The Malta Independent 13 July 2020, Monday

50th anniversary of the National Association of Pensioners

Monday, 1 June 2020, 08:55 Last update: about 2 months ago

The National Association of Pensioners (NAP) celebrated its 50th anniversary on 9th May 2020.  In May 197O a group of pensioners, most of them ex-civil servants, led by Professor Philip Farrugia, met at the ABC Theatre in Floriana and founded for the first time in Malta an association to look after the interests of old-aged people in general, and pensioners in particular. 

It was a time when workers unions had long been established in Malta. They had become very vociferous in fighting for the rights of their members. However older citizens, particularly pensioners, had no voice in the overall national debate although even then they represented a substantial proportion of the Maltese population. Because of this untenable situation they were often sidelined both by politicians and the public in general. They suffered in silence the injustices piled upon them through the years.  

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A look at the newspapers of the time shows correspondents clamouring for an association of this kind. 

A typical letter is the following (translated freely from Maltese). It was published in a popular Maltese newspaper of the time.  Dated the 20th April 1970, just a few days before the above-mentioned meeting at the ABC Theatre was held, the correspondent wrote (only relevant parts of the letter are being produced):

“Dear Editor,

I will not enter into the merits as to whether the government has acted correctly when it distributed a few pennies to its own employees [in the annual budget], but it is the duty of us pensioners to see that what the government does is just.

I begin by saying that now we have a pensioners’ association. It is the duty of this association to seek the interests of all. The first thing that this association should do is to insist that those pensioners who have less than four hundred pounds a year are, without any further delay, compensated by giving them an adequate pension. 

...

I believe that when the General Conference of this new association is held, all government pensioners should attend en masse to express themselves on their many complaints.

...”     

If the enthusiastic writer of the letter attended the first meeting of the association on 9th May 1970 at the ABC Theatre he would have been sorely disappointed at the poor attendance. This was clearly expressed by Prof Philip Farrugia who chaired this first meeting. In fact, on 10th May 1970, in one of the leading newspapers of the time, it was reported that “... Prof Philip Farrugia, the President of the Association, deplored the fact that many more pensioners did not go to yesterday’s meeting.”

Another newspaper reported “Disappointment mingled with regret at the poor attendance at the first General Meeting of the National Association of Pensioners ... The apathy of those who could have turned up and did not was deplored. Professor Farrugia thanked the other members of the Committee who had done wonderful work to get the Association going – yet in spite of the campaign, according to figures supplied by Mr J Aquilina, the Secretary, only 206 had applied to join the Association.”

All of the original founding members are now long dead. Their disappointment at the poor attendance of the first meeting would have turned to joy had they lived to witness, fifty years later, that the fledgling organisation that they gave birth to with so much pain is now still alive and thriving with a very active committee and high membership superseding by several hundreds the original first roll of 206.   

The National Association of Pensioners is dedicated to the promotion and protection of the interests of old-aged people in Malta, particularly where pensions are concerned. It is an active member of AGE Platform (Europe) and its Council members are represented in almost all of its most important Task Forces. AGE promotes wholesome ageing as a key priority and seeks to support longer and healthier lives through the promotion of age-friendly environments and active ageing.  AGE has an important and influential voice among EU institutions and its policies and initiatives in favour of old-aged people are always given great attention. Last year the NAP had energetically promoted the AGE electoral manifesto to candidates in Malta for the elections to the EU parliament in May 2019.

Fifty years of dedicated service for the benefit of old people is, indeed, cause for celebrations, especially now that citizens over sixty years represent almost one-fourth of the whole population. Unfortunately, the present Covid-19 pandemic has somewhat muted our efforts to celebrate adequately this important event. However, even in these restricted circumstances, we will do our best to sufficiently commemorate such an important milestone in the history of our association, now recognised as a standard-bearer in Malta where the interests of senior citizens are concerned.   

Louis Cilia is the President, National Association of Pensioners.      

 

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