Students face off at the Mcast leaders’ debate
They were not wearing red and blue face paint but students stood face to face, taunting each other and chanting political slogans.
There was a lively atmosphere outside the gates at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology yesterday afternoon just after the three political leaders crossed swords in an animated question and answer session.
Organised by the Mcast student council, the debate saw Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Labour leader Joseph Muscat and Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Michael Briguglio take the stage in a packed auditorium.
With 20 minutes allotted to each leader, the counter ticked as students asked away, cheered, clapped, booed and listened.
They even outdid their University counterparts, who last week turned a similar debate between the three leaders into a noisy affair.
Labour-leaning students outnumbered their pro-PN counterparts yesterday. Long before any of the leaders had set foot on campus, the nearly 400 students who packed the auditorium were shouting “Joseph, Joseph” and Labour’s campaign slogan.
But in this highly charged yet jovial atmosphere, Dr Muscat had to contend with a pungent reminder of the single most embarrassing episode for him in this campaign.
In the background some students shouted “blokka silġ” – block of ice – with reference to the drugs case at a Labour Party club, which Dr Muscat first said he did not know about but later admitted having been informed.
Dr Gonzi was constrained to defend his government’s track record in a hostile environ-ment as he reached out to the students, urging them to think of their future.
“The bottom line is you will have to find work and a PN government will create 25,000 jobs in the next five years,” Dr Gonzi said.
He reminded them that it was a PN government that reopened Mcast after the institution had been closed down by a Labour administration.
Dr Muscat kept to his campaign message of unity as he urged students to remember that after March 9 there should be no winners or losers.
However, he added: “There is a yearning for change... and the important thing is not only finding a job but a good job.”
Dr Briguglio received occasional applause from both sets of supporters as he criticised and praised each of the main parties.
But Dr Briguglio got no approving claps when he cautioned against what he described as the politics of “Father Christmas” adopted by his rivals.
No new arguments surfaced but Mcast students showed they are as passionate as any about politics... even if in a partisan style.