Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, who played a dominant role in Malta’s politics for several decades and was the longest serving member of parliament with over 50 years of service, died at his home in Tarxien, Malta, aged 96 on Monday 20 August 2012.
One of his younger brothers, Fr Dionysius Mintoff, said that until 2 pm on Monday his older brother was weak and his breathing was shallow, but he then recovered well and started talking. He then told his daughters that he was tired and asked them to draw the curtains so that he could sleep. They did so, he went to sleep and passed away at about 8.30 p.m.
Fr Mintoff praised his nieces Anne and Yana and said it was through their love and dedicated 24-hour care, particularly in the past two years, that his older brother was able to live for so long.
News of Mintoff’s death made headlines around the world and was followed by a flow of sympathy messages from his supporters, although several critics qualified their condolences, saying they could “never forget” the harsh times they had been subjected to during his highly controversial prime ministership.
Prime Minister Dr Lawrence Gonzi said Mr Mintoff had been a leading personality in the post-war years up to the end of the 20th century, whose great work, commitment and determination led to developments and profound changes which marked Malta and Gozo. Dr Gonzi also said the Mintoff family had accepted his offer to hold a state funeral.
Labour leader Dr Joseph Muscat, who presided over his party’s reconciliation with Mr Mintoff since becoming leader four years ago after the fallout following Mintoff’s contrary vote that had brought down the Sant Labour government in 1998, said in a televised statement: “I think we all feel orphans today. One of the giants if not the giant of Maltese politics has left us.” Dr Muscat said he was satisfied the party had mended bridges with him and supporters could now grieve him “without shame”. In spite of the controversial nature of his persona, Dr Muscat said, supporters and detractors “will agree that Malta would not be where it is today without him”.
In an interview by timesofmalta.com, former President Eddie Fenech Adami, who was Mr Mintoff’s main political adversary in the late 1970s and 1980s, said that Dom Mintoff’s methods and style were unacceptable but, all in all, history will judge him positively.
“I have no doubt that he left his mark on our country’s history and, if we consider everything, I think his contribution in political development was more positive than negative, though many of us remember the negative side of his politics. I think that he made a positive impact on Malta’s development particularly in the social area,” said Dr Fenech Adami. He pointed out that at first Mr Mintoff had tried to ridicule him but then changed tack. “However, when we started direct discussions, he understood that he had a very serious opposition in front of him and that we didn’t fear his intimidating methods. I think that from then onwards he started holding me in high esteem,” he said.
Dr Fenech Adami said that, although there were many episodes in Mr Mintoff’s time when unacceptable things happened, such as the Black October incidents of 1979, when Labour mobs attacked the building of The Times and ransacked his home in Birkirkara, forcing his young family to escape through the roof, “he had his positive sides”. “Mintoff wanted change and maybe his mistake was that he wanted change to happen too fast,” Dr Fenech Adami said.
Reports about Mintoff’s death in various online local and foreign newspapers were profusely commented upon by both his supporters and his detractors alike, illustrating the depth of feeling on both sides.
A state funeral for Dom Mintoff will be held today at St John’s Co-catherdral in Valletta.
Visit to Australia
Older members of the Maltese community in Australia recall with nostalgia Dom Mintoff’s only visit to the land downunder in 1968, when he was Leader of the Opposition.
In a report broadcast today on the Maltese program on SBS Radio, Lawrence Dimech, a veteran journalist who lives in Sydney, recalled travelling on the plane with Mr Mintoff to Melbourne and Sydney.
Mr Dimech said that huge crowds of Maltese migrants greeted Mintoff on his arrival at both capital cities. The crowd in Sydney, made up mostly of Maltese who had recently arrived to settle in Australia, was much bigger than that in Melbourne, so much so that the security authorities at Sydney airport had complained that they were not provided with prior notice that such a large crowd was expected to greet Mr Mintoff at the airport. Mr Dimech said that he has not seen such large numbers of Maltese greeting any other Maltese VIPs visiting Australia before or since Mintoff’s visit.
UPDATE 26 August 2011
Final farewell to Dom Mintoff
Hundreds lined the streets of Valletta for the state funeral of former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff which took place yesterday in Valletta and Floriana. St John’s Co-Cathedral was packed for the final farewell to a personality who was one of the main protagonists on the political stage in Malta for over half a century.
President George Abela led Malta’s political leaders and members of parliament from both sides of politics at the funeral.
During the homily Archbishop Paul Cremona said that funeral Masses should not be about eulogies. There were other places for that. However, he pointed to two virtues which distinguished Mr Mintoff. The first was his interpretation of the Lord’s command to Love thy neighbour, especially the poor. While not everybody could agree with Mr Mintoff’s methods, no one could deny that he sought better conditions for the workers and the poor, Mgr Cremona said. Secondly, Mr Mintoff loved his country. He negotiated with the leaders of other countries to achieve the best for his country. These were two virtues which distinguished his life.
As the coffin was carried out of St John’s Co-Cathedral, the crowd burst out into spontaneous singing of the National Anthem. At the end of the funeral cortege at Floriana, Commander of the AFM, Brig. Martin
Xuereb presented the Maltese flag which had draped the coffin to Mr Mintoff’s daughters, an emotionally charged ending to the public part of the funeral.
Official Profile – the Hon. Dom Mintoff
[Source: Department of Information, Malta]
The Hon. Dom Mintoff, B.Sc, B.E. & A., M.A. (Oxon), A. & C.E., M.P., son of Lawrence and late Concetta nee Farrugia, was born in Cospicua on August 6, 1916.
He attended the Government Elementary School and the Seminary, from which he proceeded to the Lyceum and the University of Malta. In 1937 he graduated B.Sc and two years later, in 1939, B.E. & A. & C.E. Mr. Mintoff was awarded a Government travelling Scholarship and Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in 1939 where he obtained his M.A. in Engineering Science.
During the years 1941 – 43, Mr. Mintoff worked as Civil Engineer in UK, and as architect in Malta from 1943 onwards. During 1936 – 37 he was General Secretary of the Malta Labour Party. In 1945, he was elected member of the Council of Government and Executive Council. Mr. Mintoff formed part of labour delegations to UK in 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949. He was elected in the General Elections in the interests of the Malta Labour Party in 1947 and was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Works and Reconstruction during 1947-49. He resigned in 1949.
Mr. Mintoff has been leader of the Malta Labour Party since 1949. He was Prime Minister during the period 1955-58. He resigned office in 1958 to lead the Maltese Liberation Movement. Mr. Mintoff was again elected in the General Elections in 1962 and 1966. He served as Leader of the Opposition during 1962-71.
Mr. Mintoff became Prime Minister for a second term in June 1971 and yet again following the General Elections in September, 1976 and in December, 1981. In September 1983, he was assigned also the office of Minister of the Interior.
Mr. Mintoff’s primary aim has always been that of securing peace and stability in Europe and the Mediterranean. To this end, on assuming office in 1971, Mr. Mintoff immediately asked for negotiations with the British Government for the military base in Malta to be dismantled. Final agreement was reached following hard negotiations between September 1971 and March 1972 on a 7-year defence base agreement with Britain and NATO on condition that this is in no way used against Arab states.
Mr. Mintoff negotiated a treaty of friendship and close economic cooperation with Prime Minister Chou en Lai in China, April 1972; steered Malta in the Non-Aligned Movement, 1973; Abolished British Monarchy and founded a democratic Republic within the Commonwealth based on work and respect for fundamental rights and freedom of the individual, December 1974; he closed down the British base and established Malta’s new status of non-aligned neutrality on 31 March 1979.
Various nations have recognised Mr. Mintoff’s contribution in this respect. In 1971 he was awarded the Order of the Republic by Libya and in 1973 Tunisia decorated him with the Grand Cordon De l’Ordre de la Republique. In 1976 he was awarded the doctorate ‘Onoris Causa’ by the University of Political Studies, Ponterios of Greece, and Morocco granted him the Order of the Gran Cordon of Oissam Alaouite in 1978.
On 22nd December 1984, Mr.Mintoff voluntarily left office to enable his successor to take over. On 18th January 1985 he was appointed special advisor to the new Prime Minister Dr. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici.
Mr.Mintoff has contributed several articles to scientific, literary and artistic publications.
He married the late Moyra de Vere Bentick. They had two daughters, Ann and Yana.
Mr. Mintoff’s pastimes were horse-riding, swimming, water-skiing and ‘Boċċi’.