We pay tribute to Dom Mintoff. He introduced the welfare state in Malta and Gozo allowing the Maltese people access to free healthcare and education for the first time.
Mintoff spent the last months at Mater Dei being treated for illnesses common with persons of his age.
Dom Mintoff entered politics young and immediately showed he was a man of vision, charismatic and fearless.
At 19 he wrote in the Malta Chronicle that Malta needed new people with fresh progressive ideas to change the country, which was very backward socially and economically at the time.
After the 2nd World War Mintoff, who was an architect by profession, was Dr Boffa’s public works minister, engaged in reconstruction and slum clearance in Cotton era.
Mintoff became Prime Minister for the first time in 1955 when he was just 39. He was the youngest prime minister in the British colonies.
In 1967, 51,000 “soldiers of steel” still voted for MLP in the general elections despite the Church’s imposition of mortal sin on anyone who supported the Labour Party.
In 1971 Mintoff won by a slim one-seat majority in parliament, with a huge majority of votes due to gerrymandering, after the Church lifted its imposition of mortal sin on Labourites in 1969.
After nine months of negotiations with Britain, Mintoff signed an agreement in 1979, extending for another seven years Britain’s right to use Malta as a naval base at the handsome rent of $36.4 million. This was about three times what Malta received before Mintoff started setting deadlines for British withdrawal.
In 1974, Malta ditched the British monarchy to become a republic – a move also supported by most Nationalist MPs. The non-partisan former British governor Sir Anthony Mamo was appointed President.
Amongst his numerous important social and economic reforms, Mintoff’s first government decriminalised homosexuality in 1973, and introduced civil marriage in 1975, a measure which for the first time made a distinction between Church and State.
In his second government, Mintoff introduced the two-thirds pension scheme. In 1980, maternity leave was also introduced for the first time.
Against all odds Dom Mintoff also managed a smooth transition for the island from a military based economy to an industrial and services one.