Forty-six years ago, Malta became an independent country. It was the beginning of the road towards the country we live in today, where all decisions about the Maltese nation’s future are in the hands of the Maltese themselves. It was the culmination of the efforts of many Maltese through the centuries who worked to attain this goal. It is, therefore, worthwhile today to reflect on where we have arrived and where we have regressed since September 21, 1964.
Politically, we have made great advances since Independence. Independence was the first in a chain of three interrelated episodes in Maltese history, which created modern Malta: Independence itself in 1964, the creation of the Republic in 1974 and Freedom Day, or the closure of the British military base in Malta in 1979. To be more historically correct, I would today add a fourth episode in Maltese history, which completed this process and that is Malta becoming a member of the European Union in 2004.
It is important to view these achievements as national gains for which all Maltese should be given credit. The fact that, at the time, there were lively debates going on in the country about the right course of action required to ensure success in achieving each individual goal is a credit to the Maltese nation because it shows a healthy democracy in action. Such achievements are not to the credit of one particular political party to the exclusion of the other/s, they are national achievements, to the credit of all Maltese.
Where I believe we have regressed politically since Independence is in the way politics has invaded every aspect of life in Malta. In pre-Independence times, politics was always volatile in Malta, perhaps because of our Latin temperament.
#However, it did not invade the everyday life of all Maltese as it does today. The media output of those days, for instance, was more balanced than it is today because it did not give excessive importance to politics in its reporting of daily events. Politics did feature in the media but to a more limited extent than today.
Today, with the two major political parties having their own television and radio stations, politics has invaded the homes of Maltese citizens to an extent that many would not have imagined in the past.
Furthermore, the participation of political parties in local government has also further politicised life at town and village level.
An economic revolution has occurred in Malta since Independence. From an economy that depended to a large extent on British military spending in Malta and where industrialisation and tourism were in their infancy, Malta today has a diversified economy with a blend of different industries and services, which have helped it to survive even in times of economic recession. In this respect, we are still facing difficult economic challenges at the time of writing. However, today, we have several Maltese entrepreneurs whose creativity and initiative have helped to generate more employment in Malta and increase the national wealth. They are a credit to the Maltese nation.
Socially, Malta is unrecognisable today from the Malta of pre-Independence days. Progress and interaction with other cultures has totally changed the face of Maltese society. Education has, of course, been the catalyst, which has brought about so many social changes. Today, the vast majority of the Maltese can boast of at least a basic education.
Thankfully, we no longer see beggars at the entrance to Valletta and other areas as in the days when I was a child. Poverty has, to a large extent, been eradicated. We can also boast of the achievements of several Maltese in the field of culture such as artists and writers. Yet, even here we have to be careful not to regress.
Today, there are several families living on the brink of poverty because their income hardly manages to cover their absolutely necessary expenses. We are also witnessing a certain narrow-mindedness in the way we debate burning social issues instead of having informed discussions based on empathy, respect for opposing views and the general good and progress as our main aims.
It is also very important to get our historical facts right. Both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party included Independence in their 1962 electoral programmes. Dom Mintoff and the Labour Party deserve as much credit as George Borg Olivier and the Nationalist Party in succeeding to make Malta Independent. Independence was not the monopoly of any single political party; it was a national achievement.
Forty-six years later, Independence inspires us to continue believing in ourselves. We are a small but great nation with a history that is a credit to us. We have managed to achieve a lot with very little.