Former Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Lawrence Gonzi yesterday gave his farewell speech in parliament on his last day as an MP, dedicating most of his speech to the plight of boat people and the importance of saving lives. After his speech, Dr Gonzi resigned his seat in a letter he handed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Dr Gonzi has served in parliament for 25 years, in the roles of Speaker, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the House, Minister, Opposition Leader and MP.
Dr Gonzi also spoke about politics and democracy in general. “Politics grows and gets stronger when we are able to bring together many voices, which while different in tone and volume, resulting in something beautiful.”
While explaining that politics is not easy, he said: “The experience of 25 years in politics showed me that if you really want to improve society, there is no better tool than politics based on a sense of service”.
He said that power is simply a tool, not a means in itself and, consequently, MPs must constantly remind themselves that the Parliamentary seat does not belong to them and should not be used for their personal advancement.
He said that power is intimately tied with the value of solidarity and believes it can only be justified when used responsibly for and towards each other. This is something families who have a disabled person have taught him and feels everyone should follow their example. Their unrelenting commitment, courage and hope, as well as unconditional love, towards the weak had taught him to concentrate and focus all energy on what he could achieve and to look for ability in disability.
Reflecting on the present, notably the irregular immigration controversy, Dr Gonzi reiterated this is a huge problem for Malta. “But the problem itself should not lead us to forget that we are treating with human beings and victims of atrocities we cannot imagine. The racist comments I read and heard over the past days have deeply saddened me and shows that Malta is not realising the human tragedy taking place in the sea around us.”
He believes politicians should better explain realities and possible solutions. Meanwhile, Malta should continue to press with the EU insomuch that every country should carry the burden it can take. We must insist with the European and international community so that they understand it is in everyone’s interest to see migrants integrated in a community that offers them the space to develop full dignity. He also believes Malta should continue to insist that the EU and the International community should help in the repatriation of individuals not entitled for a refugee or humanitarian status, according to conventions Malta has signed.
While doing this, politicians should continuously be guided by the strong sense we always had of respect to life, irrespective of who the person is.
The value of a people that cares about others and that is not indifferent, is part of the Maltese social fabric. In difficult economic times, companies in difficult did their very best not to lay off people and he hopes that choices in favour of human beings are taken in every Parliamentary decision.
He hopes it will never forget the difficult times that led the country to what it is today.
Highlighting that many had asked him not to take the step of resigning from Parliament and to retain his seat till the end of the legislature, he said this would have gone against what he always believed in.
“The seat is not mine, but yours,” he said. “My duty now is to return it and have someone who can contribute all his energy to the Maltese electorate, occupy it”.
He thanked all the people who trusted in him throughout all these years, those who worked with him and trusted him, mentioning particularly those close to him in the extraordinary weeks before Malta joined the EU and the intensive preparations to enter the euro zone. Similarly, there were moments of tension during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, the Libyan crisis and the difficult and risky decisions Malta had to take, and negotiations with the EU to win what seemed impossible for the island.
He had special thanks for the Maltese people, whom he described as “extraordinary”, not realising what it was able to achieve, even when faced with great difficulties that led to the downfall of other countries.
He spoke of the standard of living we enjoy, the social structure and flexible economy that is prepared for the future.
Over the years, Malta managed to keep its identity and strengthened it with EU accession, he believes, while listing the great achievements for the island, including Independence and becoming a Republic.
He gave his best wishes to PN leader Simon Busuttil and augured that the party will keep with the tradition of doing politics based on the principles and values that made this country and the people over the years.
Finally, he thanked the electorate which trusted in him over all the years.
He described how the economy changed and became technologically equipped while new factories and services with very good salaries and conditions opened up. New schools were opened and the University and MCAST were extended, modernising the education system which is giving opportunities to everyone.
Mater Dei Hospital was opened and enormous investments were made in infrastructure, environment, and heritage.
He is proud to have contributed to a change in the island’s image and that for 23 out of the 25 years during which he served as MP, the island was led by PN governments.
“Politics is not everything,” he said in conclusion.
In the past weeks since stepping down from party leader, he is rediscovering the beauty of the islands in walks and outings with his wife and grandchildren. He no longer spends long days and nights at work and has the time to appreciate the beauty of the island, the sea, Gozo, our capital city, the countryside and culture which are unique.
On a final note, he wished all MPs, to have the satisfaction at work and in sacrifice by leaving a better island for future generations.
Tribute by Prime Minister Muscat
Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat said thatDr Gonzi gave unconditional service for the best of the country, even though they often disagreed on the method used. However, the final aim was the same – the common good an improving the standard of living of Maltese people.
He said people might imagine it was difficult for him to deliver such an address and find words of appreciation for an opponent, but it was never so easy.
The House had lost the best orator from whom he has learnt a lot, he explained, adding that Dr Gonzi communicated well with his adversaries.
He described him as a strong political adversary and pointed out that when he was first elected Labour Party leader, he was frequently concerned with reaching such a level and fighting him politically. He had learnt a lot from him because Dr Gonzi was always strong, prepared and ready for the political fight yet knowing where to draw the line.
He spoke on the great challenge Dr Gonzi had when Malta joined the EU and he started attending European Council summits as Prime Minister. He pointed out how Dr Gonzi had rightly advised him that Council summits are a completely different game than local Parliament because each country’s Prime Minister would attend the meetings alone.
Dr Muscat also expressed gratitude for the work and change in mentality Dr Gonzi brought about with regard to disabled people and the contribution, Dr Gonzi’s wife Ka
te had in his work, describing her as one the best campaigners he had ever met.
Tribute by Opposition Leader Busuttil
Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil commented on the fact that a full stranger’s gallery showed the respect Dr Gonzi enjoyed but this was something he had greatly worked for.
He described this as the end of an era for both the PN and Parliament, adding that Dr Gonzi meant seriousness, dedication without limits and full trust in the Maltese and Gozitans. This trust inspired his politics and gave results.
He spoke on the legacy he was leaving behind and said we should be proud that our island was for years led by a person consistent in his principles and loyal to the values he embraced.
Dr Busuttil had the privilege to work with Dr Gonzi since the beginning of work for the island to access the EU. His worry was what would happen after accession, how our country would adapt and the importance of having someone to lead the country well.
The past 10 years were a great success because Dr Gonzi took great steps for our island to integrate in the EU, enter the euro zone, the Schengen Area, and exercised hundreds of EU laws that had benefit on society. Many European he met used to say that Malta punches above its weight and have great respect for Dr Gonzi who faced great challenges during the financial crisis and because he used to force of reason to convince them on a number of issues.
Moreover, Dr Gonzi managed to achieve a financial package of €1,128 million in EU funds for the next seven years.
Dr Gonzi is a statesman who is leaving social, economic and educational structures behind.
Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia said Dr Gonzi’s resignation will be a great loss for Parliament.
“It is sad to have someone who has served for so long in Parliament to resign,” he said, but was certain that Dr Gonzi was doing so with satisfaction that he tried his best for the country.
Addressing Dr Gonzi he said: “Most important are the peace and serenity you have after taking such a step”.
He pointed out that democracy my mean being everyone’s slave but the legacy Dr Gonzi is leaving behind, will be enjoyed by all.[Source: www.independent.com.mt]