National days: A mistimed discussion

With our country’s land, air and seas being continuously raped by greedy developers, opening up a discussion on the national day today seems to be just a comfortable diversion from the real problems of our daily lives

The Independence Monument
The Independence Monument

Having five national days is absolutely ridiculous.

We have been in this pathetic situation for around 30 years now. Many recognise this fact. Around 25 years ago, we at Alternattiva Demokratika had already been vociferous on the fact that Malta should have one unifying national day.

Personally, I believe Independence Day is the right one.

Political pique, the bi-partisan tribal instinct, lack of real political vision and of true love for our country, childish hardheadedness and sheer stupidity have prevented our political leaders from coming together to overcome the existing differences in the name of the common good.

When in Opposition, Joseph Muscat had started harping on the need of a second Republic, which would overhaul our constitution and update it to the exigencies of modern day life.

This was a welcome departure from the past behaviour of Maltese political leaders and promised to bring about a breath of fresh air to Maltese politics through the reforms envisaged. Undoubtedly, the debate on having one national day which served to unify the Maltese people would have been one of the mainstays of the proposed constitutional reform.   

Come 2013 and Joseph Muscat was swept into power with the macroscopic majority of 35,000 votes. True to his word, he immediately embarked on the job of appointing a President of such constitutional convention. The day he appointed him, however, it was evident to one and all, that the Prime Minister’s intention was to have the convention scuppered before it could even be set up.

In fact, he named as Chair of the proposed Convention the former MP Franco Debono, who had been instrumental in bringing the Gonzi government to its knees. At this point, pride took over and as expected (and cunningly planned by Joseph Muscat) the Nationalists would not accept to participate in constitutional talks presided by the man who was instrumental in knocking out Gonzi and company.

And thus, another five years passed in vain, with President Marie-Louise Coleiro trying desperately to get the two parts to work together, but it was all a big useless exercise.

In recent days, the debate on one national day for the country has been restarted by PL Councillor Desmond Zammit Marmara’. And many have joined in the debate, including academics Henry Frendo, Dominic Fenech, Joe Pirotta, Oliver Friggieri and the President of the Republic herself.

I have no reason to doubt the genuinity of Desmond Zammit Marmara’s intentions. I am convinced he really means well. Unfortunately, however, I believe that any debate on Malta’s national day at this point in time is completely out of place. Indeed, bringing up the discussion now, after continuous years of total neglect with regards to constitutional and other reforms, is totally mistimed.

At the moment, there are issues of much more importance which need to be seen to immediately. Private Maltese land is being expropriated left, right and centre, trees are being uprooted or re-planted in order to make way for wider roads, junctions and what not all over the island, developers are being given a free hand to build in ODZ land, in city cores, on the coast or wherever.

Precious arable land, which also constitutes the lifeline for the few dedicated farmers who still till their land, is being taken up by infrastructural projects which tend to privilege car users rather than the ordinary citizen.

Tuna ranchers have been given the divine right to occupy our seas and pollute the sea we swim in. Hoteliers, cafe’ and restaurant owners are being regaled with permits to occupy our pavements regardless of the citizens who need to walk through them, in particular people with mobility problems, parents pushing pushchairs, people with disabilities, etc.

The air pollution resulting from the building mania and from a philosophy which favours cars rather than people is becoming unbearable.

With our country’s land, air and seas being continuously raped by greedy developers, opening up a discussion on the national day today seems to me simply just a comfortable diversion from the real problems of our daily lives.

At the rate by which our quality of life is being daily degraded and abused, we really risk ending up with only one national day.

Unfortunately, this would be a national day of mourning for the loss of land, clean seas and clean air for us, your children and future generations.

We must roll up our sleeves to ensure that this does not happen.

 

Arnold Cassola is former Alternattiva Demokratika chairman and former secretary general of the European Green Party

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