Philip Muscat dies aged 80

Philip Muscat, a doctor and former minister of education, died yesterday morning at Mater Dei Hospital aged 80.

Dr Muscat, of Żebbuġ, was elected on the Labour Party ticket in every election between 1962 and 1987 and was elected in a casual election in 1992.

He served as Education Minister between 1976 and 1983, during which time he introduced the student-worker scheme and the Junior Lyceum system.

After his retirement, he continued to work as a general practitioner and was focussed on spending more time with his family.

In recent years, his interest in politics took the backseat and he gave more priority to spending time with his family and his grandchildren.

His second-born, Joseph, speaks of his father as “a man who knew how to love... a very dedicated and active person, who loved the countryside, Maltese culture and was committed to his hometown, Żebbuġ. He had a great love for people, regardless of their political leanings.”

Being a man “fascinated with medicine”, he had tried to treat himself till the very end and he knew what awaited him as he understood his situation very well, Mr Muscat said.

Ever keen to expand his knowledge, at the age of 79 the former minister had re-enrolled in university and achieved a postgraduate diploma in Hospitaller Studies, but was unable to make it to his graduation last December because of his ill-health. “When you mention Philip Muscat, you’re mentioning Żebbuġ,” long-time friend Gavin Gulia said.

“He was exemplary in how he led politics on a national and constituency level, and was versatile, energetic and determined – he never said ‘die’, and was a true political animal,” said Dr Gulia, who spoke of Dr Muscat as his political mentor.

Joe Grima, a close friend and former Cabinet colleague, said the ex-minister was a “loyal colleague and a man who loved his neighbours”.

“We were good friends – we were friends since we were in politics, ministers in the same Cabinet, and remained friends ever since,” Mr Grima said.

He last spoke to Dr Muscat over the phone, and fate had it that they were both in hospital about a month ago.

“The last we spoke, I didn’t get a good feeling about what he had. He was weak and even though his was a recurrent condition, he had a feeling this time he would not recover.”

Mr Grima said in politics, his friend “never tried to be a protagonist, but he used to value the ideas that emerged and decided according to his beliefs in what was good. He wasn’t controversial and you could reason with him.

“Philip’s death affected me – he was a real friend,” Mr Grima said.

Dr Muscat is survived by his wife Doris, his children Alexander, Joseph and Marlene and his grandchildren, Philip and Robert, Luke, Joseph, Noelle, Jonathan and Nadya, all of whom he loved a lot.

In a statement, the Labour Party expressed its condolences to Dr Muscat’s family.

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