Malta Diary Bosom pals for one day; heated rivals on the 364 others
Yep, politics is a dirty game with a tendency leading the participants to be rough ‘n ready when needed or to exude charm and genial smarm when called for.
As elsewhere, in these islands the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are at it hammer and tongs without respite. They question each other’s credibility, sincerity, honesty, factuality, reliability and responsibility. They call each other liars, twisters of facts, lacking the necessary information and so on and so forth. It’s almost like being married!
Yet, yet, on at least one day a year Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil become bosom pals, heartily shake hands, acclaim each other and yes, may even hug.
This is all down to an annual Christmas Fun Run/Walk introduced by ex-President lawyer George Abela when he took office six years ago. Although approaching pensionable age, he was always a keen jogger, an athlete and a sportsman having spent time as President of the Malta Football Association.
His project was based on three missions, that of dismantling of bureaucracy between the Head of State and the people, encouraging keeping fit and in shape and boosting charity by basing the President’s Solidarity Fun Run/Walk on sponsorships that go towards the Malta Community Chest Fund and in turn are disbursed to a number of institutions.
Dr Abela ran his five-year term earlier this year – as well as having jogged in every one of the five Fun Runs – and was succeeded to the Presidency by Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, a Notary by profession, a long-standing Member of Parliament and former Minister of the Family and Social Solidarity in the current legislature. Both outgoing and incoming are from the large village of Qormi.
The new President immediately announced a continuation of Dr Abela’s missions, particularly continuing the Fun/Walk for the sixth successive year, as well as boosting cash generation for charitable purposes.
The annual event also served as a catalyst for bringing together people who do not normally publicly mingle – politicians from both parties, particularly the leaders anxious to appear on the live televised event to be seen playing their part and giving support to the event.
This year’s Fun Run was held on Sunday 23rd November and attracted almost 20,000 participants besides many thousands of spectators who lined the streets to watch the flow go by from four starting points and naturally George Abela was there to jog the course.
Runners and walkers jostled and mingled, mums and dads pushed prams and pushchairs, many wheelchair users were in evidence as well as people walking their pets, and parties of school children and work colleagues.
It was organised by the Community Chest Fund with the help of the Malta Sports Council and adopted the slogan of ‘One nation, One heartbeat’. Participants were given a commemorative t-shirt and a bib, against a donation of €10 and overall sponsored by Banif Bank with hefty donations from many other companies.
At various localities, parish brass bands played festa marches to augment the fun and spectacle as the throngs all wended their way to the grand finale finish in Valletta where all was great comradeship with politicians shaking hands and hugging the President and ex-President.
Most importantly, the weather was that of a lovely spring day and hundreds of thousands of euros swelled the Community Chest Fund.
Come to think of it, this must be a pretty unique event and occasion and could well serve as an international springboard to foster goodwill. Maybe one day we may yet see Vladimir Putin and Barak Obama jogging together, or maybe David Cameron and Ed Milliband…dream on chum, dream on.