I consider myself lucky to have lived in the era of the giant of Maltese politics Dom Mintoff or as we better knew him ‘il-Perit’. I was a young teenager when he was still Labour leader. I attended a good number of his mass meetings and even a few general conferences where he was main speaker. I have vivid memories of his stature and unique oratory qualities, when he spoke all stood silent and just listened.
My father, just a year younger than Dom, was a close follower of his and he recounts various episodes of his experiences with him. I remember how my dad was influenced by Dom’s dynamism and clear vision that convinced him to become a Labourite by choice. Dom’s legacy is gigantic and unrivalled by past and present political leaders.
I believe that only Manuel Dimech emulates Dom Mintoff for his vision for a new and modern Malta. They both struggled against the conservative establishment and foreign rulers, but had an enviable courage to stand up against all odds and persist in their relentless journey to free Malta from the chains of colonialism and sheer ignorance. Dom was and remains an icon in Maltese society, a true one in a million.
In the first few hours since he passed away, various observers who knew or worked close to him talked about his achievements and why Dom is at the heart of so many Maltese people. Mintoff enacted a social revolution and changed Maltese society for good. It was not a rosy path, but on the contrary the road was harsh and riddled with pointed boulders.
Many consider the creation of a welfare state as Dom Mintoff’s greatest achievement and perhaps it is. However, I consider his greatest achievement to be of a more profound nature rooted in the psyche of the Maltese nation. It was the very reason why the Labour Party and particularly Dom encountered vicious resistance and vile conduct from those institutions that monopolized intellectual control and power. Dimech sowed the seeds early in the 20th century; Dom nurtured those ideas with an unprecedented resolve even in the darkest of times of mortal sin and religious interdict.
Yes his greatest conquest was the intellectual freedom of a people, the distinction between state and Church and the self-esteem achieved through education. I do not struggle to declare that no one has done as much as Dom to educate a nation. He new very well that only an educated mind can think freely, evaluate an argument and decide what is right and wrong.
After a long battle, the Archbishop Gonzi realised he had lost and the useless struggle was ended for good. So many years had been wasted, but finally in the early 70’s state and Church matters were set apart. Dom lived long enough to witness yet another bastion crumble under the power of free democratic will. The clear yes vote in the divorce referendum was undisputable proof that our society had really changed and that Labour and Dom were vindicated. The conservative forces were dealt a tremendous blow and their puerile arguments brushed away. I honestly hope we will not have to endure a repeat of the divorce no camp antics when the IVF forum picks up.
In his typical metaphoric style, Dom talked about the ‘removal of cobwebs’ back in his early years. Perhaps a spider or two still lurk around, but the cobwebs have been wiped out. Maltese society has intellectually come a long way thanks to the efforts of many courageous men and women. However, we owe a lot to Dom Mintoff. May your soul rest in peace, you will never be forgotten. Grazzi Perit!