NEWS The monument of former President of Malta Dr Ċensu Tabone was unveiled last Wednesday at Balluta Square, St Julians. Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat, Leader of the Opposition Dr Simon Busuttil, former presidents of Malta and members of the parliament were present for the ceremony.
During the ceremony, interviews that Dr Tabone had given were broadcast. “Political polarisation in this country needs to be abolished. We need to shoulder our fair share of responsibility, and compromise on what is best for Malta,” the former president had said, shortly before he turned 81.
“Malta hija taghna lkoll”, he said in an interview on TVM when he became president. Ironically, the same phrase was used as the Labour Party’s campaign in 2013. When the then new President made that statement, it did not go down well with the Labour Party leader of the time – Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici – who called for a boycott of the President, saying he did not represent all of Malta.
During the unveiling of a monument, PM Joseph Muscat apologised for the social boycott that had been imposed on Dr Tabone’s presidency by then Opposition leader Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.
Ċensu Tabone’s nephew, Dr Paul Cauchi, also an ophthalmologist, noted the important work carried out by his uncle when he served as a military doctor. Dr Tabone’s work took him across the globe, including the Far East and Iran, and his efforts were acknowledged by the World Health Organisation.
Former EU Commissioner Dr Tonio Borg recalled his first meeting with Ċensu Tabone, back when alongside other students; he founded Studenti Demokratiki Maltin (SDM). “Immediately, I realised he was a man of principles, persuasive, and charismatic. Back in the days, he was one of the few members of parliament who confronted Dom Mintoff in an assertive manner.” Dr Borg also recalled how the former president always stressed that candidates should not be listed alphabetically on the ballot sheet, as some would be disadvantaged.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat lauded Dr Tabone for his work both as a politician and ophthalmologist. Dr Tabone’s medical findings resulted in less occurrences of eye trachoma. “He led a colourful life, with astounding achievements. He was shaped by the historical events he lived in.”
“My father has left behind him a beautiful legacy,” said his daughter Mrs Helen Farrugia Randon, in comments to the Malta Independent newspaper. “He was always discussing, debating – he stuck to his guns, but was ready to compromise.”
“Most of all I always remember him being in love with my mother, holding her hand. Despite his strong sense of independence, he consulted her about all important decisions.” In November 2011, only four months before Dr Tabone passed away, he celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary with his wife Maria.
“He was ready to provide help to whoever needed it, irrelevant of political beliefs. He always instructed us not to get into any arguments about politics, he was very strict about it,” she said. “ Not once did he miss daily mass, communion and rosary, despite how busy he was.”
Nationalist MP Dr Francis Zammit Dimech describes Censu Tabone as ‘a man of many dimensions’. “Censu Tabone is a family man, highly dedicated, who doesn’t give up easily. He had a sense of flair, and he was particularly talented in foreign affairs politics.” Dr Zammit Dimech recalled a large set of loudspeakers which the former president owned and used during district meetings around St Julians. The former president was also obsessed with clocks, and made it a point to maintain all clocks at the President’s palace. “Despite a boycott against him before he became president, at the end he was a man highly respected by all politicians.”
A brief profile of Ċensu Tabone
Ċensu Tabone, a former minister and Nationalist MP, served as president of state between 1989 and 1994. Then leader of the Opposition Karm Mifsud Bonnici opposed his nomination, and imposed a social boycott.
Dr Tabone was a doctor, a philanthropist, a politician, a minister, President, and, above all else, a gentleman. He was also known for his ability to ‘stay young’, with a photograph of him and his wife on a jetski, well into their retirement years, having become the stuff of legend.
Dr Tabone was also a voice of reason and a force that pushed for unity in times when things in Malta were a lot more polarised.
But in that respect, the current Labour leader – who himself used the same slogan to great effect in the campaign leading up to the last election – has effectively closed that chapter by being one of the main catalysts to the creation of the monument.
Dr Tabone remained a force of unity throughout his life, as he turned 81, he was interviewed and said: “Political polarisation in this country needs to be abolished. We need to shoulder our fair share of responsibility, and compromise on what is best for Malta.” We could not agree with him more. And while Labour deserves kudos for cementing the memory of Dr Tabone, it would do well to practice what it preaches, in what it has borrowed in the slogan that proved to be so effective, but yet seems so elusive in implementing.
Those who worked with him – both in the political field and the medicinal field – describe him as a man of principles and an inspiration. He was also known to be one of the few politicians who would take on the fiery Dom Mintoff in an assertive manner.
Dr Tabone started his political career in 1961, when he was elected to the Nationalist Party’s executive committee, and later served as secretary general and deputy leader. He served as a member of parliament for 23 years. Between 1966 and 1971, he served as Minister of Labour, Employment and Welfare, and in 1987 he was made Minister of Foreign Affairs. He served in cabinets headed by Dr George Borg Olivier and Dr Eddie Fenech Adami.
In 1954 he founded the Medical Association of Malta, a trade union for doctors. He passed away at the grand old age of 98, but he could still manage to keep up with technology, using digital phones and tablets like a natural. He was a truly remarkable man, and Malta has learned much from him.
The former president passed away in March 2012 at the age of 98.
[Sources: www.timesofmalta.com and www.independent.com.mt]