‘Labour learned lessons of the past’ – Muscat

Labour Leader Joseph Muscat says Labour ‘learned from lessons of the past’ and has ‘changed to reflect the will of the people’, points to warm reception at University and MCAST.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat with deputy leader Louis Grech speaking in Gharghur.
Labour leader Joseph Muscat with deputy leader Louis Grech speaking in Gharghur.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said that today's Labour Party is a party that has learned from its almost-uninterrupted 25-year-long stint in opposition wilderness, and that it has reformed itself to reflect the will of contemporary Maltese society.

Muscat was speaking on Wednesday evening during the customary Labour tent activity in Gharghur, which also doubled as a special broadcast of TX, hosted by journalist and presenter Miriam Dalli.

Flanked by deputy leader Louis Grech, Muscat insisted that Labour's warm reception at during the University debate a week ago, as well as during the MCAST debate earlier that same day, "shows that our call for a change of direction is being welcomed."

He said that Labour's warm reception at University and MCAST was due to the party's positive message of unity that Muscat said is being taken on board by the most by the country's younger generations, who he said "are fed up of the old-way of doing politics."

Muscat also took pains to drive home the message that the Labour Party of today is worlds apart from the Labour Party of old, going as far as to insist that it has learned from past mistakes, and reformed accordingly.

"Over the past 25 years this party has changed. It has finally listened to the people, and changed itself, in order to change the country," Muscat said. "We have heeded the lessons of history."

"We have learned a lesson of humility, and understood why people wanted us to change, and what they wanted us to change," Muscat said.

"Today, we can say with honesty that we are reflecting the will of the people, without however being populist," the labour leader also insisted.

"The pulse of the people rests in our hands," he said. "And even if we are elected to government, we will not let go, but remain a government mindful of the people's wishes, and will not be a government that becomes deaf and hard-headed."

Reiterating a message Muscat imparted during the MCAST debate, he noted that "the Nationalist Party is saying that students who fail an exam and are forced to repeat don't deserve a stipend," adding that the Labour Party is "saying the opposite."

"We are saying that those students who suffer a setback, and for some reason outside their control would not have achieved the result they were aiming for, deserve a second chance."

Muscat noted that there are many students who fail at some point during their tertiary education, and decide not to try again. "We want to encourage these students to try again and if they want to try and sit for those exams again, we will assist them by providing them a stipend as well."

Muscat also dismissed PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil's remarks that the contentious 'red/blue-faced' billboards that the PN unveiled on Tuesday morning were somehow intended in jest. "I do not see it as a laughing matter."

The Labour leader reiterated the party's line of attack that the billboards betray the fact that the Nationalist Party is motivated by a "tribal approach to politics" which he said instances like this show "it is emerging to the fore time and time again."

He again appealed to the undecided portion of the electorate to "take a good look at the billboard and decide whether they want to live in a Malta where people are judged by the colour of their face, or whether everyone would be treated in the same way."

"A united Malta, or a divided Malta. That is the choice that people have before them," Muscat reiterated, adding that Labour is pushing for "a clean break with the past", and a break with "an outdated way of doing politics."

Touching upon the ongoing Enemalta investigation, which is unfolding in the courts of Malta from day to day, Muscat reiterated his call to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to clarify his statement following former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone's arraignment.

Muscat said that Gonzi must be clear whether he is blaming his predecessor for Tabone's appointment as Enemalta chairman, and "whether he knew something already" when he chose not to renew Tabone's appointment in 2005.

Muscat also reiterated Labour's stance on the presidential pardon which was handed down to George Farrugia, saying that the value of pardon can only be judged upon the basis of what new arraignments or information would emerge from Farrugia's testimony as State Witness.

Muscat also noted reports published in Maltatoday last Sunday, which revealed that Farrugia had lobbied with Maltese politicians in relation to Enemalta fuel purchasing.

He noted that the reports referred to gifts which were handed out, insisting that "any reports of politicians receiving gifts raise all sort of questions which must be addressed."

Muscat also hit out at the Nationalist Party for what he described as "bad decisions," such as allowing Maltese wages to become weaker despite how, even in badly-performing EU member states, they became marginally stronger.

He also took the government to task over its resistance to switch the country's energy generation system to gas, reiterating the PL's line of attack that this is somehow linked to a strong oil-purchasing lobby, and the recent Enemalta oil-purchasing commissions scandal.

"According to this caretaker government's plan, we will remain dependent on oil for the next five years at least. This means five more years of spending €1 million annually on oil."

In his own address, Labour deputy leader Louis Grech said that the Labour Party is pushing for an "evolution" in how local politics is done, insisting that it is a vision that Labour is committed to.

"We know it is not easy, and we know that we can start making a difference only gradually, but we are willing to start the country along that road," Grech said, however adding that it is not something that "originated" from Labour, but that the party is simply reflecting the will of the electorate.

Addressing the upcoming European 2017 presidency, where Malta will take the helm, Grech said that it represents a challenge that would require a new Labour government to begin logistical preparations of the country's priorities "immediately."

"One of our priorities is obviously to focus more on the European Union's southern member states" Grech said, while nothing that these have to fit in with the EU's other existent priorities. "This will give us the opportunity to show that we can be efficient and effective despite our small size."

On this point, Muscat said that a Labour government would be attempting to end the syndrome whereby local politicians cooperate in Brussels while locally being at logger heads on virtually every issue.

"If we work together in Brussels, we should work together here as well.  We are willing to take the risk to extend the hand of friendship in the interest of the 2017 presidency. We are willing to work with anyone," Muscat said.

Grech also said that a Labour government would appoint a person that would be directly responsible for EU Affairs, insisting on the importance that the country remains aware of developments on a European level because "these profoundly affect everyone's lives."

Grech also took the Nationalist administration to task over how it is weighed down by "fatigue" and for attacking the Labour Party for being willing to deliver proposals in several areas, among them the energy sector which Grech said the PN lacked "all vision."

Thomas Mess, secretary general of the Young European Socialists, also put in an appearance to emphasise the need of more progressive parties, like Muscat's Labour Party, in the council of Europe.

He also welcomed Labour's push for voting rights to be extended to people aged 16 and over.

"Labour ... points to warm reception at University and MCAST". Is this some kind of a joke? Labour brings in busloads of people to both events -- to the extent that students from these institutions could not get in -- and then speaks in this self-congratulatory way? What a bunch of fakes!