Marie Louise Coleiro-Preca, at 60-years-old, has completed her term as the ninth President of Malta, becoming Malta’s second female president.
A socially-conscious politician, Coleiro-Preca quickly turned the Presidency into a more grassroots office, organising at a community level to work with a number of minority groups as well as vulnerable groups in Malta through her term.
Though there were always murmurs that Coleiro-Preca never exactly wanted to be President herself, she was able to turn the role of Malta’s President into one that was more approachable, focused on social justice, and connected with the people.
From sufferers of domestic violence, to immigrants, to people with disabilities, to those at risk of suicide, Coleiro-Preca attempted to bring different groups together and foster discussion – but she was also criticised at times for not saying enough.
Here are ten highlights of Marie Louise Coleiro-Preca’s presidential tenure
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Irrid nagħti ħajr, lill-poplu Malti u Għawdxi kollu kemm hu, għar-rispett u l-appoġġ li tani. Nagħti ħajr ukoll lil dawk fostna li anke kkritikawni, forsi kultant b’għaġġla u mhux bil-ħsieb, għaliex tgħallimt ħafna mingħandhom ukoll. Tgħallimt minn kulħadd, speċjalment meta ġejt fostkom. Tgħallimt mit-tfal u ż-żgħażagħ tagħna. Tgħallimt l-aktar fuq kemm, aħna kapaċi individwalment, iżda aktar u aktar kemm aħna kapaċi, meta nkunu magħqudin u nieqfu ma’ xulxin. Għeżież Ħuti Maltin u Għawdxin, nassigurakom li l-esperjenzi kollha li għaddejna flimkien, ser jibqgħu minquxin f’qalbi, b’imħabba u b’għożża. Kien unur u privileġġ għalija li tul dawn il-ħames snin, kelli l-opportunita’ li naqsam magħkom, bħala waħda minnkom, din l-esperjenza bħala l-President ta’ Malta. Fl-aħħarnett nappella lill-poplu tagħna sabiex jkompli jirrispetta lill-Presidenza tagħna, u jkompli jħobb ir-Repubblika tagħna. Grazzi minn Qalbi ❤️ ????????
1. Her first presidential speech
From the get-go, Coleiro-Preca made it clear what she would be focused on.
“I believe that the Presidency needs to be a shield of freedom, of democracy and of human rights. That is why I will be using my energy to continue to cultivate a culture of social justice built on a foundation of respect and inclusivity, tolerance, and diversity – values that will continue to make us proud that we are Maltese and Gozitan,” she had said in April, 2014.
2. The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society
Soon after becoming President of Malta, Coleiro-Preca went about establishing a foundation that would focus on the betterment of society.
A statute and ethos were developed and, within a few months, the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society was up and running, holding fora and discussions on a range of topics from children’s welfare to divorce to cannabis regulation.
Though she is no longer President, Coleiro-Preca will continue running the Foundation.
3. The President’s Secret Garden
A discussion between Coleiro-Preca and some Foundation members about a lack of open space for children to play and learn in soon snowballed into the President’s Secret Garden, an annual event held on the green grounds of San Anton Palace.
With thousands of children taking part in the event which was first held in 2015, this is an easy and fun way to get Maltese youths out of the house and into nature, restoring a sense of community within the children.
4. The President’s Trust
Coleiro-Preca’s focus on the marginalised sections of society was further confirmed by the creation of the President’s Trust, an organisation expressly aimed as “inspiring and supporting young people in society to built a positive life for themselves”.
Through the Trust, Coleiro-Preca created initiatives to give young people life skills to overcome barriers. She worked with various communities in Malta, including those living in poverty, the unemployed, the marginalised and those at risk of social exclusion.
5. The extensive restoration at San Anton Palace
Restoration works on the 17th century palace began in early 2015, with a series of much-needed adjustments taking place.
Stables built by the Knights in the 16th century were turned into exhibition halls and lecture rooms, and much of the wooden features within the palace were painstakingly restored to their former glory under Coliero-Preca’s watch.
6. The Eco-Park at Kitchen Garden
Just this month, Malta’s first eco-park aimed specifically at children aged two to 10 opened in Attard.
Featuring interactive flooring that can be found nowhere other than Germany in Europe, it also features an area specifically built for children with autism, and is powered purely by renewable energies like solar, wind, and kinetic energy, which can be created by the children themselves.
It is located in the President’s Kitchen Garden, and was a dual project worth €800,000 held in collaboration with the Energy Ministry.
7. The Paqpaqli incident
Probably the darkest moment of Coleiro-Preca’s tenure, 23 people were injured during the charity car show Paqpaqli għall-Istrina in Luqa after a luxury car driving at a high speed crashed into spectators in October 2015.
As the person ultimately responsible for the event, Coleiro-Preca was criticised for the lack of organisation of the event, having no proper barriers placed between the cars and the spectators.
11 of the 23 victims were reportedly given more than €3.5 million in compensation, money that came from the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation, according to the Times of Malta – though a Presidential spokesperson said that “not one cent of MCCFF funds were utilised in the compensation settlement”.
Coleiro-Preca had at first refused responsibility for the tragic event, before agreeing to an out-of-court settlement with the victims.
8. Constitutional reform
With the government pledging to revise Malta’s Constitution over half a decade ago, a Constitutional Reform Convention was set up.
However, the Convention never really got moving and Coleiro-Preca was eventually given the role of chairing a new steering committee to discuss the reform important and much-needed reform in 2018.
Coleiro-Preca expressed interest in continuing to chair the convention, however, it is believed new President George Vella will be taking on the role.
9. Her work on issues like suicide and cancer
Tough personal issues were not ignored by Coleiro-Preca, who oversaw research into topics like suicide, divorce, and cancer.
Amongst other research, The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society released data showing that nearly nine out of 10 suicides in Malta were committed by men, with recommendations on how to combat this.
Coleiro-Preca was also instrumental in bringing together various NGOs under the National Cancer Platform, which was founded in 2015.
10. Her focus on the future
Though her time as President has ended, her work has not.
As she sets up her new office in Floriana, Coleiro-Preca has already pledged to keep working with vulnerable groups in society.
Though it is still early days, we can be sure to see Coleiro-Preca being involved in issues related to children, impoverished families, marginalised groups, and anything else that can bring a stronger sense of community to Malta.