Less than 24 hours after hosting the celebrations of Malta's accession to the European Union, Valletta saw another lively celebration yesterday.
The Labour Party held its traditional Workers' Day demonstration, featuring various colourful floats made of paper flowers and papier-mâché. Each of the floats had a particular theme of political actuality, usually verging on the satiric.
The Labour Party's brass band also took part in the demonstration, adding to the festive atmosphere created by Labour supporters who crowded Freedom Square and enjoyed a live show featuring various Maltese singers before being addressed by Labour leader Alfred Sant .
Dr Sant said: “Once they told us that we should not celebrate Workers' Day because it is the feast of St Joseph. Today we were told we should not celebrate Workers' Day for another reason, Malta's accession to the European Union.
“We said the government can hold all the celebrations it wants, and Labour would then hold its celebrations as well. Is there something wrong in doing this?”
“Now we have shown them whether there was the need to celebrate Workers' Day or not,” Dr Sant told the cheering crowd.
Dr Sant added that it was important to celebrate Workers' Day since Malta is a Republic founded on work. “The country can only move forward if the workers' interests are put forward”.
Labour is the party of the young and for the young because it is only from the young people that the future of the country can be built, Dr Sant said.
Speaking about the party's EU policy, Dr Sant said that Labour had always said it would respect the will of the majority in a general election.
“Labour has fully respected the people's decision this past year. We will be working in this new reality to protect all workers.
“In the EU institutions, it will be us, the Maltese socialists, who will be working to do our utmost to grasp every advantage offered by the EU and deliver it to our country.
“On the other hand, we will do our utmost to minimise the disadvantages resulting from EU membership on our workers.”
Dr Sant said that in the past year, Labour had worked ceaselessly with the European Socialists to safeguard the interest of workers, the national interest and Malta's neutrality.
Dr Sant appealed to Labour supporters to “look forward” and vote for the eight candidates that the party will be fielding for the EP elections on 12 June, which he described as “very valid”.
He told Labour supporters not to let themselves be persuaded by those who were calling on them not to vote in the EP elections.
“Those who do not vote for the Maltese Socialists will be falling for the game of the Nationalists, that's all,” Dr Sant insisted.
He said that Labour has always spoken the truth and would continue doing so.
“It is true that the Nationalists have taken Malta into the EU, but at the same time they have also introduced various policies which have led to an economic and social crisis.”
“They are now blaming the workers for this,” Dr Sant said.
He mentioned various government entities where this has happened as a result of bad administration, including the shipyards, Maltapost, Air Malta, Sea Malta and Gozo Channel.
These policies have also led to a rise in government-induced costs for private companies, resulting in the closure of VF, WET and Denim and hard times at ST Microelectronics, Dr Sant said.
“Faced with this situation, we must sustain unity among Maltese and Gozitan workers. We must give our full support to all the forces that are fighting to protect the interests of workers.
He pledged Labour's support to all trade unions, especially the General Workers Union, which is working wholeheartedly to safeguard Maltese workers.
The constant rise in the cost of living was another problem, Dr Sant said.
“Labour, together with the other Socialist forces in this country, must show the way forward to all working people. Labour is ready for your call to protect working people,” he said.
Dr Sant announced that Labour would be holding a fund-raising marathon on Super One Radio and Television between 5 and 11 this evening and he appealed to all party supporters to give their little contribution.
Several organisations took part in the demonstration including the General Workers' Union led by secretary general Tony Zarb and president Salv Sammut, as well as a delegation from the CGIL — Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro — which is the largest trade union in Italy and a delegation from the Front Maltin Inqumu (FMI) led by former Labour Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.
The FMI delegation carried banners denouncing Malta's EU accession treaty, with slogans such as “Il-pakkett hu hazin u rridu nbiddluh” (The package is wrong and we want to change it”).