I have always been amazed how here in Malta we manage to create political controversies about almost anything. We even manage to disagree on the significance of independence, which is probably the most important event in our history and which was truly a national achievement given that the major political parties of the time, that is, the Nationalist Party (PN) and the Labour Party (PL) both were all-out in favour of attaining independence and both worked very hard to make such a dream a reality.

In fact, I am one of those who believe that we should have one single National Day and that this should be September 21, 1964. I know for a fact that, like me, there are many within the PL who are of the same opinion. Naturally, the PL being a democratic political party, there are also different opinions on such an important topic of discussion. Let me give my views on the subject.

One of the biggest myths about independence is that it was mainly the achievement of the PN and of George Borg Olivier in particular. The historical facts show otherwise. I will immediately acknowledge that the PN worked hard for independence and that Dr Borg Olivier was the driving force behind such efforts in the 1950s and early 1960s. However, what about the PL under Dom Mintoff?

Those who try to denigrate the PL's role in independence always bring up the integration issue as supposed proof that Labour's heart was not in it insofar as independence is concerned. This is simply muddying the waters for partisan political advantage.

The reality is that integration with Great Britain made a lot of sense in the 1950s given the particular political and socio-economic realities of those days. Remember that Labour was elected to power in 1955 with the slogan Integration Or Self-Determination. It was not a question of Labour being against independence; it was a question of getting the best for the Maltese people in the circumstances prevailing in those times.

The same applies to the feelers put out by Mr Mintoff to broach the subject of integration with Italy after the failure of the proposal to integrate with Great Britain.

Again, some people mention that Mr Mintoff and the Labourites protested against the type of independence obtained in 1964. This is correct but Labour was protesting because it wanted to obtain more freedom and more rights for all the Maltese nation through independence and not because the PL was against obtaining independence in 1964. Look up the history books and find out the innumerable instances when the PL had demanded independence from Great Britain at the end of the 1950s and in the early 1960s. It is no exaggeration to say that we even obtained what we managed to obtain in 1964 through Mr Mintoff's persistence during the all-party negotiations prior to independence.

The inauguration of the republic in 1974 and the closing of the British military base in Malta in 1979 perfected the independence obtained in 1964. What happened in 1974 and 1979 would not have been possible had the first and most important step not been taken in 1964. All three important historical events should be regarded as achievements of all the Maltese people, in other words, national achievements. It is historical nonsense to state that independence was "solely obtained by the Nationalists" or that the inauguration of the Republic and the closure of the British military base in Malta were "solely the work of the Labour Party".

That is why I believe that Independence Day should be our sole National Day, because it was the first achievement, the foundation stone, upon which the later achievements were built. Also, the PL deserves as much credit as the PN for obtaining independence. Bear in mind that both political parties included independence as their goal in their 1962 general election electoral programmes.

If we are to become more politically mature, we have to learn to give credit to our political adversaries where credit is due. As such, I believe that Dr Borg Olivier and the PN of his time deserve to be praised for their efforts in obtaining independence just as Mr Mintoff and the PL of his time should be praised too.

I know that some hard-liners within both major Maltese political parties will see red when they read what I have written today. However, I believe that people today are educated enough to appreciate any genuine effort made by a political party to eliminate confrontation in Maltese politics and we can start by interpreting political history correctly and impartially.

As for independence as our sole National Day, surely this is the most rational choice! A clear manifestation of national unity.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us