The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Appreciation - Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici (1933-2022): A much loved mentor

Sunday, 13 November 2022, 06:20 Last update: about 4 months ago

De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est – speak nothing but good of the dead. KMB, as he was popularly referred to in his political heydays, including the unfair labelling of iż-Żero, most probably will be remembered for the wrong reasons. It is not up to me and this is not the right time and forum to judge and give a verdict on his past political stint in turbulent times. On the demise of Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici I wish to give some idea of the breadth and importance of his professional, philanthropic and political work and of the fundamental goodness of the man. For this only, he will be sorely missed.

Physically, he might have appeared in a poor state lately but was in great mental shape and his inquiring spirit remained always young. His family and friends, his colleagues, and all the people around us who have benefited from his work in various fields have been cheated of many more good years of Karmenu.

As one of his law students, I had been strongly influenced by his broad knowledge of law, philosophical thought and society, his intellectual curiosity, his work ethic, his kindness and his love for mankind. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be his student, and he will live in my heart as a great mentor forever. To me, the most remarkable thing about Karmenu was his selflessness and goodwill. He never pushed or sought anything for himself and he was always willing to extend himself to others. He pitched in and just did what needed to be done, without complaint, without needing or seeking recognition. Even in later years when his health started failing him, he was as active and engaged a colleague as anyone. And always modest, soft-spoken, gentle, and that rarest of beings in the legal academy: a truly humble man.

Throughout his long legal profession practice, respect, courtesy and gentleness were certainly important parts of his character. But of his many virtues, the one that struck me most powerfully was his integrity. He did what he thought was right, whether or not it was popular or good for his career. He never even seemed to think about doing anything else and he never seemed to be tempted, because doing anything other than the right thing never seemed to occur to him as an option. I remember describing himself as being a “general practitioner”. In the days of specialists, he was something of a relic of the past, a lawyer who would find a way to assist with any problem a client had. A lawyer for a family or a business to rely on; he was always ready to go that extra mile to satisfy clients. He would always say, “I don’t have all the answers but I am a quick study and I know where to look for them”. Karmenu was one of the good lawyers, one who brought honour to the profession. He was diligent with his clients and respectful to his adversaries even as he fought diligently. And he was always a voice of reason.

One of his last noble gestures for which he will surely be remembered was when in March of this year, through the intervention of Arnold Cassola, he donated his vast private collection of books and newspapers to the University of Malta Library. Even before his illness started to advance, the only thing that made him sad, I think, was the unfinished task of calling lawyers back to the ideals he lived by and believed in.

This is the rare legacy that he has bequeathed to us. May he rest in peace.


Dr Mark Said


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