It’s been a year since Robert Abela was elected leader of the Labour Party. During his election bid, Abela made it clear that, if elected, he would continue building on the country’s success while prioritising new areas that needed a major overhaul. Twelve months later, we can truly say that he has delivered on his promises while also leading the country through an unprecedented global crisis.

The pandemic sent shockwaves throughout the world. As a team, both in cabinet and in our parliamentary group,  but, more importantly, as a nation, we managed to combat the pandemic’s impact. However, the country did not stop moving forward and we kept introducing much-needed reforms that changed our country for the better.

If I had to take the areas I am directly responsible for, I can mention quite a few examples. As frontliners, police officers were responsible for enforcing COVID-19-related measures. Nevertheless, this did not stop us from launching a transformation strategy and implementing other measures such as extending the community policing project in various localities and changing the way we help victims of domestic violence. A specialised unit has been set up that allows victims to be given the support they need to get through this difficult time.

At the same time, we strengthened good governance and reform at all levels. From changing the way a police commissioner is appointed, to the introduction of a new code of ethics.

Good governance has been one of the main achievements of the Abela administration.

Faced with the economic impact of a global pandemic, the government chose to protect jobs by introducing effective and timely measures such as the wage supplement. This helped protect the quality of life of Maltese and Gozitan families. It is this principle that has guided us as we reached historic agreements for our soldiers and firefighters. It is because we wanted to increase their quality of life that we strived to improve their working conditions and salaries.   For the first time, they are being paid for the hours they work above the standard 40-hour week.

While we were negotiating these agreements, members of the opposition were busy instituting legal proceedings against soldiers which could have landed them in jail for simply doing their duty. This is the sad reality and one of the main disappointments of the past year.

Good governance has been one of the main achievements of the Robert Abela administration- Byron Camilleri

I must admit that the pressure of combatting the spread of the pandemic was made worse by the challenges of irregular migration. And, yet, we travelled to Libya and outlined a clear strategy based on three main pillars. Our policy on migration is based on reducing crossings, increasing the number of relocated migrants to other EU member states and the return of individuals not eligible for asylum.

In the past year, we significantly increased investment in the security sector. Our country’s security is a top priority for this government, and we are able to invest in it because a Labour government strengthened the economy during the past seven years. Over the next few months, capital expenditure in our disciplined forces will be six times more than it was in 2012. 

It is for this reason that we have always insisted that, while health is definitely a priority, we cannot take extreme decisions that will impact citizens’ quality of life. This is why we opted for the responsible approach rather than imposing a full lockdown as the opposition had suggested.

When I look back at the last 12 months, I must admit that I feel proud. Proud because it has been a decisive year for our country. One in which we never backed down from making the necessary decisions that will allow Malta to be one of the first countries in Europe to make a swift recovery from the virus’s damage to the economy.

I believe that it was also a decisive year for our party. The opposition is a clear example of how division within the party can be catastrophic. As a party, we have managed to remain united in the face of major internal changes while, at the same time, we continued to modernise ourselves. This is what makes the Labour Party relevant and all the more deserving of the electorate’s trust.

Make no mistake, it was a challenging year but, despite all the obstacles, we managed to achieve a lot. I look forward to implementing the budget measures and making 2021 a positive one for Malta.

Byron Camilleri is Minister for Home Affairs

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