Once again Loulé’s fiscal and administrative court has won the day for battling Ria Formosa islanders – forbidding government-backed environmental agency Polis Litoral from flying in the face of 137 embargos and “taking possession” of island homes.
It was a decision that has bought precious time for the scores of families desperate to save their properties from Polis’ “rage for demolition”.
In fact, Polis president Sebastião Teixeira tried to get onto the island around midday, and the throng of angry islanders facing him and his companions made them turn round and take the boat they had arrived in straight back to the mainland.
“They did not set foot on the island! We stood firm and they had to respect the decision of the court,” leading campaigner Vanessa Morgado told us.
The court’s ruling came through shortly after Polis embarked at the Farol nucleus of Culatra island.
According to Sulinformação, Maritime Police were “notified” to block Polis’ “administrative acts”.
Even though the agency had presented a “fundamental resolution” arguing the case to move forwards with its controversial programme of demolitions, there were still “legal steps” that needed to be dealt with.
It was another major victory for islanders, but as they have said all along, the war will continue until Polis’ programme has been scrapped once and for all – something two of the borough councils with minority shareholding in the agency are keen to see.
Polis now has “10 days to contest” the ruling and “15 days to present its fundamental resolution”, writes Sulinformação.
Meantime, the pressure by islanders to save their homes continues.
“This time it was our turn to humiliate Polis and avenge all those people who have already lost their homes,” Vanessa Morgado told us.
Battling islanders have this far waged a number of high-profile demonstrations and protests.
They have both the Mayor of Olhão and Mayor of Faro on their side, and indeed the former, António Pina – himself with a property on the island – is going against his political party (PSD) to fight the islanders’ cause.
“This has nothing to do with the fact that I have a house here,” he told reporters on Saturday during the largest ‘protest’ that islanders have managed so far: a kilometre-long human chain, running the length of the quayside, and involving over 1,000 people – all holding the symbolic carnation, signifying “freedom” from dictatorship.
As we pointed out earlier today before the court’s decision restored calm to Farol, the government’s biggest “mistake” in this whole agonising process has been that it failed to understand the people it was taking on “in the spurious name of the environment”.
Island association president Sylvia Padinha explained when the Resident started reporting on this crisis, “We, the people, are part of the environment. We have been here for two centuries…”
They are also people who know what it is to fight for livelihoods. As fishermen, and families of fishermen, lives are at risk every time a boat sets out to sea.
Hardened by elements, the wrath of politicians is something these people are ready for.