Malta now experiencing Mintoff's dream - Prime Minister

Malta truly achieved its freedom when Dom Mintoff was elected to government in 1971, starting the process to re-negotiate the island’s lease agreement with Britain, Joseph Muscat told supporters on Freedom Day

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressed party followers during a political event in Mtarfa on Freedom Day
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressed party followers during a political event in Mtarfa on Freedom Day

Malta is now experiencing the dream former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff had that Maltese people would not need to leave their country to find employment, but that instead foreigners themselves would be coming to the island to work, Joseph Muscat said.

The Prime Minister, addressing party followers on Freedom Day at an event in Mtarfa, said Malta had truly achieved its freedom in 1971, when, after the Labour Party was elected into government, Mintoff started the process to re-negotiate the lease with Britain held on the country.

Muscat said that all of Malta’s national holidays - including Independence Day and Republic Day - were important, because they were part of the national identify.

“We want to keep sending the message that if any of our national holidays are done away with, this would remove part of our identity,” he said.

Calling Freedom Day - the anniversary of when British troops left the island on 31 March 1979 - “a masterpiece" of Dom Mintoff’s negotiation prowess, Muscat said that the former Prime Minister's drive for Malta to be in control of its own future had changed the country from one the economy of which was based on war, to an economy structured on peace.

He said that one of the most important effects of that transition was that SGS-THOMSON (now ST Microelectronics) came to Malta, creating many jobs for the Maltese. “The SGS investment in the 1970s and 1980s was the biggest Malta had ever seen. And it remained the biggest until Crane Currency invested in Malta two years ago,” he highlighted, “This shows just how strong Malta’s transition was when it obtained its freedom.”

‘Professional’ way AFM dealt with hijacked tanker

Turning to the matter of the tanker, El Hiblu 1, which was this week seized by the Armed Forces of Malta and brought to Malta after it was hijacked by some of the rescued migrants on board, Muscat said that he had received messages from around the world complementing the army’s Special Operations Unit for the professional way they had dealt with the situation.

“Our soldiers did not know what they would find on the ship. They boarded it forcefully, but did not use force. And they did what they had to do - because we can't be a country to which anyone decides to just come, with us allowing them to do so,” Muscat said.

He said that he regretted that five teenagers had to be arrested following the hijack, but that “everybody had to respect the law”.

The Prime Minister, however, said he was disgusted by comments made “by people who should know better”, who said the tanker should have been “shot at and sunk” with the migrants on board..

“The level of racism and intolerance shown is disgusting,” he said, as he stressed that Malta was being strong with those who entered the country illegally. “We cannot let extremism take over. Those who are coming to our country illegally are being sent back - so we are strong when we need to be. But this should not add fuel to the fire of those who try to bring the level of discussion down to such depths”.

It had to be Labour to address female under-representation

Regarding the proposal put forward by the government this week which sets out that up to 12 additional female MPs would be added to the number of parliamentarians elected through the current electoral system, Muscat said that it had to be Labour to deal with the under-representation of women in Parliament.

“How can we accept the fact that only 27 women have been elected since Malta started holding democratic elections, compared to the hundreds of men. This shows there is something intrinsically wrong the system, so we decided we would do something about it, and the people gave us a mandate to do so last election,” he said.

“If it had not been us to undertake this change, I am certain that it would never be done. This is the change in culture which we need - and it has to be us to do it, or else we would have been having the same discussions for generations to come,” Muscat added in his closing arguments.