Maltese People the path to independence was neither
smooth nor straight.
By the time Malta was granted Self-Government in 1921
the political factions could be classified into three
main groups: the pro-British group that broadly opted
for the advancement of the English language and culture,
as well as the dissemination of the Maltese language.
The pro-Italian group stood for the use of Italian and
English but also for the propagation of Italian culture.
A newcomer to the political scene was the Labour Party,
then in its infancy, its programme being compulsory
education, the promotion on the English and Maltese
languages and, as is to be expected, the improvement
of working and social conditions.
In the troubles that followed elections were suspended
and the Constitution was withdrawn in 1930.
In the following election the pro-Italian party with
the support of the Church won at the polls with a great
majority. In the political storm that followed the Constitution
was again suspended and, one year later, Malta reverted
back to colonial rule. The British Government, now in
sole control of the Island and unfettered by local political
opinion, made Maltese and English the two official languages
of the Island, which, in fact, they still are, while
the use of Italian was eliminated from administrative
By the time the next constitution was granted World
War II had started. When Italy allied herself to Germany
Malta was thrown into the front line. The first attack,
by Italian bombers, took place on the 11th June 1940.
The exodus from the towns into the countryside started
Using ancient catacombs and a disused railway tunnel
as shelters against air-raids, other tunnel were excavated
in the living rock for the same purpose. War in the
Mediterranean theatre was predictable, yet when it did
come the Islands was poorly equipped to defend itself:
the only fighter planes were four antiquated Gloster
Gladiators. These planes were augmented with a few Hurricanes
some weeks later. Against these, the Italian Regia Aeronautica
could count on two hundred aircraft stationed in Sicily,
a mere hundred kilometers from Malta. The Axis (the
Germans and the Italians) were clearly anxious to occupy
Malta to make sure that their supply line between Sicliy
and North Africa was not cut and when the Germans moved
the Luftwaffe into Sicily the bombing was intensified.
As a result many buildings, especially those in the
harbour area and near the airfields were flattened or
badly damaged. In June 1941 Hitler attached Russia and
the Luftwaffe in Sicily diverted most of its planes
to that front. The air-raids on Malta eased, but did
not cease entirely; at the same time having received
reinforcements, Malta took to the offensive and submarines
and aircraft based on the Island attacked Axis shipping
as well as ground targets in Sardinia, Sicily to North
Africa, Rommel was deprived from many essential supplies.
On 26th July 1941 the only seaborne attack, that directed
against the Grand Harbour by Italian E-boats, was brave
and dashing, but unsuccessful. It was radar that had
alerted the Maltese gunners and foiled the E-boat attack.
When the Luftwaffe was again in Sicily in full complement
the bombing commenced once more and Malta was, once
again, thrown on the defensive. Munitions, fuel and
other stores were running low and food was in short
Throughout this ordeal, despite continuous air-raids,
lack of practically all necessities, and an acute food
shortage, the Maltese soldiered on. A third of the anti-aircraft
crews were Maltese and they soon made a name for themselves
for their bravery and efficiency.
On the 15th of April 1942 King George VI awarded the
George Cross Medal to “… the brave people
of the Island Fortress of Malta”.
If the morale of Malta’s defenders was high,
the materials resources of the Island were low; with
supply ships being intercepted and destroyed by Axis
aircrafts and submarines the situation was desperate;
by July 1942 the supply of vital provisions was calculated
to last two weeks. Although badly mauled, the “Santa
Maria Convoy” limped into the Grand Harbour on
the 15th August of that year and the situation was saved.
With replenished stores and the arrival of some hundred
Spit-fires, the tables, at last, were being turned.
Although Malta was still under attack, by June 1943,
it was considered sufficiently safe for King George
to visit the Island to a huge welcome by the Maltese
people whom he had so singularly honoured.
A month later, using Malta as an advance base, the
Allies invaded Sicily and the war moved away from the
True to their promise made during the War, the British
Fresh elections were held and the pro-Italian exiles
were repatriated. With most of the inhabitants being
homeless, reconstruction was the first priority of the
newly elected Labour Government but social conditions
were also improved.
In the dockyard area, especially, the trade union movement
grew in strength as workers everywhere were becoming
conscious of their rights.
Three years later, following a split in the Labour
Party, the Nationalist Party headed a Coalition Government;
this party now strove to obtain a Dominion Status for
the Island. The Nationalists were formerly the pro-Italian
party but, since the post-war years, the image of this
party was to change gradually and in the end they were
even accused of being pro-British! Originally being
the party of the intelligentsia, the party now attracted
numerous workers within its ranks.
On the return of the Labour Party to office, a request
for integration was made to the British Government with
Maltese representation at 'Westminster. When the British
cooled to the idea after evincing an initial interest
the Labour Party went to the other extreme and insisted
on Independence, and the Church was accused of having
undermined the Integration plan by insisting that its
ancient privileges be safeguarded; the acrimonies that
followed were to cost the Labour Party many votes.
The Constitutional Party, the original pro-British
party, died a natural death, its mission having been
accomplished. In the wake of fresh elections and confirmed
by a referendum, Malta achieved Independence within
the Commonwealth on 21st September 1964 with the Queen
of England as the nominal Queen of Malta.
Under the next Labour Government. Malta was declared
a Republic with Sir Anthony Mamo as it's first President.
On the 31st March 1979, at the termination of the Military
Base Agreement, the last British serviceman left the
Island and Malta entered into its self-imposed state
Tourism remains one of the key pillars of Malta's earnings
although local manufacturing largely with foreign investors
also plays an important role in the Maltese economy.
The Maltese are a proud and independent people but
in their heart of hearts they realise that financially
Malta cannot stand alone. The Labour Party desired integration
with Britain and the old-time Nationalists had yearned
for integration with Italy. By joining the European
Economic Community it
is possible that the Maltese people will achieve their
aspirations without having to sacrifice their sovereignity
in the process.
Malta has appled to join the EU and all local legislation
and standards are conforming to these EU requirements.