jeudi, novembre 24, 2005

Kick Off (CHOGM has landed)

Hon Sato Kilman is in Malta. I am sure most (Maltese) people will only guess that he is the man on the right in the picture because they make a mental (cultural) equation that equiparates strange names with persons of a different hue of skin. This educated guess will not however be shadowed by an even greater one that tells us all "Who is Mr Kilman?" For your information Mr Kilman who is pictured getting off an Alitalia flight with other bemused passengers is the Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu. Vanuatu is the stuff of dreams for soccer statisticians, geography enthusiasts and vulcanologists. Alas, it is not exactly what one would call a prime actor on the world stage.

The reason for Mr Kilman's visit is of course the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - or something, because I am sure there should be State somewhere in there). It has kicked off in the George Cross Island. For of course the Queen E is here (not the old heavyweight vessel that has served the British people much in attracting tourism but the real deal Lizzie). And when the Q is in the house the proud Republic becomes the George Cross vassal once again in proud remembrance of how the Maltese stood tall (relatively) in the face of the Kraut and Wop. Because 50 odd years have passed and she still has the same things to tell us. Don't blame you Beth for what else is there to praise? Oh yes, hope you meet our Nobel Laureate columnist who might even be graceful enough to right an "Off with her head" piece in the Times while you are there.

David over at Lanzarote lamented late last night that no one is talking about CHOGM in the world and provided a questionable link to a rag of little honour to prove his point. 27 minutes later (which is when I caught on to his story) a Google News search of the term "CHOGM" had produced 40 results. Admittedly it was from such lighthouses of press such as the Fiji Times, Tobago News, Pakistan Papers and the Sydney Herald. By this morning the same search produced 461 direct hits. And it will probably continue to grow as the Queen cuts more ribbons, the Duke insults the Gozitans and Mr Kilman inaugurates the Malta-Vanuatu Friends Circle.

CHOGM is not exactly the EU. Nor is it Mercosur or COMNEBOL. It is CHOGM. The Commonwealth might light up flames of memory among the Henry Frendo's of this world but it can never be a world moving body as much as the Francophonic equivalent (still trying to steal Quebec from the Commonwealth) will. It is useful though. It is another forum where Malta is a key player (and can organise its events - thankfully for its roads).

It has become a subject of derision. Maltese speak with disdain of Fiji, Vanuatu (I wonder if Turks & Caucos are included, I always loved that one). Why? Because they are small and insignificant. Ah the irony. Ah the Mintoffian oxymoron. The Creator must always be thanked for having placed our rock bang in the middle of all cradles of civilisation in a Europacentric world. Consider how far Mr Kilman has to go to be heard. Some islands are lucky. Look at Hawaii.... it gets to be American and have surf. Others have to try to excel at rugby to get on the world map. Oops sorry, sounds like Malta again.

We are not the same. We are in the Union. Little do we know of the reactions of bewilderment in certain corners of Germany, Austria or France when the reality of voting power of Maltese in Council comes home. Malta? Vote? Parliamentarians? Luxembourg I understand. They have money and speak a twisted German. But Malta?????

So what should we get out of Chogm? Once we pull down all the posters, once the Illustrious quits the harbour and once the last leader or deputy of a cricketing state has quit the GC island what should we reflect upon?

1. We should remember that we should respect other small states. Think that they might see us as a strong link of collaboration with the EU. They see us as "one of ours on the inside" ... and we owe it to them. This common heritage that we have thanks to being lumped with the same colonisers (who were not so bad) can be reaped.

2. We should use this to remember how good we have it. No matter how much we moan and whine about the project called EU which is limping along uncomfortably we have to bear in mind that there are states who have Deputy Leaders who get off a passenger plane and get photographed only because they are attending a huge event and who would otherwise never make page 25 of the Times. The EU places us on the world map as participants in a project (that needs much redefining) and makes us actors rather than simple observers.

Now if that is not alot for a country of barely 400,000 souls and 2,000 odd immigrants what is?

We've come a long way since the GC baby!

Have a nice CHOGM and say hi to Sato for me!

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