The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
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Labour is a synonym of crisis (1)

Thursday, 23 May 2024, 07:10 Last update: about 23 days ago

Joe Azzopardi

Recent history shows that whenever there is a Labour government Malta faces crisis. Six leaders Pawlu Boffa, Dom Mintoff, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, Alfred Sant, Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela (though he does not admit) all encountered crises which affected Malta.

Way back in 1947 Labour Leader Sir Paul Boffa, a doctor, was elected as Labour’s first prime minister after his party won hands down in the general elections. Dom Mintoff was his deputy leader and pretty soon the latter showed his inspirations of becoming the new leader.

Most of the socio-economic progress achieved by Dom Mintoff was based on the work carried out by Sir Paul Boffa before him. The main quarrel between Mintoff and Boffa was about Malta’s share of the Marshall Aid programme. Boffa put national interest first while astute Mintoff was more concerned on building his stature in the party. In 1949 the Labour Party faced its first rupture.

Mintoff’s strong position and ambition led to a number of Cabinet crises with Boffa. Mintoff issued a challenge to Boffa’s premiership and managed to oust Boffa as party leader after asking for a confidence vote. However Boffa formed the Malta Workers Party and stayed on as prime minister albeit devastating damage to his political career.  His new party continued to lose votes and support until it was disbanded in 1955. That year Mintoff’s Malta Labour Party won the election making him the new prime minister. In 1958 Mintoff resigned in protest after talks with Britain about his proposed integration with the United Kingdom failed. Integration would have meant that Maltese MPs would sit in the House of Commons giving the Maltese the same rights as the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish.

A general strike ordered by the GWU led to violent scenes on the streets of Valletta, Paola and other villages. A state of emergency was called with soldiers on standby to support the police. Mintoff hoped for a snap election giving him a stronger mandate. Mark Montebello, a biographer, called Mintoff’s decision ‘one of his most miscalculations’. Malta was put under colonial control for four years. The PN won the 1962 general election and obtained Independence in 1964.

The period from 1971 to 1979 was not particularly troublesome with minor political violence including the occasional paint or oil thrown at PN clubs  However all that changed after Labour’s convincing victory in 1976. Thugs took over the streets with frequent torching of PN clubs, disruptions of meetings and violent attacks on individuals. The burning down of The Times and the assault on Eddie Fenech Adami’s private residence, a few metres away from a police station, can only be described as appalling.

The perverse result of the December 1981 general elections aggravated the political situation. The PN managed to obtain the majority of votes but Labour was elected due to gross gerrymandering. Labour now faced an unprecedented constitutional crisis. The PN boycotted the House. The more the PN, led by Eddie Fenech Adami, opposed Labour’s ‘illegitimate’ government the more violent was the reaction of a large number of hoodlums who took over the streets yielding batons, pistols and machine guns. The police looked away.

Then came the ‘Years of Lead’. In 1984, the chosen one Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici succeeded Mintoff as prime minister. KMB governed over three years of massive social tension and political violence. The war on the Church schools, university numerus clausus and the denial of liberal arts degrees and daily political violence. Church schools were closed and students attended lessons in neighbours’ garages. Violence was not simply bomb attacks, the horrendous murder of Raymond Caruana at a PN Club in Gudja and the fascist assault on crowds at Tal-Barrani where the police joined ‘il-marmalja’ thugs to refuse entry to Zejtun (considered the Mecca for Labourites) for a mass meeting. KMB led drydocks thugs to attack the Curia less than 100 metres away from the Police General HQ. He publicly called them ‘the aristocracy of workers.’

We, because I was one of them, just wanted a better country and we suffered and sacrificed everything. A movement was created which included teachers, parents, workers, professionals, priests and statesmen to redeem our country. We did manage and in 1987 we went back to democracy.


to be continued .........

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