Former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi resigned from Parliament this evening, saying he was returning his Parliamentary seat to the people so that it could be occupied by someone “who can give the electorate all his energy”.

In an emotional farewell in the House, Dr Gonzi said many had asked him to stay on for the rest of the legislature. But had he done so, he would have acted against what he always believed in, he said.

Dr Gonzi made his address as his wife Kate and his family watched from the Strangers' Gallery. On his arrival in St George's Square, he was greeted by a small crowd of people who turned up to wish him well.

The former Prime Minister asked for forgiveness from those he may have hurt and said he had done his utmost to serve the people and the country he loved so much.

“I know I also made mistakes, mistakes from which I learnt lessons which I will hold for life.”

Dr Gonzi entered Parliament as Speaker 25 years ago and subsequently served as minister before becoming Prime Minister nine years ago and, briefly, leader of the opposition after the general election last March.

In his speech he charted the milestones the country had seen over that period including economic, infrastructural, educational and environmental ones.

“I am proud that for 23 of the 25 years of my political career, the country was administered by a Nationalist government,” Dr Gonzi said.

These changes, he said, were accompanied by others which brought with them new and more serious challenges, such as that of irregular migration.

This was a major problem but its extent should not make anyone forget that at its core were people who were the victims of incredibly tough realities.

It was because of this reality that the racist writings and expressions he heard and read in the past days saddened him. They showed that there were still people in this country who had not yet realised what a human tragedy was unfolding in the waters around Malta.

Dr Gonzi said the country should continue to insist with the EU on burden sharing.

It should also insist with the European and international community that it was in everyone’s interest that these people were integrated in a community which offered them space to develop in dignity and that they should help in the repatriation of those who were not entitled to refugee status or humanitarian protection according to the conventions to which Malta was signatory.

In all this, the country should remain guided by a strong sense of respect towards human life, he said.

He hoped that Parliament would continue to favour humanity in all its decisions and never forget the difficult choices which made the country what it was today.

Dr Gonzi said that politics brought together many voices, which, although different in tone and volume, created something beautiful.

This was not easy because politics usually meant passionate and tense debate. But if one really tried to improve society, there was no more effective tool than politics built on a sense of service.

He said that power was just a tool and not an aim in itself. This was why MPs should keep reminding themselves that their seat, which included the title of ‘Honourable’, was on loan from the people and its occupiers would only be ‘Honourable’ if they used it to serve the people and for the common good.

Moreover, power was intimately linked to solidarity and its use was only justified when used responsibly.

Dr Gonzi said that politics were not everything and in the weeks since he stepped down from his post as leader of the Nationalist Party, he was rediscovering joys he had nearly forgotten - like going for walks with his wife and grandchildren, working less and taking more time to appreciate the country’s beauty.

He hoped all MPs would find satisfaction in their work and sacrifices to leave the country in a better state.

He thanked all MPs and hoped they would continue working for the benefit of the country “for all of us to remain proud of being Maltese”.

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