[WATCH] 10 highlights of the President’s Republic Day Speech

‘We must ensure that the economic success of our country does not leave victims in its wake’

1. The rule of law, the President said, is the deterrent against autocracy and abuse of power, but it is only as strong as the people acknowledge it to be. It depends entirely on whether people respect it or not, and in order for it to be strengthened, the country must not tolerate the law of power taking its place.

2. A constitutional reform, which was promised by both political parties, should be carried out in a public and transparent way, involving the entire country.

3. Expressing solidarity with all journalists particularly due to the brutal murder of Caruana Galizia, the President said that the work of journalists, as well as the freedom of expression, is indispensable to a democracy. However, she said that such a liberty carries with it responsibilities and should not be abused. Such abuse has led to what she referred to as a culture of verbal violence, in which modern means of communication was being used to humiliate and vilify those who hold different opinions, and that this behaviour is becoming an integral part of Maltese culture under the guise of freedom of expression, but that instead of facilitating democracy, it is undermining it. Partisanship also undermines the democratic fibre of our country and creates divisions among people.

4. Families and individuals affected by what the President referred to as the ‘scourge of drugs’ had asked her to pass on the message that drugs have no recreational value and that they are the enemy. She therefore appealed to legislators to create a safe space in which national debate can take place before any decisions are taken. Such discussion should take place with wider participation and informed decisions based on research and experience, and away from partisan sentiment.

5. On the issue of prostitution, the President said that decriminalisation is the progressive way forward for the country, a stance which she still holds following discussions regarding the liberalisation of prostitution between the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, voluntary organisations, individuals and entities interested in human rights, activists, and people who have experienced prostitution.

6. The President appealed to the LGBTIQ+ community to mobilise itself in favour of other minorities seeking to have their own rights addressed.

7. Coleiro Preca welcomed the government commitment to an integration plan, but called for greater solidarity with migrants and others whose work is continuously devalued and abused, and who live in deplorable and dangerous conditions.

8. Statistics show that there has been progress in regard to poverty, but that the amount of children still living in poverty is worrying, particularly due to the effect of poverty on children’s education and the fact that unless the poverty cycle is broken, this will only lead to more poverty. In this regard, Coleiro Preca also appealed for a comprehensive law which secures children’s rights including their right to be heard.

9. The issue of affordable housing also needs to be addressed as this will also have a devastating effect on children if families will be forced to move frequently. Therefore, the White Paper on the promised reform of the rental sector is crucial so that the issue is dealt with urgently.

10. Poverty, the President said, is not only linked to income. Emotional poverty is faced by elderly people who have been abandoned, as well as children whose parents are in prisons, children in orphanages, the sick, and those suffering from mental health issues.

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