That an approximate 110,000 people, out of a total population of about 440,000, chose to descend upon the Capital City Valletta on the day it was assuming the title of European Capital of Culture 2018 no doubtis an indication of the current positive state of mind of this small nation. The whole colourful event splendidly held across four major public squares within our capital city, helped transmit the true picture.

Valletta 18 is the culmination of severalyears of hard work during which different national administrations gave their input to the cause. Credit to the eventual realisation of this event must certainly also go the previous PN governments. This event was the means to not only giving Valletta a much-needed overhaul through the restoration of its many palaces, churches, monuments and other buildings, but also in presenting it to the world at large via this unique European Union cultural city cycle that involves the promulgation of artistic activities and initiatives that happily go onto beyond the one-year possession of the coveted crown.

While the fireworks, the lights and other attractions that marked the first day of Valletta’s reign offered a proper public inauguration, it will be its legacy that justifies the long, hard preparations and the considerable funds. Our capital city has not just been given a timely facelift, but it has been injected with a new spirit and a new energy, both of which were seriously required after an unduly long period of hibernation during which social and infrastructural deterioration had had its toll.

Old-timers have happily re-discovered their Valletta, the young have found it at last. It is why the city is now in invigorating mode, ready and willing to take on any new challenges the 21st Century continues to present, to offer its residents, businesses, artists and artisans a new lease of life, and to re-donate itself to the gentlemen who built it for gentlemen, as Benjamin Disraeli described it, during a visit to our country back in 1830.

Malta’s much-hailed EU presidency during the first six months of last year had already indicated that Malta is capable of punching above its weight. Last Saturday’s impressive manifestations paved the way for an exciting twelve months ahead for both the city and the rest of the Maltese Islands. They projected this true picture to the world at large at a moment in time when the backlash from adverse international coverage of a number of issues, not least a horrendous assassination, was seriously undermining all the achievements that have led to the economic success of the past four and a half years.

Valletta 18 is not an exercise at colouring a gloomy, artificial picture, but a true depiction of things as they really stand. The Maltese people today acknowledge, as they pretty clearly did at the polls only six months ago, the fruit of their success at healing an ailing economy, turning it into a throbbing motor that has pumped out such results as record employment, record foreign investment, increased social benefits and services, a complete absence of new taxes, and an on-going infrastructural renovation.

It is sad to have to watch the antics of some Opposition exponents, here, there and everywhere, including the European Parliament, where they seek to apply patches of blackness on the overall reality of what is a bright and cheerful national canvas. Theirs is a desperate attempt at sowing doubt when sheer determination has been the order of the day, at misleading strange bedfellows when the truth is staring them in the face, and at shooting arrows at missed targets when a lost cause becomes, well, yet another lost cause,on their hopelessly longlist of inaccuracies. Of course we are not perfect.Which country is? And yes, serious mistakes have been committed. But nor are we the corrupt, unsafe, rundown country we are being depicted to be by those bending to partisan exigencies.

Even sadder is the attitude that Valletta 18 is the fait accompli of just one side of the Maltese political fence, as has been intimated recently in some narrow-minded reactions to the overwhelming scenes from Valletta last Saturday. While the present Labour administration has gone out of its way to make it clear the dream has come true only thanks to the united efforts of all Maltese, whatever their political colour, it is indeed a shame that we have to assist to such chauvinist and blatantly partisan attitudes. It is truly sad to see that certain people just refuse to be simply Maltese and insist on doning the colour of their Party – even on a striclty non-partisan events.

This was an opportnity for everyone to show political maturity and national unity, and acknowledging the true picture of a small country but a great nation – a picture of a vibrant country, rich in culture, rich in talent, basking in a title which lasts for twelve months, and a legacy which lasts forever.

The Malta Independent 25.01.18

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