The political turmoil that afflicted Malta in the last several weeks revealed substantial weaknesses in the way the country is governed and provided clear evidence of the erosion of traditional democratic values that define us as a European nation.
The good news is that the threatening political clouds that hovered over the country had a silver lining.
The silver lining is that there is now a unique opportunity to define a blueprint for a new Malta.
Grassroots movements are beginning to shape the political agendas in many countries as a result of traditional political parties failing to inspire confidence in many ordinary people. In France, the gilets jaunes have for the past several months taken to the streets to protest against the political indifference to the problem of social inequality. In Italy, the movimento delle sardine is organising public manifestations to object to the inflammatory rhetoric and policies of the far-right populist politicians.
The Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is the energetic leader of a global movement that wants world political leaders to take climate change seriously.
Malta, too, has its grassroots movement, in the form of Repubblika and Occupy Justice. They were initially focused on keeping the memory of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia alive by insisting that the investigations and judicial due process linked to her murder be speeded up.
The NGOs do not have specific political affiliations even if one of their primary objectives is to bring about positive change in democracy and beyond.
In its general meeting last Saturday, Repubblika members approved a manifesto that defines what the movement stands for, its objectives and the areas in which they want to collaborate with others to usher in Malta’s Second Republic.
This manifesto goes far beyond the updating of the Constitution which has already been initiated. It defines seven areas where change is critically important if Malta is to remain loyal to its democratic credentials. It is ambitiously idealistic, but all progress starts from ideals.
The backdrop of this manifesto is, understandably, the failure of the outgoing prime minister to practise good, ethical conduct in public life.
Our future leaders must have undisputed qualities of selflessness, inte-grity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
This list may seem like a tall order of qualifications that are mandatory for our political leaders.
But they are the foundations of good governance that most people will demand from those to whom they entrust the stewardship of the country.
Repubblika has decided not to enter the partisan political arena. This decision seems to be a good strategy in a country where the two-party political system is entrenched in the mindset of society. Its success in bringing about the much-needed change in Malta’s political system will depend on various factors.
The NGO will need to continue to break the mould of political patronage that has for a long lime afflicted both main political parties.
It is a sad reality that many voters invest in their favourite politicians in the hope that this investment will be amply compensated with unearned favours.
Another challenge that Republika will face is the struggle to motivate young people to take a genuine interest in reforming our political system. The lack of trust in traditional politics is understandable, but change can only come if a majority own the reform process.
The Repubblika manifesto is a most welcome contribution as the process of building a new Malta hopefully starts.