The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Infinite riches in a little room

Owen Bonnici Friday, 20 May 2022, 07:38 Last update: about 2 months ago

It is very easy (or very hard) to imagine a scenario where a particular historical event does not take place and instead one ends up drawing up an idea of what might have been if another major event happened instead.

Christopher Marlowe, in the immediate post-Great Siege period, had imagined and written about an alternate reality where, instead of the Knights and the Ottomans fighting it out in Malta, an agreement was reached between Spain and the Ottomans which would see our country pay a tax in order for that Siege not to take place and for peace to reign instead.  In that alter-reality created by the famed British author of the first Elizabethan era, Malta had to fork out a hefty payment after ten years of not paying her dues to the Ottomans and the story of The Jew of Malta then unfolds.

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The myriad of alter-realities are endless.  What would have happened, and how history would have turned out, had the Ottomans won the Great Siege as opposed to the Knights of Malta being the victors?  Or what would have happened had the Knights of Malta won the war but then refrained from building our beloved Valletta as a monument of victory?

There are infinite riches in a little room.

What would have happened had the Maltese, after expelling the French at the turn of the 19th century, rather than ceding themselves to the British, had declared Independence and decided to take their future in their own hands?

What would have happened had the Maltese not revolted in 1919?  Or what would have happened had the consequences of the Sette Giugno been much worse than they actually were, and instead of the 1921 Constitution we would have been given a regressive Constitution.  Or else what if the events were such that we were given a full Independence Constitution in some shape of form in that defining moment of our history?

What if the Santa Maria Convoy did not manage to enter the Grand Harbour and we consequently lost in favour of the cruel Axis forces in WWII?  Or what would have happened to Malta had Sir Winston decided to sell Malta to another foreign power at the time?

What would have happened had Mintoff lost to Boffa in 1949, or had the conflict between Labour and the Catholic Church not happened in the 60s leading to Mr Mintoff becoming Prime Minister for the second time in 1961?  What would have happened had Malta not become independent in 1964?  What would have happened had Malta become part of Great Britain after successful integration negotiations?

What would have happened had Malta opted for the adoption of a more courageous, fully-fledged US-styled or French styled Presidential system in 1974 as opposed to the retention of the Westminster model?  

In all probability such an exercise would be quite pointless ... or would it not?

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It was such an experience to be giving our full support to the wonderful participants in the Special Olympics Invitational Games which were held here in Malta.

All those who have attended the events organised by the Maltese team, very ably led by Dr Lydia Abela, could see first-hand how much the event meant for the participants and their parents.

I was impressed by the high level of preparation of the participants, and the huge amount of effort and energy put in the Maltese organisers to make sure that the Games are impeccably organised.  The smiles on the participants’ happy faces at the Closing Ceremony speak volumes.

I also wish to thank Anna Calleja who is really committed to the cause.  Well done everyone!

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This week I paid a visit to the National Archives in Rabat, where I met the employees of this hugely important entity.  On the occasion we also inaugurated an exhibition – the second in a string of three – which is being done in collaboration with a number of European entities focusing on solidarity and migration.

The exhibition itself is the result of very hard work and I urge the people at large to go and visit it.

The exhibition portrays a study – from a historical perspective – of the concept of migratory patterns in a post Cold War environment.  It contains 47 documents which present a whole list of historical events which provoke reflections on this theme.  Through these documents one can see perspectives on terms which are very much used event today: repression, persecution, political asylum, refugee camps, racism, anti-semitism, genocide and ethnic cleansing.  

The exhibition contains also elements of interactivity with the general public making it much more interesting than the standard one.

It is all about, in my view, the evil that humankind is able to do. But it is also about kindness, altruism, empathy, tolerance, charity and solidarity.  And also about the important contributions immigrants provide to the societies that provide them with a home.

In all there are three kinds of documents on display:  the first category deals with immigration and employment.  The second one deals with war-related immigration.  And the third one deals with political asylum and the Price people had to pay by those who were involved in political uprisings.

The past is truly the foundation stone on which the future can be built, and more importantly the exhibitions shows how much value can be derived from public documents such as service records, dispatches, reports, and letters to name a few.

I have immense respect for the National Archivist Charles Farrugia who has a lot of passion for the work being undertaken.  I thank all the staff for doing so much for our history.

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Carnival is a festival which has very ancient roots and traditions.  This year, it is being organised in May, rather than February.  This way, the hundreds of enthusiasts will be able to enjoy this feast of colours for the first time after a two year hiatus caused by the pandemic and not to have to wait for next year for Carnival to happen.

Carnival is certainly a feast for the few.  This is also of a feast for the children and adults who love to see the work done by the so called “dilettanti tal-Karnival” who are anything but “dilettanti”.  The participants are fully fledged artists who approach the event with professionalism and a strong sense of passion.

The Carnival has strong roots in Valletta, but not only.  Various parts of the island, such as Hal Ghaxaq and Nadur in Gozo, organise their own Carnival in the village and they are success stories.  It is amazing to see the fantastic grass-root approach to this cultural event and as a Government we are very proud to see this festival grow from strength to strength, year in year out.

Not all countries can boast of having Carnival in their country.  This is part of our tradition which we are keen to keep fostering and invest in.

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