The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Delia should not step down, PN needs to come together - youngest local councillor

Giulia Magri Monday, 10 June 2019, 09:42 Last update: about 10 months ago

Abraham Aquilina is Malta’s youngest elected local councillor who contested during May’s elections. While contesting for the Gharghur’s local council, Abraham was also studying for his upcoming MATSEC examinations and is ready to balance his studies and working for the Gharghur community. Abraham spoke to Giulia Magri from the Malta Independent about what it is like to be the youngest elected local councillor, vote 16 and the current situation within the Nationalist Party.

The Nationalist Party is currently facing a great deal of difficulty, “but I believe it is also time we stand together and not work against one another,” Abraham Aquilina, the youngest local councillor elected back in May, said.

At the age of 16 years old, Aquilina is the youngest candidate to be elected in the local council elections. He obtained the most seats for Gharghur, which would have also made him the youngest mayor, yet he is not of legal age to take up that post.

Gharghur is one of the 19 local councils that the Nationalist Party was able to keep hold of, winning three out of the five seats. The loss of the third seat during the European Parliament elections and losing a majority of votes in localities like Valletta, Siggiewi and San Gwann has affected the Nationalist Party greatly, and many have begun criticising Adrian Delia’s leadership.

“Adrian Delia should not step down. The party needs to listen to the people, especially those who felt that the party did not listen to them beforehand.” He said that now is the time for people to work together and that a party is not run just by its leader, but by deputies, members and supporters.

“We all have a role to play, leader, deputies, members and supporters; we have an important role to play, and to share innovative ideas with the party.”

Photos Alenka Falzon

When did you start developing an interest in politics and local government?

I always had an interest, especially in more recent years I became more involved in the locality. I was also encouraged by my brother, Giljan, who was the previous mayor of Gharghur Local Council. I was always interested in his work and whenever I could I would help him. Last March, I felt the need to sign up and I am extremely happy with the results.

How does it feel being the youngest elected local councillor?

I feel extremely proud, especially because this is the first time 16 and 17 year-olds could run for the local council elections. So considering this, I feel very proud that I received the majority of votes.

Yes, being this was your first time running for local council, and being 16 years old, you won the majority of votes and should have been also elected as mayor. Yet, according to the Maltese law, one has to be 18 years old to be elected as mayor. How do you feel about this contradiction? That you can run for local council, and the majority have spoken that they believe in you, yet because of your age you cannot be mayor.

I do not look at this from a negative perspective. On the contrary, I believe the next five years in the local council will provide me with more insight and will help me become more familiar with the local council and the work which this entails.

If I did take the position as mayor, it would have a been quite a big and new step for me, so I am happy that I have the opportunity for the next five years to learn, and if I do consider contesting again in the future, it certainly would benefit me greatly.

Apart from being able to form part of the Local Council, last month you voted for the first time, due to the vote 16 laws. How do you feel about the negative criticism that 16 and 17 year olds are too young to vote and run for public office?

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but on the whole I think it is a great initiative that the Parliament took up for 16 and 17 year olds. I believe most students that age are mature enough to vote.

We see many students participating in numerous activities and campaigns after classes, so why not politics? If people are interested and keen to learn about politics, the age doesn’t matter.

Do you have a message for other youths who might be interested in politics but face a sense of empathy amongst their peers when discussing current affairs?

I don’t blame youths today who have no interest in politics or do not want to take part in it, as many times the media portrays the business of politics in a negative light.

I think otherwise, as I feel politics is extremely interesting and it is also satisfying to be capable and in a position to help people. I believe that youths should take it in their stride, to use the law that Parliament passed for us to contest the election, because then it will be completely useless.

You are also a student at Junior College, how do you see yourself balancing being both a student and a councillor?

I will most definitely work on my time management, especially now since politics requires a lot of time. So with a bit more effort in making sure I allocate time for my studies, extracurricular activities and duties with the Local Council, I will manage just fine.

Now that you are elected what will you be pushing for in the local council?

As you said the people have spoken for me, and now it is my turn to return that favour and voice out what the people want and to work for the people.

We need to focus on the environment, especially since Gharghur is known for its open green spaces. Now though, it is extremely important to fight to keep these spaces, as construction is on the rise. I will push to protect the areas which should remain construction free so as to keep Gharghur in its top status.

Are you a member with the Nationalist Party’s youth group (MZPN)?

So far I have never been part of the party organisations, but I usually help the PN committee in Gharghur.

Do you agree with MZPN’s views of the current state of the Nationalist Party, and that the situation is ‘untenable’ and ‘represents a new low’? How do you feel about the current situation that the party is facing?

Although the party I have contested with is currently facing a great deal of difficulty, I think we should all stand together.

 It is pointless working against each other, recently we are hearing a lot about the concept of division amongst party members, but I do not think this is the main issue.

 Yes there are members who might not fully agree with Adrian Delia, but I think we should continue to show respect towards him. In my opinion, Delia is doing his best, and that it is time for the people to start listening to him more and following his ideas.

So what do you think should be the next step for the party? Do you think that Delia should step down?

No, Delia should not step down. I believe that the party needs to listen more to the people, after six years in opposition. Certain people still feel that the party has not listened to them and that they have not been included enough.

When the Nationalist were in government, these people were taken for granted and felt hurt, and I as a councillor took the time to listen to these people, and many have told me that I was the first to listen to them.

So the deputies, especially in particular districts, must continue doing their job and to make an extra effort, to make sure that everyone feels included. The Party is not just run by the leader, but by the deputies, other members and also supporters. The youth also play an important role and have innovative ideas to share with the party.



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