President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca spoke of the rule of law, the need for constitutional reform and people's concerns about drug legalisation in a Republic Day address on Wednesday.

"I believe that the rule of law is as strong as the people acknowledge it to be, as much as they believe in it, cherish it, and continue to support it.

"If, as a nation, we end up believing that the law of power outstrips the rule of
law, it will be difficult to strengthen the rule of law and to maintain its place as
a key element in a strong democracy," the President said at the Palace.

She said she was therefore reiterating her appeal for Constitutional renewal.

"Constitutional reform should encourage and involve the participation of the entire nation. I truly believe that this process should be a public and transparent one."

The President expressed her regret following the murder of blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia and expressed solidarity with journalists.

"We understand that condemnation for this horrendous act is no consolation for the victim's family. On the other hand, the developments that occurred in the investigations should give us hope that justice will be served," the President said while thanking the police and foreign agencies who assisted them.

"I would like to encourage Maltese journalists to continue to seek the truth scrupulously, in an unbiased and impartial manner. Be courageous and continue giving us the services that you have always given us without fear or prejudice. Freedom of expression is sacred to democracy, but it also carries with it responsibilities, based on facts and not half-truths or speculation," she added.;

She however expressed concern over an emerging "culture of violence" where social media was used to humiliate and vilify those subjectively considered rivals because of their different opinions.

The scourge of drugs

The President praised the security forces for tracking down drug traffickers, and organisations such as Caritas, Sedqa and Oasi, who helped addicts recover.

In a clear reference to plans for the legalisation of some drugs, the President said families and individuals of drug victims had asked her to convey the message that drugs had no recreational value, and that drugs are an enemy, and not their children's friends.

"I appeal to our legislators, before taking any decisions, to create a
space for a national debate, in which partisanship has no place, so that not
only will we have wider participation, but also make informed decisions based
on research and experience."

She also called for pending court cases to be tackled more quickly.

With regarded to prostitution, another area earmarked for legislative reform, the President said the progressive way forward is to decriminalise the victims.

In her wide-ranging speech, the President welcomed economic growth made by the country over the past year and the reduction of poverty.

"Our fight for liberalisation and gender equality must remain focused on strengthening women's presence in public life

She also touched on equality and integration.

"Our fight for liberalisation and gender equality must remain focused on
strengthening women's presence in public life, and in areas where decisions are
taken; on addressing the gender pay gap on protection from all types of abuse,
such as domestic violence; on more flexibility in the public and private
workplace; on acknowledging the work of homemakers; on issues of women's
health; and on solidarity with precarious and marginalised women," she said.

She also underlined the importance of solidarity and care.

Many people, she said, feared that the value solidarity was giving way to
a culture of individualism and egoism.

"We also have a responsibility to reflect on the consequences of living a life
next to, rather than with others. A life where, solidarity takes the form of
occasional charity, where private wealth becomes more important than the
common good, where we communicate with gadgets rather than with people."

"If we do not reflect critically about what is happening around us in this regard, then there will come a time when values, such as solidarity and social justice will be considered as past values," she warned.

Solidarity also involved migrants, whose work was devalued and abused, and who lived in chronic precariousness, and deplorable and dangerous conditions, she said.

"On the other hand I must express my satisfaction at the news of the launch of
the integration policy, by government authorities. This policy will, I hope, strike
a balance between responsibilities and rights; a policy which affirms cultural
differences while creating spaces for continuous interfaith and intercultural
dialogue."

Near the end of her speech the President stressed that economic growth must also ensure a protected environment.

Read the speech in full by clicking on the pdf link below. 

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