Throughout its history, Malta was long dominated by various foreign powers – whether they were the Phoenicians, the Romans, the French, the Hospitallers or the British. Malta’s final ruler, Britain, granted Malta self-governance following the island’s brave resistance to the Axis powers and alliance to Britain during the Second World War.
But how did this exactly come about? The British arrived in Malta in 1800 to aid the people of the island expel the French forces. In 1814, Malta constitutionally and legally became a colony of the British Empire and began serving its purpose as a military base and island.
This put Malta utterly dependent economically on Great Britain’s military successes and expenditures. The fight for independence began in 1957 when Prime Minister Dom Mintoff put forth the ‘Break with Britain Resolution’ bill in parliament.
The bill was seconded by leader of the Opposition Dr Gorg Borg Olivier. In April 1958, the Labour Party resigned but Olivier refused to form the government. Mintoff, in response, sent a letter demanding for immediate and total independence for Malta.
A campaign for independence was kick started by the Labour Party through a string of demonstrations and protests, with Mintoff taking delegations to other countries to gain support for the cause for Independence.
Between 1958 and 1962, Malta’s political rights were taken over by Great Britain, leading to an increase in tension. In the latter year, for the general election, both major political parties put independence as one of the main goals of their manifesto.
The Nationalist Party won the election, with Gorg Borg Olivier asking for immediate independence shortly afterwards. The movement was met with much resistance, including the church which feared losing some of the privileges it retained due to British rule.
Archbishop Gonzi however changed his mind later on, due to the constitution being proposed by Malta’s government ensured that the Catholic Church retain its status on the island.
A referendum was held in May 1964 to ask the public about Independence. Olivier spent 10 weeks in Great Britain negotiating the needs of the Maltese population, with the British proposing a ‘Defence Agreement’ which the Labour Party refused.
On the night of 20 September 1964, the British flag was finally changed with the Maltese colours. In the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prime Minister Gorg Borg Olivier signed the new constitution which gave Malta complete independence.
A monument was inaugurated in 1989, created by artist Ganni Bonnici, which depicts a woman confidently striding into the unknown and releasing herself from the chains of the past. This was one of the highlights of Bonnici’s artistic career as the piece of art representing a significant milestone for Malta.