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'A recession of values'

Nationalist Party leader Lawrence Gonzi addressing the general council, yesterday. Photo: Jason Borg.

Nationalist Party leader Lawrence Gonzi addressing the general council, yesterday. Photo: Jason Borg.

Values of respect for other cultures and populations, that have long been an integral part of the Maltese community, need to be strengthened, Social Policy Minister John Dalli said yesterday.

"Maltese people were never xenophobic, never resented foreigners and always lived alongside foreigners. Maltese people have always helped in a very generous manner those in need, whether Maltese or foreigners. That is the culture that we need to strengthen," he said during the Nationalist Party's general council.

His comments came just a week after The Sunday Times published a letter from a prospective blood donor who would not donate blood unless he was assured it would not be given to immigrants.

Yesterday, Mr Dalli also stressed the importance of strengthening relationships between children and their parents.

"I do not like listening to children being bombarded with the idea that they are protected by an EU convention. The rights of children are natural rights which come from having parents who look after them properly," he said.

Earlier, Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo said the financial crisis was brought about by a recession of values, which was reiterated by Party leader Lawrence Gonzi.

"The economic recession is the result of a recession in our values because there were those who put their hunger to become rich before anything else," he said.

Referring to the recent European Court of Human Rights ruling that called for crucifixes to be removed from Italian classrooms, Dr Gonzi said in European culture, and for the Maltese, the crucifix was a unifying symbol rather than one which divided. He said it was imperative to defend the right of those who believe in the symbol of the crucifix.

"Just like I have the right to see the crucifix, I defend the right of other religions to see their symbols. That is what makes us Europeans," he said, adding that this was an opportunity to stand up and be counted.

Dr Gonzi said the government was duty-bound to look ahead and not just until the next election. Referring to the PN's election battle cry "together everything is possible", Dr Gonzi said this could be seen in action when, despite its vulnerability, Malta remained strong when faced with the international financial crisis.

He said that, before the global turmoil, the Labour Party tried to conceal the challenges, even when the social partners accepted that there was a recession that could have had a very negative impact on the country, especially through job losses.

"It is shameful that the Leader of the Opposition does not recognise this situation and we hear proposals which would have enlarged the deficit out of all proportion, thrown an albatross around the economy's neck and scared away potential investors," he said.

He said the island should not be scared of reform, and stressed the importance of looking closely at medicine prices, which were much higher than in other countries. This was one of the pledges made in last week's Budget which included 72 electoral promises.

Earlier, Nationalist backbencher Robert Arrigo, who has long been considered one of the disgruntled MPs, said the PN needed to be close to the people "who lend the party their vote".

Addressing Dr Gonzi, Dr Arrigo said the year was full of problems but Malta managed to emerge with just a few scratches. The country, he added, needed to respond to the needs of the population, including those who lost their jobs.

"When we are far from the shore and are caught in bad weather, as happened in June's elections, we need to be able to go back to shore," he said.

The council was peppered with tributes to councillor Pawlu Aquilina, who passed away on Saturday.

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