The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Independence: what have we done with this freedom?

Adrian Delia Sunday, 22 September 2019, 09:30 Last update: about 24 days ago

Fifty-five years ago, Malta became a nation state, free of all foreign rule. 21 September was thus etched in our national calendar as Independence Day.

We are the second generation of Maltese born in an independent Malta, the second generation of Maltese who are free to decide the fate of their country, of our people. On this day, we should ask ourselves, what have we done with this freedom? Has independence brought about the change that our forefathers hoped and worked for?

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On the political front, independence has given us the right to be active members of the international community of independent states. We joined the United Nations and piloted initiatives such as the Law of Common Heritage of Mankind, described by legal experts as "the most important legal principle achieved by man throughout thousands of years during which law has existed as the regulating element of social exchange." Our country's political development took a monumental step forward in 2004 when Malta became a member of the European Union. This was a hard-fought homecoming for Malta, a political process that on the international arena elevated our country to another level.

On the international political front, we have fared, I would say, better than probably most would have expected us to do fifty-five years ago. Today we sit around the table with our ex-colonial masters with the same voting rights that they have.

Economically, we have also done better than expected. We carved our niches, making up for the lack of natural resources with our initiative and ingenuity. Today's economy is unrecognisable from that of fifty-five years ago. Gone is the dependence on the military base. We have a diversified economy, an economy that was able to withstand one of the worst economic recessions in living history, an economy that for the last years, bar a few exceptions, operated at nearly full employment. We did this by removing all forms of protections policies and by integrating Malta in the globalised world. We did this not by building walls but by removing all barriers to trade. I would like to think that our grandparents would be proud and possibly amazed at how far our economy moved forward.

But has it been positive all the way? Sadly, it hasn't. There are areas where we are certainly not living up to the expectations of those who came before us and, more importantly, areas where we are negating the needs and aspirations of those who will follow in our footsteps.

On the environmental front, we have failed. We failed to plan ahead, preferring instead to make up things as we went along. We are still adopting this short-term vision today. As a result, we destroyed our streetscapes; we destroyed and are continuing to destroy our countryside. Our streets are clogged with traffic and we are chopping down trees to make space for even more cars, in the process polluting the very air we breathe, the air that our children will breathe. The economic policy of growing the economy by growing the population adopted by this administration accelerated this environmental degradation. We championed the Common Law of Mankind and the concept of Right of Future Generations. Yet here we are destroying the heritage of our future generations. Let us, as a nation, use the power of self-determination to protect our environment.

Socially, the past fifty years were generally positive. We have built a social net system that is there to protect the most vulnerable. We have health and education systems that are free and are of a generally high standard. We should all rightly be proud of these achievements.

But in these later years we are seeing developments on the social front that should be of concern to us all. First of all, the divide between the haves and the have-nots in our society is growing. We are seeing the emergence of more extreme forms of poverty. We are seeing workers employed in conditions that are abusive. We are seeing the re-emergence of homelessness. We are seeing more and more of our pensioners finding it impossible to make ends meet. We are seeing the emergence of a racist mentality that is totally out of sync with our national spirit of hospitality. This is not the Malta of our forefathers and it should not be the Malta of our future generations. Let us act now to change this route we have taken. Economic growth should not be the only measure of societal well-being. It cannot be. We cannot talk about balanced budgets while the most vulnerable members of our society, such as those suffering from mental illness, suffer in silence and degradation.

 

Independence, important as it was, was only a milestone in a journey that started years before and is still ongoing today. Let us give true meaning to independence by making Malta a truly better place for us and for our future generations. Being independent is not a national day, but a state of mind. Let us therefore not only celebrate, but embrace our Independence. Let us wear it with pride and walk the wider world not only in search of opportunities new, but also overcoming challenges old, championing diversity, well-being and innovation in Malta, Europe and this brave new digital world, ensuring it remains one that cares. 

 

Adrian Delia is the leader of the Opposition and of the Nationalist Party


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