3 MARCH 1939, Page 2

The New Constitution in Malta.

It is obviously only fair that the Maltese, who are without question the most loyally and sincerely British of the inhabitants of the Colonial Empire, should be granted some recognition of their loyalty. They displayed it at a very crucial moment in 1935 ; they showed it again, profoundly and doggedly, during the crisis week of last September ; they have volunteered for A.R.P. with as much zest, if not more, as their fellow-citizens in this island. Simultaneously, they have been asking for a return to the representative govern- ment which has been withheld from them since 1933. A generous response to that request would have been a fitting reward for merit. But the Constitution promulgated this week lacks the necessary measure of generosity. It accords Maltese the right of election to ten seats only out of a Legis- lative Council of twenty, whose decisions the British Governor can, if expedient in the public interest, override. No one could expect the British Government to grant Malta unbridled liberty ; its past experiments in that line have led to unfortunate results—once to an Italian language campaign and once to an incursion of the Vatican into Maltese politics. No Englishman in his senses would wish to expose the colony to these risks again, and many Maltese feel likewise. Very few of them expected or hoped for freedom to manage the language question, and at least one large party is almost disposed to welcome the new instrument because it bars ecclesiastics from membership of the Legislature. But the average voter feels that he deserves rather more than he has got ; he is injured to think that on no subject whatsoever can he be sure of having the final word. Psychologically, it would have been sounder to give the Council larger freedom, subject to a list of reserved points.