Updated | President on Republic Day: Country's successes eclipsed by Daphne's murder

Malta remembers the day when, on 13 December 1974, the country established itself as a republic with Sir Anthony Mamo as its first President

Photo: Jason Borg, DOI
Photo: Jason Borg, DOI

In her Republic Day speech at the Grand Council Chamber within the Grandmaster’s Palace, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca welcomed the progress registered by the country on various levels, but said that the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia left numerous negative consequences on the island, as well as abroad.

The May general election, she said, also brought the country back to a time when partisanism was rife, adding that Republic Day should bring with it critical reflection built upon discussions and personal experiences.

The President said that the rule of law protected the country against autocracy and the abuse of authority, but it was only strong so long as the public recognised it. 

On the issue of freedom of expression, she said that the work of journalists is indispensable for democracy, but that this right carried with it a degree of responsibility. She also expressed concern about the fact that verbal violence was becoming part of Maltese culture under the guise of freedom of expression.

While thanking law enforcement for their efforts in the recent crackdown on drug trafficking in the country, Coleiro Preca said that drugs did not have any recreational value and that they are ‘the enemy’ of children. 

On the issue of prostitution, the President said that decriminalisation was the progressive move for the country. She also made reference to the progress made in furthering the rights of women, children, the LGBTIQ community, and supporting the integration process of immigrants.

Official Republic Day celebrations kicked off at 9:30am as members of the Armed Forces of Maltamade their way down Republic Street in Valletta – past the Law Courts - and on to St George’s Square.

It was on 13 December 1974 that Malta established itself as a republic. Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state and Queen of Malta, and the last Governor-General, Sir Anthony Mamo, became the first President of Malta.

Republic Day Awards and Medals conferred

EU Council president Donald Tusk and former Labour Party ministers Louis Grech and George Vella were  elevated to Companions of the National Order of Merit after having been awarded the Gieh ir-Republica award. Tusk was awarded the medal “for strengthening relations between Malta and teh European Unon.

Former Labour ministers Leo Brincat and Joe Debono Grech and former Nationalist minister Louis Galea were made officers of the Order of Merit.

Honorary consul in Bulgaria Borislav Tzetkov Boyanov was awarded the title of Honorary Officer for strengthening bilateral relations, alongside Jubran Taweel, a former Palestinian ambassador to Malta.

The new members of the National Order of Merit are John Bencini (trade unionist), Joe Camilleri (PL activist) Paul Camilleri Cauchi (artist), Francis Ebejer (author, posthumous), Reginald Fava (businessman), Dominic Fenech (University lecturer), Charles Flores (journalist), Godfrey Anthony Laferla (surgeon) and Richard A Matrenza (former Labour candidate and diplomat).

The Medal for Service to the Republic was awarded to Lorenzo Attard (noted for his time in the Second World War, posthumous), Gertrude Abela (breast cancer support activist), Joe Attard (former Zejtun Mayor, posthumous), Anna Calleja (director, Special Olympics Malta), George Farrugia (Malta carnival activist), Godfrey Grima (journalist), Susan Mulvaney (broadcaster, posthumous), Joseph Serracino (writer), Salvu Vella ('custodian' of Comino), George Zahra (Carnival activist) and Charles (Carmelo) Zammit (music teacher).