The president of Polis Ria Formosa, ‘demolition man’ Sebastião Teixeira, signed and demolition notices to 81 properties on the island of Culatra without informing his boss, environment minister João Matos Fernandes.
The Communist Party's Paulo Sá says Sebastião Teixeira must be dismissed, a view shared by many ‘close to the issue’ of these pernicious island clearances.
The Minister of the Environment did not know that noitices had been sent out when questioned posed by MP Paulo Sá this Tuesday.
Teixeira now has admitted that he had not informed the minister even though the demolition notices seem deliberately timed to arrive the day before the islanders went to Lisbon to plead their case in front of a cross-party group of MPs in the Committee of Inquiry.
“The minister was not informed,” admitted Sebastião Teixeira.
João Matos Fernandes was accused on Thursday of having lied to Parliament because, two days before, he had said to Paulo Sá, "I have no final answer to give you (about the demolitions)… I can not, at any time, tell you that there will be no demolitions on the barrier islands, because objectively there are homes that are at risk and the government can not pretend not to know. We have no destructive intent. We have nothing against anyone. We are examining the processes case by case."
The minister's words gave some relief to islanders in this tense period but the next day the eviction noticed arrived, embarrassing the minister and again showing Polis’ Sebasitão Teixeira to be devious and spiteful when the government is trying to fin politcial and practical solutions, however nonsensical these may be.
Teixeira must go
Paulo Sá later called for the resignation of Sebastiáo Teixeira as he acted on his own without informing the minister, "If it is confirmed that the head of the Polis acted in absentia of the government, then the minister must draw the appropriate consequences."
"On Monday, we had an indication that Polis might resume the demolition process," explains Paulo Sá, "We took this to the Minister of the Environment to ask him clearly and directly about the state of play. Matos Fernandes said he did not have a finished answer and that everything was undecided.”
"I have no doubt that the Minister replied that nothing was decided and I have no doubt that, in the Algarve, on the same day, the board of Polis met and agreed to send out demolition notices,” says the Communist MP, who has seen the minutes of the Polis board meeting.
This situation for the Ria Formosa islanders has descended into a farce with Polis led by an out-of-control president determined to knock down a further 800 houses on a variety of pretexts still with zero physical provision for the accommodation of those whose homes he is determined to eradicate.
The minister was caught in the headlights when questioned by MPs as to his intentions for the Ria Formosa islands, the islanders travelled to Lisbon to appeal to a cross-party committee of MPs for some sense to prevail on the day after the demolition notices were sent out, the government offered bribes to the villagers of Culatra of infrastructure money while hammering neighbouring Farol with demolition notices – the list is a long one and shows there has been a total break down of communication, management and trust.
Fishing families move to new camp near airport
The minister, during this critical week, has announced that demolitions will go ahead on a one-by-one basis, each being carefully considered and any displaced fishing families can go to new housing at the camp site on Faro island and to an onshore plot of land near the airport, ‘specially bought’ by Polis at a cost of €3 million where houses will be build to accommodate displaced fishermen.
None of this is necessary nor will it ever leave the drawing board. The councils are not going to house hundreds of fishing families onshore nor will new housing be built for those whose properties are to be knocked down at the end of October.
Faro council's rehousing track record has been to give three month's temporary accommodation to a fisheman whose house had been flattened, after which he was obliged to pay his own rent whereas before, in his island home, he had no rent to pay. The result: the man now has had to be moved to a nursing home, broken, dispirited and depressed.
Being tricked and upstaged by Sebastiãon Teixeira at Polis gives the Environment Minister a good opportunity to sack him. If the minister wants ever to be respected in the Algarve, this is a good way to start.
But these island homes remain threatened and the minister’s unworkable plan for re-housing those that do not wish to be re-housed is doomed from the start.
Then, Faro council’s mayor stepped into the political maelstrom, bleating that demolitions on the Ria Formosa islands were decided by the Minister without listening to what the mayors had to say.
Rogério Bacalhau, mayor of Faro said that the decision was announced by the Government that demolitions would go ahead before the end of October without consulting the mayors of the region.
"The Environment Minister had said he would not take any position without first hearing the mayors," said Bacalhau, adding that he was called to a meeting at the Ministry of Environment on Monday, "allegedly for dialogue," but was shocked to find that "a decision already had been made.”
No solution or sensible way forward
Politicians generally are not practical people yet a practical solution is needed at this long-running, damaging and poisonous farce that involves little less than persecution of a doughty minority by a State that has not listened, has acted with cruelty and arrogance and still fails to find solutions that most agree could have been worked out on the back of a fag packet.
The prime minister needs to get a grip on this long-running distraction, install some good sense and make some irrevocable decisions agreed by all of those concerned. Only then can tourism, fishing, social development and environmental protection walk hand in hand.
If there really is a master plan to lease the islands to tourism companies so that high-class accommodation and infrastructure can be built, then the government should say so, as many of the islanders have said that they are not averse to having more tourists as there is space for everyone.
Lies breed suspicion and persecution breeds violence - this is the situation in the Algarve as at September 30, 2017 with those in government and at Polis Ria Formosa proving themselves wholly unsuited to be in charge of this sort of operation.
On Thursday 29, September, Algarve Left Bloc MP João Vasconcelos spoke in parliament about the demolitions on the Ria Formosa islands, noting the need for a" balance that reconciles environmental protection with the rights of local residents."
How hard is that to achieve?