Monday 23 April 2018


Keeping things in perspective

Maybe instead of the usual bickering, we can use this latest controversy over whether Junior Eurovision winner Gaia Cauchi deserves a national award to unravel a lot of misconceptions and put it into some kind of perspective.

As the story broke and everyone took to their keyboards, it became clear that there was a lot of confusion, partly due to the fact that reference was initially made to Gieh ir-Repubblika. In fact, what Gaia has been nominated for is to be enrolled in the National Order of Merit as a member.

There were also outraged comments that someone like Joseph Calleja never got this award and here an 11-year-old was getting it before him – this turned out to be incorrect, as a quick Google search revealed that he had been awarded member of the National Order of Merit in 2006.

At this very moment, amendments to the law are being discussed in Parliament but until these are passed, this is how the whole thing works. There are a number of awards, honours and medals which are bestowed every year on 13 December, Republic Day, to those who have carried out some kind of noteworthy achievement.

These are divided into different categories, in a kind of ranking order; the top one (the one everyone is talking about, which is Gieh ir-Repubblika) is usually reserved for Prime Ministers, Presidents and Archbishops. The various categories are as follows:

Gieh ir-Repubblika – this can include not more than 20 at any one time; to put it bluntly someone has to die before someone else can be included in this list known as the Xirka. (The government has proposed that this kind of capping should be removed). This highest honour is given for “exceptional merit in the service of Malta or, humanity as a whole”. Maltese nationals and distinguished citizens of other countries may be appointed as honorary members of the Xirka. 

This is followed by The National Order of Merit which is divided into:

  • Companion of Honour
  • Companion
  • Officer
  • Member

After that come the Medals of the Republic, divided into:

  • Medalja ghall-Qadi tar-Repubblika (service to the republic)
  • Medalja ghal-Qlubija (bravery)
  • Long and efficient service

Very few people are probably aware that ANY Maltese citizen can propose a candidate (there is a form which can be downloaded here ). The person being proposed needs to have given a special service to Malta, or to a particular locality or to a particular field of activity or to a particular group within the community.

A nominations committee submits possible names of candidates to the Prime Minister who in turn advises the President.

What we had in the case of Gaia, of course, was the Prime Minister announcing it as a fait accomplit during a press conference, which is probably the first time this has ever happened (I stand to be corrected).

A list of all the people who have received such awards was tabled in Parliament this morning. As can be seen, there have been numerous people from the performing arts who have been awarded in this same category.

Should Gaia Cauchi be included among all these names? Personally, I think it’s a bit much for someone so young and in the context of her achievement. She will have plenty of time to receive accolades and awards, and I agree with those who suggested that a music scholarship would have been more appropriate.

Gaia is young, she is talented and she has a great future ahead of her. Gaia will go far, especially if she remains as natural, down-to-earth and devoid of any affectations as she is at the moment. Merit for this must surely go to her parents, who are obviously keeping her grounded despite the fact that she has received so much media attention locally, on Italian television and now on a European level.  Which is no mean feat in this world which is celebrity crazy.

Maybe they should get the award instead?

  • Ramon Casha

    Maybe you should send this article to all the reporters and journalists. They all said the same thing – that she had been “nominated” for Ġieħ ir-Repubblika and that she WAS going to receive it on such and such a date. Right up to this morning that’s what they’re still saying, eg ToM article “Malta’s ‘little Whitney’ aims for the Eurovision Song Contest” describes her as “The young winner of the Gieh ir-Repubblika Award”

    • I got my information from the Times itself when it updated its original story.

  • Philip Rokarja Pace

    I have read many comments on Gaia. I even wrote that I saw her on the Italian TV in the show ‘Ti Lascio Una Canzone’ hosted by Antonella Clerici, where Gaia sang ‘Proud Mary’. The Italians were astonished.
    I wrote to her that I was very pleased and satisfied with her performance and I instinctively felt that she shall be on course for bigger things and apart from appearing later on with Joseph Calleja in the same show, here we are with her latest achievement.
    Some of the comments that I read showed how poor we are in understanding on how the honours list works.
    Thanks to you I hope that those academic experts would delve head first into this and learn more.
    I do not agree on the scholarship as I think that she would be swamped with rhetoric which doesn’t work in the practical world and which would deprive her of her natural poise, confidence and performance. Can someone name any well known singers who ‘blossomed’ from these scholarships?
    What I would suggest is that she keeps on being managed by her parents and all of them have to wait until Gaia grows a bit more say when she would be 16 and then see what is her real potential regarding her voice is and the type of songs that she would sing.
    With that strategy Gaia can grow much stronger and won’t end up as a flash in the pan!!!!

  • Joseph Felix Cachia

    Helen Shapiro was a teenage success back in the early sixties. Once, she was offered to record a song entitled “Misery” written by two members of one of the minor groups, who accompanied her during her tours. They were practically unknown, while she was already a superstar. Feeling somewhat aloof she refused it. Much later, she had every reason to regret this act of folly, as she would have been the first singer to record a song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Her career might have taken a different direction, for within a few years it faded away!!!
    I Hope and augur that Gaia “keeps her feet firmly on the ground” Her parents seem to be doing just this

  • Cecil Herbie Jones

    Personally I would like to see Gaia win the Gieh ir-Repubblika. It won’t destroy her if she did or if she didn’t, but it will make a difference to many many people if she did.

  • sandra

    well done to every one

Powered by