Friends and foes pay last respects
Last chance for farewells
Thousands of Dom Mintoff’s supporters and curious bystanders yesterday paid their last respects to former Prime Minister as he lay in state at the President’s Palace in Valletta.
Walking slowly around the open coffin in the entrance, where Mr Mintoff lay clutching white rosary beads – which has raised some eyebrows given his past conflicts with the Church – mourners blew kisses and prayed silently ahead of today’s state funeral.
Some wiped tears from their eyes as they walked past the man they called “leader”. Others left flowers near his coffin, which was placed in front of a crucifix.
Occasionally, the procession paused for someone to take a photograph of the man they described as “Malta’s father” and “our saviour”.
Several tried to stop near the coffin to take in the emotional scene, while others reached forward to touch the body but were stopped as Armed Forces of Malta guards instructed them to keep moving.
Il-Perit (the architect), as Mr Mintoff was known, died on Monday night at his Tarxien home, aged 96 after a prolonged period of ill health.
He lay in state all day yesterday in the building that houses Parliament, where he served for just over 50 years and took part in many fiery debates that marked Malta’s 20th century history.
Mourners began queuing outside the palace at about 7 a.m. and the line quickly snaked around the library to the law courts.
Several dignitaries paid their respects, including President George Abela, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, former presidents Eddie Fenech Adami and Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, and opposition leader Joseph Muscat.
Speaker Michael Frendo and officials from both the Nationalist and Labour’s parliamentary groups also visited the open coffin.
“Were it not for this man I would not have received an education and I would not have a pension today. When I was at school he gave us milk every day,” said Maria Bonanno.
Another woman said: “He eradicated poverty. We owe him everything. I came to say thank you. There will never be another man like him in Malta.”
Martin Schembri said he had the opportunity to study and now had a career in construction thanks to Mr Mintoff.
“I’m here to say thank him for his service,” he said, his welling up.
Italian Danilo Solania was in Malta on holiday but was compelled to visit the palace.
“I read so much about this man that I felt I should come once I was in Malta… Perhaps Italy needed a Mintoff,” he said.
Outside the Palace, members of the public wrote messages in 12 condolence books.
Mr Mintoff’s body will remain lying in state between 7.30 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. today.
The funeral cortège will leave the Palace at 9.45 a.m. for St John’s Co-Cathedral where Mass will be led by Archbishop Paul Cremona at 10.30 a.m.
The cortège leaves the cathedral at 11.45 a.m. and proceeds through Merchants Street, past Auberge de Castille and down Ġlormu Cassar Avenue to the War Memorial in Floriana.
It will then proceed to a private family burial, closing two days of national mourning.