Representatives from SOS Ria Formosa, the pressure group opposing the demolition of houses on the Algarve’s barrier islands, yesterday (Wednesday, January 20th) delivered its petition to Parliament asking that the Socialist and left wing parties stick to their promises and halt the destruction of island homes.
Islander José Lezinho said that there had been personal assurances from the parties that the demolitions would be halted and that he had gone to Lisbon to make sure those promises would be fulfilled.
The representatives were welcomed by the vice-president of the Assembly, José de Matos Correia, who received the 4,300 signature petition asking for 'the suspension of demolitions' and for a study to be carried out, 'because the land use plan was poorly drawn up and was done without the involvement of associations and councils.'
The pressure group was boosted on the eve of the visit to Lisbon by the welcome news that its petition had been accepted by the European Parliament's Petitions Committee.
This put the islanders' struggle for justice into a European framework, one that the Portuguese government will find hard to ignore should the European Parliament decide the islanders have every right to live on their islands without further thereat of eviction.
The island residents, with the help of Olhão mayor António Pina, managed to stop further demolitions when a protective order was issued by Loulé court due to evidence of a rare island chameleon conveniently living in the island greenery.
Then, the government changed from a hard line coalition to a socialist one, but still there has been no scrapping of the demolition plan, a situation made more worrying by the extension of the time allowed for the company Polis Litoral Ria Formosa to complete its overdue list of works in the lagoon area.
These works include finishing off the demolitions even though the politicians say this is low down the company's list of priorities.
The initial ‘renaturation’ plan involved the demolition of 800 buildings on the islands but SOS Ria Formosa activist Vanessa Morgado said, "it’s not the houses that cause pollution in the estuary," referring to the output of sewage into the water and the silting up of the lagoon.
The protestors said there now is enough openness, on the part of the left-of-centre political parties that support the government, to start a full analysis of the situation on the islands and to raise awareness among government decision-makers so that a different and equitable solution can be reached.
The demolition threat, that has grabbed national headlines as well as being publicised by local Algarve media, will again be discussed in Parliament but this time with left wing party support and the background threat of the European Parliament finding in favour of the islanders' right of abode.
But when will the Portuguese leadership at all levels start doing what is right - because it is right? Not always factoring in - "What is in it for me and my mates?" Are we to wait years .... or decades ahead?