Muscat calls on Malta to dispel pique in favour of tolerance • Busuttil says ‘unity should be permanent’

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil deliver respective speeches in a message of unity during independence celebrations at Ta' Liesse in Valletta.

From left to right: Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during Malta's independence celebrations. Photo: Roderick Cachia/DOI
From left to right: Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during Malta's independence celebrations. Photo: Roderick Cachia/DOI

Prime Minister Jospeh Muscat and Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil have insisted that Malta’s independence anniversary celebrations should harmonise greater unity amongst the Maltese population; arguing that close-mindedness and pique should be sidelined in favour of democracy and tolerance.

Speaking at Ta’ Liesse in Valletta during the celebrations on Saturday night, Muscat said Malta had “healed of its divisions,” and expressed his hope in Malta becoming a catalyst of change and an oasis of stability amidst instability across Europe and North Africa.

In a subtle reference to the political controversy that besieged Malta 50 years ago – namely the Church’s interdiction of Labourites during the 1960s – Muscat said that even though the Maltese wanted the best for the country, Malta was nevertheless “divided into two factions.”

“50 years ago, many had celebrated independence but others had protested. Malta was divided into two: those who recognised the significance of that momentous day, and those who still had to mature and bring an end to condemnation,” he said.

Speaking during Malta’s celebrations of its 50th anniversary at Ta’ Liesse in Valletta, Muscat said that the “wounds of these divisions, close-mindedness and pique have now been healed, and that the Maltese population is united as one.”

“This does not mean that we should not agree on everything, but conversely, the essence of democracy is that of discussion, respect and conviction. We are here to show the difference and the steps that Malta has managed to make during these fifty years: Fifty years which have seen the country move forward in its actions and thoughts,” he said.

Speaking on the future Malta that he “wanted to see developing,” Muscat that Malta would become an “oasis of stability” amidst economic and democratic instability across Europe and North Africa.

The prime minister also expressed his hopes at Malta becoming more courageous and ambitious, saying that it must no longer await changes, but conversely, it must be the catalyst to ring up changes.

“In terms of economic and democratic instability across Europe and North Africa respectively, Malta will become an oasis of stability that offers hope to our children and the European and Mediterranean populations,” he said.

The prime minister also said that Malta would be able to create more work than ever, but insisted that this “increase in work” would make Malta realise the challenge of juggling between sustainable and economic development.

“The best way to protect the environment is not by thinking that we can stop development, but instead, by making sure that the environment will be at the centre of Malta’s development,” Muscat said.

On his part, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil insisted that Malta’s “political unity should not be a one-off event for the celebration of independence, but instead, it should be a permanent trait of politics in Malta.”

“We are together celebrating 50 years of independence. At the end of a difficult period, Malta started its road towards sovereignty and development in all areas, including political, economical and social,” he said.

“Even at times when the Maltese disagreed, the country still moved forward and gained more freedom. Different alternatives and ideologies are the very essence of democracy, and this has translated into the independence for each Maltese,” he said.

However, Busuttil warned that this “unity” should be brought forward and that it should be highlighted at every platform of decision making by agreeing on basic principles: namely the principles of democracy, how the political parties functions, and the independence of national institutions.

“These include agreement on basic principles of democracy that works on people’s vote, independent institutions that must be truly independent and must receive help from any government, and agreement on the political parties operate,” he said.

While insisting that this would enable Malta to make further inroads in its democratic system and tolerance, Busuttil warned that “politicians must lead by example,” and that unity must be evident in Malta’s politics.

“Tonight’s unity must not be temporary for the celebration of independence, but should become a permanent trait in Maltese politic – a feature which must be brought forward by politicians,” Busuttil said.