Dom Mintoff – the series in his memory (8)

When Mintoff was given an official car once he became prime minister, he had ordered to have the divisory glass between the front seats and the back seats removed, while he used to sit next to the driver. This is because he used to insist on lack of formality and protocol while he served as prime minister.

The first role of Mintoff in politics was that in the committee of the Labour Club in Bormla, which was always at his heart. When Mintoff had accepted to take part in the television programme ‘Xarabank’, he insisted for the programme to be aired from the square of Gavino Gulia, in Bormla, the same square from where it had initially started.

When he was 28-years-old, Mintoff was elected General Secretary of the Labour Party. Twenty-five years later and his name became known worldwide.With the goal in sight of Malta to become independent, he spread the economical dependence even on Eastern Europe, China, Korea, Gaddafi, and on anyone who came along, so that there is a balance in hindsight of Britain. He also brought investment from European countries, like England, Italy, Germany and even France and Switzerland. There was even investment carried out with Arab countries, and even far away countries like China.

He was close friends with Aldo Moro, even though the latter was not of the same political party.

One particular occasion which showed Mintoff’s greatness was the Helsinki Final Act.

He insisted with all those big countries of the world, that if the Helsinki Final Act is not put into action, which professes that there can be no peace in the middle east, in Europe, without there being peace in the Mediterranean, if that deed is not included, he won’t sign it. And that was a document that had to be unanimous. Finally the Helsinki Final Act came into fruition. And this is still relevant up till this day.

“Lanqas f’Helsinki ma wasalna ħafna, għax jekk toqgħod tara x’kellna f’Helsinki, għamlu protokol daqshekk fuq il-Mediterran, u mbagħad tmur tara x’għamlu fih dan, issib li għamlu l-protokol daqshekk, u x-xogħol, u l-fatti, huma daqshekk. Tarahom bil-lenti mbagħad x’sar fil-Mediterran.”

There was a rumour that the Russians had ordered for Mintoff’s murder and they had sent Eastern German agents to kill him.

Back to 1955, when Mintoff started negotiating with the British government for the integration – the union of Malta with the United Kingdom. After the preliminary discussions were held in London, the British government set up the round table conference, made up of the representatives of the members of parliament in the English parliament, who were very high and powerful officials in the House of Commons, and they had the task of examining the Maltese proposal and seeing if it was feasible, and if it was, they would make recommendations about it. They also had to see if the Maltese could have a direct representative in the House of Commons.

In their report, which was published in December of 1955, they had accepted both the integration and the representative for Malta in the House of Commons. This, being deemed impossible for Malta, created euphoria among the Maltese nation.

Although negotiations were still in their early stages, Mintoff called for a referendum. The Nationalist Party told its people to either vote ‘no’, to annull the vote or to refuse to cast their vote.

In that referendum, 67,607 voted ‘yes’ for the integration; 20, 177 voted ‘no’; 2, 559 annulled the vote; and 62,480 did not vote.

All political parties came out saying that they won the referendum. Following the referendum, negotiations continued. An agreement was reached with many of the proposals but in the end everything failed. Mintoff explained what happened:

“Imma meta ġejna biex nagħmlu t-terminu, iż-żmien jiġifieri, kemm se tieħu żmien biex Malta kollha, bl-istess social services li kellha l-Ingilterra, l-istess edukazzjoni li kellha l-Ingilterra, l-istess xogħol, jiġifieri ma nibqgħux immorru bl-eluf l-Awstralja, meta ġejna b’dik, bdew jaqtgħu qalbhom l-Inglizi, u ma ridux jintrabtu fuq kemm żmien irid jgħaddi biex fl-aħħar inkunu bħalhom. U aħna ridna l-garanzija taż-żmien. Aħna għidnilhom lesti li nistennew għaxra, mitejn sena, imma iktar le għax allura ħa nkunu t-tfal tas-seftura aħna. U mhux se nkunu bħalkom.”

“Għidnilu, aħna fil-kabinett, iddecidejna illi din l-għaqda mal-Ingilterra ninsewha darba għal dejjem, qas irridu nafu biha aktar, ma rridux nitkellmu fuqha aktar. Aħna l-poplu tagħna kien magħna jew għaqda jew indipendenza. Aħna rridu l-indipendenza. U addio għaqda mal-Ingilterra.”

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