[WATCH] Six takeaways from our interview with the President

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said she supported giving migrants the vote in local council elections, and told us she would continue to preside over the Constitutional reform when her presidency ends in April

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca

With President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s term coming to an end in April, MaltaToday spoke with her about the themes with shaped her presidency.

Here are some of the key points from the discussion we had with her.

People’s president

Calling claims her presidency had been an extension of her previous social policy minister role “a misconception”, Coleiro Preca said a President didn’t have executive duties, and the main focus had to be advocacy.

“I feel that the quality of [people’s] lives doesn’t only depend on the money they have, but on all those things which can in any way affect their wellbeing. This was what I focused on in my presidency.”

Migrants should vote in local elections

On the matter of African migrant and asylum seekers rights in Malta, the President voiced her agreement with allowing such persons to be given a vote in local council elections.

“Just as people coming from non-African countries have a right to vote for their local council, so should those immigrants from Africa who have lived in Malta for a number of years,” she said.

Constitutional reform

The President said she had reached an agreement with the Prime Minister that she would continue to preside over the constitutional reform after her term comes to an end.

“It’s important that this is an educational exercise which helps us understand that the Constitution is our highest legal instrument… This is why it’s necessary that everyone understands what we are discussing, and that people’s aspirations are brought forward [to be considered during the reform], so that this new Constitution will truly be owned by the people… making them feel that it is their Constitution.”

Unjust claims of excessive charity work

The President also rebutted accusations that her presidency had been to concerned with collecting money from charity, saying this had in fact only constituted 5% of the work she did during her tenure.

Amongst the several platforms in various sectors which she set up and was involved in during the past five years, she mentioned an ongoing interfaith dialogue, where people from different religions could engage in discussion.

“Malta is changing every day. Unfortunately, some Maltese still don’t understand that we are now a country which offers a choice of all faith traditions,” Coleiro Preca said.

She highlighted that there was a lack of understanding of the President’s role in Malta. “I can’t count the number of times that people have commented on Facebook, for example, on birds at the Gardens which need to be given water to drink, asking how come the President wasn’t dealing with this matter. We’ve come to this.”

Victims of economic growth

Coleiro Preca said that, although Malta was doing very well economically, there were still people in society who are struggling.

“Some people might not like what I am saying, but the truth is that, with our strong economic expansion, unfortunately, a number of people have ended up as victims, with some even being rendered homeless because they cannot keep up with rent costs,” she said, as she urged for a strong push for adequate social housing for those in poverty.

The “us and them” mentality

In order to combat toxic political discussion, especially on online fora, the first thing to do is to address the “us and them” mentality on the island.

“Nowadays everybody has become a ‘journalist’ [but] we need to be more cautious in forming an opinion, and just because we don’t agree, it doesn’t mean I should insult you.”

Read the full interview here.

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