The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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‘Turnout for today’s national protest is of secondary importance,’ PN Secretary General says

Semira Abbas Shalan Sunday, 2 October 2022, 08:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

The turnout for today’s national protest against government over the “theft of Malta’s quality of life” is of secondary importance, PN Secretary General Michael Piccinino said.

“We can discuss calculations and whether there will be a large turnout, but that is of secondary importance as the Opposition has the responsibility to act as the public’s shield,” Piccinino said.

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Last Sunday, the leader of the Nationalist Party Bernard Grech called for a national protest against the theft of Malta's quality of life, saying that the cost of living is breaking everyone and that government is creating a financial crisis. The protest will be held today at 3pm in Valletta.

“We cannot allow the government to continue to roll over all of us. It is time to take action,” he had said, adding that government is telling the public that there isn't enough for them, but for its friends there is extra.

The Malta Independent on Sunday spoke to Piccinino regarding the details and purpose of the national protest the PN is organising, just two weeks after it chose not to hold a mass meeting on the eve of Independence Day.

The PN for decades has been associated with mass activities and mass meetings during the Independence Day week. This year, it opted to organise more of a “gathering” for the celebratory activities. Asked as to what made the party decide to hold a mass activity now, Piccinino said that the two activities are completely different.

“Independence Day is Malta’s biggest feast, commemorating the birth of the nation as a sovereign state and therefore should not be celebrated in a partisan manner such as a mass meeting,” Piccinino said.

He said that today’s protest is a completely different scenario, precisely because, “Independence Day should be celebrated as one country without any divisions, without having to think whether or not we should celebrate it because of the association with a political party”.

“We will be protesting against the attitude taken by Prime Minister Robert Abela’s government, which is trying to bulldoze over everyone, taking the nation into the direction where many people are struggling,” Piccinino said.

Piccinino was asked on what led to the final decision to hold the protest in the first place. He was also asked if there was any pressure from the grassroots to push the party into doing something big after the disappointing turnout of the Independence Day activities.

He skirted around the question over if the PN was pressured, saying that the decision to organise the protest stems from different reasons.

“The protest stems from the general feeling felt across the country, that our quality of life is being robbed. We are being robbed of our present and our future, and it is the Opposition’s responsibility to organise such a protest and give an alternative to the direction the government is taking us,” he said.

He explained that under the PL government, the country has seen a degression of the environment, a demoralised police force and little investment into sectors such as health, education, national security and even the economy.

“We have a Police Force begging for more resources, three hospitals where no investments are made, study after study where Maltese youth want to leave the country or that they think that the education in Malta will not improve, and the destruction of our environment,” Piccinino said.

He said that we live in a reality where we only talk about the economy and everything is based on money. Piccinino added that government is boasting that Malta’s economy is going well, when the reality is that people have been taking up more than one job to cope with life.

Asked if the PN is against government’s subsidies on energy, fuels and grains to curb the inflation crisis, Piccinino said that the PN is not against aid so that people can live more comfortably, but it is against government's incessant spending on direct orders, appointing people in positions of trust in ministries and the squandering of taxpayers’ money on corrupt deals such as the hospitals.

“This is all money which could be used on the public without increasing the deficit. Instead, government is telling us that we must decrease the spending. We cannot reduce the spending on things which are important for our present and future. We’ve only been told that a million will be deducted from the University’s budget,” Piccinino said.

On the main message the PN wants to send, through the protest, Piccinino said that government must spend the money in a more just way to truly help those greatly impacted by the lower quality of life.

He said that there needs to be responsible investments towards the economy and health sectors and invest more in new economic sectors. A change in attitude from government is also needed, he said.

“Certain issues are not the government's fault, but it is the government's duty to face these issues head on, look at our finances and use them in a more responsible way. We must see to it that costs, especially importation costs, do not continue to explode and the public does not continue to suffer disproportionately in factors of life,” Piccinino said.

Asked about the outcome of the protest, and whether the Opposition is expecting a large turnout, Piccinino called on those who feel that their quality of life has digressed to attend.

“We chose this particular day as it is the day before Parliament opens once again. The day was chosen specifically to send a message that there needs to be discussions on the way things are working in the country,” Piccinino said.

Piccinino said that the PN has its position in Parliament to put pressure on government and make sure that the message has been reached.

“Government must do things differently so that our quality of life continues to strengthen in all sectors. We must take this seriously and that is why we are organising a national protest,” Piccinino concluded.

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