1916 - 2012
FIL-LEJL TA' MEWT MINTOFF
Dal-lejl ghajn m'ghajn m'ghalaqtx
hierga minn mungbell li siket jilheg
u floku mewhu dieqthom il-bekkejja
u sabtu fuq sidirhom
irgiel azzar u zonqor,
dirghajhom samranin bi xmux tal-hidma.
Dal-lejl ghajn m'ghajn m'ghalaqtx
...ghax miet missieri
u l-gheref patrijarka ta' dan-nisel
li jaf kull m'ghandu liz-zaghzugh ta' dejjem,
mexxej li rabat ghaqlu
ma' skoll, ma' blata ckejkna
li feda, heles u taha isem nobbli
sa jtemm iz-zmien.
There was absolutely no call to turn the already tense situation occasioned by the death of Dom Mintoff into an orgasm of provocation, vituperation and insults.
Convention has been broken: there was no such tension when George Borg Olivier passed away just after the turmoil-filled 1976 elections, nor when Guido de Marco died.
Thats partly it: Dom was nothing like George, or like Guido. In death, as in life, Dom Mintoff was a deeply divisive personality in Maltese politics.
But a death is a death and this supreme moment in a persons life deserves respect and silence.
The adage De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Speak no ill of the dead), which may hold for a private person, has to come to terms with analysis and memories in the case of a public person. Even so, it will only be history, and only after enough time has passed, that will give a definitive judgement on the man Dom and his leadership.
Right now, a fair assessment is impossible, not with all this very rabid controversy and impossible to reconcile assessments: is he the worst leader since Gaddafi or is he a saint?
Whatever, his death, even without the exacerbation occasioned by comments that should have been more pondered, has re-opened many wounds. The country is split many ways today, especially between those for whom Dom did nothing that was good and those who idolize him to high heaven.
The balance, as usual, must be somewhere in the middle.
All of a sudden, the country is back some 30 years, back in the middle of the 1980s. None of the intervening years seem to have changed opinions. Twenty-five years or more of a Nationalist administration have sloughed off peoples backs and we are all tribal again. Perhaps we never stopped being one. The veneer has come off.
The country urgently needs to move on, past the ferocious conflicts of the past. But what has happened this past week makes one seriously doubt if this will be so, if it will ever be so.
Where does one begin to judge the Mintoff years?
The following is only a trial balance, an admittedly imperfect assessment, in expectation of a more serene and fair assessment.
To draw up a balance of a life, just now concluded, one must look at a life as one whole, but in reality, it was nothing like that. Any persons life is a series of eras.
There was the Dom of post-war years, the Dom of the reconstruction period (and the largely negative Catholic Herald appraisal focused on this when it stated: It is largely Harrison and Hubbards and Doms fault that so much of what could have been saved, was not, and so much that was modern and ugly and ill-suited to Malta was built).
Then there was the Dom who ousted Sir Paul Boffa in a party coup. On this and on Doms subsequent tussle with George Borg Olivier, the same thing can be said: both were gradualists, Dom was no gradualist. Dom was dead set against gradualism.
Let us concentrate mostly on the Borg Olivier years, tainted though they were by two elections won with the Churchs support. For all that has been said these days by Mintoff apologists, it is simply not true that before Dom there was nothing if not poverty and misery. This may be true of the early 1950s, before Doms first term as the country emerged from the post-war years.
To be specific, in the light of the hagiography of the past days, it was not Dom who gave women the right to vote, nor was it Dom who introduced free education, nor the one who introduced pensions. But it was Dom who introduced childrens allowances, on the example of Scandinavian welfare states.
It was always Doms strategy to downplay the achievements of the Borg Olivier years and today we can see that he largely succeeded in this distortion of history. Not the only one, too. The Borg Olivier years were the years in which
Obviously, this was built on keeping a steady and friendly relationship with
Hence the almighty struggle with the British, the no-holds barred approach which led to the British moving out, then staying, then moving out altogether in 1979, to Doms flirtations with the Third World, and especially with Gaddafis Libya, the failed attempts to Arabise Malta with the teaching of Arabic and handing over icons of the recent and remote past, such as the Main Guard and the College of Teachers to the Libyans. And the green passport. And over and above all this, the attempt to turn the issue into pounds, shillings and pence when prior to that it had been a question of
One good thing came out of this: there is no foreign base in
To conclude this part: Mintoff reacted violently against gradualism and, in doing so he pushed the country to the limits. But gradualism was and is more suited to this country than Mintoffs revolutionary push.
To understand Dom, one has to understand his context: the inter-years Cottonera with deprivation and poverty all around and with a dominant and rich Church and an ever-present dockyard run by the British for the needs of the British armed forces.
Then the two love-hate relationships in Doms life.
As a Bormliz he was never far from the collegiate church of Cospicua and the Kuncizzjoni but as he grew older he grew more anti-Church. Anti-church, not anti-Christ. In the 1950s and 1960s he battled against a mighty Church autocratically run by Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi. The skirmishes began in the 1950s but then exploded in the early 1960s, at a time when the Catholic Church was holding its Second Vatican Council. But here in
The 1962 election and to a lesser degree the 1966 one were preceded by massive mobilisation of the Church faithful, of which the Nationalist Party, cannily led by Dr Borg Olivier, obtained the best advantage with minimum effort.
Even so, Dom, while losing, kept a steel core of supporters around him. And he never turned the antagonism into a religious campaign. Lino Spiteri (a notable absentee in these rivers of memories) tells a delightful story about a Dom mass meeting in which the leader argues his fight is not with Christ but with the Archbishop (a diminutive figure much like Dostoyevskis Grand Inquisitor) and to prove it, he gets the audience to pray with him.
He then accepted the mediation of Archbishop Cardinale and Bishop Gerada and a peace agreement was struck. As all predicted, that led to the 1971 election victory.
Looking back with the hindsight of later years, we can see that the famous Six Points he insisted upon were more or less acceptable by a post-Vatican II Church. Looking back, the Churchs strictures interdiction, banning Christian burial and marriages, interfering with peoples lives (with parish priests telling politicians who voted PN and who Labour) was unpardonable.
In attacking this kind of Church, then, Dom was more than right. He also tapped a vein in public opinion, an anti-clerical vein, which had lain dormant since Lord Strickland in the 1930s. Apart from the fact that people everywhere love a man who takes on an institution.
Later on, Dom would win acceptance of his Six Points but relations with the Church still rankled. In the 1970s, Dom manipulated doddery, deaf and isolated Archbishop Gonzi into going to the Queen to plead
Dom found an opening through the
In the 1980s, Dom and his hand-picked successor, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici came in collision not just with the Church like in the 1960s but with the people who preferred to send their children to church schools rather than State ones. (There was also the conflict as regards church hospital and homes, with a lot of court cases and pressure on judges, as a result of which the loved Blue Sisters left, never to come back). But the parents and children stood firm and the government ultimately had to back down.
Doms relations with the British were equally troublesome. Brought up in a country ruled by colonial masters, with his father a cook at Castille where he later had his office as prime minister, there was always that Downstairs Upstairs syndrome in Dom, just like in so many Maltese employed by the British.
Then he was chosen as a Rhodes scholar and went to
When he became prime minister in 1955, he wanted
So suddenly the Integration idea was off and Dom became virulently anti-British. The April 1958 daily demonstrations in
After George Borg Olivier obtained
When he came to power in June 1971, he immediately launched negotiations to make the British pay more.
This was when he turned to other countries such as Gaddafis
Thereafter, the British armed forces, which had already wound down their operations, were on a March 1979 timeline and when they left there were many moist eyes, including those of President Anton Buttigieg, following them out of Malta in what Dom called Maltas finest hour.
When the attention turned to the CSCE process, Dom used the veto power imposed by the unanimity clause to force the
Most remember how he withstood pressure and worse from both Kissinger and Gromyko, angering them both. In the end, he obtained a clause in the final statement mentioning the
The full story of those
Later on, in the 1990s, it was Doms friendship with Gaddafi that was reportedly the reason why Helmut Kohl blocked
Of course, to analyse Doms life and times, it is essential to analyse his government of the island.
His first term, we have seen, was turbulent with the Integration issue and later his British Go Home campaign, which led to his resignation. At the same time, however, he pushed through more social services and extended education.
In his second term, from 1971 to 1984, his priorities were, as seen more abroad than here. However, he changed Borg Oliviers gradualist and private sector-led economy, such as it was, to a centralized economy on the East European model. The minimum wage was increased time and again, social services were added, and childrens allowance was introduced. But banks suddenly collapsed. It is a complete scandal that the court issues regarding the failure of BICAL and the National Bank are still outstanding after all these years and the truth is whispered but not certified.
A climate of fear came over
In 1974, the back of the Nationalist Party was broken when the majority of Opposition MPs voted with Dom to remove the monarchy and establish a republic.
That he would win the 1976 election after such a roller coaster term was a foregone conclusion but when, in the aftermath of the victory, armed bands attacked PN clubs all over
But Dom, for all his autocratic behaviour and shouting and slanging matches, was not, at heart, a dictator. In December 1981, his party got less votes but more seats than the Nationalists, due to a fluke in the system. The people around him, more than he himself, wanted to stay in power. The Nationalists stayed out of Parliament, then were persuaded to come back.
By 1984, Dom had had enough. Before standing down, he made a signal choice: knowing that Lorry Sant expected to succeed him, he chose Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici instead. Things went from bad to worse because of KMBs mishandling of the church schools and Blue Sisters issues. Violence spread and became more uncontrollable and a PN supporter, Raymond Caruana was killed in a PN club. KMB foolishly banned a PN admittedly provocative meeting in Zejtun, in the heart of Dom-land, and a pitched battle ensued. Matters were coming to a head and
That was when Dom, no longer a prime minister, intervened in Eddie Fenech Adamis finest speech (on the Budget, but not on the Budget) and offered talks out of the constitutional impasse. That broke the mould and the 1987 election saw the party that gained more votes getting more seats. By that action, Dom proved conclusively he was no dictator, although some around him were.
This Dom would never retire from public life. The Nationalists, keen for vengeance, purposely built the new power station in his own backyard.
But when, in 1996, Labour under a new leader returned to power, and Dom was re-elected as an MP, relations between him and the new leader, Alfred Sant, became more and more strained until Dom erupted over the concession of Fort St Angelo to the Knights of Malta as an extra-territorial enclave.
Like what has happened in the past months to Lawrence Gonzis government by his own backbenchers, Dom became the real Leader of the Opposition, naturally aided and abetted by the PN. Then, either by choice or by mistake he brought down the government and the PN regained power. Through that defeat,
In his private life as well as in his public one, Dom was more an austerity man than an investment one. When he stood down,
Imports were tightly controlled, even colour TVs and the like, leading to many abuses. Computers were, for a long time, banned.
Many people were given what they still call government plots mostly on land that did not belong to the government and whose owners are only now receiving paltry compensation.
National corporations were set up, like Air
One other area where Dom failed was his treatment of the university and students in general. An intellectual himself, it is inconceivable how he could engage in his systematic campaign that broke down the university, turned students into worker-students and made many leave
And lastly, the man himself. The scenes we saw over the past days, if one removes the PL spin and the like, as well as the emotion that grips a nation when a famous figure dies, show widespread and authentic grief at his passing away.
This was his people, the people he used to love to be with, the people from Cottonera especially, the people who maybe are still in the grip of poverty but who still remember the man who provided them with housing, with a minimum wage, with a pension. These are the people, men and women, who cried and wept as his body was carried past.
Their weeping is not just a concluding statement on the Dom they still loved, despite his bringing down Alfred Sants government, but also a sombre thought for people in power to reflect on, especially this present government which is so bereft of it: only when people perceive a politician to be really concerned about their personal situations will they start to respect and love him.
Ftit ilu d-deputat nazzjonalista Franco Debono kiteb li, bil-maqlub ta bosta
Duminku Mintoff kien jemmen li l-Maltin huma kollha aħwa u bħal aħwa kollha għandhom ikollhom l-istess opportunitajiet. Imma Mintoff ma waqafx hemm. Lill-bniedem ma jiswieh xejn li tgħidu li għandu l-opportunità, jekk imbagħad ma tarax li ssewwi l-bilanċ biex min jinqata lura jkun imwieżen u l-mixja tal-ħajja ma jibdihiex bi żvantaġġ. Faċli tgħid li kulħadd għandu l-opportunità u mbagħad tħalli li min hu mejjet fis-sakra u min hu mejjet għal qatra. Mintoff, iżda, qatt ma kien bniedem li jagħżel it-triq il-faċli.
Biex tassew kulħadd ikun jista jkollu l-opportunità, Mintoff sejjaħ gwerra qaddisa kontra l-faqar, l-inġustizzja u l-privileġġi. Għolla l fuq lill-ħaddiem billi tah paga tajba, bnielu d-djar fejn joqgħod, ħallsu talli jkollu t-tfal, fetaħlu postijiet tax-xogħol ġodda billi ħajjar kumpaniji barranin jiġu joperaw
Fil-viżjoni ta Mintoff, il-ħelsien ma kienx biss politiku imma wkoll intellettwali: li l-ħaddiem ikun konxju mill-klassi tiegħu, u permezz tal-bżulija jistinka biex ikun aħjar. Ħadd ma jimxi l quddiem mingħajr edukazzjoni. L-injoranza tagħmi lill-bniedem mir-realtà li jkun qed jgħix u ġġegħlu jaħseb li huwa sultan meta fil-verità jkun seftur. Il-bniedem irid jiftaħ għajnejh biex jibda jbiddel il-kundizzjoni li jgħix fiha u biex jagħmel dan jinħtieġlu t-tagħlim. Għalhekk, Mintoff għamel bena skejjel ġodda u tahom it-tagħmir meħtieġ għat-tagħlim, l-edukazzjoni saret obbligatorja, ħaddem għalliema ġodda, bena fakultà għall-edukazzjoni fl-Università, ħoloq trasport għall-iskejjel għal min kien joqgħod il bogħod, fetaħ il-Junior Lyceums, kien jipprovdi l-pitazzi u l-kotba bxejn lill-istudenti kollha, ħoloq l-iskejjel tas-snajja u fetaħ il-kindergartens fost oħrajn.
Fdawn il-jiem ta sogħba, meta l-poplu Malti beka lill-Perit Mintoff bħalma l-ulied jibku missier, kien hemm min
Din il-gazzetta tixtieq tagħti tislima lill-Perit Mintoff u tirringrazzjah għall-imħabba bla qies li wera lejn dan il-poplu li mhux dejjem kien grat biżżejjed lejh ta kulma għamel miegħu. Bla dubju, Mintoff jibqa l-persunaġġ li ħoloq
We pay tribute to Dom Mintoff. He introduced the welfare state in
Mintoff spent the last months at Mater Dei being treated for illnesses common with persons of his age.
Dom Mintoff entered politics young and immediately showed he was a man of vision, charismatic and fearless.
At 19 he wrote in the Malta Chronicle that
After the 2nd World War Mintoff, who was an architect by profession, was Dr Boffas public works minister, engaged in reconstruction and slum clearance in Cotton era.
Mintoff became Prime Minister for the first time in 1955 when he was just 39. He was the youngest prime minister in the British colonies.
In 1967, 51,000 soldiers of steel still voted for MLP in the general elections despite the Churchs imposition of mortal sin on anyone who supported the Labour Party.
In 1971 Mintoff won by a slim one-seat majority in parliament, with a huge majority of votes due to gerrymandering, after the Church lifted its imposition of mortal sin on Labourites in 1969.
After nine months of negotiations with
Amongst his numerous important social and economic reforms, Mintoffs first government decriminalised homosexuality in 1973, and introduced civil marriage in
In his second government, Mintoff introduced the two-thirds pension scheme. In 1980, maternity leave was also introduced for the first time.
Against all odds Dom Mintoff also managed a smooth transition for the island from a military based economy to an industrial and services one.
Il-mewt ta Duminku Mintoff ma timmarkax biss it-tmiem ta personalità unika, iżda wkoll it-tmiem ta era li hu stess nissel u kabbar sakemm laħaq il-miri tiegħu għal pajjiżna fl-1979. Il-ħolma tal-Perit kienet eċċezzjonali u dawk li għexu matul ħidmietu, ħbieb u għedewwa, dejjem kellhom id-dubji kemm seta xi darba jagħmel ħsibijietu realtà. Għax fuq kollox dawn qatt ma kkalkolaw l-ispirtu riformattiv li kienet mgħonija bih ruħu u/jew ir-rieda żonqrija ta bniedem li kien jara l bogħod fil-ġejjieni li kien mibni fmoħħu u kien jaf li xi darba se jibnih fpajjiżu. Iż-żewġ pulmuni li kienu jagħtu n-nifs lill-ideali politiċi u soċjali tal-Perit Mintoff kienu l-imħabba kbira lejn art twelidu u t-twemmin tiegħu Soċjalista. Bkapaċità straordinarja żewweġ dawn iż-żewġ ideali u għaqqadhom fkurrent wieħed li ġarr u kines
Meta Mintoff feġġ fix-xena politika lokali l-poplu Malti kien iddominat u suġġett għal tliet klassijiet il-kolonjalisti Ingliżi, il-Kleru u l-faxxa tal-professjonisti, maqsuma bejn in-negozjanti li kienu jafu ġidhom lill-Kuruna u dawk li kienu jaraw s-salvazzjoni tagħhom fl-Italjanità ta Malta li għalkemm kienu limitati fl-għadd, l-influwenza tagħhom kienet esaġerata. Il-bidu ta Mintoff fil-politika kien fdin it-tip ta soċjetà medjevali, staġnata fiż-żmien li kienet tqis Bolxevista perikoluż anke lil min jażżarda jiċċelebra l-Ewwel ta Mejju. Meqjus fejn kien pajjiżna qabel daħal fix-xena Mintoff u fejn wasal, il-kontribut ta dan ir-riformista per eċċellenza kien bla limitu. Anke fl-iżjed żminijiet suwed ta din ir-rivoluzzjoni fpajjiżna, jiġifieri fis-snin 60, meta l-forzi kollha reazzjonarji ngħaqdu falleanza qaddisa biex irażżnuh, fost oħrajn, bxita ta dnubijiet mejtin, Mintoff emmen li, wara dan il-kalvarju, il-poplu kien se jsib postu ma ġnus oħrajn ħielsa fid-dinja.
Żgur li l-akbar missjoni ta Mintoff ma kinitx il-31 ta Marzu tal-1979 u/jew
Għaldaqstant mhux il-bronż jew l-irħam li jagħmlu monument lil Mintoff dan magħmul minna l-Maltin u l-Għawdxin. Jekk xi ħadd qed ifittex il-monument tal-Perit iħares madwaru!
Wieħed mill-aħjar kummenti dwar il-Perit Mintoff hekk kif tħabbret il-mewt tiegħu kien dak tal-eks Ministru Laburista Lino Spiteri intervistat fuq Super One. Mintoff hu bħal zebra, qal Lino Spiteri, bl-abjad u l-iswed. M'hemmx wisq griż f'Mintoff; qanqal il-kontroversji u qasam l-opinjonijiet; min jaqbel miegħu bil-kbir, min imaqdru b'qawwa. U l-Labour għadu jbati sal-lum mill-iswed li għamel Mintoff, qal Lino Spiteri.
It-tajjeb li ma jeħtieġx ħażin
Ix-xebħ maz-zebra jiswa, u sa ċertu punt. Għax biex Mintoff għamel l-abjad li għamel, ma kellux għalfejn jagħmel l-iswed. Mintoff għamel numru ta' riformi soċjali li kienu tajbin tant li l-gvernijiet kollha ta' warajh żammewhom, kabbruhom u seddquhom. Ġab żviluppi politiċi li komplew għamlu lil
Fatti li ma jħassarhom ħadd
Mar-riformi soċjali u l-iżviluppi politiċi tajbin li għamel Mintoff fis-snin sebgħin u tmenin ġarrabna wkoll fatti li ma jista' jħassarhom ħadd: ksur tad-drittijiet tal-bniedem, nuqqas ta' demokrazija wara l-1981, vjolenza politika, qrubija ma' dittaturi barranin, kontrolli kważi fuq kollox, xkiel lill-iskejjel indipendenti u lill-unions ħielsa, korpi militari għall-ħaddiema. Dawn l-affarijiet ma kienx hemm bżonnhom. U l-Labour stess bata t-twaqqigħ ta' żewġ gvernijiet Laburisti fl-1949 u fl-1998 anke jekk dak hu għal-Labour stess biex jiġġudika.
Dawn il-ġranet huma okkażjoni tajba biex nirriflettu fuq il-passat tas-snin meta mexxa Mintoff u fuq l-abjad u l-iswed tiegħu. Huma okkażjoni tajba għall-pajjiż kollu biex jislet it-tagħlimiet
No one was surprised that Dom Mintoffs body continued to hold out despite his failing health. In the end, it seems his mind had gone though he still showed sparks of lucidity.
He had been admitted to hospital many times over the past couple of years, and every time, it was feared that he would pass away. Each and every time, he confounded doctors with his recovery. His stamina and underlying determination in staying alive mirrored everything that he did in his personal and political life.
Dom Mintoff was one of
Mr Mintoff was
He will forever be known as il-perit, a doer by nature, but with policies and antics that flabbergasted many, including his own party. He twice brought down socialist governments, in the 1940s, when he toppled Paul Boffa, and again in 1998, when he brought down Alfred Sants government.
He was loved by many, but many also believe that he was repressive and allowed violence to foment against political opposition. Dom Mintoff battled against several setbacks. His first government ended in resignation in 1958 after the failure of his campaign for integration with
But within hours of ending discussions with Lord Carrington on the end of British military presence in
When he was returned to power in 1971, something had changed. Mintoff although still in his own mind battling for the well-being of Maltese citizens was straying and his ideas were not going down well. But those who still adore him to this day will remember him for a raft of reforms of social benefits including better pensions, childrens allowance and the minimum wage.
His government did well in the early 1970s, but controlled imports, political violence and human rights abuses became the norm. Under his tenure, the Times of Malta building was torched and the house of former PN prime minister (Opposition leader at the time) Eddie Fenech Adami, was ransacked. In 1984, Mintoff handed over power to Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.
Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Mintoff shaped
In the nature of things, the death of Dom Mintoff at the age of 96 should not be cause for surprise. There are not many who reach that age. However, for those who lionised him during his lifetime, his passing will be deeply felt.
Few will disagree he was a formidable force during an active political career that lasted from soon after the end of the Second World War until 1998 when his last act was to bring down the Labour government led by Alfred Sant. He was not a man easily to be tampered with.
His decision to step down as Prime Minister in 1984 and to impose on his party and the country a man who was not even a Member of Parliament was par for the course. His entire political life was marked by this ability to decide matters in a manner uniquely his own, a characteristic he extended to his leadership of the country.
Throughout his time as leader of the nation between 1955 and 1958 and from 1971 to 1984, Dom Mintoff acted with a strong sense of purpose.
He enjoyed brinkmanship in his dealings with his political opponents and leaders of other countries with whom he entered into any form of negotiations. He brooked no opposition once he decided on a course of action, an attitude that created division and sometimes led to ugly situations of violence, as was the case in 1979 when the premises of this newspaper were torched and the home of the Leader of the Opposition ransacked.
He was, in short, a controversial figure from the day he broke with his leader, Paul Boffa, to the day he broke with
For the last he paid dearly, relegated from a status of saviour to that of traitor by those in the party who felt he had gone too far that time.
Mr Mintoffs main strategic objective as a politician was to sever
In domestic matters, Mintoffs lasting achievement was to introduce meaningful social welfare benefits and a minimum wage.
In other areas, such as wealth creation, his socialist ideology ran away with him. His nationalisation of the Bank of Valletta without compensation to its shareholders and the methods he employed, still rankles.
He was not above suspending the
In foreign affairs he was a nationalist in the literal sense to his finger tips and, to put it mildly, adventurous. He famously referred to western Europe as Cain and communist eastern Europe as Abel and refused to embrace the
Much has been said about him. Much will continue to be said in the coming days. One of the great tragedies for
Even those who detested him, and whom he undoubtedly hurt, would have wanted to know them. He remains as enigmatic in death as he was in life.