Parties fire first shots
‘Independence is a building block’
Published January 8
Labour leader Joseph Muscat yesterday emphasised the importance of nationhood at the first campaign rally for supporters.
The crowd, waving placards with the words Muscat 2013 and the campaign logo and theme, Malta For All, applauded when the Labour leader said Independence gave people “the tools” to create their own future.
“Independence was the first big step towards nationhood,” Dr Muscat said, adding that the next big one was Republic Day when, for the first time, the country had a Constitution drawn up by its own people.
He went on to recall the departure of the last British forces in 1979, a significant political achievement by the late former Labour leader Dom Mintoff. But Dr Muscat, who was the sole speaker at the event, did not mention either Mr Mintoff or the Labour Government by name, not even when extolling the social and economic achievements of the 1970s.
In a 30-minute address at Valletta Waterfront, marking Labour’s first mass activity in the campaign leading to the March 9 general election, Dr Muscat gave the crowd a short history lesson traversing the major political achievements of the last 100 years.
From Manuel Dimech and Mikiel Anton Vassalli’s dream of nationhood at the turn of the last century to EU membership in 2004, Dr Muscat did not once mention the Labour Party by name.
Political milestones belong ‘to no one but the people’
Dr Muscat “humbly” recalled the Sette Giugno victims, Fortunato and Nerik Mizzi (the founders of the Nationalist Party) for their vision of nationhood and the day Maltese football supporters sang the national anthem in 1954 – an event immortalised by poet Rużar Briffa.
He insisted that each of the political milestones was achieved by the people. “They belong to no one but the people,” he said.
Dr Muscat insisted that a country that lacked resources was built on the ability of its people to unite and achieve great things. “These achievements have no colour. Malta does not belong to politicians, one party or another,” he said to rousing applause.
His was a discourse peppered with patriotism, calling on the people not to fear change and to resist division along party lines.
He said the people chose to join the EU but now it was time to become “the best in Europe”.
“Liberals, progressives, moderates, we are all here with one aim: to make sure this country will be the best in Europe,” he said.
In a brief reference to policy, he said Labour wanted a just society that ensured disabled people could live an independent lifestyle.
When mentioning the removal of homosexuality as a criminal act in the 1970s, Dr Muscat said it was time to give gay people more rights.
He insisted the country had to make sure the factories that came to Malta in the 1970s and that employed “our fathers and brothers” will remain here “to employ our children”.
As red and white balloons filled the large tent where the rally was held and the Maltese flags fluttered in the wind, Dr Muscat ended his speech in a crescendo, inviting the people to be part of this political project and not a spectator to it.
His speech was followed by a three-minute feature film showing young people discussing their country’s history with an elderly man. All the while, a video projection of the campaign theme and logo bathed the Senglea bastion across the harbour.
This morning, Labour is expected to unveil its first set of proposals on how it intends to lower water and electricity rates if elected to government.
‘PN can win election once again’
Lawrence Gonzi yesterday assured supporters and activists that the Nationalist Party could win the upcoming general election because it would again prove it was the safest party for the future of Malta.
Addressing the first mass activity for this electoral campaign, the Prime Minister told a mass rally at the PN headquarters in Pietà that only the PN in government could assure that the country could continue to move in a steady direction and create the necessary wealth and economic activity to guarantee the current high levels of education, healthcare and good jobs. “I told you five weeks ago that we are ready to go. We always race to win and I can assure you that the PN can and will win the next election,” Dr Gonzi told a jubilant crowd of supporters both inside the packed hall and also in the street in front of the party headquarters via loudspeakers.
Dr Gonzi said that the PN wanted to send a positive message to the electorate: that the party could offer stability and a sound future. On the other hand, he said that Labour was only interested in gimmicks and after winning power at all costs.
“Just don’t forget that every time that Labour was in government the country was brought to its knees. They are so ashamed of their past that they don’t even want to say that they were in government for 22 months between 1996 and 1998. We’ve given them a brief opportunity to lead and they drove the country into a wall,” he said.
‘We are party for future of Malta’
Dr Gonzi said that, in contrast, despite the difficulties, both internal and external, the PN was proud of giving back to the electorate a country that was better than what it had been five years ago. He said Malta had one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the European Union, a thriving tourism sector and a very good education system, which was producing thousands of graduates every year.
He said that his party wanted the electorate to make an informed choice by comparing and contrasting both parties and their policies.
“The PN has led this country to very high levels while Labour makes false promises and has no policy,” he said.
Drawing a parallel between 1996 (when Labour had its last electoral victory) and this year’s election, the Prime Minister said that Labour was once again coming up with illusions by promising a reduction in the cost of water and electricity. He said the electorate could still recall what had happened in 1996 when Labour had promised and tried to remove VAT.
“They got the country into deep trouble and they will do the same this time round. Just don’t give them the chance to do it once again,” Dr Gonzi said.
The rally was also addressed by the PN’s deputy leader, Simon Busuttil who said that the PN’s electoral programme would be full of new ideas and initiatives.
“We will show you once again that we are the party for the future of Malta. The real change is us”, he said.
Dr Busuttil said that the PN would be showing the electorate that it had sound principles and a vision for the future.
“Despite having been in opposition for such a long time, Labour is just gimmicks and offers no policies or any fresh ideas,” he said.
The venue where the rally was held was embellished with tens of giant multi-coloured balloons and youths were dressed in various colours emphasising the PN’s electoral logo.