George Abela takes oath of office as President

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George Abela takes oath of office as PresidentGeorge Abela has taken the oath of office and has been sworn in as Malta’s 8th President, the country’s first President to come from the party in opposition.

He used his inaugural address to express his deep humilty, the full text of his speech is quoted below:

“Please allow me to express myself in one word – humility.

Total humility is what I am feeling today. I feel humble that the House of Representatives chose me to serve and guard the Presidency of the Republic of Malta for the next five years.

I feel a sense of humility and, at the same time, a sense of gratitude that the House of Representatives, for only the second time in thirty-four years, joined together in a unanimous vote, under singular political and historical circumstances, to appoint the President of Malta.

This sense of humility which is engulfing me now, and which must continue to lead me along the way, also stems out of the warm welcome and expressions of good wishes my wife and I received wherever we went. In a sense of humility, I want that all my actions in this Presidency, starting from today, will be a symbol of unity and an impartial constitutional instrument worthy of the trust you have shown in me.

I feel, and I believe that you all share my view, that the Presidency, together with our national tongue and national flag, is a factor that gives us our identity as Maltese, our identity of a nation state.

Yes we are a small nation, but a nation proud of its political beliefs grounded in a democratic system, in the safeguard of fundamental human rights and liberties and the sovereignty of the rule of law.

A small, democratic and republican nation, built by its political forefathers as an independent and free state, confident that it can serve as an instrument of peace and proud to walk tall among European Union member states, now, on the fifth anniversary from the date of membership, capable to push forward the relevant policies in Europe, in the Mediterranean region and in the rest of the world.

Like every other citizen, I recognise that the Presidency is not only a major symbol of our identity as a Maltese nation, but at the same time, within the political impartiality the president is bound to keep – is also a living symbol of a moral and dignified authority. It is an authority which, within its restrictions, gives the person occupying the position the potential to give the presidency the mark he wishes to impart.

I intend to maintain a special contact, in particular, with our youths and our elderly, with those with specials needs and others with particular individual needs, with those people who are committed in voluntary work and sport and with the rest of our civil society including our brethren who live and work in foreign countries.

I feel overwhelmed by a sense of humility and at the same time am eager to move ahead.

Eager that the unity shown today will be like the mustard seed of the Gospel which “is the smallest among the seeds when sown, but grows to become the largest of all trees, with thick and wide branches in whose shade birds take shelter”.

I hope that the Maltese mustard seed which is being sown today will find a fertile soil in our country which will help this seed to sprout.

May the seed grow into a tree with branches of precious moments of unity offering delicious fruit and blessings to meet the aspirations of our people as is befitting and deserving of our people and our beloved country.

As is befitting in all democracies, our political class finds its dynamism in contrasting ideas and proposals. These contrasts result in alternatives which offer a democratic and free choice to our citizens.

This is deliberative and pluralistic democracy where this contrast of ideas and proposals is endemic, where we need to accept that we are not always in the right and therefore, need to change our views, where it is better to evaluate our sense of empathy by putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and look at things from their point of view.

This is the process which proves that our democracy is alive and strong. It is a real and not a shadow democracy.

As in every democracy, there will be issues and instances where for the sake of the dynamics that drives our democracy, we will need at least a measure of unity.

This particular measure of unity will grow out of the same circumstances which give birth to it – measures where apolitical politics are carried out.

I will not be the one to highlight and emphasise what these circumstances should be.

I must say that these circumstances make themselves manifest without the need for explanations.

I would say that it is our people, in their wisdom, who manifest and express them.

I would say that they are recognised by every person who refuses to wear blinkers and has the wisdom to keep his feet firmly rooted to the ground.

Today, this start of a new Presidency comes at a memorable point in time of our democracy. True, but it is also a time full of challenges.

We are facing serious economic challenges emanating from and driven by the winds and tempests of a global economy, in many instances lacking a social conscience and dominated by excesses and lack of fundamental values, which, unfortunately, are leaving in their wake victims consisting of millions of people finding themselves out of work.

This is a threatening challenge; but also one which gives birth to opportunities for those having the ability and the sensitivity to recognise these challenges, seize them and transform them.

This challenge includes, among other things, the creation of new job opportunities, lifelong learning and training and an increase in investment in the fields of science, creativity, research and information technology thus strengthen our future as a nation.

This challenge includes the way we safeguard, or fail to safeguard, our environment.

If we fail to look after our environment, we will be aggravating the state of the economy especially in the long run.

If we safeguard our environment in a befitting way, we will not only be safeguarding our heritage but we will also create a better quality of life which will in turn boost a type of focused and sustainable economy.

We also have a thorny social challenge.

A challenge resulting from a society aware of the fact that it cannot remain anchored in the past.

A society that must change, and is in fact changing with the times.

Not all the changes which we will face are acceptable to everyone all of the time. Like every society throughout the ages, we could well be faced with more minority situations and interests.

The way in which these minority situations and interests become manifest and are faced, is a measure of our democratic credentials in a context where it is necessary and just to uphold and strengthen our traditional values, amongst which is the value of the family which I consider to be foremost.

Strong families make a strong nation.

At the same time I feel we should always have a common interest which transcends everything else and unites us as a nation.

Our society of today, and more so with the passage of time, must be an inclusive society based on our obligation to uphold social justice and to express full solidarity with the poor, with those who are suffering and with those who are emarginated from society

A sympathetic society where there is room for everyone irrespective of a person’s state or culture.

A society which is inspired to work for the common good.

With a deep sense of humility, let me today quote from the Address that the first President of our Republic gave on his inauguration.

President Sir Anthony Mamo, who is considered by many as one the most outstanding Maltese personality of our times, on the occasion of his taking office as President of Malta had this to say among other things:

“Everyone … … everyone has a role to play in our society whatever his background. Our country’s prosperity depends on this work being carried out well by everyone”

Sir Anthony continued to say:

“I have just sworn to place myself at your service and at the service of all the people as Head of State and as a representative of the strength and unity of the nation. Each and every one of you too should swear and promise in the silence of your heart, that you will carry out your duty with due diligence and honesty and not egoistically or in a spirit of division, but in the interests of your neighbour and your country … … …”

I was struck with these words at that time and over the years I continued to think over their validity. These are words which I will continue to treasure and act upon, in the same way that I will strive to follow the good example of all those who have served in the Presidency. Today, on this occasion, I salute and pay my respects to all former Presidents for increasing the dignity of the State during their Presidencies and declare that they still have a lot to contribute to this country.

Safeguarded by your support, sustained by the good wishes of our people, guided by the values instilled in me by my father and mother, I hope to succeed in doing this through a meaningful service I will strive to give to our country and to our people in the years to come.

So help me God.”

Photo – DOI, Omar Camilleri.

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