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A political giant

Guido de Marco with his wife Violet in Beijing, China in 2001. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Guido de Marco with his wife Violet in Beijing, China in 2001. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Optimistic, charismatic, a political giant, determined and persuasive are just some of the words used to describe President Emeritus Guido de Marco who died yesterday. Ariadne Massa and Kurt Sansone spoke to the people who were touched by his strength through the years.

President George Abela

To me, Guido de Marco was my professor. Something I will always remember is whenever he used to see me, he called me “my president” and I always referred to him as “my professor”.

He was a visionary, a cheerful, loving person, who loved his family. He was a politician who transcended divisions and sought a common ground. In this regard he was not always understood. But he always looked out for the common good of the Maltese population. I consider him to be a true Maltese.

Malta lost a national treasure. He was a happy person, who lived life and loved tremendously.

President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami

I am shocked by the news – I went to see him when he was in a bad shape in hospital, but two days later he was his usual self almost jumping out of bed.

I have lost a friend whom I’ve known since our days at St Aloysius College way back in 1940. I’ve known him best when he was politically very present and active as my deputy when I became leader of the Nationalist Party – he shared all the good and bad moments in our political careers.

I can say he was an inspiration to me in the sense he never faltered, he never lost courage, and was always brimming with ideas. I must confess he was a great help to me in the past 35 years or so.

He excelled in every aspect of his life, be it his professional life as a lawyer, or as a politician. He gave of his best wherever he was. This is a loss to his family and to us all.

During our political careers, he was always a sort of counsel. He would always be ready with advice and give his own views even when we didn’t agree. It’s something I really appreciated throughout. He was sincere in his opinions.

I admired his courage. He never gave up. The last time I spoke to him at hospital he was full of strength and ready to start working.

President Emeritus Ugo Mifsud Bonnici

His death is a great blow to me. I first met him in October 1947 at University where we spent eight years studying law together. I’ve practically met him every day since – our paths crossed in Court, in Parliament, the Nationalist Party headquarters and our personal lives.

He was the closest person I had in my professional and public life. He would tell me I’m his anima gemella (twin soul). He made a huge contribution to this country, in government and in opposition. Malta has a lot to be grateful for what he did.

He was always determined and optimistic. Only yesterday (Wed-nesday) I was speaking to him on the phone and we were joking about. Even then he was positive he would live – he had an indestructible optimism; defeat never featured in his vocabulary. He was a cultured and well-read man.

I feel as if a part of me has died – it’s as if my twin has died.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi

Guido de Marco was my university tutor, so we go back years and our friendship has grown since. He was intelligent and a fantastic orator, but at the same time his speeches were accessible to everybody.

Politics was imbued in him, but it wasn’t partisan politics. He sought politics which was open to discussion, politics which sought intelligent solutions. He always sought the country’s interest first and foremost. He sought compromise through solutions, not with imposition.

Guido believed in open dialogue, though he stood firmly by his principles. His death is a great loss to the country. He was the author and co-author of our country’s history.

In my travels, I met several of the finest world politicians who always used to speak highly of him. He was a politician of the Mediterranean who won everyone’s respect.

I visited him in hospital twice. He called me last Tuesday to thank me for visiting him, so this news is a shock.

Opposition leader Joseph Muscat

These past two years I had the occasion of getting to know him better and he struck me by his humanity.

The last time I saw him was at the concert of Joseph Calleja (July 29) and he was chatting to my twin daughters, attempting to find out if they enjoyed the concert.

What surprised me is that last Tuesday just before he was discharged he called me to see how I was and thanked me for my thoughts to get better.

He is one of the giants of Maltese politics. He was a formidable adversary in the political field. In him, the Labour Party found an interlocutor they could talk to. I hope that what he stood for in his political life will never be lost. He had strong convictions but still believed in dialogue.

Former Speaker Louis Galea

Guido was a big and genuine friend for me. He encouraged me as a lawyer and guided me in my career.

How can you describe such a great man who loved his country in a few words?

Guido used to externalise his love for the family. But in reality, for several years as a politician his family had to take a backseat.

He is one of the biggest politicians of the century. He played a prominent role in this country’s social and economic progress. Guido was a patriot, not in the fanatical sense, but in the passionate one. He was tenacious.

He was loyal to Eddie Fenech Adami but he was also loyal to his adversaries. He had a massive sense of solidarity and tolerance. He never tried to impose his opinion on anybody. He had a positive cunningness.

He spent years listening to those interminable speeches in Parliament trying to understand diametrically opposed ideas to his and when he served in government he carried out massive reforms.

Lawyer and former Labour international secretary Joe Mifsud

I’m shocked. I regret not calling him earlier because I wanted to be prudent and respect the family’s privacy. I worked with him closely when he was Foreign Affairs Minister and when he became President on matters relating to the Middle East.

He forced, not just encouraged me to follow a law degree so as not to rely on politics to move forward in my career. Last time we spoke was on July 22 when I wished him a Happy Birthday and he augured me and my wife Maria best wishes for my 10th wedding anniversary.

He was a great man who fought many battles and was forward-looking. Despite being a fighter he was a unifying force; a mediator who never excluded anyone.

I considered him to be my second father and I lost him. We can never forget his personality, his smile and warm sincere handshake.

Former Labour minister and columnist Lino Spiteri

Guido de Marco was the epitome of a politician. His grasp of parliamentary affairs was second to none.

His ability to carve out a compromise, the essence of a politician who has the ability to rise above the demands of partisan politics, became well known through his various encounters with (former premier) Dom Mintoff.

These started when he had a leading hand in the 1980s in the action that took place behind the scenes to amend the Constitution and to break the impasse created when Nationalist MPs boycotted Parliament after the 1981 election.

Before that he had negotiated with Mr Mintoff to bring about a very large majority in Parliament in favour of making Malta a Republic in the 1970s.

He is well known for his friendship with Mr Mintoff but Guido was in reality friendly with everybody, including his political opponents.

In my stay in Parliament between 1981 and 1998 we often crossed swords but never pointed swords. We always kept to the political argument and never had any personal recriminations. We became very good friends above the political malaise.

Former Labour minister and friend Joe Micallef Stafrace

I lost a sincere friend. When at the beginning of my political career I was sent to prison for publishing a cartoon Guido stayed with me until the prison car came and helped me pluck up my courage. He also told me not to worry because he would inform my mother and my girlfriend, now my wife.

During the interdiction I was married in the sacristy because of my political beliefs. However, while some of my friends shunned the wedding not to irritate the Church, Guido de Marco had no qualms about coming to the reception.

He had told me: “A friend of mine is getting married and that is all I care about.” I can never forget these gestures and numerous others. Although we came from opposing political camps and on 40 per cent of the issues we disagreed, we always respected each other.

A long-time friend and Strickland Foundation member Joe Ganado

He was such a beautiful and wonderful person. I spoke to him on the phone for 45 minutes on Wednesday. We spoke about everything including current affairs. He was very happy to be back home. We knew each other since the time he was at University. I was his lecturer.

He was very fond of the idea that politics was all about persuasion. It comes out very clear in his memoirs that he tried to contact the other side to find solutions to the serious problems.

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