Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday issued a strong warning that as long the government has the backing of parliament, he “is bound to govern to the very last day of this legislature”, which ends next spring. He added that he has managed to lead the country so far despite all the hurdles he had to overcome.
Nevertheless, he stressed that “the election date will only be announced when the national interest dictates so” while taking a dig at the PL for having wrongly forecast such date on 23 different occasions since 2008. “In reality, the PL has been left utterly disappointed as this legislature is drawing to a close and the PN is still in power,” he remarked.
Dr Gonzi made this declaration in his address during the traditional PN mass meeting on the Granaries in Floriana marking the end of the PN’s Independence festivities. As expected, with the election looming, the event was attended by a sizeable crowd eager to rehearse for the electoral campaign, which at most is only months away.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister recounted the events of 1964 when Malta was granted Independence. He said that looking back, Malta has heeded the advice of former Prime Minister Ġorġ Borg Olivier and successfully rose to the challenges ahead. Dr Gonzi emphasised that the PN is the only catalyst of change in Malta, highlighting the role which the party played not only 48 years ago but also in 2004 with EU accession. In his address, he saluted former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, vowing to build the future of this country on his achievements.
He emphasised that the “PN was always on the right side of history” while accusing the PL of purposely ignoring the commemoration of Independence. He said that it is a privilege to lead the PN which was repeatedly trusted by the electorate to lead the country and be the protagonist of change. The Prime Minister stressed that the party has its roots in the values which have guided the country over the years.
He said that the PN has always placed the individual at the centre of its decisions even if this warranted sacrifices to defend democracy, free expression and justice. Dr Gonzi said that the party was always at the forefront to promote solidarity, referring also to Malta’s humanitarian role in the Libyan crisis in 2011.
“It was the PN which decentralised power in this country with the creation of the local councils and through the principle of dialogue rather than imposition,” stressed the PN leader. The Prime Minister made his point by referring to past slogans which have characterised the PN’s policies since 1987, saying that he is not ashamed of defending traditional values.
On the other hand, he questioned the credentials of Dr Muscat to lead the country as long as he keeps his principles close to his chest. He said that we should be wary of those who are already showing signs of abandoning such values. Dr Gonzi criticised Dr Muscat for promising to create jobs “by simply asking people to raise their hands to approve such promise” as had happened in the party congress.
The Prime Minister warned that he “will not allow the country to be led by someone who does not respect the values which have guided this country”. He lashed out at the PL for trying to re-write history to hide its shameful past.
Dr Gonzi acknowledged that his government had to face challenges from abroad and also within. He referred to the Libyan crisis stressing that Malta did not falter throughout this period in sharp contrast with the PL who was always the agent of gloom and doom. He recounted how the opposition leader had suggested following Cyprus as an economic model, which eventually collapsed.
Dr Gonzi warned that if the country gets its economic decisions wrong, “we might end up begging at the EU doorstep while having no other option rather than imposing strict austerity measures”.
The Prime Minister said the electorate can judge the government on its track record including the creation of 20,000 jobs since 2008. He urged those who had their job in the balance in the midst of the economic crisis but managed to keep it following the government’s aid to the manufacturing sector, to keep this in mind. Dr Gonzi referred also to the 44,000 operations at Mater Dei in the last year and to the advances in IT. He remarked that if Malta was able to deliver amid these challenges it has the potential to do much better, when things are plain sailing. In his address the Prime Minister also referred to the recent endorsements by the credit agencies and the World Health Organisation (WHO) witness the government’s positive track record.
Dr Gonzi said that exciting times lie ahead, expressing his full confidence that the Maltese will grasp the opportunities. However he said that for this to happen, hard work is a must. The Prime Minister said that his vision is for a more united Europe able to overcome the economic turmoil, thus creating more wealth and jobs in Malta.
He stressed that the PN was always consistent in its vision about Europe, unlike the PL’s slogan of “Switzerland in the Mediterranean”. Dr Gonzi said that eight years down the line everyone we are able to testify that the decision to join the EU was really intended “for us, for our children and for our country” as the PN slogan has stated.
He said that the forthcoming electoral campaign, will serve to clear the ideas about the decision to choose the party best suited to lead the country for the next five years. He said that the PN will present itself proudly having reached its targets and with a clear vision. Dr Gonzi said that there are more changes ahead, referring to the modernisation of the country, and channelling more investment for the IT sector.
Dr Gonzi said that this entails the best schools and educational setup. He said that more incentives are needed to support the self-employed and the agricultural sector. He remarked that Gozo and its accessibility will remain central to the government’s plans promising that if the underground tunnel linking the sister island to Malta is feasible, the government will implement this project.
In his concluding remarks the PN leader saluted Herbert Messina Ferrante and Michael Refalo saying that “right now they need encouragement” without actually going into details. Dr Gonzi said the PN was adjourning itself even through its candidates “who are committed to be loyal and ethical” in what can be interpreted as a message directed to rebel backbencher Franco Debono.
“When decision time comes around I trust that you will be able to chose that party which was always on the right side of history, the agent of change and the one having the right priorities for you and your country” stress the Prime Minister in front of a jubilant crowd.
In his address PN Secretary General Paul Borg Olivier said that in two years time the country will be marking half a century from its independence and ten years since EU accession. He said that the time for decision is now drawing near, highlighting the fact the PN led administration overcame the challenges. Dr Borg Olivier harped on the ’20,000’ jobs mantra and the low unemployment rate.
He warned that with Labour at helm the country would find itself in serious trouble. He also levelled criticism to several veteran Labour MPs “who have been around in the political scene since the Mintoff led government”. Dr Borg Olivier accused the Labour leader for his “lack of concrete proposals” which he claimed was also evident during the party congress. Borrowing the phrase from the party billboard the PN secretary general warned that “Labour won’t work” adding that a PL government would be a throwback to 30 years ago. He remarked that rather than having workers resorting to the streets to vent their frustration for losing their jobs, “we had a Prime Minister who visited employees at their own place of work”.
As for the election date he remarked that “it is only the Prime Minister who takes the decision and nobody else” warning that voters will have to shoulder their responsibility for their decision for the next five years. In his concluding remarks he urged the crowd to be the “ambassadors for the party”.
The mass meeting commence with a rather curious incident when for some reason the presentation of the PN candidates was accompanied with the song ‘Without you’ by David Guetta which has been adopted by the PL as its official soundtrack for several months. As soon as the first notes of the song were played a lot of blank faces could be seen among the crowd who were clearly baffled by what was going on. However as soon as the Prime Minister appeared on stage this incident was soon forgotten.