Update 5: Censu Tabone passes away - State funeral on Saturday
Censu Tabone, former President of Malta, passed away at home this morning, members of his family said. He was two weeks short of his 99th birthday.
President George Abela expressed the country's condolences in a phone call to Mrs Tabone, praising Dr Tabone for his values, his service to the country and the way be brought people together.
A state funeral will be held on Saturday with Mass at 10.30 a.m. at St John's Co-Cathedral. There will be lying in state at the Palace in Valletta tomorrow afternoon and on Friday.
Dr Tabone was born in Victoria on March 30, 1913. His father was Gozitan while his mother was from Cospicua.
He was the only minister to have served under both Dr George Borg Olivier (as minister of Labour) and under Eddie Fenech Adami, as foreign minister. He was the first Nationalist Party politician to become head of state.
Dr Tabone also served as general secretary and then deputy leader of the PN but came third in the leadership election which saw Dr Fenech Adami appointed to head the party.
An ophthalmologist by profession, Dr Tabone won international acclaim for his research into trachoma. He was the first ophthalmic surgeon to be engaged by the World Health Organisation and worked in Taiwan, Indonesia and Iraq.
He started his medical career as a military doctor and was very nearly killed in the very first air raid of the war in 1940 when a bomb crashed on Fort St Elmo, where he was serving.
Dr Tabone had given evidence before Church officials in the case of the miraculous cure of Charles Zammit Endrich, one of his patients, who suffered a detached retina. That case led to the beatification (and later canonisation) of Dun Gorg Preca.
Dr Tabone founded the Medical Officers' Union, now the MAM and entered politics in the 1960s, contesting his first election in 1962 when he was nearly 50 years old. He was first elected in 1966.
As Minister of Labour he was in the forefront of the Borg Olivier government's battles with GWU militancy, particularly in the dockyard while as foreign minister, he had the task of restoring Malta's international standing after the Mintoff years. His staff quickly came to know about his boundless energy - he quickly dozed off while travelling, and was alert and ready for work as soon as he landed.
Censu, as he was affectionately known by all, was appointed President in 1989 and amid the political divisions of the time, was boycotted by the Labour Party. But such was his character, that he won the hearts and minds of all the people, to the extent that by the time his term ended, Labour had dropped its boycott, and actually asked if he could stay on. At President, he welcomed Presidents Bush and Gorbachev for their superpower summit in Malta and also welcomed Pope John Paul II on his first visit to the island as well as Queen Elizabeth, with whom he dedicated the Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta on the fiftieth anniversary of the award of the George Cross.
Last November Dr Tabone celebrated the 70th anniversary of his marriage to Maria.They had eight children, 19 grand children and 24 great grandchildren.
Dr Tabone had a mania for being punctual and, not surprisingly, he had a hobby of repairing clocks. He also attended daily Mass for most of his life.
PM SALUTES DR TABONE - STATE FUNERAL TO BE HELD
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in a statement from London, where he is on a two-day visit, recalled Dr Tabone as a person who was always close to the people and always practised what he believed in. He praised him as a family man, a medical doctor and a politician.
"He was always sensitive to the needs of those most in need," he said.
As Minister of Labour and Social Services in the 1960s, he had introduced new concepts to make it easier for people with a disability to find employment.
Dr Tabone had also strongly cotnributed to the two most important developments in the past 50 years - the country's independence and its membership in the European Union.
As Foreign Minister between 1987 and 1988, he worked tirelessly for Malta to acquire international credibility to be able to apply for EU membership.
His personality in public life climaxed when he became President, attracting the people's admiration.
Dr Gonzi said Dr Tabone's family had accepted his offer for a state funeral to be held.
STATE FUNERAL ON SATURDAY
The state funeral of former president Censu Tabone is being held on Saturday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said this evening.
Speaking in Parliament, which adjourned to Tuesday, as a sign of respect, Dr Mifsud Bonnici said the House will have a longer commemoration ceremony following the funeral.
He paid tribute to the late President who, he said, gave a lot to the people. President Tabone always had a clear mind and vision and was open to new ideas. He kept himself up to date with what was happening.
Dr Tabone was a respected and loved politician who believed in the policy of persuasion. He was a family man and an exemplary President.
He always acted properly, was affable, and never lost his temper.
PL MP Joseph Sammut said the Opposition shared the government’s sentiments.
Acting speaker Censu Galea also expressed condolences.
The Nationalist Party paid tribute to Dr Tabone as a 'political gentleman who dedicated all his life for the service of the people as a doctor and a politician."
The party praised him for his humility and for always putting the people first.
The party also praised Dr Tabone for his service in the PN in some of the most difficult years of the country's recent history.
HUMANITY AND HUMILITY
Labour leader Joseph Muscat also expressed condolences on behalf of his wife and the Labour Party and praised Dr Tabone for having served "with humanity and humility".
SOCJETA FILARMONIKA SLIEMA CONDOLENCES
The Socjeta Filarmonika Sliema, of which Dr Tabone was president for 28 years until 1994, also sent its condolences
In 1994 Dr Tabone was named the society's President Emeritus Ad Vitam and the Sliema Band held a concert in his honour at the Republic Hall of the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta.
Condolences were also expressed by the Medical Association of Malta, the Malta Football Association, Alternattiva Demokratika and the Malta Union of Professional Psychologists.