was last January.

By May nothing had been done and in the meantime the Planning Authority was going ahead processing the 14 applications according to the old parameters.

It is now September and Herrera’s proposal has in no way seen any progress, while the applications continue coming in.

Well, we have had enough of empty words and of being treated like morons.

Well done Graffiti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent. Keep it up... and bring on the music.

Arnold Cassola is former Alternattiva Demokratika chairman and former secretary general of the European Green Party.

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