With KSJC election day approaching, Luke Scicluna sat down with SDM president Mark Grech to discuss his organisation’s current standing.
LS: What are SDM’s principles?
MG: The basic principle of SDM – Studenti Demokristjani Maltin – is that in a diverse group of people, everyone has a right to an opinion, and everyone is unique, and through those unique elements, we can come together as a group. Everyone has the opportunity to make their voice heard with SDM, so that together we can find a solution for different problems.
LS: Would you say that they are adhered to by supporters of SDM?
MG: Our job is to show our members what SDM is – its past, present, and future. One doesn’t have much of a future if one does not remain in contact with one’s past.
It’s true that sometimes politics itself can be boring for Junior College students, and one can say that they are after parties – at the end of the day, SDM, like Pulse I imagine, must organise events to be heard – but at the end of the day, one must not forget politics.
That is the reason why SDM was formed in the first place – even when we have our seminars and our Wednesday meetings, we begin by explaining our positions both at Junior College and on a national level.
MG: Yes, especially at Junior College, where there is a great number of people who are enthusiastic about the elections. The outside perception of Junior College is that the main activity there is the election, and yes, for SDM it is a busy time, especially this year, where events, as we said before, seem to have been planned for later on than they actually were. In any case we were prepared – yet preparations had to be made in a shorter time span.
So, it is a busy time, especially for the executive, who pour their hearts into their work for Junior College students and who at the end of the day have to spread the word themselves. They have to speak to people, they have to show what SDM has to offer – and it was also a busy time since we had carried out a survey a few weeks prior, which was when we started spreading the word about what we intended to do – this survey kicked off the electoral process, so yes, it is a very busy time for SDM.
LS: What do you expect will be the outcome of the elections for this year?
MG: Well, unfortunately I cannot read the future. I imagine that, as usual, it will be a close call – and I believe andhope that students will choose the alternative that SDM has to offer. So yes, students deserve more – this is the slogan for our campaign – students deserve more, students deserve SDM.
We are not pulling this out of a hat – even the survey shows that students do not know who KSJC is. If you are my representative, I should be able to come up to you and say, “Hey, I have this problem with this lecturer, help me out” – but most people only know two out of seven KSJC members.
So yes, as SDM, we hope that students recognise this, and give a chance to a good alternative, the alternative which is SDM – we will listen and act all year, and not just at the end of our mandate.
LS: What do you think about the current KSJC?
MG: I think I’ve already said more than enough – firstly, I would like to congratulate them on the work they have accomplished – what is good is good, and I cannot call it bad. However, there is a way that things should be done.
It is one thing to do things from the heart, as the seven members of KSJC and the seven main student representatives, and it is another thing to do everything at the very end, because it needs to be done in order to cross them off the past manifesto. These things would be eliminated with SDM in KSJC – unfortunately, KSJC was lacking in this aspect, and that’s the only opinion I have about these people.
LS: Do you feel that SDM’s beliefs and aims have been applied to JC through the KSJC this year?
MG: Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, KSJC was a clique – you can tell this through the fact that the only link between SDM and KSJC was through KPS – and if I’m not mistaken, KPS meetings were held four times during the year, two of which during the weeks preceding the AGM.
So the link between SDM and KSJC was virtually non-existent. So yes, unfortunately, they did not listen to SDM, and that offends me deeply. True, we lost the election, but we still have a number of students behind us, and we wish to make our voice heard. We are not like other organisations, who saw that things were not going their way and came up with some exotic voting system.
We accept the way things are, we accept that the students vote as they will, each election has its own story, we yield to the students and their vote, but the year passes. One should listen to what the students have to say, and don’t ignore them just because they’re wearing a blue shirt and not an orange one – this is a mistake that KSJC has made.
LS: Do you feel that the needs of the student population have been furthered?
MG: I don’t think so. I think that KSJC just made sure it did what was on its manifesto, and that’s it. It’s true that a manifesto takes a while to plan – in our case, we carried out a survey to see what the majority wants, what the students want, but I don’t believe that KSJC was there for the student.
LS: What is your reaction to the conversation leaked earlier this month?
MG: I am disgusted that one of the biggest student organisations, Pulse, is led by a person who says such things. I admit, to err is human, we are not promising perfection, we are not perfect – on the contrary, we are people who make mistakes. But I appeal to students to act if they see SDM members, once in council, making mistakes – draw their attention, say “Listen, this is a mistake.”
Pulse is led by a person who errs himself – who errs gravely – for one to say “I will do as I please, the Council is in my hands, I will proceed as I see fit – How many Commissioners are there? Ten? I will take all ten. How many Head Commissioners are there? One? I will have him.”
What does this mean? We ended up in a situation where an election is going to be run by Pulse. It’s not fair. The best part is that there is one conversation that was leaked – but there is another phone call, and unfortunately (for the time being) we cannot release it. Instead of apologising for his mistake, he phoned again, twice in less than an hour. It’s not fair, it’s not right that a student organisation is run by a person who says those things.
Everyone makes mistakes, but that was a huge mistake – and I believe that Pulse supporters should do something about it. In fact, when you ask them if they agree with what Clive Farrugia said, everyone draws a blank – he obviously didn’t say admirable things.
LS: What do you think of the rivalry that exists between your two parties?
MG: I believe that, at the end of the day – December brings the KSJC Election, March brings the KSU election – yes, there will be rivalry, unfortunately there are people who take it more seriously than others – however, friends we were and friends we shall remain. And this is the great thing about Pulse and SDM.
First of all, I would like to appeal to students who will perhaps see us in the future and who are considering Junior College – even to parents who are maybe trying to encourage their children to go to sixth form – yes, I would suggest that they come to Junior College. Pulse and SDM give you the backbone of how to work in a team. Forget rivalry, at the end of the day, the election passes, and we still are friends.
Yes, we do fight, and yes, it’s true that one person says this and the other says that – and sometimes tempers flare– but then, the election passes, we shake hands and go for a drink together. Rivalry is what is, but it ends there – outside the gates, we are ‘normal people’ again, forget Pulse and SDM.
LS: Are you concerned by the lack of another party?
MG: I appeal to people to come together and form a new organisation if they are not happy within Pulse or SDM – at the end of the day, when Pulse and SDM were started, it was by someone who decided it was time to make the students’ voice heard.
Perhaps during SDM’s time, there weren’t many other organisations, but when Pulse was started, there were – so yes, I appeal to students who don’t feel comfortable with either organisation not to give up. I suggest that whoever feels the inclination should start his own party – at the end of the day, the more voices there are, the better the council and the better Junior College.