The President of Malta

Speech by H.E. George Vella, President of Malta, during the Commemoration of ‘Operation Pedestal’, 9th August 2023.


Distinguished guests,

It is my pleasure to be here with you again today, to commemorate the Anniversary of Operation Pedestal.

Owing to its unique geo-strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta earned itself a lot of unwanted attention from the Axis during the second world war.  In fact, Malta is often cited as being one of the most heavily bombarded countries during the Second World War, with April 1942 being the worst month.

While most of these attacks took place over military facilities, they also affected the island’s population, killing many innocent civilians in the massive bombings.

As the war raged on, the island’s insularity and location meant that the situation on the ground became increasingly dire.  The population was exposed to widespread famine while enduring relentless attacks of aerial bombardment.

Against such a backdrop, Operation Pedestal, more commonly known in Malta as ‘Il-Konvoj ta’ Santa Marija’ is perhaps one of the most decisive turning points in the country’s most recent history.

The arrival of the Santa Marija convoy was instrumental in lifting the brutal siege the island was exposed to.  The arrival of the convoy was also crucial to re-instil hope and inject resilience in a population that had experienced far too much misery and suffering during relentless bombardments.

Scenes of great joy and relief dominated the Grand Harbour area as people witnessed in disbelief the arrival of the battered ships that managed to arrive in Malta from Operation Pedestal.

Allow me to honour the memory and pay tribute to the many unsung fallen heroes of Operation Pedestal who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their precious lives so that we could live in freedom, away from dictatorships and authoritarianism.

We owe all of this to them. They died to defend and protect our freedoms. We must fulfil our obligations to them, just like they fulfilled theirs to us, by honouring their memory and ensure that their legacy remains alive.  Let us convey these memories to our younger generations.

It is important that while we commemorate their sacrifices, we also stand firm in our condemnation of present injustices around the world and in countries in our region.

Despite the invaluable sacrifices of our ancestors, we are still witnessing scenes of extreme violence and atrocities that we had promised ourselves not to ever let happen again.

As peace remains threatened and elusive, holding onto hope in these hard times is not an easy feat.  However, just because we are facing challenging times does not mean we have to lose heart and be overtaken by them. 

We need to persist in our moral obligation to promote and protect our values, just like the heroes we are remembering today did when it was asked of them.

Our ancestors’ example sheds light on how profound our resilience and endurance can be amid great adversity. Just as they endured the tragic consequences of war, we too must continue to stand united and overcome the turbulent realities that we are experiencing today.

I am proud of my country who has steadfastly over the years fostered awareness on the need to promote a culture of dialogue, cooperation and peace, as opposed to violence and the use of force.  We have to change from a mentality of war to a mentality of peace.

I wish to thank the Royal Naval Association (Malta Branch) for organising this important event every year and for keeping alive the memory of those who worked, lived, and died in Malta or for Malta, for democracy, and for a peaceful world free from authoritarianism and tyranny.  I wish to also thank the Wallace Pipes and Drums Band for their performance.  Lastly, a word of praise goes to the Armed Forces of Malta for their impeccable routine.

Thank you.

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