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The June 7 debacle - Frans Said

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

On and off there are those who want to glorify the June 7 riots and tragedies.  In the past I have been accused of being a colonialist. For some people, any one that does not demonise the British rule is considered to be a colonialist while those blindfolded in favour of the Italians, especially the fascists, are supposed to be heroes.

I have never tried to justify any British action in Malta, but at the same time I have been more than weary of the Italian attempt at domination of the Mediterranean. Mussolini and the fascists wanted to control Malta so as to have full domination of all the Mediterranean. The glorification of this tragic day was part of a plan by the fascist groups to attain their goals.

There is much to admire about the Italians, be it art, music, language, cuisine, culture and the Roman inheritance. But at the same time, I cannot fathom being servile to any nation.

 The June 7 riots were instigated on the excuse of lack of food and famine. Can anyone explain in detail how the Italians could have helped in this regard?  How could the Italians lower the prices of food, especially corn and flour when in their very own country there was widespread lack of food?

The situation was so grave that the populations of Pantelleria and Lampedusa were mass transported to the mainland as the Italian government did not have the means to supply any provisions to those islands.

 World War I had brought with it great famine. Germany did not lose the war on the battlefield but had to accept a one-sided armistice so as to be able to obtain food for its citizens. Even in Britain there were a number of riots due to the lack of supplies and the exorbitant prices being demanded. 

The June 7 incident saw its beginning from those that had utmost sympathy with the Italians and wanted to maintain the monopoly of the Italian language in the law courts. 

At the same time, the absolute majority of the Maltese did not want, neither Italian nor English, to take prominence over the Maltese. It was a time when persons of a certain standing used to denigrate the use of the local language as it was seen to be used by ignorant and uneducated people, limited to the kitchens of well-to-do and important personalities.

Maltese was frowned upon as being the tongue of servants and farmers. These are facts. The trouble was started by university students, enticing the public. It would be wise for anyone to study in detail the official transcripts of the inquest that ensued and other documents.

The killings were an exaggerated action, but at the same time the authorities could not allow the mobs and instigators to cause havoc

It is important to remember that persons died on more than one occasion. The first fatalities occurred in Old Bakery Street when those with Italian sympathies cajoled and urged the masses to ransack the bakeries. What would have been the outcome? 

Valletta and many of the nearby localities would have ended without any staple bread and thus deprived of food. 

Yes, the killings were an exaggerated action, but at the same time the authorities could not allow the mobs and instigators to cause havoc. If the people were supposed to be protesting against the price and shortage of flour and bread, how could they justify the complete eradication of the little that was available? 

Does anyone think that if the bakeries were burnt down this would have led to more wheat being available or that the prices would have gone down?

I stress that the high cost of living was the direct cause of the war that resulted in hardship not only in Europe but in many countries around the world.

To justify their instigations and seditions, the fascists and other Italian sympathisers found a feeble excuse that those riots led to the first constitution. What constitution was this? It was a vile insult to all the Maltese. 

Perhaps the British had their reasons. Malta was a fortress, and fortresses do not have self-government. Some of the British rulers did not differentiate between the Maltese islands and African nations. They did not consider our ancient civilisation, having had direct contact and experience with some of the greatest nations.

It was the instigators of the June 7 riots that hindered the progress because first and foremost their only scope was to annex Malta with Italy, with our islands becoming outposts such as Pantelleria and Lampedusa.

They wanted the bulk of the Maltese to be servile to the Italian masters such as happened in Ethiopia, Albania and other places.

The 1921 constitution was a vile insult and I cannot comprehend that there are those who want to glorify an insult.

Our progress was achieved by three major events, namely in 1964, when Malta was declared independent, in 1971, when all governance was in our hands without any foreign governor and finally in 1979 when Malta did not serve as a military outpost to a foreign nation. 

There is one final and grand step still pending – a constitution drawn up with the widest possible support without any partisan, foreign or religious instigations. 

Let us for one instance forget our differences, our parochial hatred, our divisions, our extreme positions. There is a group hankering for the rule of law – what law are they referring to?  Can this be achieved?

 Yes, with goodwill it is possible for at least a large majority to agree on a reasonable compromise to produce a genuine and balanced constitution without any extremism of whatever nature.

The modernisation and improving the efficiencies of the law courts would be another blessing. Then all can hanker for the rule of law.

Then, and only then, can we have a true and honest national day to celebrate what we, the Maltese, managed to achieve with our own efforts without any underhand interference or instigations.

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