The Lands Authority is investigating the situation at Fort Bingemma, which has been illegally occupied by a family since 2009.
The Malta Independent recently reported about the squatters’ hold on the fort. The fort was built by the British in 1878 as part of the Victoria Lines fortifications to protect the North of Malta from a land invasion. In 1981, shortly before a general election, the Labour government at the time leased the property to Gaetano Buttigieg, who would go on to use the fort to rear cows and subsequently construct a private residence for his family in the fort. The lease of the Buttigieg family was set to expire in 1997 but was renewed on an annual basis by the Labour government, and then also by the successive Nationalist government until 2009, when it was finally terminated.
Although multiple government entities have asked for the fort to be vacated in order to be restored as part of the Maltese national heritage, the Buttigieg family has refused to budge.
The Malta Independent sent questions to the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage as well as to the Lands Authority.
“The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is the regulator of Cultural Heritage. Use and management of the property do not fall within its remit, but within the remit of the Lands Authority” the superintendence wrote in response questions as to why people are still occupying the fort.
The Lands Authority, on the other hand, simply stated that, “the case in question is currently being investigated by the Internal Audit and Investigations Directorate within the Lands Authority”.
With this being said, the hands of the Superintendent are tied since the fort has to be vacated before any assessment can be carried out. The relevant authority which has the right to vacate the squatters is the Land Authority.
When asked as to why it has not yet evicted the Buttigieg family 12 years after they started squatting the fort, the Lands Authority failed to give an answer.
Once the fort would be vacated, the Superintendent for Cultural Heritage said that, “we will be willing to provide any required assistance to the relevant authorities to rectify the situation”