Lino Spiteri (Graceless coups, The Sunday Times, February 3) criticises me, quite unjustly, of "building on" Brigadier Maurice Calleja's detailed account of events at AFM Headquarters during the 1987 election and also of "puffing them out of proportion".

I did nothing of the sort; I simply quoted the brigadier's authoritative revelations to prove the pervasive fear of a coup d'etat in the minds of the protagonists. According to him, the outgoing Prime Minister, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, had felt the need to remove responsibility for internal security from the police and invest it in the hands of the army.

Dr Mifsud Bonnici had taken up residence inside the AFM headquarters "as a safe haven" (Charles Buttigieg). He expressed the fear that undesirable elements would try to disrupt the counting procedure and he had specifically ordered the brigadier to prevent them from approaching the counting hall.

The Acting President was complaining that he was kept in the dark, that for some time there was no one in command and that he had to ask, three or four times, for information from the army. He had an offer of resignation that he could not accept before receiving the election result. This coincided with a request from the MLP to suspend the counting of the votes for four hours and the arrival of a contingent of additional police in the counting hall. The fact that there was an atmosphere of fear and anxiety is evident.

Unbelievably, the possibility of a coup was not being mentioned at the nerve centre of our security forces. Was this an updated version of Sir Francis Drake complacently continuing his game of bowls while the Spanish Armada approached to invade England or was it an instance of an ostrich burying its head in the sand?

I thank Mr Spiteri for revealing that it was he who had made Colonel John Cachia shut up and who escorted him to the door of the chamber of Parliament after he started gesticulating and interrupting the Leader of the Opposition. I am grateful that even though Col. Cachia did not use guns or physical violence, this was, admittedly "totally unacceptable and... a formal contempt of the House". The fact that the colonel rose to his feet from the Government advisers' bench does not mitigate his offence. It makes his presence among the security coterie at AFM HQ still more questionable and worrying.

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