Life After Politics: Ċensu Galea

Manuel Zarb - 3rd December 2017

In this series of interviews, former politicians from the Labour and the Nationalist Parties share their experiences in politics and how they’ve readjusted to day-to-day life as private citizens.

Ċensu Galea, a Member of Parliament for 30 years, and whose most recent political roles included Deputy Speaker and Minister for Competitiveness and Communications during the 2003-2008 Nationalist administration, looks back on his career as something to be proud of. “I believe I served the country to the best of my ability, and despite all the political attacks levelled from time to time, there are many measures for which I was politically responsible which have resulted in important changes for our society. Among the measures I am proud of are the changes to rent laws, the liberalisation of communications and the strengthening of the maritime and aviation sectors. Overall, I feel satisfied with what I achieved.”

Mr Galea remained in Parliament up until May 2017, and says that on paper, the process of becoming a private citizen again only started a few months ago. “To be honest I have always made it a point, to myself and my family, that when I became ‘a private citizen’, I did not want to feel like I was losing something. I always tried to be around as ‘a person’, rather than as ‘a politician’. In my years as a Member of Parliament, I was always addressed by my first name by all those who met me. I liked that, and still like it today.”

The professional adjustment for Mr Galea, an architect, was, however, “and still is, very difficult. Even when I was no longer Minister, I was still very much involved in the daily activities of Parliament, and I served as Deputy Speaker between June 2010 and May 2017. Since May I have had to face the reality of having to rebuild my profession…which isn’t easy at 61 years of age.”

On Ministers’ salary, he believes that it is very poor. “Entering politics should not be associated with the pay package, but I believe that Ministers should be given a better pay. Drawing comparisons with the private sector may be odious, but one must keep in mind that there are also many Government-appointed persons (such as chairpersons, or persons of trust) who get paid more than the Ministers themselves.” Ministers, he says, should not get paid less than these appointed people; especially since when these individuals make mistakes, it is often the Minister involved who will have to carry the blame. “On the other hand, I believe that there are many other factors that keep genuine people out of politics.”

Discussing the times that Parliament convenes, Mr Galea says that whilst there is nothing wrong with discussing and deciding a way forward, a more important question arises here. “The real question, I believe, is to what extent are people who get involved in politics prepared to sacrifice themselves? After 30 years as an MP (during which I practically never missed a sitting, if not abroad or sick), I believe that MPs should be prepared to make more time for the people that elect them.”

“Re-election should be something that depends on performance in Parliament, and not the other way around. Despite the Parliamentary TV channel, we’ve come to a point where what an MP does in Parliament is irrelevant for his or her re-election, or otherwise.”

The issue of whether we should have full-time MPs, for Mr Galea, is also more complex than just a yes or no answer, raising the question of what type of Parliament we want for the country. “On paper, being a full-time MP should give rise to better-prepared MPs. However, the question which I have always asked about being a full-time MP is what will happen to the MP once the Parliamentary seat is not confirmed?”

The obligation for MPs to be full-timers, he argues, would lead to fewer young people being prepared to join the ranks, due to the difficultly of starting early and being re-elected several times before they can retire. “This would imply that many of those who could possibly be interested in being of service to the country will simply refrain from participating. No young person can possibly base his or her future on a five-year period as an MP.” If anything, he continues, until many questions on political participation are answered, being a full-time MP should be an option, and not an obligation, with full-timers actually working full-time and not just on paper.

This interview was originally published as part of a feature on the Commercial Courier


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