When Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that the yacht marina project in Marsascala had been scrapped, not only were local residents elated but all of us who have democracy at heart were. Finally, the voice of the people has been heard, But one asks: why now, during an election campaign?

It had been reported that Abela said: “When we listened to the people, we realised they feared the marina would take away their recreation spaces.” The residents in Marsascala had been holding regular protests against the project since the plans were made public in August of last year. So why is it that, on the eve of an election, the government has listened to the concerns of the people?

The only logical answer is because the Labour government needs our votes to be returned to power. Of course, the power of the people should prevail. But let us not be fooled or tricked. There was ample time for such a decision to be taken. The voice of the residents had been loud and clear on many an occasion. Why had such voices fallen on deaf ears for so long?

The yacht marina saga is a clear proof that when citizens unite for a valid goal, whatever their political affiliations, they succeed. As Moviment Graffitti activist Andre Callus exclaimed: “Marsascala is a clear example of what citizens who speak up can achieve when they organise themselves.”

Now that election day is days away, each one of us, young and not so young, should realise that our voice matters, that in a democracy like ours we need to be bolder and more vociferous and speak out when things go wrong.

Let us use our vote to bring about the desired change. Our priorities should be good governance, the common good and the embellishment of our environment. We cannot expect, though, that such issues would be tackled by voting for the same people who, day in, day, out, have ignored our pleas and have simply looked after the interests of the few.

Breaking away from partisan politics will help us think for ourselves- Ray Azzopardi

We cannot go on living a lie. We have to grab the bull by its horns and admit that, as a nation, we have failed and failed miserably. We have been greylisted and the cancer of corruption has infiltrated all strata of society including our institutions and those in power. We, citizens, need to start the ball rolling. With our vote, by ticking the right candidates, we can bring about the desired change for the good of society as a whole.

Just one week after the elections, we shall be hosting Pope Francis. He shall be visiting us as the Vicar of Christ to pass on to us the much-desired message of healing and hope. We all know, though, that we cannot expect any miracle unless we, as individuals and as a community, play our part and change course.

As Václav Havel states in his book The Power of the Powerless when commenting about the need of changing a corrupt system: “A better system will not automatically ensure a better life. In fact, the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed”.

The starting point of our transformation, as a nation, should be to admit our wrongs. Unfortunately, our partisan politics prevents us from seeing the truth and admitting who is at fault. As Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt explain in their book How Democracies Die: “When partisan rivals become enemies, political competition descends into warfare and our institutions turn into weapons. The result is a system hovering constantly on the brink of crisis.”

We need to stop pointing fingers and work together for the common good. Levitsky and Ziblatt claim: “When we agree with our political rivals at least some of the time, we are less likely to view them as mortal enemies.” We need to allow ourselves to speak out freely and not be labelled ‘dissidents’ or ‘traitors’ because we criticise the system or party.

Quoting from Timothy Synder in his introduction to the book by Havel, we need to “expose the abnormality of normalisation to change the semantics of political drama, so that typical behaviour seemed absurd and individualists justified”.

Breaking away from partisan politics will help us think for ourselves and shall give us the freedom to protest in public squares and have our voices heard as the residents in Marsascala managed to do, with success, when they protested against the yacht marina.

Ray Azzopardi, former headmaster

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