From the Sunday Times of 11th July 2010
Armier squatters have had it 'obscenely good for far too long'
Rampant abusive land seizures must be terminated, four environmental NGOs said yesterday, as they voiced objections to the Armier squatters' demands.
Public land being offered to the developers was worth millions of euros, the Ramblers' Association, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth and Nature Trust said in a statement.
"Their ferocity in bargaining, their electoral arm-twisting, and their initiative in organising themselves is better understood when the millions of real estate value at stake on this public land is revealed," the NGOs said referring to the Armier boathouse owners.
"The Armier tract of land is thought to be much larger in size than that of the White Rocks project, and is also seafront public real estate. Worth millions of euros, it is about to be written off for a pittance due to political blackmail."
In addition to the illegal shacks, caravaners were now "insolently" demanding alternative sites in locations convenient to them in order to move off the land they illegally occupy, the statement said.
"It beggars belief that the leaders of Malta's main political parties should pander to land-grabbers by offering them property that rightfully belongs to the nation. Such an agreement would legitimise these squatters' claim to the value of the land they have squatted on. This property is already being speculated and will continue to be bartered for clean and legal real estate."
The NGOs referred to the squatters' claims that they have paid €93,000 in expenses, which works out to €4,650 per year for a minimum of 20 years of illegal possession. Divided between some 800 illegal households, this was less than €5.81 per year, the NGOs said.
"If that is not theft, we don't know what is. Not only have the squatters had it obscenely good enough for far too long but they have made outrageous claims also for the future."
Presented in 2004, the applications submitted by Armier Developments, the squatters' company, proposes the development of 1,589 rooms, five playing fields and a bowls pitch, a mini market, three restaurants, a two-storey garage, three community centres and a clinic in an area spanning Ramlet il-Qortin, Ta' Maċċa u l-Armier, the Barriera tal-Aħrax quarry, Little Armier and the Torri l-Abjad zone.
The NGOs added that the Malta Environment and Planning Authority chairman had now said part of the development proposed was unacceptable because of environmental, agricultural and land ownership issues. However, no refusal of the squatters' basic claims was forthcoming from either political party in Parliament or Mepa.
"The abuse of partisan politics, the clear source of these illegalities, is corroding the public's faith in Maltese politicians' ability to embrace the 21st century and rise above vote-catching tactics to build a political career built on sound ideology and practice," the NGOs said.