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Remove the blinkers

I would like to lend my support to the plea made by the Balzan Labour councillor, Desmond Zammit Marmarà, that Independence Day should be accorded pride of place as Malta’s sole National Day (September 4).

We have been for years now in the farcical situation of having five national feasts but no National Day. When, in 1988, I had been asked by Louis Galea to recommend a possible date for such a National Day – I was then teaching European politics in Melbourne – I had indicated five such days with the pros and cons for each.

Not to ruffle any feathers in the immediate post-­Mintoffian era, still heavily charged politically, the Fenech Adami Cabinet had adopted all five dates, designating them as ‘national feasts’ and public holidays. Hence today’s predicament. However, time does not stand still.

In a talk at the Central Bank, attended by both the Prime Minister and the then leader of the Opposition in 2014, entitled ‘Independence to Republic 1964-1974’, I had stated the following:

“What [Dom] Mintoff’s party had been unable to obtain in the Round Table negotiations for an Inde-pendence Constitution in 1963-64, due to a variety of prevailing pressures and circumstances, it sought to do once it returned to office in 1971. Malta now being an independent and sovereign state, Mintoff’s hands were not tied in the same way that [Ġorġ] Borg Olivier’s (photograph) had been before he could obtain Independence. They were tied by the Constitution itself but, ultimately, this made provision for changes to it, either by parliamentary majority and/or by a referendum. Politically, the Mintoff administration’s hands were not tied at all...”

Another statement, from my book Malta’s quest for Independence: reflections on the course of Maltese history (Valletta Publishing, 1989) clearly bears repetition today: “Independence is not made in one day but there is a day when it is obtained.”

In The origins of Maltese statehood: a case study of decolonisation in the Mediterranean (PEG, 1999, 2nd ed. 2000), I was the first to show from archival sources the travail involved in making Independence happen, although, fortunately, the two main parties agreed to it in principle.

It is about time now that we remove the blinkers, and, as in most ex-colonies, fully recognise the historical import of Independence Day, warts  and all. It is a shame that so much invective and misplaced accompanying violent behaviour dampened its value in the past.

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