The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: Independence Day - A sense of national identity

Friday, 21 September 2018, 10:14 Last update: about 6 years ago

Malta today celebrates the 54th anniversary of Independence.

The 21st of September 1964 will remain etched in our history books as the start of Malta’s road towards becoming the modern state it is today. It marked the end of the British rule in Malta, when the Maltese took the reins of their country in their own hands for the first time. What happened 10 years later, when Malta became a Republic in December 1974 and when, in 1979, the British forces left the islands in what is known as Freedom Day, are a consequence of Independence Day.


The moment Nationalist Prime Minister George Borg Olivier waved the independence documents in Floriana remains one of the most significant highlights of Malta’s political history. In later years, the Labour government had tried to minimise the importance of Independence Day, even declaring it as a normal working day, and it was only in 1987 – when the PN returned to power – that it was, rightly so, granted the title of a national holiday once again. This is the main reason why Independence Day is mostly associated with the Nationalist Party, although it is an occasion that should be celebrated more on a national level.

As the years roll by, the number of people who directly witnessed the event, and remember well enough what happened in the months leading to that momentous occasion, becomes smaller and smaller. The ways of the world have changed considerably and there is an underlying sentiment which tends to dismiss what happened in the past, even events which are closer in time than Independence Day, as occurrences that should no longer be given a thought. This is why there must be a stronger effort to instil in the younger generations the need to recognise the importance of what Malta achieved in 1964.

What former Labour Prime Minister Alfred Sant wrote on his blog on yesterday deserves to be given attention in this respect, also because it’s coming from someone at the Labour end. Sant wrote that “by way of remembrance, it is doubtful whether the annual Independence Day celebrations are sufficiently effective to reinforce the recognition of a national identity. For this to happen, such celebrations need to be framed within a schedule of public acts and practices, even held on a routine basis, that build among the population a national sentiment. Other countries do this without any complexes, not least through the use of the educational system.

Our education system – and this is something that has been evident for decades – does not help to instil a sense of national identity in students, and this is of course then reflected when they grow up to become adults. The fact that for many years Independence Day was a “political” celebration, rather than a “national” occasion, created more of a divide than unity.

Thankfully we seem to have moved on to a situation in which there is a general acceptance of the importance of Independence Day.

But we have not arrived where we should be. 

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