The Malta Independent 10 December 2022, Saturday
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‘Politicians should respect people’s intelligence’, President says on Republic Day

Shona Berger Monday, 13 December 2021, 12:38 Last update: about 13 months ago

President George Vella urged politicians to respect people’s intelligence throughout the next general election during his speech marking Republic Day. 

The traditional Republic Day ceremony took place at the President’s Palace in Valletta on Monday. 

Vella said that in a few months’ time Malta will experience the essence of democracy when the public will be asked to vote for the government, they want to lead them for the next five years. 

“My appeal is to respect the people’s intelligence and to put before them clear and equivocal working programmes and policies that will be implemented if chosen to lead,” Vella said. 

He also expressed his hope that constitutional structures in charge of ensuring the democratic course of the electoral process, as has happened in the past, will reassure the people about the integrity of the process. 

Republic day marks an important date in Maltese history as it commemorates the day in 1974 when Malta’s constitution was revised, changing Malta from being a Commonwealth realm with the Queen of Britain as its head of state to a republic. 

Ahead of the annual awarding of honours for service to the country, Vella touched on several issues and affairs that were faced by the country in the past year.  

‘The pandemic is not over yet’ 

In his speech, Vella highlighted that throughout this year, the country faced a number of challenges, the first being the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Whoever is going to lead our country, apart from having to make up for the damage caused by the pandemic, must also face problems that are found in every society. None of these problems can be ignored. We cannot turn a blind eye to these challenges and pretend that they do not exist. We cannot ignore the injustices and sufferings of others,” Vella said. 

He urged the government, voluntary organisations, individuals, professionals, academics, amongst others, to put their heads together to address and focus on these problems. 

“Empathy, tolerance, inclusion and unity should remain at the forefront of our national and political agenda,” Vella said. 

Meanwhile, Vella also warned the public that “the pandemic is not over yet” and it would be premature for anyone to make any predictions about the future.

The President highlighted that the virus has wreaked havoc in everyone’s life and created unprecedented situation. 

He applauded all those professionals who rolled up their sleeves to work, day and night, and who, after following closely other countries’ experiences, drew up an action plan which was successfully carried out through the cooperation of all sector and departments.

 

Vella also sadly acknowledged the memory of more than 470 people who fell victim to the pandemic, saying that their passing caused great sadness, frustration, and regret among their loved ones. 

Meanwhile, the President reflected that during the pandemic, “we truly showed how unity and solidarity should be like.” 

He added that “we will definitely not build on the behaviour exhibited by a few who had the audacity of showing feelings of racism and xenophobia, and a lack of respect towards a foreigner who got injured at work, or towards someone contemplating whether to take his own life.”

“The Foundation for National Unity, which will be announced soon, will provide a neutral forum to discuss various topics, and to implement an action programme aimed at bridging the differences between us,” Vella said.

‘No one is above the law’ 

Speaking about other challenges that this country has had to and is still facing, primarily that revolving around the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Vella said that “the general desire is that the investigative and judicial aspect will lead to finding out who was responsible and getting what they deserve.” 

The wounds will remain, but one hopes that the strictly legal aspect will be settled. The lessons will also remain for everyone to learn from them, Vella said. 

“No one is above the law. The rule of law and the protection of human rights must remain crucial tools for the fair and democratic functioning of our country,” Vella added. 

President called on both parties to agree on the appointment of a new Ombudsman 

In his speech, the President also highlighted the constitutional and legal changes that were implemented for further separation of powers in the administration of Malta.

The remaining difficulties concern the need for the so-called ‘anti-deadlock mechanism’ to unblock situations where the required agreement of two-thirds of parliamentary support for certain appointments is not reached. One such example is the appointment of a new Ombudsman, Vella said.

Consequently, the President called on the parties concerned to agree on one person.

Balance between the built and natural environment needs to be sought

Moreover, apart from highlighting a number of social issues experienced in Malta, Vella said that anyone communicating with the masses and following the results of public opinion polls, understands that there are other issues, apart from social ones.

“The extensive building and construction work taking up more and more space from agricultural and virgin land has become a threat. In order to protect the beauty and sustainability of our country, we must find a balance between the built and the natural environment,” Vella urged.

He added that finding a balance in such a small country, with its pressures due to economic development and the high standard of living, is not easy. There is also a general call for new buildings to be built with more character, and to stop the uglification of our landscapes.”

The President called on the regulatory authorities in this area to use all the rules and means at their disposal, to ensure a more sustainable and beautiful development, while respecting the Maltese, and in particular the Gozitan environment.

Transport and immigration issues

Meanwhile, Vella also highlighted the issue concerning migration, saying that migrants deserving of a refugee status, or humanitarian protection, must benefit from all the rights conferred by international law.

This would be much easier if the numbers were contained, as would happen if there was an agreement to distribute them among all, or at least several countries, Vella said.

He also mentioned the challenge as to how one can address transport in Malta.

He expressed his hope that in the race for innovative ideas, “we do not embark on projects that, apart from the environmental and social issues they might create when implemented are environmentally, economically, and socially unviable.”

Climate Change

Vella also highlighted that climate change is a major threat to the planet, which can only be averted by achieving goals set by scientific studies.

“If this is not done, we run the risk of bequeathing to our children a planet in an unprecedented atmospheric turmoil. The forecasts are not good, and the warning is very serious based on phenomena that are already happening around us,” Vella said.

“The planet itself is showing us. These unusual disturbances in climate and environmental phenomena are the effect of the damage we permitted over the years.

It is good to hold conferences. It is good to make promises. But if we fail to act, all will be in vain,” Vella added.

The President said that “our country is small and proportionately has little effect on the world’s climate turmoil. This does not exempt us from doing our duty, and from being an example to countries much larger than ours. Our second duty is to take every opportunity to preach to them about the potential destruction should we not heed the warnings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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