Republic Day honours and awards were presented to 15 personalities and a group of athletes at an investiture ceremony on Friday morning following a ceremonial parade in Valletta to mark Republic Day.
During the ceremony, five members were appointed to The National Order of Merit, two of whom received the award on an honorary basis, and one was awarded posthumously.
Eleven other individuals were awarded the Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika (Medal for Service to the Republic). Three of them were awarded the medal on an honorary basis and two posthumously.
Born in Żurrieq in 1950, Karmenu Vella graduated in architecture and civil engineering from the University of Malta, and later obtained a Master of Science in Tourism Management from the University of Sheffield.
He served and contributed to the Maltese democratic process for over four decades and was first elected to Parliament in 1976. He continued to be re-elected in the nine elections that followed. During his political career, he has been appointed Minister for Public Works, Minister for Industry and Minister for Tourism twice. Karmenu Vella vacated his parliamentary seat in 2014, following his nomination as European Commissioner.
Jovan Kurbalija has a professional and academic background in international law, diplomacy, and information technology. He has been a pioneer in the field of cyber diplomacy since 1992 when he established the Unit for Information Technology and Diplomacy at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in Malta.
Prof. Kurbalija is the founding director of DiploFoundation and the head of the Geneva Internet Platform. The DiploFoundation has been a pioneer in research and capacity development programmes in digital technology for over 15 years, promoting the development, dissemination, and use of information technology in the field of diplomacy and international relations.
Since 1997, Prof. Kurbalija’s research and articles on cyber diplomacy have shaped research and policy discussion on the impact of the internet on diplomacy and international relations. Prof. Kurbalija lectures on e-diplomacy and internet governance in academic and training institutions in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the United States and Malta.
Raymond Mangion was born in Ħamrun in 1959. He was a script-writer for rediffusion and radio. In 1978, he was the first person in the history of broadcasting in Malta to initiate a long series about the Maltese towns and villages and about Maltese biographies.
In 1981, he started criss-crossing Malta to conserve for posterity the Maltese nation’s collective memory. His work now consists in the conservation of hundreds of memories.
In 1997, he carried out intensive research in the archives of Palermo, Sicily, and managed to trace a copy of the Capitula and Constitutions of Apulus of Sicily (1497) that applied to Malta in the Late Middle Ages. In the same year, with the permission of the Malta House of Representatives, he transcribed the minutes of the first Malta Council of Government (1835-1849). He ensured the conservation of a document of great historical importance.
Dr Mangion is currently a professor of law and legal history at the Faculty of Laws, University of Malta.
Tony Zahra was born in Sliema in 1945 and currently serves as the president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.
Mr Zahra is considered one of the pioneers of the Maltese tourism industry and throughout his career he has owned and managed tour operating companies in the UK and the Netherlands, a destination management company, hotels and other accommodations in Malta.
He started his business career at the age of 18, investing in a car hire company.
In 1995 when the financial services industry was in its early development, he set up Fexserv Financial Services, a company dealing with foreign exchange and money transfer. Over the years this financial services activity has expanded to include fund management, fund administration, and more recently, pensions.
In 1994, Tony Zahra was appointed as honorary consul general for the Republic of Lithuania. He is currently president of the Malta Tourism Foundation and forms part of the Lisa Maria Foundation which is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, set up specifically to safeguard children and young adults from harm.
Joseph A Buttigieg (Posthumous)
Born in Ħamrun in 1947, Joseph A. Buttigieg is the late father of Pete, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2020 United States presidential election.
He completed his undergraduate work and a master’s degree at the University of Malta. He earned a second postgraduate degree, a B.Phil from Heythrop College in Oxford, England and then migrated to the United States to pursue his Doctorate in English at the State University of New York where he earned his Ph.D in 1976 with a dissertation on aesthetics in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
That same year he moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to teach at New Mexico State University. In 1979 he was naturalised as a US citizen.
Mr Buttigieg specialised in modern European literature and theory publishing numerous articles, essays and books. He also translated and edited the three-volume English edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. He was also a founding member and President of the International Gramsci Society.
At Notre Dame University (Indiana), Mr Buttigieg held many leadership and administrative roles, including as Chair of the Department of English, Director of the London Program, and Director of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, where he mentored some of the college’s most promising undergraduate students, with an emphasis on service and leadership.
Midalja Għall-Qadi Tar-Repubblika
Anthony Bezzina was born in Paola, in 1948. He is a renowned entrepreneur and considered a local leader in maritime affairs. He is highly respected in his locality for his contributions in the social and philanthropic spheres.
After completing his studies, Mr Bezzina joined his father in the family business. Showing initiative and maturity well beyond his years, he advanced through the ranks currently occupying the position of director of all the companies forming part of Bezzina Group.
This group is formed of four corporations namely, Salv Bezzina and Sons Ltd, Bezzina Maritime Services Ltd, Bezzina Ship Repair Yard Ltd, and Bezzina Steel Fabrications Ltd.
For the past 38 years, he has been president of Hibernians FC. Under his stewardship, Hibernians FC launched a football nursery where children from the locality and its surroundings would improve the technical abilities in football in a sound environment.
Fr Ġanmari Cauchi
Fr John Mary Cauchi, better known as Fr Ġanmari Cauchi was born in 1942 in Għarb. In 1963, at 21, he moved to Brazil to pursue his studies in theology.
Archbishop José Maria Pires ordained Fr Ġanmari Cauchi priest in the diocese of Paraiba in 1967 where he gave service for around 50 years.
Fr Cauchi was the bishop of various parishes and he assisted farmers through an organisation of the Brazilian Catholic Church known as the Land Pastoral Commission whose aim is to help poor farming families to acquire a piece of land, often having lived on it for several years. His work was not always accepted especially by the landowners and there were occasions where he was also threatened with a firearm.
At the age of 75, and after having spent 50 years as a priest in Brazil, he decided to return to Gozo where he is still giving service at the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary and the Pompeii Home for the Elderly.
Born in 1934 in Cospicua, Joe Grech is renowned for introducing songs in Maltese to an international audience.
Mr Grech won the first Malta Song Festival in 1960, which was held at the Radio City Opera House in Ħamrun, with his own composition Vola Uccellino. In 1962, he won again in the same fesitval with the song Żgħażagħ Rebbieħa.
In 1965, he was chosen to represent Malta in the Italian Festival of the town Martina Franca. In 1967, Mr Grech managed to establish himself as one of Malta’s most popular pop singers with songs like Il-Kaċċatur, Il-Festa Tagħna, Ku Klu Ku Klu, Il-Lejla tal-Vitorja and Nhar San Girgor. Mr Grech managed to record four consecutive 45rpm records in less than two years. These records continued to increase the popularity of Mr Grech both in Malta and among Maltese migrants abroad.
In 1971, Mr Grech was the first Maltese singer to represent Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest with the Song Marija l-Maltija, composed by himself with lyrics written by Charles Mifsud. This song was translated to Swedish and was included in the repertoire of the Swedish singer Lasse Berghagen.
In the 1970s, Mr Grech successfully toured in many places around the world and it was during one of these tours that he recorded a long-playing album Saħħa Malta with Joe Grech.
The song Eviva l-Maltin was composed by Mr Grech himself and was dedicated to the several thousands of Maltese living in Australia. In 1976, he performed at the Royal Ballroom of Melbourne, and on March 12, 1977, he gave a spectacular show at the Sydney Opera House.
Born in 1930 in Sliema, Lino Grech was a distinguished Maltese actor, director and writer of theatre works. Through his initiative, a number of drama schools were set up in Malta and he dedicated his life to promote drama and theatre.
He was renowned for various scripts namely, F’Baħar Wieħed, Ipokriti, Ingroppi, Simpatiċi, Tgħannieqa, and Kristu tal-Kerrejja. The screenplay F’Baħar Wieħed was the first teleseries in Maltese broadcast on Xandir Malta.
He also wrote other scripts based on the lives of religious persons, such as Madre Margerita, Padre Pio, Mgr Joseph De Piro, Adeodata Pisani, St Ġorġ Preca, Maria Goretti and Bernardette of Lourdes. Among his various productions, one can find numerous television programmes such as Il-Familja Grech, Ħaddieħor and Sejjaħtli. Other theatrical works include Min qatel lil Ġanni?, It-Tlettax il-Kmandament, Meta Jintefa d-Dawl, Divorzju bi Prova, Għoqda fuq l-Istonku and Friefet u Barrin.
Alfred C. Sant
Alfred C. Sant was born in Mosta in 1945. He has always shown a keen interest in culture, particularly in contemporary music.
Over 50 years, together with composer Ray Agius, Mr Sant wrote a number of renowned pieces which became part of Maltese folklore, namely L-Ewwel Tfajla li Ħabbejt, Computer, Sal-Aħħar, Fjura fil-Kantina, Fejn Tħobb il-Qalb and Dak Kien Żmien.
Other songs penned by Mr Sant also left a popular impact and were then associated with their singers. These include Il-Qalb ta’ Kampanjol, performed by the late Toni Gauci, L-Għannej by Tony Camilleri, Il-Kuġin Ġiljan, which remained synonymous with Joe George Micallef and L-Aħħar Bidwi f’Wied il-Għasel (written together with Paul Abela).
Mr Sant participated in several contests abroad with his songs including Australia, Japan, Chile and in Europe. In 1995 and 1996, he also took part in the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Keep me in Mind’ (with Ray Agius) and ‘In a Woman’s Heart’ (with Paul Abela), respectively.
He also wrote and produced a number of musicals such as, L-Għarusa tal-Mosta, that was performed at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Toni Bajjada-Eroj minn Naxxar and Qalb il-Kampanjol. As a dramatist, his written work was played at the Manoel Theatre, St James Cavalier, on television and he even wrote several productions for radio, broadcast on Radju Malta.
Athletes of Special Olympics Malta
The 28 athletes of Special Olympics Malta, who participated with different challenges in this year’s Special Olympics held in Abu Dhabi, won 40 medals, 12 gold, 13 silver and 14 bronze in nine sport disciplines.
These athletes, who had to train intensively with continuous sacrifice, commitment, discipline and dedication for the past three years with the assistance of their coaches and relatives managed to achieve great results.
The athletes that participated in these Olympics were an inspiration to other persons with special needs and society having demonstrated that no one should let personal challenges hold them back.
Through their success, they confirmed they had all the necessary skills to compete with other athletes from around the world.
Loranne Vella Zahra
Loranne Vella Zahra was born in Gozo in 1971. During her undergraduate project research in 1994, she isolated, identified and named a novel bacterium belonging to the genus Salmonella - abbreviated as Salmonella Gozo - in honour of the island where it was first isolated. She subsequently graduated with first class honours in pharmacy from the University of Malta’s Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.
She continued postgraduate research in medical microbiology at the University of Malta’s Department of Pathology. Her work focused on clinical diagnosis of fungal infections, securing local project funding to support Maltese immuno-compromised patients with concomitant fungal disease. As a result, in 1995 she successfully established the first medical mycology laboratory for the clinical study, isolation and identification of pathogenic fungi.
Her primary research into mycotic infections in Malta continued after her graduating MPhil with distinction in pathology in 1997, publishing several papers in international peer-reviewed journals. She trained and mentored several Maltese BSc and pharmacy students in their undergraduate projects, ensuring that mycology was firmly established in both the public and private clinical sectors. Before moving to the private sector, she also completed the new mycology laboratory design specification for Mater Dei Hospital.
In 2014, Ms Vella Zahra successfully designed and led a global quality project for the IAG Group (British Airways and Iberia) making them the first cargo airline with a global airport network licensed for the safe international transportation of pharmaceuticals. She currently resides in the UK and now operates her own pharmaceutical quality consultancy.
Born in 1948, John Zammit is the current president of The Malta Cycling Federation.
During his competitive career, not only did he represent Malta in some important events abroad, but he also had a three-year spell with Sicilian club GS Lampolet of Catania where he won numerous honours.
He is also very much attached and dedicated to the BMX Malta Association, of which he is not just president, but also founder. Thanks to his initiative, Mr Zammit has managed to attract thousands of youngsters to the sport over the years. He has also worked hard on the Tour of Malta, of which he is a co-founder.
After retiring from competitive cycling, he started coaching and, in 1991, he led the Malta national team at the Andorra Small Nations Games.
In March 2016 in Portugal, Mr Zammit was awarded the UEC (Union Européenne de Cyclisme) Merit Award during the 2016 Ordinary General Assembly and this year, 2019, in Yorkshire, he was awarded the highest international honour.
José-María Ballester Fernandez Fontes
José-María Ballester Fernandez Fontes was, until 2005, director of culture and cultural and natural heritage of the Council of Europe. He has been responsible for the proclamation of the Camino de Santiago as the first European cultural itinerary.
Prior to joining the Council of Europe he was an advisor in the office of the general directorate of fine arts (1968-1970), exhibitions curator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1969-1979), director of the centre for new expressive forms (Ministry of Culture, 1978–1979). In 1979, he then joined the Council of Europe where he held various positions related to Cultural Heritage.
Mr Ballester Fernandez Fontes served as a member and vice-president of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards until 2012, when he was elected president. Between 1996 and 2008, he also served as an advisor to the Holy See for the cultural goods of the Church. He was instrumental in the setting up of the St John’s Cathedral Foundation in Malta.
Roland Oreste Cassar (Posthumous)
Roland Oreste Cassar, was born in Egypt in 1934 where he lived until he was 17.
At this young age, he left the country to pursue an aeronautical engineering degree in England. He stayed in Bristol for 13 years and there he was given an assignment to design the vertical tail section of the famous supersonic airplane, the Concorde.
When McDonnell Douglas, a major American aerospace manufacturing corporation and defense contractor, went to England recruiting talented engineers with supersonic background experience, they offered Mr Cassar a coveted position in their Long Beach, California facility.
His command of many languages helped him to travel the world with the Boeing sales team, explaining and answering technical issues to potential customers.
His direct boss at that time was Pete Conrad who was the third man to walk on the moon (Apollo 12) with whom he travelled throughout Africa on a sales tour.
He worked as business unit manager at Boeing where he supervised 250 employees on the C-17 Globemaster III for structural stress testing, loads and fatigue along with overseeing the formal military and FAA certification process.
Natalie Louisa Maria Muschamp
Natalie Muschamp is the managing director of Step Up for Parkinson’s. She originally studied dance in the Netherlands and has completed a Masters by research in dance studies in Malta.
In 2015, Ms Muschamp became aware of the Dance for PD programme in Brooklyn, New York and felt compelled to help people with the disease through dance movement.
She followed a course in the UK given by Dance for Parkinson’s network UK and people dancing in partnership with English National Ballet, Plymouth Dance and Plymouth University, followed by an advanced training course with Dance for PD in Brooklyn.
In 2016, she started a pilot study in Malta in collaboration with the Malta Parkinson’s Disease Association and realised how these classes could benefit not only the person with Parkinson’s, but also their caregiver.
To be able to host these classes free of charge, Ms Muschamp applied for funding and founded the Voluntary Organisation Step Up for Parkinson’s. The organisation grew rapidly from eight to 190 participants, hosting nine classes per week in Malta and has 11 trained teachers working for the organisation.
She aims to continually host these classes free of charge and to help people affected by this disease and their caregiver by unceasingly improving the methodology through research and development.