The Malta Independent 22 August 2019, Thursday

Eddie Fenech Adami turns 85: ‘one of the most influential figures’ – Joseph Muscat

Albert Galea Thursday, 7 February 2019, 10:02 Last update: about 8 months ago

Eddie Fenech Adami is without doubt one of the most notable political figures in Malta’s history. He entered the political scene as a Nationalist MP in 1969, and became the party’s leader after Gorg Borg Olivier in 1977. 

His style of leadership generated popular support to the point that the Nationalist party won the 1981 election in terms of votes, but did not acquire the necessary amount of parliamentary seats to take government. 

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A constitutional reform followed, and Fenech Adami took the role of Prime Minister in 1987 – one which he held till 2004, save for a 22 month gap between 1996 and 1998 when Alfred Sant’s Labour Party took government.  Fenech Adami after resigning from the Nationalist party on his 70th party was chosen as the seventh President of the republic between 2004 and 2009.

Today is Fenech Adami’s 85th birthday; and given this, The Malta Independent asked four figures about what Eddie Fenech Adami’s political legacy on Malta truly is.

Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister

“Eddie Fenech Adami is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential figures in Malta’s political history. 

In his early years as a leader, he reached out to all corners of society and took his party out of its historical and ideological comfort zones. His first government in 1987 was arguably one of the most reformist, economically speaking. His agenda was economically liberal, with a large spate of privatisations some of which were managed better than others, and socially conservative where not even a simple cohabitation legislation could be put forward.  

He definitely showed resilience in pursuing Malta’s application for membership in the European Union, for which he must be given full credit. Despite spending his career in frontline politics, Dr Fenech Adami managed to elevate himself as a statesman during his term as President of the Republic. He was the first President I served under in my Constitutional role as then Leader of the Opposition.  

I recall fondly the correctness he acted with in my regard, the words of advice to me as a novice in politics coming from the opposite camp, and the warmth Mrs Fenech Adami and himself showed towards my wife, children and also our parents.”

Adrian Delia, PN and Opposition Leader

“Eddie Fenench Adami represented hope at a time when it was needed most. Malta was going through one of the most difficult periods. It needed a leader who was capable of lifting the country from the depths it was sinking into. A leader who could steer the country towards a new direction. Eddie Fenech Adami was that man. He is the architect of contemporary Malta, European Malta, the free and democratic Malta. For us, the words Xoghol, Gustizzja u Liberta (work, justice and liberty) were not political buzzwords but the building blocks for a new Malta. These are words that we take for-granted today. For people of my generation, he was a pillar of strength, a true inspiration. An icon of hope. A giant of a man. Malta would have been a very different country were it not for this great statesman. Admultos annos Eddie.”

Louis Galea, former Speaker, Minister and PN Secretary General

“Eddie - A Trustworthy Leader

Over the forty years I had the privilege of closely following Eddie Fenech Adami, I witnessed how he evolved from a quiet, unpretentious, intelligent, honest family man, lawyer and politician into a giant of a leader which Malta needed at the time, eventually embracing him as its Prime Minister for many years and then President of the Republic. He was a formidable, successful and a much-loved leader of the Partit Nazzjonalista for twenty seven years. Under his watch Malta experienced a historical transformation in every sector of our lives - social, economic, cultural and political. He guided the nation with a deep and humble sense of service; a truly safe pair of hands, with a light but steady touch on the rudder, strongly convinced of the vision and journey he had charted for Malta. At no stage did he have an easy ride. For him it was an uphill journey for most of the time.

In many respects it became his task to renew the foundations for a modern Malta in a new world full of complex challenges and opportunities as it spawned a technological global revolution. He started by etching in our laws and practice the full respect for fundamental human rights and liberties, re-starting the full play of the democratic process, and ensuring the rule of law and accountability of all rulers. His governments invested heavily in all sorts of infrastructures, especially human resources, women, youths and children. Not least he multiplied the effective power of our sovereignty by ensuring an effective place around the table of the European Union Member States.

He has now been in a much-deserved retirement for the past ten years. Like any other human being, memories of joy and satisfaction as well as others of regret would at times cross his mind. He would wonder for sure at how the momentous journey he initiated continued to proceed. The Maltese and Gozitans are deeply grateful for the great common good they achieved, for themselves, their families and country as a result of his vision, policies and leadership."

Professor Joseph M. Pirotta, Historian

"I think that your question regarding Dr Eddie Fenech Adami’s political legacy can be briefly answered by looking at the major achievements of the administrations he led as Prime Minister. His policy of national conciliation did much to heal the social wounds and divisions that by the mid-1980s had become endemic. The economy was freed from the shackles of state control and private enterprise was encouraged thus stimulating economic growth. Tertiary education was reformed and expanded with the introduction of various fields of study in line with the Island’s future needs. National institutions, including the Courts of Justice, were allowed to resume their work according to their remit. Malta’s infrastructure which had deteriorated badly was overhauled. A new power station, a new airport and a new telephone system were built. The port was further developed. Pluralism in broadcasting became the norm. The foundations were laid for a future society that would be increasingly dependent on information technology.

Although these were some of Dr Fenech Adami’s important achievements, I think that his lasting historical legacy will be Malta's membership of the European Union. The push for EU membership was not motivated by mere idealism but was founded on pragmatic considerations. Studies were undertaken to weigh up the pros and cons of EU membership for the Island’s future. However, once convinced that the pros far outweighed the cons, Dr Fenech Adami worked relentlessly to convince the majority - uncertain of, or in opposition to membership - to back him in a national referendum. Today, the strongest political opponents to Malta’s membership of the EU, who fought him tooth and nail, never fail to underline how crucial EU membership is for Malta though they fail to give credit to the man whose vision, shared by loyal comrades, made it possible. 

Malta owes a great deal to Dr Eddie Fenech Adami."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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