President on Republic Day: ‘Unbridled development putting environment at risk’

President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca calls for ‘ethical, equitable’ republic that puts humanity before borders

President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca marks Malta's 41st anniversary of becoming a Republic • Photos: OPR
President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca marks Malta's 41st anniversary of becoming a Republic • Photos: OPR
President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca inspecting a guard of honour during Republic Day celebrations
President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca inspecting a guard of honour during Republic Day celebrations

President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca today warned that Malta’s environmental sustainability remains at risk due to years of unbridled development that has seriously impacting the country’s quality of life.

“Regretfully, I look back over the years and note that economic development has not always respected our environment. Natural resources have been destroyed, biodiversity and wildlife impoverished, water is threatened, while public spaces have decreased.”

“Faced by this environmental impoverishment, I insist that we cannot preach to the world if we remain architects of our country’s destruction … For the sake of our children, I urge all MPs to come together and develop a national environmental vision and policy,” she said

In a speech marking Malta’s 41st anniversary of becoming a Republic, the President called for a republic that is based on compassion and that “never stops preaching humanity before profit, human dignity before frontiers, and human rights before occasional charity”.

“We are not always being successful in making the right ethical choices. Decadence is eroding our society and drawing us away from those values that held us together during the most difficult moments of our history,” Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said.

In a speech that broached various subjects, from international terrorism to poverty, climate change, and even verbal violence, Coleiro Preca called for unity amongst the Maltese and for political leaders to walk away from divisionary, “unnecessary bickering that make us susceptible when faced by events and situations that require our resilience.”

“The behaviour of politicians and their continuous and sometimes-aggressive arguments were a recurring theme this year. No party won, but Malta as a whole, lost. The public is losing its trust in politics and those who wish the best for Malta wish to see an improvement in the behaviour of politicians, both inside and outside parliament, to restore the public’s trust,” she said.

Addressing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, the Archbishop, MPs and other dignitaries, the President spoke of women’s indispensable, yet often overlooked, role in Malta becoming a Republic.

Coleiro Preca, who is the second woman to become President since Malta became a Republic in 1974, rued that in spite of Malta's progress in the field of quality, women in Malta are still “in the periphery in a patriarchal society.”

"The success of women in education in Malta, proved empirically by both international and local studies, is not leading to a more equitable status in our country, both in public or in private management roles.

“European indicators show that Maltese women are still to be found at the periphery in areas of important decision-making. We need to address this social injustice and this democratic deficit with more energy and more haste.”

Describing inequality as a “social injustice and a democratic deficit”, the President argued that as long as women are kept away from leadership roles and areas of power, the greater will be the possibilities of abuse, exploitation and reduction in the quality of people’s lives.

“With a stronger presence of women in managerial posts, our country would be able to make decisions that respect interests of our population,” she said.

The President also called attention to the 'terrorism at home' as she broached the suject of domestic violence, arguing that thousands of victims are suffering alone and in complete silence.

“We are right to worry about the threat of terrorism in the world but I find it strange that we are hesitant to talk about the plight of women and women who are being terrorised in their homes on a daily basis,” she said.

Urging MPs to immediately address “the social disease that is domestic violence,” the President insisted that "domestic violence is a symptom of a social condition - patriarchy - that is eating away at democracy in Malta."

And she railed against the “educational deficit” in the ethical use of social communication, which she said was breaking down society by normalising insults and verbal aggression.

“Have we arrived at a point where insults and verbal aggression have become the order of the day? If my suspicions are, in fact, correct, I can understand why a number of valid individuals are keeping away from public life,” she said.

“It is our Republic that is going to pay dearly for the alarming deterioration in the way we speak to each other. This situation brings to my mind the many children and young people, who spoke to me about their experiences of bullying, and the impact of such experiences, whether they were the victims of bullying or the bystanders who witnessed such episodes. Therefore, I appeal to us all as adults, to keep constantly in mind that our example is a compelling force.”

Coleiro Preca, a former social solidarity minister who always held social justice at heart, also explained that precarious employment and poverty continue to hinder economic development and social mobility.

“The majority of those at risk of poverty or social exclusion are the working poor, or pensioners who cannot cope with the cost of living or guarantee a quality of life for themselves … Poverty threatens human rights and the dignity that every human person deserves,” she said.

The President insisted that in the backdrop of the country recording increases in economic growth, it is the most opportune time for poverty to be “seriously addressed”.

“Even though Malta spends 6% of its GDP on education, results have let much to be desired … We still have too many youths and adults who do not view education and training as an integral part of life, while more worrying is the fact that there is still a considerable number of youths who leave compulsory education without having obtained basic skills and are being condemned to a life of preciousness and social exclusion,” she said.

“The students who are least successful mostly come from the lower socio-economic strata … We cannot say that we have a democratic society when there is no equitable access to the basic tools of democracy,” she underlined.

The President also insisted that the roots of failure in education lie in the shortcomings of social action, and that consequently, the solution must not target individuals, but society as a whole.