md11-1If you are a pure English Language speaker I would not even hazard to ask you to pronounce the village name “Qormi” because of the “Q”.

There is no English equivalent and I am at a loss to suggest one. English tongues find an easy way out and pronounce it as “K” but it isn’t. “Kormi” is totally incorrect. So, the nearest I can get is to gutturally pronounce the “Q” as in “El Qaeda” (with that funny guttural sound that Arabic speakers make) and that’s how to pronounce the “Q” in “Qormi”.

md11-2Not that “Qormi” has any links to “El Qaeda” I hasten to add, but then “Qormi” is not really a village and is Malta’s second most populated settlement after Birkirkara as well as occupying the Number One spot for traditional bread-baking.

However, besides being linked to Knights Grandmaster Manuel Pinto in the past, it now has another and greater distinction because this “village” in the southern-central part of Malta has for a second successive term supplied the Republic of Malta with its Head of State – The President and, this time it’s a woman for the second time since Malta was declared a Republic in 1974.

md11-3Her Excellency Dr Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, a former school teacher and a qualified lawyer was inaugurated as Malta’s new President on 4th April 2014. She became Malta’s youngest ever President at 55 and was nominated to the position by Malta’s youngest ever Prime Minister, Dr Joseph Muscat – and all this on the 40th anniversary of Malta having become a Republic.

This pinnacle of her career follows a lengthy and active span within the Malta Labour Party, starting from her teenage years and culminating in her being declared Social Policy Minister as a result of the General Election in 2009.

She takes over the five-year term from another Qormi-born lawyer Dr George Abela who introduced a new trend to the Presidency which Dr Coleiro Preca is expected to continue and to build upon.

md11-4As Head of State, the country’s President is nominally a figurehead with no executive or legislative powers. The outgoing President did not alter this but did introduce a new dimension into the role – that of raising a national conscience in social issues of helping the physically and mentally challenged, the fight against poverty and providing funds and general aid for those with incapacities and requiring intensive medical treatment.

He did this principally by organising an annual sponsored Fun Run which attracted many thousands of participants of all ages (including a walk for the less active) which he always headed – accompanied by a bevy of politicians of all shades – by virtue of his being a daily jogger. md11-5He patronised the annual end-of-year televised variety show “L’Istrina” which encouraged televiewers to phone in their pledges.

These alone annually raised millions of euros which went to the Malta Community Chest Fund, the money in turn being dispensed to the aforementioned causes.

He also patronised an organisation called “Puttinu Cares” (“Puttinu” being a children’s Noddy-style cartoon character) which takes care of cancer victims and has organised a substantial programme of buying furnished apartments in England in the vicinity of major hospitals where ailing Maltese patients attend for medical md11-6treatment and occupy the apartments rent-free for the duration of the treatment programme.

Other notable achievements were the opening of a herb garden and restaurant for the public at the San Anton residential palace and instituting sentry guard duties at the main Palace in Valletta with a daily changing-of-the-guard ceremony, much to the enjoyment of visiting tourists. However, the main achievement was that of decreasing the pomp and circumstance of the Presidency and the making of a “People’s President”.

The new President will undoubtedly continue and increase these activities and has already pledged to dedicate her term to social causes. md11-7Breaking with tradition, the inaugural Mass that preceded her swearing-in ceremony rather than being held within the resplendent walls of St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta was held in a home for disabled people.

For the formal ceremony itself at the Valletta Palace to mark her inauguration as Malta’s ninth President, Dr. Coleiro Preca invited hundreds of physically and mentally challenged persons as well as old and infirm pensioners.

Malta and Gozo are politically sharply divided between the Malta Labour Party and the Nationalist Party. General Elections generate a poll that averages 95%, amongst the highest voluntary free vote in Europe and indeed the world. Outgoing Dr Abela worked hard to dissolve political differences and generated national unification and Dr Coleiro Preca will undoubtedly do the same as she has already proven her acceptance by attracting an unanimous vote of approval for her nomination from both sides of the House of Representatives.

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About Albert Fenech

Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management but still retained his roots by actively pursuing freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel.