The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Eddie the Great

Noel Grima Sunday, 5 November 2023, 10:54 Last update: about 5 months ago

‘Inservi’. Ed. Michael J. Schiavone and Leonard Callus. Publisher: Publikazzjoni Indipendenza / 2009. Pages: 803

Eddie Fenech Adami is arguably Malta's all-time greatest politician, greater even than Dom Mintoff (though obviously you would find many who disagree with this).

The man who came from obscurity, (Daphne even called him once "the village lawyer" before she came to adore him), to lead a broken down and dysfunctional party to electoral success after 16 years in the wilderness (six of them stolen), lead it again to success, then lead it to a further success after a defeat and just two years, and then lead all his country into the sunny uplands of Europe.

There are, we might say, two phases to Eddie's political career - the battle to roll back the overwhelming Socialism of the Mintoff years and then the campaign to, as he imagined it, anchor Malta to the West and democracy inside the EU, a campaign which almost came to grief due to Labour's pig-headed envy-driven opposition, which it prefers to forget today.

As we look around us today, in a world vastly different from the 1970s, we realise more and more our debt to Eddie. Where would we be if we were still out of the EU? Probably taken over, more than we are, by the Arab world. Where would we be if we were still using that fictitious currency we called the Maltese Lira?

If there is one comment I must be allowed to make; Eddie was badly let down by his successors, especially Bernard Grech so different from him and so incompetent, but also Lawrence Gonzi, hand-picked by him, and Adrian Delia, who resembles him in some aspects, and Simon Busuttil.

How would he have loved to take on Robert Abela (son of Lawrence Gonzi's worst mistake) and his funny acolytes Owen Bonnici, Clayton Bartolo et al. Not to mention Joseph Muscat and fellow crooks Konrad Mizzi and the others.

But the man, Eddie, is out of it today, enjoying his retirement in the house in Birkirkara's main street he has always lived in, the one ransacked by the mob, the one sanctified by his so-much-missed wife, while all around him built villas with pools.

While his days are measured by the bells of St Helen where he used to attend (and where one day I almost bowled him over when I hurried in to consult the archpriest).

This 800-page book tells it all, and then it misses out a lot too. In the whole book there is just one sentence, hidden away, on the assassination attempt on Richard Cachia Caruana, his personal assistant. A Daphne before Daphne event. For a long time the investigation floundered and went nowhere until a lead surfaced. I remember Eddie, on the day he inaugurated the now unused Heliport in Gozo, walking me up and down while explaining to me the background of the attempt.

The real history of Eddie has not been written yet and this book does not pretend to be one. It consists of a series of articles by people who knew Eddie or worked with him. There is included a school essay by Eddie, dating back to 1947, My Maiden Speech. Austin Gatt, Louis Galea, Richard Cachia Caruana, Joe Borg, kept to the remit, as did his former rival Guido de Marco, while Ugo Mifsud Bonnici wrote a theoretical essay on the Law.

The book is also priceless for the word-for-word accounts of his most memorable speeches, beginning with that just days after Raymond Caruana was killed in the Gudja PN club when Eddie swept away any discussion of the budget to speak about Malta and its imperilled democracy, the speech that had all Malta listening in and which made Dom Mintoff at the end rise up and begin his speech which led to the Majority Amendment, which unblocked the crisis.

Other memorable speeches include the Tal-Barrani speech, made while dodging the bullets, the speech after his house was ransacked in which he argued against replying with violence and his speeches around the Mnarja strike in 1982.

Other articles that have been included have nothing to do with Eddie. Paul Borg Olivier wrote about patriotic public monuments, Henry Frendo about 7 Giugno, Ray Mangion about Eddie's progenitor Dr Godfrey Adami, Max Farrugia on the deportation of the Internati, Giovanni Bonello on 1802 and the Declaration of Rights, and of course Oliver Friggieri.

 

Note

When I was reviewing Vincenzo of My Heart by Lou Drofenic last May, I expressed scepticism about Censu Borg Braret having turned against his former ally Sir Alexander Ball. Now I find the claim proved as a fact by Giovanni Bonello in the book being reviewed today who claims that Braret allied himself with a shadowy character, William Eton and lost all trust by Sir Alexander Ball.

 


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