The Malta Independent 25 September 2022, Sunday
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TMIS Editorial: The country needs a strong Opposition

Sunday, 18 September 2022, 11:00 Last update: about 7 days ago

For decades, Independence Day was associated with the Nationalist Party.

When, in 1964, then Prime Minister George Borg Olivier waved the documents to the cheering crowds in Floriana, a new chapter for Malta had started.

A decade later, it was under the Labour Party that Malta became a Republic, sparking debate as to which of the two was the more important – becoming independent or becoming a republic? There was more fuel thrown into the fire with the departure of the British troops in 1979, which became known as Freedom Day.


The PN always insisted that what happened in 1974 and 1979 could only take place as a consequence of the first major step taken in 1964. But Labour would not listen and for a time even removed Independence Day from the list of national holidays.

This spurred the Nationalists to organise activities in the week preceding 21 September on the Granaries in Floriana. These political events picked up further momentum in the years when the Labour Party was governing the country without having obtained the majority of votes. Episodes of violence, in the first two-thirds of the 1980s, were not uncommon.

With the PN taking power in 1987, Independence Day was restored as a national holiday and the PN continued to use the third week of September to show its force; the events culminating in a much-awaited mass meeting on the eve.

It all changed as from 2013. After the electoral defeat in that year, with the PN in disarray, even the Independence Day activities lost their tempo and flavour. Attendances started to dwindle and in spite of efforts to revitalise them such as by moving them to another venue, the PN pre-Independence Day activities did not return to their glory days.

The Covid-19 pandemic cancelled the events for two years, but now that it is possible to organise mass activities again, the PN has opted for a watered down programme this year. There will be two “political meetings” with the Opposition Leader, to be held today and tomorrow. But there will not be any mass meeting this time round.

What PN supporters are being invited for on the eve of Independence Day is to “gather around” the monument that celebrates the historic day, where they will be addressed by Bernard Grech. The monument is situated in a public square which is much smaller than the nearby Granaries, so the PN apparently is not expecting too many people to respond to its invitation.

This is the unfortunate situation the PN finds itself in these days. It is mostly its own fault, as years of internal conflict have broken the party, and a divided organisation is not seen in good light. The PN has also failed to renew itself as the wave of progressiveness swept it aside.

And yet, just as much as a strong opposition was needed – and a strong opposition there was – in the 1980s when Malta was under a dangerous and violent socialist regime, a strong opposition is needed today to counter a government which needs to be reined in. There is, thankfully, no physical violence these days, but the government is hurting people of goodwill in so many other ways.

There was a time when the Labour Party used to describe the Nationalists, then in government, as being arrogant. But Labour has taken superciliousness to new heights in the last 10 years, strengthened by the support that it has publicly been given in elections, which has grown in spite of all the scandals that have rocked the country since 2013.

Labour’s majority has increased because many have personally benefited, and who choose to ignore the overall picture because of their own selfishness. They turn two blind eyes when disgraced people get by with impunity or are even given new appointments. For them, corruption is OK as long as they got the permit they applied for.

Labour’s majority has also increased because the Nationalist Party has failed to offer itself as an alternative. To go back to the years when Independence Day was not on the calendar of national holidays, the PN had then been strong enough to withstand the onslaught, drum up public support and win the 1987 election in spite of all that was thrown at it. For many long months, the PN regularly filled the Granaries and filled them a bit more during Independence week.

It’s a different story today. The PN feels so weak that it cannot bring itself to call a mass meeting, fearing that it will be derided for lack of attendance. Its voice is little effective in the grand scheme of things. And light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away.

Just when the country needs an energetic, tough and inspiring Opposition to stand up to a government that rides roughshod.

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