Fri 31st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Thu 30th Oct 2014 at 16:43pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

Dom Mintoff, a dominant figure in Malta for 30 years, did great harm to his country

A friend to Mao, Gaddafi and the Khmer Rouge, he was no harmless eccentric, and knew when to send in his thugs

By on Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dom Mintoff in 1972 (Photo: AP)

Dom Mintoff in 1972 (Photo: AP)

Dom Mintoff, the former Prime Minister of Malta, has died at the age of 96. He had been retired from active politics for almost a quarter of a century, so it is not surprising that the reaction outside Malta has been rather muted. The Telegraph has an obituary, as has the Guardian, neither of which are as interesting as they might have been.

Mintoff was a dominant figure in Malta from the 50s to the 80s, Prime Minister from 1955-1958 and from 1971-1984. Throughout this time his main opponent was Dr George Borg Olivier. The Maltese press in those days had a strict understanding that they would not publish anything about the private lives of either man. Dr Borg Olivier lived a blameless life, but some of his family would have provided ample scope for the tabloid press, if there had been one in Malta at that time. As for Dom Mintoff, his private life was kept private too, though there was lots of gossip, much of it well founded. His wife was a lady called Moyra, whom everyone liked: she had been born Moyra De Vere Bentinck, which sounds very grand. Some people said she was a distant relation of the Dukes of Portland, others not; still others that her mother had been Dom’s landlady somewhere down the Cowley Road, when he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.

In the old days you might see Moyra occasionally in various restaurants. I can remember her being pointed out to me once, and someone saying: “Of course, it is Saturday. This is the day when Dom lets her have the car.”

Moyra was a devoted member of the RSPCA, which was largely run by English ladies in those days. There was a convention that when she was present no one ever referred to her husband, the notoriously anti-British Dom.

But Dom had not always been anti-British. After he had finished at Oxford, he came back to post-War Malta, which had been badly damaged by the Luftwaffe. The British government had sent out two architects, Messrs Harrison and Hubbard, who were charged with the task of supervising reconstruction. They soon left the island and handed over the building projects to their assistant, Dom. It is largely Harrison and Hubbard’s and Dom’s fault that so much of what could have been saved, was not, and so much that was modern and ugly and ill-suited to Malta was built. Malta still has some priceless architectural heritage, but much was lost thanks to the vandalism of these three. It is a tragedy that the destroyed buildings – such as the Auberges de France and Auvergne, and Barry’s Opera House – were not rebuilt, as they could easily have been. Another tragedy is represented by the various government housing schemes built by the pair and Dom: Malta had and still has some lovely domestic architecture, but Dom pioneered the modern and hugely inferior.

If I were to give one reason for my dislike of Dom Mintoff, it would be this: his part in the catastrophic destruction of the Maltese environment, which, even if it had been planned, could not have been more triumphantly successful. Many visitors today find Malta ugly; in fact it is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on earth, if you know where to look. But Dom made his fortune making swathes of it ugly.

His hatred of Britain was the hatred of a spurned lover, thanks to the failure of his integration project; and his hatred of the Church may have had something to do with that as well, as it was Archbishop Gonzi who effectively torpedoed integration. Oddly for one who championed integration, he later led the campaign against Malta joining the EU. But he never really had any principles. A scourge of the Maltese private schools, he sent his own daughters to Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

But if he hated Britain, there were other countries and leaders he loved. He fawned over Mao Tse-tung and Colonel Gaddafi; he sent the Khmer Rouge a telegram of congratulations on the “liberation” of Phnom Penh. The former were generous with their aid.

The Nationalist government of Dr Borg Olivier had planted Aleppo pines in Malta, as had the British before them. Dom declared that this was all wrong, and insisted that schoolchildren (I was one of them) plant acacia trees; they only live for 15 years, and my government-issue seed never grew at all. The Aleppo pines of the Nationalist flourish still, as do the tamarisks planted by the Israelis (whose embassy Dom shut down, and whose aid he scorned), as do the ficus trees planted by the evil colonialist British.

So much of Dom was political posturing; not even horticulture was safe.

But Dom was no harmless eccentric. Neither was he a democrat. He would send his thugs into action when a little muscle could yield results. His thugs burned down the Times of Malta building, a newspaper that not even the Luftwaffe was able to put out of business. His thugs beat up striking students at the university. His thugs attacked the Archbishop’s Curia (that made the front page of the Catholic Herald); and his thugs attacked the house of the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Eddie Fenech Adami, and assaulted his wife.

But it is all a long time ago, and most people would like to forgive and forget, I am sure. In many ways Dom Mintoff represents a typical post-colonial leader – of that type now only Comrade Robert Mugabe is left. Dom came from a devout family, his brother was a priest, and I shall pray for his soul. I note that the Archbishop of Malta is conducting his funeral in the co-Cathedral (one of the most lovely churches on earth).

His former enemies have spoken kindly about him, including Dr Fenech Adami. May he rest in peace.

  • Justin

    You want to see slums, visit the open centres in Marsa, Safi and Hal Far, those are welfare slums, but they were not built by Mintoff now were they?

  • Justin

    C. It was great of Mintoff to vote against the government in 1998 since he so believed, he did not vote to bring the government down, get your facts right.  It was great of Alfred Sant to resign when he realised he could not govern with one MP voting against.
    Which is more than can be said about our puppet prime minister, who has cost the taxpayer thousands of Euro to keep the backbenchers quite and still he continues losing one vote after another and he keeps clinging to power,  Is C the first letter of your Surname?

  • Justin

    Joe I know PN supporters who got a coloured TV before I did, who got a telephone before I did, and who got a piece of land and a loan on the HOS.  I can also name PN supporters who had good jobs with the government and others who received a scholarship to study abroad. During Mintoff’s times many got what they deserved, not because they were PN or MLP supporters.  Now if you were a PN supporter and did not apply for a plot of land how can you expect to get it.

  • Justin

    The Saviour you are talking about was the one who saved our souls.  Mintoff saved our country, so of course he was a Saviour.  As for the Egypt Air incident.  Didn’t the Egyptian government have a say on how to proceed since the plane was Egyptian.  What about the PN government who sent the only surviving hijacker out of prison after less than 7 years?

  • Justin

    Our Lord Jesus Christ saved our souls.  Mintoff saved our country. 

  • Justin

    Can you please name who was murdered by whom in the late 70s.  Karen Grech was murdered, because her father was working in hospital during the doctor’s strike. A policeman was blinded by a bomb planted near a police station. There were many other bombs planted, but surely the government did not want bombs planted behind policestations and civil servants houses, neither did he want a 16 year old girl dead and her brother’s eyes injured because their father was helping at the hospital.
    Shall we talk of dictatorial style, what about the blue jacket group that used to terrorise MLP supporters, what about those people going in shops to make sure the PN’s boycott on products that advertised on MTV was adhered to. What about those thugs that went into shops and made them close when the PN decided to take the day off one fine day in  June?
    What about the man beaten  by a PN driver as soon as they came into power? 
    If you want a democratic society tell your leaders to stop insulting our intelligence, the MLP have tried to keep peace for the past 25 years, what did they get in  return, insults from the PN. It is time the truth be told, or else we should stop here and try to start a new begining.  If you truly want reconciliation you have to play your part.  MLP supporters have suffered just as much as PN supporters, they have suffered in silence trying for reconciliation while the PN have been hurling insults for the past 30 years.  Anyone who reads these comments will realise that the PN has been exaggerating the past.  All these thugs did was no worse than what football hooligans used to do in those days.  Britain had forgotten all about these hooligans, but the PN is still repeating and exaggerating with every repetition the incidents that happened 30 years ago.

  • Justin

    And did his wife throw plates at him. Ah no that was someone with a C in her surname.

  • Justin

    calm down, who was watching when she threw plates at her husband?

  • Justin

    You were born in 1977 – you were 10 years old when the PN came into government.  Don’t tell me you were aware of the political situation, if so blame it on your parents.  When I was 10 years old my father was excommunicated from the Catholic Church thanks to a political minded Archbishop Gonzi, the present prime Minister’s uncle. I hardly knew who Mintoff or Borg Olivier was.  My parents never spoke about political parties in front of us.  One day I went to confession and the priest asked me if we or our parents were members in  any club, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, the nuns at school used to teach us songs against the labour party and used to tell us that Mintoff was the devil, I believed them and still didn’t know who this Mintoff was.  A child of 10 years doesn’t understand politics, unless she is brainwashed. As a young 7 year old your parents should not have burdened you with such silly stories about people opening fire on them, which was really a pack of lies. Had they been good parents they wouldn’t have gone to places where they could lose their lives and leave you orphans, but of course they knew that what they were feeding you were a pack of lies and there was no chance of them losing their lives.
    Tell me Lorna were did you live? In some remote village?  Empty shops?  I used to go shopping in Valletta and Sliema, unlike you I was a young man, I bought clothes from Square Deal, my girlfriend used to buy from Shady Lady and Square deal, we bought shoes from Darmanin footwear. We used to eat out and go dancing in different places in Sleima and Valletta. Admitedly there was no Mars bars and just one brand of toothpaste, for a while, but soon things started being imported once again.
    What financial controller was killed and found chopped in a well, were did you hear this story, Your parents must have been a nice pair.  Raymond Caruana was killed with one stray bullet, nobody knows who shot that bullet, Eddie Fenech Adami said he knew, but the murderers were never brought to justice.  All I know from Xarabank is that he was shot at about 11 o’clock, no ambulance was sent for, the party administration were called. but no one bothered to inform his father who only learned about his sons death early in the morning. I wonder did Raymond die instantly or did he bleed to death?  Had the ambulance been called would he have been saved?  If this is the case who is responsible for his death?
    We had no lights last week, I wonder does Lawrence Gonzi hate summer?lol  Don’t be silly, There used to be a power cuts because our power station was old, and not because Mintoff hated Christmas, do you tell these silly stories to your children, don’t let them repeat them to their friends because they would think they’re gullible to say the least.
    You certainly had expensive tastes, considering your father was unemployed I bought my television set for 200 pounds, with 1000 pounds I bought my sitting room suite not just a TV set.Are you sure you were born in 1977 and not in 2007, because what you have written sounds like a story related by a gullible 5 year old. Better go and see a doctor, or else you are lying and you know it.

  • Justin

    I wonder did they rape them as well is that why some girls from certain schools became pregnant at a very early age?

  • Justin

    M Do you know who this Carmel is, for your information chicken farm owners are neither stupid nor poor.  It seems you are the stupid one since you didn’t understand what he was saying.  Still i cannot understand what Sliema has got to do with it.
    State Education was free 1984, but church schools were not, they still aren’t as a matter of fact. KMB wanted the Church to provide free education. The parents and the Church did not want.  The parents wanted Church schools to remain for those who can pay.  As a matter of fact after the reforms, some parents opened private schools through the parents foundation.  I personally believe they should have left the church schools alone and concentrated on improving state schools, with the money the government give the church, state schools would be state of the art, but then again who am I to complain. 
    What Father Lucie-Smith said is not the truth, it is the truth seen from a person who hates another person, some of the things he said are downright lies.
    No a 7 year old does not understand certain things, and we as parents should shield 7 year olds from the ugly things in life, and not scare them with buggie man stories.  I was 6 -7years my father was an MLP supporter and excommunicated, I used to sing songs against Mintoff, but I never knew exaclty what was happening and since my parents had very good parental skills I was never scarred, except to become pro Labour and anti clerical during my teenage years.  Her problems are a product of bad parenting, because children should never be exposed to violence,
    Before calling me name, I was born and still live in Sliema, and I never had a farm of any kind.

  • Justin

    Ah but was he.shot dead, or was he left to bleed to death by his so called friends.  

  • Justin

    I was a young  labour supporter from Sliema and I never urinated on anyone let alone schoolgirls.  Being an MLP supporter from Sliema I remember  buying the labour newspaper and hiding it in the Times of Malta, afraid of being turned upon. Being insulted by PN supporters who knew me, on their way to meetings and even being spit at. That was the worst part, since it was my friends who did it.  Being called names by old people who knew my parents, and if I answered back, I was called a thug or violent,  Not being able to buy boycotted things, though PN supporters could get them from behind the counter, one of these things was sliced bread. Being afraid someone would put a bomb behind our door, like they did behind the police station.  We lived in constant terror, even afraid of our neighbours,  I did not suffer any political transfers when the PN came to government, because I was not in the pblic service.

  • Justin

    But it wasn’t him who got 18 year old girls pregnant thus spoiling their life.

  • Justin

    My dear, not all Sliema residents are a replica of DCG.  Had Mintoff been driven through Sliema.His supporters and many others would have clapped, people like you and DCG which are only a few, would have stayed at home.  He would have not been given the same welcome, but the majority of Sliema residents are unlike DCG very well mannered and would have given him some sort of welcome.

  • Justin

    Mr Grumpy suits you fine.

  • Malteser

    Try getting overtime now…. Workers are being put on forced leave and not being paid for theirs services!!! I think they are the ones who should complain! At least you had a job!!! See the real unemployment figures now… Then whine about overtime! How petty!!!

  • mvella

    It seems that you don’t know alot of things ….. get your facts right before speaking

  • Ta Guza Mcas

    Grace he does not know anything he was made to write this article to damage Mintoff’s reputation from a infamous columnist in Malta.  Being a border in St Edwards Collage says it all — he had a difficult childhood and now he blames others!!  May God Forgive Him.  I cannot  understand his role in the Catholic Church as the Inquisition does not exist any more — I HOPE!! 

  • Carmel Agius

    Ask the Police Officers for the overtime they did for the last 25 years and till now during the PN regime did not recieve their payment.  JusticNo1 show your name who you are and we can discuss better here. Ask your PN goverment why he closed the Drydocks.

  • Brian

    Who is responsible for Raymond Caruana’s death? The person who shot him, maybe? I know that is hard for you to believe but What was shocking was not just the fact that Raymond Caruana was murdered but the botched political frame-up of Peter Paul Busutill that followed. He was killed by “a stray bullet”? Right. I wonder, if someone was to open fire with a machine gun on your house and then just shrug and say “Oh, sorry for killing someone, it was just a stray bullet”, I wonder how you would then react. Perhaps you would be happy to see somehow innocent framed up by the police. Perhaps, instead of blaming the police and the government of the day, you would blame the leader of the opposition. No, of course you wouldn’t. This is the problem with people like you – you are so mired in your own hypocrisy that you cannot even see it. 

  • Brian

    What do “gentlemen’s clubs” have to do with anything? Are you saying that Labour men don’t go to these clubs? You really seem to struggle with the concept of freedom. Yes, the government is politically Christian Democrat but it believes in freedom. Though the members of the government may not wish to go to these clubs they recognise the concept of freedom – that other people may wish to go to these clubs if they wish. Is that really so  hard for you to understand? 

  • Brian

    Typical small-minded Maltese. The writer of this article has a long association with Malta and went to school in Malta. Only Maltese should be able to speak about Malta only Americans can comment about America, only Syrians can comment about Syria. It is really hard for me to understand the mentality of people like you. 

  • superman

    Of course he is not lying. Mintoff was friends with Khmer rouge too.

  • APS1

    Joseph you are speaking with the same mentaility MIntoff had. That no one have the right to comment on our island. This is a communistattitude at its best. Do you remember that in order to stop foriegners to spak about Malta he passed the interference act. Do you call this democracy. Everyone have the right to speak and commnt on what is good and what is bad. n my opinion those who write one side of this story whether it is the good side or the bad side are not making any good to the history of our country. Also no one has the right to distort history by lies and half truths.

  • asp1

    I fully agree with you that no one has the right to judge a person especially after his death whem he cannot defend himself. But everyone has the right to comment o his doings and express his opinion. YOu might agree or not but that is a fundamental right

  • asp1

    Mr. Barabaa your reply proves your mentality and anti catholic reasoning. There were other ways and means how to answer Fr. Smith but as it happens with many labour supporters or anti catholics they deviate from the original subject to attack the church.

  • Rob Roy
  • Mark Privitera

    Times Of Malta – 25th August 2012 - Archbishop praises Mintoff for helping the poor, loving his country - 

  • David

    Did you ever hear Jesus telling us not to befriend that kind of guy or the other?”

    Jesus did it to convert them, Mintoff did it to emulate them!

  • David

    No dear Justin,

    He drove it into the ground and kept his supporters too ignorant to realise it!

  • Algan

    C. you are truly a C bit- tikka. With tikek types   like you codescending I can understand why ALS writes and offends the way he does. He must consider you as a true and worthy typical native representative of a former colony.   

  • David

    This man took our country out of the gutter”
    And made it worse, all whilst trying to relieve a massive chip on his shoulder, that he shares with all his followers, who he despised anyway but used them – typical plebeians!

    “.In times of crisis you do whatever it takes” –  Weak people make deals with the devil, or fellow demons!

    “where if you were labour they would bury you in a “dumpsite’”  - 
    Oh stop lying, this so called rubbish dump (not dumpsite dear) was a NICKNAME given to part of the cemetery, but still part of the cemetery, that was unconsecrated for all those who died outside the church. 

    “My grandfather who I never had the honour to meet was left rotting in his house for days before he earned his right to have a decent funeral”  My Uncle DIED when Mintoff stole the National Bank from the rightful shareholders.

    Not to mention that I and thousands of schoolchildren were denied an education when Mintoff locked us out of school, forcing us to study in hiding!

  • David

    Mintoff’s time as Prime Minister was notable for a general increase in

    the average standard of living ”
    Oh what a joke, Mintoff sought to bring everybody DOWN to the same level, that was his idea of equality!

    “His major achievements included the setting up of the Republic of
    Malta in 1974 and the closure of the military bases of NATO (1972) and
    the UK in 1979″
    A complete myth (not the republic part, but who cares about that).
    Mintoff did NOT close the British base down, they had been planning to leave for ages, he tried to get them to stay longer, tried being clever in his demands, they gave him the reverse salute, closed base on 31st March (end of British financial year) and left Mintoff in a panic frenzy running to Ghaddafi cap in hand!

    From then on it was a case of Ghaddafi saying jump and Mintoff answering “How high?”.  But despite the utter humiliation he presented it to his fans as a victory!

    “a giant in the political history of Malta”
    Actually, more like a poison dwarf!

    ” Our country today is an orphan now that Mintoff has passed away.”  He was never my Dad, thank you very much, seeing that Lorry Sant had a picture of hi brother’s wife naked at Mintoff’s house, who knows who’s dad he also was though?

    History will judge him indeed, and consign him to the dustbin!

  • David

    Do you really believe Daphne Caruana Galizia would be too scared of twerps like you to write under her true name?  

  • David

    What amazing poewrs of deduction, Daphne Caruana Galizia has a letter C in her surname so it MUST be her – no wonder you thought Mintoff great!

  • Mary

    He doesn’t need your forgiveness believe me!! He has enough people to show him how important he was and what a great man he was!! You don’t like him because you support corruption we are living in !

  • David

    it was so because a Labour Government under KMB and not Mintoff wanted the church to provide free education to all including to poor ”  
    Isn’t that the government’s job  Weren’t there state schools?

    My school was closed, and it was a PRIVATE school, not a church one, what was the excuse for that?

  • David

     Not being able to buy boycotted things, though PN supporters could get them from behind the counter,”

    You HAVE to be kidding, actually it’s proof you are lying about who you are! The items boycotted were pure garbage anyway, Mintoff did not allow basic necessities in remember?  We had no pasta, toothpaste,tea, the famous chocolates etc – all these had to be smuggled in!

    A whole generation of kids, raised with chocolate as an absolute luxury when a relative could smuggle them in from abroad!

  • Gejms

    Dear Father Alexander,

    Please forgive the old Mintoffians raving in the comments below.  They have been brought up believing that Mintoff is second only to our Lord (their words), they have also been brought up with a framed picture of Mintoff in their homes, under which a votive candle and flowers are placed and as children, they were encouraged to bow down or make a reverence when passing in front of it (I’ve seen this countless times with my own eyes).  

    Moreover, they’re confused, because they were sure that Mintoff hated the Catholic Church, or the Church hated him (something like that). Now, it was the Catholic church who has led all proceedings during his funeral, countless priests prayed for him, in several different churches.  

    So they have found your article to be an excellent piece to attack, because they now feel sure that the Church hated him after all, since this article appeared in the Catholic Herald.
    Yep, warped logic.  However, let me assure you, that only about a quarter of the Maltese today are rabid when it comes to Mintoff’s holiness being in any way diminished.  Most of the others see sense.  Others are glad to see  him off.  

    As to me, I say; forgive and forget.  

  • David

    That is so typically labour!  Ignorance and all!

  • asp1

    Justin allow me to correct some of your points. During the Political religious question no one was excomunicated so you are mixing up things either through a mistake or lack of knowledge. There is a great difference between excommunication and interdiction or deplying the mortal sin. Archbishop Gonzi is not the UNcle of the Prim Minister but a relative. But these are things we hear everyday on certain media just to brainwash people. You sid that your parents never spoke politics infront of you but most things you learned at school from nuns,Did you inform our parents about thse things, You also said that the preist durig confession asked you whether you or your parents belong to any political club. These are stories which we heard over and over again to impress people. If such things happened bycertain preists the exception is not the rule. Just one last thing the pity is that you are writing this article under the name of Justin only If it is true that you father was interdicted and not excmuinicated we will be pleased to learn from you the name and surname of your father so that we will be able to check whether what you are saying is genuine or not. From what you wrote I have my doubts. Please let know who your father was there is noshame about that. He had the right to support labour. If you do not tell us who your father was then I have all the rigt to say that all this is fabricated.

  • Mary

    Are you serious?! I think u are suffering from amnesia!

  • David

    Don’t tell me you were aware of the political situation”  Ofcourse we where, we weren’t quite stupid I was 3 years older for the record!

    ” When I was 10 years old my father was excommunicated from the Catholic Church thanks to a political minded Archbishop Gonzi, the present prime Minister’s uncle”  
    And ironically ‘laburist joqtol’

    “My parents never spoke about political parties in front of us.”  -  If they where mintoffians I don’t blame them for being ashamed, besides our parent’s only warned us not to mention politics outside the house, it wasn’t safe back then!  However, despite Mintoff’s worst we still new how to read, and see how different other western countries were!

    “What financial controller was killed and found chopped in a well, were did you hear this story,”  

    Shows you for the liar you are if you don’t remember Lino Cauchi, may he rest in peace!

    “There used to be a power cuts because our power station was old, and not because Mintoff hated Christmas”  Of course, he only ever bought what other countries were throwing away.

    “we bought shoes from Darmanin footwear.”  The only shoes available, the ghastly Sanga and soldini!

    “Admitedly there was no Mars bars and just one brand of toothpaste, for a while, but soon things started being imported once again.”

    Liar, they only started being imported after 1987!

  • David

    What a liar!

    PL fools, to quote KMB himself, yes, KMB, attacked Brigadier John Spiteri, and yes there was mayhem by the labour thugs who still thought they ruled the roost, when the SAG showed up they attacked them and found their own arse got kicked instead.  Even your beloved PL had nothing to say about it!

  • David

    Not really, they may not have spat openly but probably most would have given him the best answer and ignored the event!  Well, real Slimizi not the wannabes of course!

  • David

    ” Like your beloved gonzi should walk trough  Bormla without security so he should know what they think of him!!! ”

    Exactly, you admit how violent PL supporters are! 

  • Julian Zarb

    We need to leave the political analysis of Malta’s history during the last seventy years to the academics and historians. Surely, we will see that there was good and evil in all that, we can certainly see a massive improvement today in the quality of life and general appearance of this “Gem of the Meditteranean”…a story of a determined society who have worked hard and been spurred on by a very positive and proactive government in the last quarter century, to ensure this quality of life is maintained despite the global and economic crisis that has brought down governments in Europe…….Malta is certainly today a safe and wonderful place to visit……..and what is more it is still a Catholic and democratic state thanks to the work of the Prime minister since 1987!!!

  • HarmonyPlus

    Hundreds of working class Nationalists had their second residence confiscated through a simple requisition order. You surely must remember this.

  • HarmonyPlus

    Mintoff did not buy land. He stole it and gave the farmers a pittance. Stop twisting he truth will you?