The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

‘If clientelism continues to win over meritocracy we won’t enjoy fullness of democracy’ - President

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 13 December 2018, 10:44 Last update: about 7 months ago

If clientelism continues to triumph over meritocracy, then we will not be enjoying the fullness of our democracy and the safeguarding of our human dignity, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said today.

The President delivered her final speech on the occasion of Republic Day, given that her term ends in 2019.

She said that during this year of the Republic, "we have the opportunity to review and evaluate whether, as a nation, we are sufficiently informed and educated about these rights."

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"Fundamental Human Rights represent the foundations, upon which the fullness democracy and peace are built. Indeed, these are the strongest roots of our Republican Constitution. I believe that the Universal Declaration, alongside our Constitution, must always be the cornerstone of the ways in which we live together, and how we treat one another."

"We must insist that the rights of visitors and newcomers to our islands, including migrants, must be upheld in their fullness, without complacency or favouritism. The effective observance of human rights can only take place when democracy is also respected in its totality, because this is what guarantees equitable access to the sources of dignity in society."

Republic Day salute from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

She said that the various statements by the political leaders and the measures that they have taken over the years, alongside their assurances of further measures, are all an indication that Malta is committed to address social injustices.

"Such injustices are delaying our efforts, towards the fullness of democracy."

"If a single child leaves school without learning basic skills; If one person waits an unacceptable number of years to receive justice; If one worker is subjected to precarious work; If a single person must wait to access dignified housing; If one family is not lifted out of relative or absolute poverty; If one person is a victim of human trafficking; If one woman is being exploited and subjected to violence; If a single woman is discriminated against, in terms of the difference in wages earned by men and women; If the representation of women in Parliament remains minimal; If clientelism continues to triumph over meritocracy; If these injustices persist; then we will not be enjoying the fullness of our democracy and the safeguarding of our human dignity."

"Furthermore, no economy can celebrate human dignity, unless the needs of the most vulnerable are kept at the heart of its operations. For this reason, the vulnerable must receive all the support that they need. An economy that truly upholds human dignity is one which ensures that nobody is pushed to the peripheries of our society."

'The people of Malta deserve to have principled individuals in public life'

Turning to the establishment of the Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life she said that all people in public life should be ethical individuals and a good example to our people, while also promoting the good name of our country. "When this is not the case, a great deal of damage is done to the reputation of the Maltese, and our country. Without pointing a finger at anybody, I believe that we need to examine our conscience and to ensure that everyone who enters public life understands their responsibility, to offer a genuine service to our people and our country."

"The people of Malta deserve to have principled individuals in public life, so that the people and the country will receive genuine services and the highest esteem."

EU Parliament elections

"In today's world, we are witnessing the results of what takes place, when governments abandon the social contract in favour of excessive private accumulation of profit. People not only lose hope in the established political class, but also, they seek reassurance in populist ideologies. It is useless for us to urge our peoples to disregard populism during the European parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, there are millions of people in the Member States of the European Union who are experiencing deprivation and who feel irrelevant, because they have been excluded from socio-economic and cultural life."

"When 'social Europe' is becoming more of an 'economic Europe', it is unacceptable that 1 in 4 Europeans is living in poverty, and is thereby excluded from the services that used to make Europe so proud."

Turning to modern technology, she said she believes it is time to assess the knowledge and the potential of our people in this area. "We must ensure that, in the process of this necessary and important technological expansion, we do not create a new social exclusion, the so-called 'digital knowledge divide'."

"On the other hand, it is essential for us to ensure that our democracy is not manipulated, from behind the scenes, by corporations that transform the intimate details of our lives into a commercial product."

"A manipulated democracy is false and dangerous, because it distinguishes between a superior class with knowledge at its disposal, and a sub-class that carries on a lower quality of life, because it lacks the necessary knowledge."

Turning to constitutional reform, the President welcomed the nomination of representatives, from both of the main parties in Parliament, to form part of a "steering committee" on constitutional reform.

"The process of constitutional reform will be an exercise in participation, for all of the people who wish to be included."

In the area of housing, she said that the publication of the White Paper brought hope to thousands, who are in a precarious position because of rising rental and property prices. "Although work has begun, there is more that needs to be done to address concerns of social housing.

Turning to the environment in our country, she said it remains a cause for concern to our children and young people. "They require us to be far more prudent and ethical, regarding the ways in which we treat our natural environment. Their thoughts about the important need for green spaces, and their concerns about what is happening to the Maltese countryside, remain prominent in the dialogue that we have together."

On the elderly, she encouraged educators to create opportunities for intergenerational encounters, between senior citizens and children and young people. "In this way, the values that our senior citizens have developed, to build a resilient Maltese society, will be passed down to our younger generations."

As for educators, she appealed to the authorities to ensure that educators receive the best resources, and have access to high quality systems of support in the best interests of our children and young people.

Gender Pay Gap and Gender-based Equality

She said that statistics from the Structure of Earnings Survey, published by the National Statistics Office, show the drastic difference in pay between men and women. "It is of serious concern that the more education a woman acquires, the greater the gender pay gap and the disparity in income."

"As we all believe that increased education brings greater access to opportunity, it is worrying to note that more education could mean more discrimination. Our country must strive harder, in the field of gender equality."

She concluded, by saying that democracy is the best means that we have, in today's world, to celebrate human dignity and to safeguard the observance of human rights and peace, in our communities and in Maltese society.

"This is my last speech as President of Malta, on this beloved feast of Republic Day. I must admit that I have felt privileged and honoured to have this opportunity to be able to share with you, as one of you, these reflections about the things I truly believe in. This has been a privilege, bestowed upon me thanks to the representatives of the people through Parliament, where for the first time the nomination of President of Malta was reached through unanimous agreement, both by Government and Opposition, notwithstanding my coming from the Government benches."

"I hope this consensus will continue for my successors, because the President of our nation should have no party but should serve the people, with loyalty and with a conscience that goes beyond any desire for popularity. Therefore, before I conclude, I wish to express my gratitude to the Government and Opposition who received my criticisms with respect, and accepted a number of the proposed suggestions."

Photos and video by Luke Zerafa

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