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‘It is easy to criticise, harder to accomplish’

Photo: Jason Borg

Photo: Jason Borg

Nationalist candidate Ryan Callus thinks politics needs to have more engineers like himself. He tells Christian Peregin he wants to help his party keep changing the country.

Profile

Name: Ryan Callus
Age: 29
Profession: Engineer
District: 6
Residence: Siġġiewi

What is your background and why did you decide to contest the election?

I personally voted against divorce but had I been in Parliament I would have voted in favour once the referendum passed with a majority in favour

I graduated in Engineering but my job is policy coordinator within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs... I also contested the local council election in March and was elected deputy mayor.

I decided to contest the general election because I did not want to remain a critic. I wanted to be part of the change I wanted for my country.

Why choose the Nationalist Party?

I got involved in politics at University at the time of the EU referendum... I am contesting with PN because I feel comfortable with the change this party brought about in the past 25 years and which it is proposing to bring in the years to come.

Did you also want to help the PN change?

The Nationalist Party is not perfect but it has done a lot of good. It is easy to criticise but much more difficult to accomplish what you are proposing. I think I wanted to stand up and be counted. The PN has changed throughout the years, both in substance and people, and I am proud to be on the team as another fresh young candidate.

What are your ambitions?

I have no ambitions. I am doing this because I think I can contribute, and rather than looking at posts I want to give my best and accept any result.

How do you plan to contribute?

I graduated in Engineering and I think we need more people with such a background in Parliament.

We have many lawyers and doctors. Why do we need engineers?

It is best to have a diverse mix of all the professions that represent our society. I think engineers are more pragmatic. They tend to go straight to the solution. Politicians are often criticised for not being pragmatic.

Recently President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami said young people are not interested in hearing about the past. Why does the PN keep harping on about the 1980s?

The PN has been looking forward for these past 25 years. If Labour expects us to just forget the ugly days, it would not be in the interest of any of us. We should not go back to those times, but I do not agree the PN is a backward looking party. Numerous changes we have seen in this country have been brought about by this party.

But do you agree that young people are losing interest in hearing about the ugly days of the 1980s?

Perhaps it’s because they know what happened but did not experience it. You tend not to appreciate... as a young person myself, when I speak to the youth I do not speak about those things but what lies ahead: what the party has accomplished in the past years and how it can do more in the next five years.

The PN seems to have shifted from its position two years ago when it was adamantly against divorce. Now the manifesto says the PN does not want to interfere in people’s lives. Is it a positive thing that the liberal wing of the party is asserting itself?

The discussion which evolved in the Nationalist Party was a very mixed discussion. You had the conservative faction and the liberal faction.

Where did you fit in?

I am probably somewhere in the middle.

Were you in favour of divorce?

I personally voted against divorce but had I been in Parliament I would have voted in favour once the referendum passed with a majority in favour.

Are you worried that there are people in the PN who are too liberal?

No it doesn’t worry me. It gives me confidence that my party represents a wider society. Our society believes in different things.

What is the difference between the tablet computer proposals of the two parties?

The Labour Party sees the tablet as a toy. Even in the billboards, some children are portrayed in the kitchen, giving the impression that it is just a toy. To the Nationalist Party it is entirely different.

We have revolutionised the educational sector: we have gone from chalk and blackboards to interactive whiteboards. We gave teachers laptops. Now it is time to make the next step. We will not only be giving tablets to Year 4 students but to all the students from that age upwards.

You’re proposing to spend almost €24 million while Labour is budgeting €1.5 million. Labour’s proposal comes across as more of a pilot project that can be changed or extended. PN’s is very decisive: the teachers have to get on board.

That is another difference. We are also giving tablets to teachers and learning support assistants and that truly shows that to the PN, tablets are not toys.

But isn’t it too ambitious to give it to all students and teachers when we don’t yet know whether this will be a success?

The PN has never been afraid of being ambitious. We have been ambitious in the past. We created thousands of jobs while others thought we would not succeed.

Can we afford that sort of money? Wouldn’t it be more useful to spend €24 million in other areas?

To the Nationalist Party, education is one of three priority pillars. When it comes to education we should not stay back and limit our spending.

What do you think about the University stipends system?

I think they are necessary. I was a University student just some years back and stipends helped me to continue studying. More importantly, if we want to sustain the number of students pursuing their studies, we need to continue giving this incentive.

Why?

Because otherwise, in a country without natural resources... we cannot afford to sit back and not provide all the necessary investment required for education.

But we know there are many students who do not need a stipend. Many drive expensive cars and party every weekend. Doesn’t it make more sense to target the money to those who really need it?

No one has a guarantee that a student coming from a well-off family has parents who are committed to their children’s education. So let us not link the two. Besides, I don’t think there are many students with high-class cars. Also, students whose parents are on a low income already have higher stipends than others.

Don’t you agree with the Dean of Engineering that stipends are eating away at our research budget?

I do not think it is an issue of either one or the other. There was a discussion about removing stipends and increasing research.

The point is that we spend more money on the Eurovision song contest than on research. Is this how PN wants to continue doing things?

In our electoral programme we have a proposal dedicating €10 million to research grants. We are also getting substantial EU funding targeted to research. This has helped researchers explore new horizons and helped the research spending in this country.

You’re contesting on (former EU Commissioner) John Dalli’s district. How did people who voted for him in the past react to the scandal?

Well, I think that is not the discussion at this point in time. Obviously John Dalli attracted a number of substantial votes and those votes now have to be taken up by other candidates.

Are there many disgruntled supporters of John Dalli?

I do not have that perception or feedback.

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