PL candidate complaining about rangers is environment minister’s advisor

by 24britishtvApril 3, 2024, 10 a.m. 22
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The 28-year-old Labour MEP election candidate who made headlines last week for her controversial declaration that there are too many rangers trying to protect the environment is Minister Miriam Dalli’s advisor on environmental protection.

Marija Sara Vella Gafà, Labour’s Gudja Mayor, was put on Miriam Dalli’s payroll as her person of trust on environmental matters in 2022.

She is paid some €54,000 for her full-time job, according to her contract obtained by The Shift through a Freedom of Information request.

Apart from a basic wage of €41,000, Vella Gafa is also paid a raft of allowances, including a fully expensed car, an expense allowance, and a €5,000 ‘expertise’ allowance, which raises her income to around €54,000.

Her contract does not clarify Vella Gafa’s ‘expertise’.

Vella Gafa’s job is to advise Dalli “on any duty which may be assigned to her by the minister”, mostly on environmental issues.

Vella Gafa’s controversial statement last week was seen as aimed at attracting the hunters’ vote.

Just a few weeks before the electorate is called to the polling station, the environment advisor posted on social media about the presence of pro-environment rangers in the countryside.

Vella Gafa said the presence of ten voluntary rangers from the Malta Ranger Unit, an NGO, was “exaggerated”.

She declared, “The time has come to find a real and tangible balance between Maltese pastimes and the protection of the environment”.

The PL MEP candidate added that “it is time we were clear what right someone has to enter private property for environmental protection reasons.”

The hunters federation FKNK uses the same line against bird watchers monitoring illegal hunting during the spring season. The government has opened the season annually, despite hunting in that period being in breach of the EU’s Birds Directive.

The environment minister did not answer questions about whether she agreed with her environment advisor’s stand.

Vella Gafa’s comments were immediately rubbished by the Malta Ranger Unit, calling them “misinformation based on rumour”.

The unit said there was no evidence to support Vella Gafa’s allegations, while “on the contrary, there is evidence of severe threats towards rangers”.

In her introduction to the electorate through her social media page, Vella Gafa described herself as a fan of Minister Miriam Dalli, who was her ‘mentor’ in Labour’s LEAD programme to attract new talent in politics.

Vella Gafa comes from a staunch Labour family. Her father, Paul, the former owner of Velprint Ltd, is now also a political appointee serving in Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi’s private secretariat.

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