Updated 1.55pm

Malta’s new president Myriam Spiteri Debono decried the "disease of greed" in her inaugural speech on Thursday, saying the country's governance must do more to overcome this vice.

"The relentless pursuit of riches, more often than not, translates itself into various forms of corruption; the pursuer becomes indifferent to the suffering he may directly or indirectly cause others.

"It is worse than substance addiction, which, in the perception of the majority of people, is the worst addiction one can suffer from. The drug addict, mainly, harms himself; greed harms the whole of society," she warned. 

Spiteri Debono addressed a crowd of the country’s top political figures at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, shortly after taking her oath of office to serve as Malta's 11th president. 

In a calm and measured tone, Spiteri Debono extolled on the virtues of democracy and maintaining the rule of law for the good of the nation.

Delivering her speech, the new president said she intended to be “visible and accessible” during her five-year term. 

“I will not interfere or speak about everything. I will speak out whenever I feel there’s the need to do so. I wish the next five years to be a presidency of the people and for the people."

She said the concept of good governance is a concept which should never be sidelined. It forms part of the widening and the evolution of democracy.

"We have already started working on this. I, myself, am the product of one of the reforms implementing the broadening of governance. Some of these reforms were implemented following recommendations from outside our shores," said the president, who has for the first time been elected through a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Myriam Spiteri Debono speaks to her predecessor George Vella from the palace balcony. Photo: Matthew MirabelliMyriam Spiteri Debono speaks to her predecessor George Vella from the palace balcony. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Implement inquiry recommendations

Shifting to more current events, Spiteri Debono underlined the importance of following up on the recommendation of public inquiries, particularly those surrounding the deaths of Jean Paul Sofia and Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

“The wounds around the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia are still open. We need to close this episode soon or else the fallout will persist,” she warned.

The president expressed her belief that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy and emphasised its importance in giving a voice to citizens and keeping the powers-that-be in check.

Scrutiny of the government’s work is not only the role of the opposition in parliament but also all media platforms that together exercise scrutiny on both the government and the opposition so that they can be more focused on their improvement and better serve our people, she said.

“The media is also the voice of the people and it communicates what they feel, it has a duty to elevate the voices of minorities... When people gather in our streets to make their voices heard, as long as this is done peacefully and is free of all forms of violence, this is an exercise in sovereignty and we must listen and take note.” 

‘Be generous with foreigners living here’

Commenting on how Malta’s economic success has seen it increasingly hosting foreign nationals in search of better prospects, the president said Maltese people must embrace foreign nationals as part of the fabric of society.

“The first step to integrating these foreigners, many who are less fortunate than us and who have come in search of a better life, is to embrace them and understand them," she said.

"We must go above and beyond the passivity of tolerance and half-baked of forced acceptance because ‘we need them’."

The character of our generosity must manifest itself in wider parameters, it must be the foundation on which each and every one of us conduct ourselves, she said. 

Education must instill love of the environment 

The president also spoke on the importance of education, particularly to instil a sense of appreciation for the constantly threatened environment among youths.

"They have to be conscious of this beauty and know their way to each and every corner of Malta and Gozo. In this way, they will be tangibly familiar and have a conscious appreciation of the natural and physical environment of our country, which physical and natural and environment is being continuously threatened,” she said.

Spiteri Debono highlighted the need for politics that seeks dialogue, persuasion and compromise.

While she aims to be visible and accessible in her role, she stressed that this does not mean that she will interfere or have her say on all matters. But nevertheless, she committed to upholding values for the country, subtly chiding the bickering among political parties. 

“I want the presidency of the coming five years to be known as the presidency of the people and for the people. Nobody, no one, and nothing is greater than Malta, our mother country. This includes the two major political parties,” she told those present.

She appealed to the two main political leaders to openly, by example, concretely expose that their love for Malta and its people comes first and foremost. Following their example, their supporters shall place at the very top Malta’s welfare before that of the party.

Attached files

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