Thoughts from the other side
‘As a Christian I forgive and will allow history to judge his actions’
No political figure in life and death can possibly elicit sentiments as diametrically opposed as can Dom Mintoff.
The adulation that accompanied the outpouring of grief after his death was tempered by the views of those who despised Mr Mintoff’s rough ways.
He was championed for introducing the welfare state but derided for leading a government that trampled over human rights.
He was lauded for eradicating poverty but despised for allowing violent elements to take root in his party.
One man who suffered the brunt of Mr Mintoff’s policies was Richard Muscat, a former Nationalist MP who in the 1980s left Malta for Sicily from where he ran a clandestine TV channel to broadcast the PN’s message.
Mr Muscat admits Mr Mintoff’s death rekindled the memories of suffering his family had to endure. But this is a time for “respect and dignity” towards the dead, he insists.
“The death of any person has to be accompanied by respect and dignity. As a Christian I forgive and will allow history to judge the actions of Dom Mintoff based on proven and documented facts,” Mr Muscat said.
Mr Mintoff’s legacy is a mixed one, insists former diplomat and civil servant Evarist Saliba.
“Dom Mintoff tried to do his best to bring about change but despite his rallying call being ‘Malta first and foremost’, he never made the distinction between Malta and himself.”
Mr Saliba recalls the suffering inflicted on many people, including his brother, a doctor, by the policies of Mr Mintoff’s government in the 1970s.
“Mintoff could have achieved more had he had people around him who kept him in check,” Mr Saliba says.
This was particularly evident in Mr Mintoff’s foreign policy, he adds. “He could have done better things for Malta had he adopted methods that were less rough and antagonistic towards the West.”
As for Mr Mintoff’s actions to remove former Labour leader Pawlu Boffa after the Second World War and the scuppering of Alfred Sant’s Labour government in 1998, Mr Saliba believes it is up to Labour supporters to judge their former leader.
“They will have to decide whether Mintoff’s contribution to the party was positive or not,” Mr Saliba says.
But there exists mutual respect between Mr Saliba and Mr Mintoff. “As a civil servant I had the courage to stand up to him and say no and he respected me for it.”
Mr Saliba says he did not suffer any consequences for his behaviour but others were not so lucky. For these people Mr Mintoff’s legacy will always be tainted.