Your Excellency Cathy Ward, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
We are gathered here today to commemorate the award of the prestigious George Cross to Malta eighty years ago. This medal was awarded only for acts of the greatest heroism or the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger. It is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
As historical records show, and the memory of some amongst us recall, Malta, and its People, together with the British forces that served on our islands, underwent two years of incessant battle.
1942 was exceptionally harsh. April was the month in which Malta was most heavily bombarded.
Malta was incessantly attacked around the clock as the Axis spared no efforts to neutralise the British bases on the islands.
Food was in short supply. And that is putting it mildly! Fuel use was only allowed for military purposes and heavily rationed like everything else. Malta was down on its knees. About to surrender.
Yet, the fortitude and perseverance of the Maltese and British forces alike paid off. A few months later, fighting over Malta subsided and its inhabitants were left with the daunting task of reinventing their lives literally lifting themselves up from underground shelters and the rubble of destroyed buildings.
We all agree that from the historical perspective, Malta was living its finest hour, and deserved this highest honour and acknowledgment.
But what does it mean for us today eighty years later?
We have proudly flown the George Cross on our flag as a stark reminder of the heroic people that made the ultimate sacrifice in order for us to be able to enjoy freedom, democracy, fundamental rights and progress away from Fascism and Nazism.
The symbol of the George Cross reminds us of all those that contributed to the rebuilding of our country. The immediate post war period was not a happy one.
Unemployment, poverty, economic and financial problems, the need for reconstruction, and an urgent need to promote political direction as we faced a future in a war-torn Europe.
We have to remember all those who were compelled to leave our shores seeking for better futures in far away countries. They too, whilst miles away from home, contributed in no small way for the well-being of their families back in Malta.
Another important reflection on this small yet highly significant decoration is that no country or nation however big or wealthy is spared during wartime. For the past eighty years, generations of Maltese have looked up at their flag in pride as they lived peaceful and comfortable lives.
I sincerely hope our young generations still attribute in their minds the huge historical message, this decoration on our flag, is meant to convey.
As we are witnessing yet another obscure war on European soil, we are once again reminded how fragile peace is, unless all countries respect the right of other to exist, and their freedom to determine their future, themselves.
Sadly, wars around the globe never stopped.
Eighty years apart, it is now the people in Ukraine who are experiencing the same atrocities as the Maltese did during the 1942 siege. Death, hunger, poverty, forced displacement. Families, lives, hopes and dreams torn apart.
This commemoration therefore comes at a very opportune moment. Let the George Cross, symbol of bravery, heroism, and devotion, remind us to honour those who fought for our freedom and democracy and let it also serve to encourage us to stand by those who are still fighting for their freedom in Europe and around the world.