The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Watch: Muscat’s last speech - ‘I took this step so that unity can win over hatred’

Neil Camilleri & Giulia Magri Friday, 10 January 2020, 18:39 Last update: about 3 months ago

Outgoing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Friday evening that he had taken the decision to step down so that "unity can win over hatred."

Muscat was delivering his last speech as PM and Labour Leader at a packed Corradino sports pavilion.

On Saturday, around 17,000 PL members will be chosing his successor. The choice is between Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and Labour MP Robert Abela.

Muscat had announced his intention to resign in December, in the wake of the latest developments in the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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Muscat received a huge round of applause as he walked up on stage, stopping PL President Daniel Micallef mid-speech. "I was and will remain 'Joseph' to you. You have been with me for the past 12 years. All of you who showed me love throughout these years. Thank you for the love you have showed us," he told the cheering crowd.

"When in June 2008 I spoke to you for the first time as party leader I had the backing of the general conference but before me I also saw many sceptical faces. They had before them a 34-year-old man who had a seemingly impossible task before him."

While the Nationalists can be happy that I am leaving, they cannot be happy for beating us because they have never done that, Muscat said.

The movement will remain strong because it is based on love for the country and social justice.

He said he had a clear project in mind for the country - one that is not based on red and blue, but on unity.

The movement, he said, removed the culture of division in the country. Those who want to take the country back to the times of division will not succeed, he said. "We will remain the movement of love and unity. Do not worry if they mock me. It does not matter. Our people have a bond that does not dissolve with jealousy and hate."

"My message for the future of the Labour Party and the movement is this; do not let division win over unity, do not let sadness win over happiness, do not let negativity win over positivity, or hate over love. This is why I am paying the highest political price, why I am addressing you as PM and PL leader for the last time."

Referring to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Muscat said he had made sure that the case was solved but "they" tried to use this to sow hate.

"I do not want anyone to ride on a black episode to try and damage our country. I took this step so that unity can win over hatred."

Muscat said we have to remain honest with the people. "We have to admit our mistakes and I apologise for them. After all, I was responsible for all that happened."

Muscat said he was hurt, and he might also have hurt people. "But we will love this country to the last breath."

We did a lot of good, Muscat said, and I will not allow anyone to erase this from the country's memory. "We have become a winning generation. We have not lost a single election since being elected to government." The PL won ten consecutive elections with record results, he said. "We have changed the country's political map. Our politics have changed people's lives and minds. This is why we still enjoy the electoral majority we had two and a half years ago. This is why just six months ago we had another historic victory."

There were jeers from the crowd when Muscat mentioned Eddie Fenech Adami, Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil, adding that a "boy" had managed to win elections against these political giants.

"They told us that it was impossible to reduce energy tariffs. We were elected to government and we did exactly that."

Muscat said now it has become a "big thing" if the country experiences a power cut "once every few months." This should still not happen, Muscat said, but things are very different now. "They also told us that the tanker [at Marsaxlokk] would explode, but you can see the truth."

He said the new PL government was criticised for lacking experience. "But we made up for that with our enthusiasm. We removed unemployment and increased the minimum wage. We were told that the country faced a difficult future and were advised to increase taxes. But we were certain of one thing; that if we gave faith to the people and showed the right signals, the country would head towards success."

Muscat said he was proud that, in 2020, Malta would have the highest economic growth rate in the European Union. While other countries were registering a surplus for the first time, Malta has been registering a surplus every year since 2016.

The government, he said, is investing on health and education and has embarked on the biggest infrastructural programme the country has ever seen. Instead of debt, we are leaving those who come after us a national fund with €600 million, he said. "Thousands of people have become homeowners for the first time and employers are struggling to find workers. We have brought about a revolution in the labour market, with many disabled persons now having a job and economic independence. Those in material deprivation have decreased. These are not numbers, but persons. They are your relatives, your friends and neighbours."

Muscat spoke about the PL's beginnings and said the party has become stronger over the years. "We have become the natural home for the majority of our people. Saturday's election will keep strengthening the PL."

The PL must keep its doors open to all those who believe in progressive politics. "We have to keep dreaming together because, when the PL had dreams, Malta come out as a victor. L-Aqwa Zmien will continue, for a very long time."

The role of PM is one of solitude, Muscat said. "I lived the best of times and the worst of times on my own, in silence. I celebrated in silence when people came to me and told me about how we changed their lives for the better."

He referred to single mothers who graduated from university and women who made use of IVF treatments. "These are the real stories of success."

Turning to migration, Muscat said he was always guided by his conscience and socialist principles, even if his decisions were not popular.

"I have always taken the decisions that needed to be taken. In the end, I even took a decision that affected me directly, even if I still had the backing of the parliamentary group and of the public. A Prime Minister has to decide not in his own interest but in the best interest of the country."

"I have no regrets. I do not regret serving this country. I only regret the fact that my family had to pay the price with me. But my family has only become stronger as a result of these attacks. I hope that no one has to go through the things we faced - a frame up - by some who only want power. These are not politicians, but cruel people."

"In politics you have to have a tough skin. I can say this, despite all the blows, they did not beat me."

Muscat said one thing he did not manage to do was to eradicate personal attacks from politics. "I never stooped down to their levels."

Turning to his future, Muscat said he has been asked what's next for him. "I am definitely not going with the Nationalist Party," he jibed. "I will stay with you," he said, to rapturous applause and chants of 'Joseph, Joseph.'

"I won't be on the frontline and you will not see me a lot, but I will stay with you and for you."

He said he will keep working on civil liberties, explaining that there is still a lot to be achieved in the field. Not being a Prime Minister will allow him to express himself more on the subject. "Not everyone will agree with me, but I feel that I have a debt towards our future generations."

Referring again to the murder of "Caruana Galizia," Muscat said no mother should be killed over something she wrote. He said he was deeply sorry about the murder, even if he had been attacked by the journalist, and even if he ended up paying the highest political price for it.

He thanked all those who always stood by him, and his wife, Michelle, who made his ambitions her own. "She has been the backbone of this family in the toughest of times and made it her mission to help those in need instead of living an easier life." Muscat also thanked his children, saying that they have been given a "solid" upbringing despite the attacks.

Lastly, he thanked all those who had shown love to him and his family. "I am proud of your support - the biggest ever enjoyed by a Maltese Prime Minister."

 

Photos: Michael Camilleri

 

 

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