Many people have written about the need for Malta to have one national day. I myself have been writing in this newspaper for around a decade about this issue. Unfortunately, despite all this, we seem to still be far away from finding a satisfactory solution.
In today’s predominantly materialistic Maltese society, public discourse is dominated by “bread-and-butter issues”. Anything else is considered unimportant.
This is why the debate about having a single national day seems to have faded into the background. This is regrettable, because I feel that it is patently ridiculous to remain in the present situation, where Malta has five national days and Independence Day is not accorded pride of place as the single national day.
Which is why I always like to bring up this topic for debate whenever Independence Day starts approaching.
Anybody who has even a basic knowledge of Maltese history knows that Independence is the most important, seminal event in our history. Without Independence in 1964, we would never have arrived where we are today.
We would never have registered the progress that we are registering today.
The other national holidays are all secondary in importance to this grandiose event. June 7 and September 8 both commemorate national achievements on the road to Independence, although it is also important here to note that it was not a linear development and we sometimes progressed and also regressed in our quest for Independence.
December 13 and March 31 both pay tribute to national achievements which consolidated and perfected Independence. In other words, the other four national days all centre around the core national day, that is, Independence Day.
Obviously, many will retort that this is correct, but the political fanaticism that reigns in our country makes it impossible to reach agreement on something that should be manifestly clear to all.
I beg to differ.
Today most of the Maltese population is educated enough and rational enough to go beyond such petty obstacles as denigrating Independence Day or turning the concept of a sole national day into one of partisan political controversy. Let us not make the mistake of thinking that the few political diehards who use the social media to continuously insult and denigrate their political adversaries are representative of the entire population.
It is true that on the Labour side there are still people who are vehemently opposed to having Independence Day as the sole national day.
However, these are few in number and are mostly people of a certain age who have swallowed hook, line and sinker the myth that Independence as obtained in 1964 was nothing more than a farce.
It is time for the political will to implement the changes necessary to make Independence Day our one sole national day
Serious historical research has shown that what we obtained on Independence Day in 1964 was the best we could have hoped for, given the circumstances of those days. Indeed, the only option was to insist for more and have Independence Day postponed to some much later date, perhaps even years later.
Dom Mintoff was without a shadow of a doubt one of Malta’s greatest prime ministers, but like every great leader, he had his defects too. It was a mistake on his part to denigrate Independence Day, because it was an achievement for which the Malta Labour Party had also worked hard.
It is no exaggeration to say that without Mintoff and without Labour, Independence would not have been obtained in 1964.
I challenge anybody who has any doubts about this to seriously research the history of Malta during the period 1958-64.
I say this without in any way wishing to diminish the crucial work of George Borg Olivier and the Nationalist Party in reaching this important goal.
Not making Independence Day the sole national day is an insult to the memories of so many great patriots who, before Mintoff and Borg Olivier, paved the way for this crowning achievement: Mikiel Anton Vassalli, Giorgio Mitrovich, Fortunato Mizzi, Manuel Dimech, Ugo P. Mifsud, etc.
It is also an insult to the ordinary Maltese men and women of so many generations of the past who, with their unremitting toil and honest commitment to the building of our nation, made Independence Day possible.
It is time to have the political will to implement the changes necessary to make Independence Day our sole national day. The few remaining Mintoffian diehards should realise that celebrating Independence Day as the sole national day means celebrating Labour’s achievements too.
It means valuing Mintoff’s great contribution to Independence. Independence Day is not the monopoly of any one particular political party or any one particular political leader, it is a national achievement.
Independence Day as the sole national day will send a positive message of national unity, something that is badly needed today. As Independence Day approaches, let us reopen this debate.
Desmond Zammit Marmarà is a Balzan Labour councillor.