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Anna Mallia | Wednesday, 30 December 2009

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A President is not just for ‘l-Istrina’

The President of Malta, His Excellency Dr George Abela, managed with a lot of hard work and dedication to unite us for a common cause: although there were businessmen who boycotted l-Istrina.

Now that the show is over and as President Abela stated, it is now time for the post-mortem exercise, there is no doubt that l-Istrina was a success and the success is not measured only by the millions of euros collected but by the feel good factor that such an event has instilled in the hearts of all of us. The campaign was well-organised, there was no rivalry between the television stations and the show and the stage were state of the art.

Money flowed in generously and one problem I found was with the SMS’s, as not all the SMS numbers which were shown on the screen could be successfully sent and one of them in particular – the one with the highest donation – always failed to get through. Otherwise, I am happy to say that many of the suggestions that people made over the years were noted and implemented by the President and his enthusiastic team.

The President stated that he refused the offer of an apartment for free to stick to the motto not to receive gifts for l-Istrina. I think that such an offer should be accepted by the Community Chest Fund now that the marathon is over and such apartment be donated officially to the Community Chest Fund so that it will provide premises for the homeless even on a temporary basis for those who need temporary accommodation.

But the Presidency is not just l-Istrina and the role of the President is not primarily that of Mother Theresa. There is more to that and the people expect that from the President. It is true that the President is primus inter pares, that is above politics, but it is also true that the President must also voice the concerns of the people especially those on a pension and on a fixed wage who are more than worried about their electricity and water tariffs.

I browsed through the website of the President of Malta and I cannot understand how the role of the President is that published by the President Emeritus Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, and how this publication has been blessed as the official definition of the role of the President. I must admit that on the official website of the President of the Republic of Malta, I did not expect to find Dr Mifsud Bonnici’s publication entitled “Il-Manwal tal-President tar-Repubblika” (the manual of the President of the Republic) when I clicked on the icon entitled ‘the role of the President’.

I expect this role to be officially defined, and not defined by a former colleague of the President. It is true that the former President Mifsud Bonnici ought to be congratulated for taking the time to compile this manual but still I cannot understand how it was promoted as the official manual of the President of the Republic of Malta.

The same goes for the code of ethics of the judiciary, advocates and all other professions. No such code bears the pen name of the author because they are official publications. For this reason, they are published by the Commission responsible for the publication of such codes.

The fact that this publication to found on the official website of the President of Malta, means that it is considered as the official manual of the Presidency. I still fail to understand how this was not done by Parliament, as the institution who elects and removes the President and how this came to be as the official manual.

I think that only in the case of our presidency that we find a manual in the official website. I browsed through the official websites of other presidents in the EU and nowhere do you find a publication of a manual by a former President. You will find information about the role of the president, but not in the form of a manual, and certainly not by a former President.

In the official website of the President of Italy, for example, the role of the President defined as “gli atti del Capo dello Stato”, describing the powers of President Giorgio Napolitano. But nowhere do you find these powers described in the form of a manual.

I think that the website of the President of the Republic of Malta should be amended so that the information about the role of the President is given by the Office of the President, and not by a former president. Obviously I am not saying that this manual is not useful for any president and for the public at large; but such manuals must be in another section regarding related information, but not as the official source defining the role of the President.

So besides the post mortem on L-Istrina, the President must also find the time to do a post mortem on his own official website so that even this will reflect the role of the President as primus inter pares.

After the Christmas spirit, the public expects the President to stay close to his people and voice their concerns: especially those of the pensioners who are worried to death about their electricity and water tariffs and the price of medicines. Not all pensioners are blessed with children who can afford to pay them their bills, and l-Istrina and the President must make sure that progress in this country is not calculated by the amount of money collected, but by the development in the human index.

We have reached a stage where it is cheaper to stay at a hotel in Malta than to stay at home!

Happy New Year to all!



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