Battling Ria Formosa islanders take their struggle (back) to parliament

Ria Formosa islanders desperate to save their homes from demolition will be travelling all the way to parliament tomorrow (Wednesday) – certain of the fact that this time they will not be evicted from the public galleries.

Back in April last year, former parliamentary leader Assunção Esteves ordered the islanders’ removal from a rowdy debate on the future of their homes, saying with palpable fury: “This is parliament, not the streets.”

But this time the group has a confirmed meeting with the current vice parliamentary leader José Matos Correia.

They will be presenting him with a second petition aimed at securing government assurances that this new administration will not be going all out to destroy their way of life.

Explained one of the leading campaigners, Vanessa Morgado: “Before the elections, all the parties not in power at the time assured us they were on our side.

“We’re going back to parliament to make sure they stick to their words.

“The PCP and BE have stayed true to their support for our cause, but so far we have heard nothing from the PS now that they are in control. Until we do, we are not safe – and thus our struggle continues.”

The plan tomorrow is to present Correia with the 4,300-strong petition, reiterating public opposition to the former government’s demolition plan powered by environmental agency Polis Litoral.

The latter’s reasoning for the demolitions centred on the contention that the islands “should be enjoyed by all, not by a few”, and that the homes that have stood for generations are “illegal”.

Following the delivery of this latest petition, islanders hope to meet with all parliamentary groups.

“It will be a big day,” said Vanessa. “But we have to do this. Our futures depend on removing the threat hanging over the islands.”

A press conference is due to go ahead in the parliamentary assembly shortly after 1pm.

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