Prime Minister Robert Abela celebrated his first 100 days in office on Tuesday with a late evening address to the nation in which he extolled the government’s achievements and also thanked all those at the frontline of the COVID-19 battle, making particular mention of foreigners who opted to continue to stay in Malta.
Abela said that with every passing day, he became more aware of the privilege it was to serve the country and its people.
The past 100 days were long days of work to improve the people’s quality of life, and unprecedented decisions needed to be taken.
It was true that his government had inherited a strong economy, but the country had also gone through an institutional shock and urgent action had been needed to ensure that the progress that was achieved in the past was not undone.
"We worked to immediately restore normality. We insisted on discipline and seriousness; and introduced reforms to strengthen our institutions, making changes to strengthen the rule of law and good governance," Abela said.
He recalled how consensus was achieved with the opposition for the first time on the appointment of the chief justice. Work would continue, he said, on the basis of the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
Soon, a new police commissioner would be appointed in an altogether new and more transparent manner which followed a public call and parliamentary scrutiny.
"These are unprecedented decisions but we implemented these changes because we are guided by the principles of good governance."
Abela spoke on how progress had continued on road projects, the building and maintenance of schools, social housing, tourism and improving the environment through new waste management plans.
According to European Commission indicators, confidence among businesses and families saw the sharpest monthly increase in almost 15 years.
The biggest challenge since the second world war
Turning to COVID-19, he said he never thought that the government would
face the biggest challenge since World War II.
"The decisions I have had to make in recent weeks as your prime minister, and as a government, have not been easy. However, we did not shy away from taking hard decisions for the common good and to safeguard our national interest – the health of Maltese and Gozitan families, and of all those living in our country."
Malta, he said, had been well prepared to fight the invisible enemy thanks to the investment in the health service.
This was recognised by the World Health Organisation which chose Malta as the model for controlling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Decision on migration
Abela said that as the airport and the ports were closed, Malta made it clear to the European Union and others that it could not, in this unprecedented situation, welcome more irregular migrants onto its shores.
"I expect that we will move from discourse to action so that the principle of solidarity can be truly fulfilled by the member states of the European Union.
Our country has always done its best; we alone carried a heavy burden. Malta, as a country, always fulfilled its obligations to co-ordinate search and rescue, in order to save lives," he said.
"The European Court of Human Rights understood that we had to close our ports, even for irregular migrants, in order to protect the health of our people at this time of a public health emergency, as declared by the Superintendent of Public Health."
In a political dig, he said that there were those who wanted to instil fear and heartbreak, "trying to get us sent to jail for life," but they would not stop the government from continuing to defend the country and the people, he insisted.
At the same time, money from the National Fund for Social Development was being used as a guarantee so that banks can issue loans to businesses, with interest covered by the government for two years.
Abela said he was very confident that Malta would emerge from this current crisis soon, and it would quickly resume progress and be stronger than before.
Addressing himself in English, he thanked EU and third-country nationals who opted to stay in Malta.
Malta's appreciation to foreigners who opted to continue working here
"There are more than 2,000 EU nationals who work in public administration, defence, education, health and social services, and nearly 3,000 non-EU nationals. The sacrifice you are making every day is immeasurable. In this hour of our greatest need, you are standing four-square with us. Far away from your own country and your families, you are giving your every hour to save the lives of Maltese and Gozitans.
"Let me assure you that your service to our republic will not go unrewarded. You have earned the eternal gratitude of Maltese and Gozitan families. We will always remember how you stood beside the beds of our ailing parents, partners and children at great risk to your own health. We will always treasure your service with a smile, even behind the protective equipment you have to wear during seemingly unending shifts," he said.
"You could have opted to go back to stand with your country. Had you done so, most probably we would have lost our battle. Instead with unbelievable dedication you chose to stand with us. Because of you, our five-thousand-strong foreign legion, our nation will win its greatest challenge. You may have been born far from our shores, but after what you have done for us, you have proven you are an integral part of our nation. Thanks for standing besides the thousands of Maltese and Gozitan front-liners. We will be forever grateful and I promise to be there for you like you have been there for us."
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