These six heroes are remembered as part of the Maltese’s efforts to protest against the then economic and political crises of the country. The riots and lives lost during the Sette Giugno, paved the way towards liberal concessions on local affairs under a modern constitution, marking the first election in 1921 and sparking the mechanism towards Independence.
7 June 1919
The Sette Giugno marks one of the most tragic and historically significant days in Maltese history. Before achieving Independence and becoming a democratic country in 1964, Malta was under the rule of the British Colonial Government, with little to no say in administration. As part of the aftermath of World War I, Malta was suffering from low food provisions and an increased cost of living, with greedy merchants turning great profits at the detriment of the Maltese citizens.
This crisis was met by revolt from the Maltese population, leading to the first ever meeting of the National Assembly on the 25th of February 1919. Dr Enrico Mizzi and his followers opposed the British Colonial Government, wanting to achieve full independence from British Rule. Given opposition by the other school of thought lead by Dr Filippo Sciberras, tensions began to escalate, leading to a series of strikes and attacks on shops. The police force threatened protesters, while also providing heavy guard around Castille, the then military headquarters.
Picture: Dr Enrico Mizzi
Tensions sparked when the Maltese flag was defaced by the Union Jack, leading to various riots and revolts, the burning of Union Jack flags, destruction of shops, British Military offices, as well as profiteering merchants and supporters of the colonial government’s houses.
The stationed soldiers were ordered not to shoot on the crowds unless directed, however, chaos erupted when a shot was heard in the distance. Almost immediately, the soldiers began shooting, injuring fifty and claiming the lives of Manwel Attard, Ġużè Bajada and Lorenzo Dyer. As protests continued the next day, Carmelo Abela was killed by a British Marine after resisting arrest. A few days later, the event claimed the lives of Ċikku Darmanin and Toni Caruana as they succumbed to their wounds from the riot shooting.
Picture: Photo taken on the day of the riots
The Sette Giugno is a national holiday celebrated annually on the 7th of June. This day commemorates the tragic historical event when six people were killed in the wake of a riot against the British administration.
Commemorating Sette Giugno
On the eve marking the 7th of June, wreaths are placed as a sign of remembrance and respect on the victims’ monument at the Addolorata Cemetery by the National Festivities Committee.
On the day of the event, a band march is held at St George Square in front of the Sette Giugno commemorative monument. The Speaker of Representatives, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition as well as all the Members of Parliament, walk towards the monument from the Parliament building. This is followed by a speech on democracy by the Speaker, the sounding of the Last Post, one minute of silence and the sounding of the Reveille. The ceremony will then finish with a wreath laying by all the officials present and the playing of the National Anthem. A similar remembrance ceremony is held in Xagħra, Gozo as respect to one of the victims who hailed from this town.