Parliament – as the Speakers see it
A video trailing 90 years of history of the Maltese Parliament – from the election of Edgar Arrigo as the first Speaker in 1921 to the new Parliament building in Freedom Square, Valletta – will be distributed to libraries across the islands.
The 45-minute documentary follows the publication of an informative book about Parliament, which has been distributed to secondary schools as a teaching tool.
The documentary hinges on interviews with former Speakers who provide their own perspective on Parliament, against a backdrop of the island’s history.
A central preoccupation expressed in many of the interviews is Parliament’s overshadowed autonomy.
The former Speakers say that, as the country’s highest institution, Parliament should scrutinise the Administration and not be dependent on it for its operation.
They insist that, according to the Constitution, Parliament is an institution that is distinct from the government and the judiciary.
The documentary ends on the note that there is still a lot to do but the new Parliament premises would, hopefully, change the public’s perspective and help them see the House of Representatives as an independent and sovereign institution.
One of the interviewees, current Speaker Michael Frendo, insists that it is important that Parliament not only gets a new building but also its autonomy.
Dr Frendo, who yesterday released the DVD at the President’s Palace in Valletta, said the video would, hopefully, help the public understand what went on in Parliament. After summer, Parliament will also launch a permanent exhibition.
The author of the video, historian Henry Frendo, who was present for the launch, said the main idea behind the documentary was to document what the country’s legislature went through and how Malta’s self-government evolved into a sovereign Parliament.
Parliament, then consisting of a legislative assembly of 32 people and a 17-member senate, was launched in 1921 on the introduction of self-government.
The country had its own executive government, made up of seven ministers and a Prime Minister that would answer to Parliament about issues related to internal affairs.
Negotiations for independence, headed by George Borg Olivier, led to the creation of Malta as a state and it was through the 1964 Independence that the country got a sovereign Parliament made up of 50 members.
The documentary tells of the challenges that the island, which, until 1964, could not assume responsibility for foreign and defence affairs among others, had to face.
One of the government’s first biggest challenges at the beginning of 1967 was the British move to cut the civil service and fire employees at a faster rate than had been agreed.
This came at the same time that Malta was trying to diversify its economy – from one dependent on the British to one structured on industry, tourism and agriculture.
Those interested in getting a copy of the DVD, sponsored by Palumbo shipyards, can contact Parliament.