Saturday 31 October 2020

Graffitti says Government is placing Zammit Tabona’s interests above those of the people

Moviment Graffitti asks whether electoral donations given by the Zammit Tabona family are facilitating their business interests

Following a change in the terms of the call for tender for a hop-on hop-off service, which will be replacing the fast ferry originally planned for Gozo, concerns are arising as to whether the Zammit Tabona family is exerting influence on these calls for tender and other decisions that are being taken in the country.

Among the dealings that are benefitting the owners of Captain Morgan and Fortina, the list includes the private jetty that will forever ruin Balluta Bay and the scandalous process that led to the PA greenlighting this project; a private lido in Sliema; and the proposed construction of a gigantic pier in Kemmuna to provide berthing facilities for the vessels of Captain Morgan.

In the case of the fast ferry, the Government seems to be hell-bent on ignoring the needs of thousands of Gozitans to favour the private interests of the Zammit Tabona family. The latest tender document drops the fast ferry plan and instead requests the provision of a hop-on hop-off service – the kind of ferry service that is offered by Captain Morgan. This would give an exclusive monopoly to Captain Morgan over the maritime transport industry since the tender grants exclusive concession rights to the operator for a 15-year period, whereas the first two tenders only covered a 5-year period. It is estimated that a 15-year concession would amount to a revenue of around €115.5 million for the service operator. However, the hop-on hop-off catamaran service, a service meant for tourists that is being proposed instead of the fast ferry, can never address the mobility challenges faced by Gozitans in the same way as a fast ferry that would have provided a direct and seamless connection between Mġarr and Valletta.

This is not the first time that the Government appeared to bow to the interests of the Zammit Tabona family. A few months ago, the Fortina group was given permission to construct a private jetty in Balluta Bay to operate a hop-on hop-off service for tourists, to the detriment of the public and posing a danger to many bathers.

Another proposed project that will be facilitating the operation of the hop-on hop-off service operated by Captain Morgan is the construction of a 133-metre pier in Kemmuna. This will have a detrimental effect on the Blue Lagoon and its surroundings, and public funds will be used to accommodate the business interests of Captain Morgan. 

A couple of months ago, the Planning Authority also gave the green light to the Fortina Hotel in Sliema to extend its lido facilities over 625sqm through land reclamation. Fortina were also allowed to use public land to develop it for non-touristic purposes following changes in the conditions of the original concession.

The ambitions of the Zammit Tabona family to expand its maritime dominion do not stop here. Captain Morgan was chosen through direct orders to provide three of its vessels to accommodate migrants out at sea. For the provision of this ‘service’, it is estimated that they raked in around €9,000 daily. Last month, Captain Morgan also presented an offer of €45,000 for the leasing of an accommodation vessel to house quarantined migrants out at sea.

As is known in the public domain, the Zammit Tabona family gave donations to the Labour Party in recent times. In light of all this, it is only natural that serious doubts arise about the close ties that the Zammit Tabona family has with the political class, and which are leading to decisions that favour its business interests.

Moviment Graffitti stresses the need that all dealings involving the Zammit Tabona family are thoroughly scrutinised and investigated because people have a right to know the reasons and motivations underlying these decisions. It is totally unacceptable that the people keep being trampled under the weight of the financial and political power of the Zammit Tabona family.

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