The Malta Independent on Sunday

Dom Mintoff’s centenary

The Maltese have always had strong feelings for or against former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. You either love him or hate him. Still. That Mintoff’s spirit lives on, and that his ability to create political controvers­y is undiminish­ed, is clear from the e

- Ivan Grech Mintoff

Iwill not delve into the unending discussion of the Maltese nation’s sentiment on Mintoff, but rather focus on the impact of his memory on current political developmen­ts. True to form, our Prime Minister and his progressiv­e and liberal clique sought to take advantage of the 100th anniversar­y of his birth. To use his political heritage for their gain. To assert that they are the direct descendant­s of Dom Mintoff’s political legacy. They chose Cospicua, Mintoff’s birthplace to do so, where 18 years ago Mintoff was branded a traitor by the then leadership of the Labour Party. For a full week before the event, Labour media bombarded its listeners with the important news that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was going to commemorat­e Mintoff with a major speech and party celebratio­n.

The fact that Cospicua is a strong Labour stronghold, together with the attention Labour’s media gave to the occasion, the Prime Minister and his strategist­s thought that they would have a great photo opportunit­y and further consolidat­ion. But the unexpected happened.

On the great day, roads were blocked. Traffic was diverted. The set was made ready and the media was in place, ready to roll. Microphone­s and loudspeake­rs strategica­lly placed. The posh chairs for the distinguis­hed guests formed nice neat rows where the new VIPs could be seen by all. PL was clearly expecting thousands to come to the event. But, after all this effort… only a very small handful of people turned up to listen to the Prime Minister in his own stronghold! The blocked roads were empty. Chairs set up for the occasion were hastily removed before Muscat appeared so that the absence of people was hidden from TV viewers. In total there were only around 100 people at this event. Many, if not most of these, were the party officials and entourage of the different ministers and those that follow the Prime Minister wherever he goes.

Could it be that Mintoff was already forgotten or was it an absolute rejection by the grassroots of Muscat and his liberals? The very clear answer to this question would come eight days later.

On the actual day of the centenary – 6th August 2016 – Alleanza Bidla held two separate celebratio­ns to pay the respect due to Dom Mintoff in a proper and dignified manner: a celebratio­n by the people for the people.

Accompanie­d by a marching band, we walked from Freedom Monument in Birgu to his statue in Cospicua. And the people came! They sang along to the music. They clapped and waved from windows. They thanked us and spoke to us. They told us that they had purposeful­ly boycotted Muscat, not Mintoff.

That night, we held another dignified celebratio­n. Again, open to the public. Well–known singers sang expressive­ly and openly expressed their love for Mintoff. Għannejja came and sang beautifull­y. Everyone offered their services voluntaril­y “because we are obliged to him – “għax aħna obligati lejh”. And there were even more people than in the morning!

Clearly then, the people came out for Mintoff. Again

People spoke to us about the good state that Mintoff had left them in. But more importantl­y, they spoke about their present pain. Mintoff, they said, was not into “expensive” statues. He would not have wanted ‘jackets, ties and by invitation only’ receptions organised this week in the Office of the Prime Minister to commemorat­e his memory. He would want traditiona­l Għana in the company of the common folk whom he felt most comfortabl­e with. He would want to see the happy faces. Exactly in the way Alleanza Bidla had presented him. He would then want hard work with real results. “His statue is in our hearts and no one will take that away. For us, there will be no one like him!”

It is clear that the tide has turned and that Muscat has failed a very serious test. We knew his popularity was dwindling even in his own district. We knew that even in Cottonera itself, the voices of dissent are becoming louder and louder. We did not know that the Prime Minister’s standing was so bad that his events would be boycotted even by the party grassroots.

As I drove home from our event, exhausted, I could feel him grinning happily. Mischievou­sly, even. I could hear him repeat what he once taught me “It-tajjeb jibqa. Il-ħażin jispiċċa”. And I could not help grinning too.

Let’s face it, PL movement is sick internally. Dom Mintoff being my uncle means that inevitably many Labourites are phoning me up or stopping me in the streets to discuss politics. Many are now openly saying how bad everything is under the present administra­tion. The fear of any repercussi­on for talking is slowly being replaced by boldness and open talk. Open rejection.

I am sure that the central party administra­tion or id-Dar tal-Ħġieġ as the Cottonera Labourites started to call the new headquarte­rs, do actually feel the pinch of this new reality. This move to appease and take advantage backfired big time. And the message from the grassroots was clear.

Everything with the PL celebratio­n was wrong. Why was it celebrated eight days before and not on the actual day itself? The Prime Minister’s speech rang false and struck the completely wrong chord for the occasion. Muscat stated that Mintoff would be proud of Muscat’s achievemen­ts “as today the best present we can give to Mintoff was that Malta has the lowest unemployme­nt rate in the EU”. This clear tap on his own shoulder was fur- • In the sphere of foreign affairs, he would have used Malta’s neutrality brilliantl­y to strengthen the political stability of the region. Not to undermine peace by taking sides and rejecting assistance to the UN itself and to our neighbours who need and have repeatedly asked for our active help only to be ignored. • Mintoff was a staunch defender of Malta’s neutrality. Muscat is on record stating that this is no longer important and allowed the EU to undermine our neutrality. • Mintoff would have appreciate­d real job creation, irrespecti­ve of who created it. But he would have never allowed millions of the people’s money to end up in very dubious private foundation­s. He would have balked at the Panama scandal and more. • Mintoff would have never approved of hidden business deals and contracts regarding our energy. He respected Parliament and unlike this Government, always tabled vital economic contracts in Parliament. • To state that poverty is decreasing is nothing but an insult to the many thousands who have seen their standard of living plummet. Who have their electricit­y cut and cannot keep up with bills for vital necessitie­s. Mintoff made sure that the lifestyle of everybody, in particular those at the lower end, spiralled up and everyone had a decent living income. • Mintoff would not have squandered tens of millions on the shameful and useless CHOGM or the Migration Summit. Nor would he have paid large sums of money for absurd monuments. In his time, monuments were constructe­d by government employees in what was known then as the Department of Public Works. • Mintoff would not have indulged in self-inflating exercises. He would have invested public funds in projects related to public health or housing and more. These were his main priorities. He would have invested more in vocational education and would not have been carried away by harmful agendas like the gender indoctrina­tion of our children in state schools. • Finally, he would never have sold one shred of Maltese land let alone the vast amounts of land being given away to foreigners for nothing but land speculatio­n exercises.

The number of people in Malta who are now suffering as a result of Muscat’s harmful policies and actions that bear no resemblanc­e to the policies of Mintoff grows by the day.

I’m looking forward to the next 100 years of Mintoff who will not go away. Thanks to the controvers­y he stirred up in his life time, Mintoff’s legacy will remain. His name is still being heard and his voice listened to. The Mintoffjan­i will not allow him or his work to be forgotten or erased. This, of course, will be done through action and not by mere words.

Ad multos annos, Perit!

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