Time to revive the Gozo Party?

The Gozo Ministry was established because Gozitans needed a voice at cabinet level

Anton Refalo, the current minister for Gozo
Anton Refalo, the current minister for Gozo

What is meant by the statement expressed by the Prime Minister of Malta is a mystery to me. The Gozo Ministry was established for this very purpose – Gozitans needed a voice at cabinet level. There you go, we have given Gozitans what they deserved – a Minister for Gozo!  During its not very long history we have had three Ministers for Gozo – the first, Anton Tabone, the second, Govanna Debono and the third, Anton Refalo.  I have to admit that all three of them had and still have Gozo at heart. They worked and still work hard for the benefit of Gozo and the Gozitans.

Anton Tabone pioneered the Ministry for Gozo at a time when “money was no problem”.  He managed to clean up Gozo and fix all the main roads and introduce new projects, like the multi-purpose Sports Hall, the Gozo University Centre (now Campus) and the Qbajjar promenade, among others. He was the one for whom Gozo came first and he dedicated his efforts to see that Gozo had a voice at cabinet level. It was a time when Gozo was the envy of Malta when it comes to good roads and public cleanliness. The result?  He lost his seat in Parliament because he did not dedicate enough time to see to his constituents’ requests. Ergo no vote!

The second, Govanna Debono, learned the lesson well and she dedicated her time and efforts to see to her constituents’ requests and the result was that votes were coming in one election after the other. As to the third, the present minister, Anton Refalo, he is trying to strike a balance.  What the result will be we will know in less than two years’ time.

What I know is that Gozo has been treated as an appendix – and a sick one for what it matters – of Malta for too long now. They see us as a problem, a liability, when in actual fact Gozo is a very important asset that can generate wealth if it is given the attention that it deserves.  Ministers for Gozo are no more than beggars, trying to plead with their fellow ministers in government to grant something to Gozo. The parties always promise, especially when an election is due, but do they deliver?  And why do they not?  The answer is simple, Gozo is not on their mind when they devise strategies and policies for the Maltese islands. Gozo does not have a voice!

How can we give ourselves a voice? The main problem with the present system is that the Minister for Gozo is appointed from among the elected Gozitan candidates of the party that has won the election.  Therefore, he or she has no option but to plead for some of the crumbs that fall under the table and toe the line and bow his or her head – the prime allegiance is not to Gozo but to the party.  The alternative would be for Gozitans to have their own party, strong enough to make a difference, and to have their minister appointed from among the elected members of their party. 

Some may raise an eyebrow, others may find this to be ridiculous and do their best to discard it – but these do not know my fellow Gozitans the way that I do!  Both parties are very much aware that the Gozo vote is of critical importance for a party to win the general election. I have already been approached by a number of well-meaning and serious minded islanders to do something in this direction: To give a voice to Gozo and to put it in our Prime Minister’s words – to play a bigger role in decision-making!  

If you are interested in this project send an email to:  [email protected]

Dr Joe Azzopardi is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Management, University of Malta