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Monday, June 07, 2004

Sette Giugno 1919 in context

The 7th of June 1919 was indeed a remarkable day in the history of Malta. The death of Guzeppi Bajada, Manwel Attard, Wenzu Dyer and Karmenu Abela as a result of the riots against the British colonial government undoubtedly marked the bloodiest steps towards self-rule and independence for Malta.

Our country did the right thing in designating this day as a national holiday. It is as significant as any of the other national holidays, even if the monument in honour of the victims of the Sette Giugno 1919 riots in Valletta was only unveiled in 1987.

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the 1919 riots. This Sette Giugno anniversary comes at a time when the world is observing the passing of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who died a couple of days ago. Although 85th anniversaries are not usually marked with any special fanfare, I've been thinking about how the 7th of June has played out in history since 1919.

For instance, it is most interesting to note that the Vatican became a sovereign state on 7 June 1929. In the broader context of the Sette Giugno since 1919, one could also mention D-Day, which occurred on the 6th of June 1944, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the 1919 events.

Keeping the focus on Malta: the dismantling of the Upper Barrakka Lifts, inoperable since 1973, started on this day in 1983, because it had not been declared as a public holiday at that time, for interesting reasons I won't go into here today. And it is very ironic that on the 7th of June 1990 four Maltese men were reported missing aboard their yacht Esmeralda, 20 miles South-East of Sardinia, Italy.

This type of contextualization for major events such as the Sette Giugno is something I do quite often because it puts things in a different light than that chosen by the weavers of our major narratives.

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