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Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)


There is probably no other Constitutional office in our country more misunderstood than that of the President of Malta.

For many people, the Office of the President of Malta is all about the glamour, the official events, State visits, and dinners. That is merely one small fraction of the role of the Head of State, albeit a very visible and important one.

Some equate the role of President with that of a “Non-Executive Chairperson” of the country, which statement has some quantum of truth but still is far away from what the role entails.


During my career and, in particular, during my seven years in charge of the Justice portfolio, I had the pleasure to work very closely with three different Heads of State: George Abela, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and George Vella. In that role I could see the intricate workings, from a legal point of view, of our Constitution in how the diverse organs of the State function with one another in a fantastic exercise of parliamentary democracy in motion.

Indeed, it is true that, by definition, a non-executive President performs a representative and civic role without the right to exercise executive or policy-making power. However, the fact that a non-Executive President like the one provided for by our Constitution possesses, the right to exercise some discretionary powers of – as some theorists call it – “political intervention” means that our President is first and foremost a Constitutional guarantor and, secondly, a Constitutional arbiter. 

The drafters of our Constitution, way back in 1964, opted for a separation of the representative embodiment of the permanent institutions of the State from the Head of the current Government in any given point in time. This was made, undoubtedly, to retain the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy and thus have the least possible disturbance in our Constitutional set up upon the obtaining of Independence.  So much so that the 1964 Constitution was a Monarchical one with the Head of State of our very same former colonisers – Queen Elizabeth – being declared to be also the Queen of the newly independent State of Malta.

When the role of President of Malta was enacted ten years after, the then Labour Government, with the support of a strong majority within the Opposition, had opted to retain this separation of the representative embodiment of the permanent institutions of the State from the Head of the Executive. In all probability, our legislators at the time felt that a non-Executive President provides additional stability, democratic inclusion and continuity.

Of course, the Constitutional set-ups vary from one country to the other and, even with regards to Non-Executive Presidents, the situation might differ as to the discretionary powers which some Presidents in some countries have and others in other countries do not have, or even in the respective method of appointment. 

But discretionary powers aside, the separation of offices between the non-executive President and head of government has helped over the years to keep a differentiation between the incumbent government and the standing institutions of the State. 

Dr W. Elliot Bulmer describes this effect as follows: “The President symbolically ensures that those who lead the government are at least notionally inferior to a higher authority that represents the democratic constitutional order, and that the leader of a ruling party or coalition is subordinate to a non-partisan embodiment of the whole. For this reason, non-executive presidents are particularly associated with those institutions that are supposed to be non-partisan” and he goes on to give example of the Commission for the Administration of Justice established under the Constitution of Malta which has the President of Malta as its chair.

I would like to salute President Emeritus Dr George Vella and his wife Miriam for the dedication and commitment with which they served the term of office.  At the same time I look forward to working with the incoming President Myriam Spiteri Debono who, accompanied by her husband Notary Tony Spiteri Debono, will undoubtedly give her all towards our country.


Our Beautiful Traditions

San Girgor stands as a cornerstone of Maltese tradition, annually celebrated with great fervor in the quaint villages of Żejtun and Marsaxlokk. These festivities serve as a radiant tapestry, weaving together the threads of Malta's rich cultural heritage into a vibrant celebration.

The feast of San Girgor, a very important occasion, graces the calendar every first Wednesday following Easter. Beyond its religious significance, it symbolizes a joyous embrace of spring, bringing Maltese people together in communal revelry. Festivities abound, resonating with the melodic strains of traditional Għana music.

A highlight of the San Girgor feast is the cultural and folkloric programme that accompanies the religious observances

Among the most cherished traditions associated with the San Girgor feast is the solemn yet joyous procession from the Chapel of San Klement to the Church of San Girgor. Here, participants reverently carry statues of the saint and other religious symbols through the streets, while onlookers offer cheers and sing hymns, creating an atmosphere of reverence and jubilation.

Furthermore, I wish to acknowledge the commendable efforts of the Restoration and Preservation Department in the restoration of St. Clement’s Chapel in Żejtun. This project is also part of a broader restoration scheme initiated in 2015, which has seen the successful completion of over fifty projects in partnership with Local Councils.

The restoration of this chapel was a project that the public had the opportunity to enjoy during the traditional feast of San Girgor.

Returning to the traditions of San Girgor, music plays a central role in the festivities, with the soulful melodies of local Għana music and the enchanting sounds of traditional Maltese instruments resonating through the public places in Marsaxlokk.

The celebration of San Girgor extends beyond mere festivity; it serves as a moment for introspection and appreciation. It provides the Maltese people with an occasion to unite in reverence for their cultural legacy and to pay homage to Saint Gregory, esteemed as the guardian and patron saint of Żejtun and Marsaxlokk.

The Feast of San Girgor holds a significant cultural importance in Malta, fostering communal cohesion and commemorating the island's diverse fabric of culture, history, and faith. Through its lively festivities and inclusive ambiance, it acts as a symbol of Malta's resilient spirit, showcasing the richness of its traditions for all to behold.



I would like  to invite the readers of this paper to join in for a day of exploration and fascination at three remarkable sites: the Domvs Romana, St Paul’s Catacombs, and the National Museum of Natural History. And the best part? It's all free!

As Heritage Malta has aptly described it, it is an opportunity to step into a world where ancient civilizations converge with the wonders of nature. Heritage Malta is presenting an Open Day on Sunday, April 7th.

The National Museum of Natural History has a rich history of its own, housed within Palazzo Vilhena since 1966. Over the years, it has become a beloved destination for families and researchers alike, showcasing Malta's natural heritage and supporting scientific endeavors. In celebration of our museum's 50th anniversary, Heritage Malta had released a special book documenting the journey through the years.

Also, during the Open Day we are introducing a new concept called MużikaMużew. People can enjoy an unplugged session with Kantera, Ozzy Lino, and Lisa Gauci, bringing a unique musical experience to the event.

We will continue to bring traditions and culture to life, ensuring that each experience enriches and preserves Malta's vibrant heritage. Join us in celebrating our past and embracing our future, as we strive to share the beauty and significance of our cultural treasures with the world.


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