‘Muscat has a vision’
PL candidate Sigmund Mifsud is putting down his instrument to trumpet Joseph Muscat’s praises. He tells Christian Peregin that Labour made mistakes in the past but is now ready to face the future.
Name: Sigmund Mifsud
District: 9 and 10
What is your background and how did you get involved in politics?
I like to consider myself an artist. I spent the last 14 years playing the trumpet in the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. I also organise concerts as a musical director, such as Rockestra.
I got involved in politics after I spoke to Labour leader Joseph Muscat about the fact that artists in Malta are treated like amateurs, not professionals. We remained in contact and one day he asked me to contest.
What was your initial reaction?
At first, I couldn’t imagine being in politics. I had never dreamt of getting involved.
Were you ever interested in politics?
I used to follow things every now and then, especially close to an election.
But you were never active.
No, I was never involved in any party or organisation associated with politics.
But the fact that the leader showed faith in an artist and wanted me on the team confirms he does not want to ignore any sector and is willing to give culture the importance it deserves.
As someone coming from the entertainment sector, do you think you are there just to attract votes?
If that was the case the party could have chosen someone who is more popular than me. I don’t think I can attract people in the way a TV personality can.
Are you prepared to be an MP? In practice, do you see yourself spending night after night in Parliament?
If I didn’t, I would not have got involved. Obviously, you won’t really know what it entails until you’re in it; but yes, I’ve done my homework.
I know it is time-consuming but I have always taken my responsibilities seriously.
Would you give up music if you were appointed to be a minister or parliamentary secretary?
I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
But if you are elected would you stop organising shows like Rockestra?
I don’t think I will be given a ministry at my first go. It’s more likely that I will assist someone more experienced. The fact I live culture means I can see things in a way that a lawyer cannot.
Labour has a real vision and understands today’s needs.
Were you always a Labourite?
My family has always been Labour but there were times when I didn’t feel part of the party.
When the issue of Malta’s European Union membership cropped up.
How did you vote?
I wanted Malta to join the European Union. In fact, I think we are not utilising our membership to its potential.
So did you vote in favour?
Does it disturb you that Labour opposed EU membership?
Every party does positive things but every party makes mistakes. I believe that at that time the Labour Party did not recognise the sign of the times and it was a mistake.
Similarly, the Nationalist Party today is not recognising today’s needs, such as in the case of divorce. It has an antiquated mentality.
Who is your political hero?
The person who encouraged me to get into politics is Joseph Muscat. One of the reasons I joined is because I believe in him, in his vision, and I admire him.
Are there any Nationalists you respect?
I used to work very well with former Culture Minister Francis Zammit Dimech. He always respected me, even though he knew I was not Nationalist. When we spoke about cultural issues, he always listened and helped me out.
You also work very closely with President George Abela on events like Rockestra. What can you say about him?
Dr Abela listens and when I had proposed Rockestra he took it on board immediately. I admire his dedication.
He was also a Labour leadership contender against Dr Muscat. Do you think he would have made a better leader?
I think they both found their rightful place. George Abela is seen as being capable of uniting all the Maltese. He is a very capable person and maybe if he were leader he might have attracted more people to the party because he enjoys the respect of so many people.
But I think Dr Muscat has more innovative ideas and a vision that is more adapted to today’s realities.
The fact that he worked in the European Parliament, together with his ideas, helps to make him the right person to face the future.
Do you think this Government has given the necessary importance to culture during this legislature?
One cannot say the Government did nothing for culture. Many people say we advanced greatly. But when you compare us to other countries, we are still very backwards.
It’s like we used to get 20 out of 100 and now we get 40 out of 100. There is a lot more to do.
The fact that in 2018 we will be the Capital of Culture is undoubtedly very positive but I can’t understand how we will be the Capital of Culture without a proper concert hall.
We’re going to have a new theatre designed by Renzo Piano.
That’s not a concert hall. We need to have a properly equipped theatre where we can hold productions throughout the whole year.
Do you object to the roofless theatre?
I don’t want to sound like I’m against what Renzo Piano is doing because I have huge respect for him. The problem is that the Government never wanted a theatre; it wanted a new Parliament.
I think Renzo Piano pushed to at least make use of this space. In that sense, it’s positive. But if the country needs a proper concert hall...
So will the Labour manifesto promise a concert hall?
This is a proposal I am pushing for but the country has certain priorities and the administration needs to take note of these priorities.
That’s the sort of reply the Government would give to you. Is there any political will from Labour?
Ideally, we will have a concert hall.
Are you pushing for it?
I will do my best to push for this idea.
Will you push for anything else? Or do you think culture is just about music and shows?
No, culture is what identifies us as Maltese. We should care for anything that identifies us.
The Government eliminated theatre censorship during this legislature. What do you think about censorship? Why didn’t we see you defending Maltese artists and authors?
The party took a clear position against censorship and when culture spokesman Owen Bonnici asked me for his support I supported him at a press conference.
If you were responsible for Malta’s participation in Eurovision, what would you do to make sure we win?
I think the most important thing is to really exploit our potential.
The rules at the moment are not attracting the best elements of our talent. Many composers have lost faith in the festival and do not participate any more.
Others say they intentionally submit mediocre songs because they think quality songs would not be appreciated.
We need to restructure the rules on submissions to ensure we find the best potential... not just a good song but a good song that is adapted to a good singer.
Do you have a concrete plan?
I have ideas but like with everything else, you would need to discuss and assess when you come to it. But one of the problems I see is having good singers with bad songs. You need to combine the two things.
So you would change the rules.
The rules definitely need to change.