Remarks that can only raise eyebrows
Labour leader Joseph Muscat is not going down well with Dominic Fenech, a former party general secretary. In an interview with The Sunday Times, he comes across as being very disappointed, at least up to now, with what the new party leader is doing to the PL.
Some of the points he made, particularly those about the party "changes" Dr Muscat is being credited with, have already been commented upon before by other political observers but in the interview Prof. Fenech came out with some remarks that, for more than one reason, must surely raise eyebrows.
He made the remarks in the context of his views about political militancy, which, he argues, is today missing within the party. He explains he is not in favour of excesses or violence. By political militancy, he meant readiness to fight a battle, not pussyfooting. So far, so good, but, wisely, his interviewer went a step further and asked whether he could guarantee that militancy would not spawn violence. The interviewer asked: "Do you think you could have done more when you were general secretary of the Labour Party to stop the thugs that torched The Times (in 1979)?"
It is the answer to this question that, for more than one reason, raises eyebrows the most. Prof. Fenech replied thus: "What could I have done? I could do very little because on that particular day I was somewhere in Republic Street involved with the main demonstration. It was only later on that I, like most others, realised what was happening. Being the party in government, Labour could have been less tolerant as an authority towards these happenings and maybe we should have proceeded against the offenders... if they could be identified."
As if this were not enough to raise disbelief at the quality of the reasoning used, Prof. Fenech went even further when he was asked whether the PL knew who they were. "I didn't' know. And if the others knew, they didn't identify them. We're not even sure, strictly speaking, that they were Labour (supporters). Do you have proof? I'm not saying they weren't."
The Times had no intention of raising Black Monday again so soon after it marked its 30th anniversary but Prof. Fenech's remarks are so unbelievably pathetic that the newspaper could not possibly let them go unnoticed. If they were not Labour people, who were they then? Nationalist hirelings? Or men from some terrorist organisation?
Apart from the considerable physical damage done, many people's lives were put at serious risk on Black Monday. The matter should not therefore be treated as lightly as Prof. Fenech did in his replies. The people at The Times may not have identified the arsonists, but, surely, others did, particularly the few policemen who ran with them all along the way from the centre of Valletta to St Paul Street.
The PL, aware of the fact that it had violent elements within it, could have done a lot on that day to avoid the "happenings", particularly after that morning's incident at the office of the Prime Minister, but it did not. It was when Alfred Sant took over as leader that the party was finally cleansed of the violent elements. The PL should have been totally against such happenings, rather than "less tolerant", as Prof. Fenech put it. Indeed, it should have sought to weed the violent elements out, as Dr Sant did.