People are sick and tired of fighting in society, President George Vella said on Saturday as he unveiled plans to hold a conference on national unity later in February. 

The conference will be held on February 27, with a panel of seven experts from various sectors to give presentations throughout the conference. The public is urged to follow and engage via Facebook since only 40 people can attend the conference physically because of restrictions related to COVID-19. 

Speaking from San Anton Palace, Vella said the country could not move forward if it continues to face division in every aspect of people's daily lives. 

"Even at a micro level, if we look at our towns and villages, they are divided over even the smallest issues. 

"We deserve better and so we want to at least raise awareness so that we can start debating the issues at hand properly," Vella said at a press briefing. The conference, he said, should be one that stays far away from partisan politics. 

Outlining a series of issues he wants tackled, Vella emphasised the importance of understanding what is causing divide in society, what the public thinks of their own identity as Maltese as well as the crucial role the media plays in promoting national unity. 

'I will not be condemning anyone' 

Asked by Times of Malta how this is possible when both political parties run their own TV stations, newspapers and online portals, each pushing their own biased messages, Vella said he will not be "condemning anyone" but went on to appeal for "balanced, responsible and factual reporting that is also educational".

"We cannot just point fingers, we need to at least come up with solutions," he said. 

Vella said the lessons learnt throughout the COVID-19 outbreak that saw people coming together to support frontliners, follow rules and care for the vulnerable and lonely, should not be forgotten when the pandemic passes. 

The conference is unrelated to the ongoing process to reform the Constitution, Vella said. He acknowledged this process has been delayed because of the pandemic but confirmed work on the reform is still ongoing.

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