It has just crossed my radar that towards the end of September, just after Independence Day, Sir Temi Zammit Hall at the University is to be graced, if you'll forgive the dripping sarcasm, by a musical celebrating the life of Dom Mintoff.
Apparently, we are in the centenary year of the man's birth. You can see a promo for the thing on Daphne Caruana Galizia's blog, if you can stand to get past the first few seconds of turgidness.
As I have tweeted, I object to this, both as an alumnus of Tal-Qroqq and as a member of staff, minor component of the latter as I may be. Anyone more than a few years younger than I might be wondering why, whether this is purely on artistic grounds or whether there is anything else underlying my disgust at this.
Well, here's why, folks - and if anyone thinks that I'm raking over old coals and dredging up ancient history in lieu of donning the rose-tinted spectacles that seem to be de rigeur when discussing our past, well, tough. Some things don't improve with age, and Dom Mintoff is one of them, especially in the context of that which I'm referring to now, the way he and his henchmen treated the University and its students and staff.
Some things don't improve with age, and Dom Mintoff is one of them
The starting point of my story is the way Mintoff's Labour Government, the protector of all workers (yeah, right) treated the doctors when they dared take partial industrial action to protest about the conditions of work suffered by junior doctors. Briefly, Mintoff tried to render their union impotent, the doctors taking part in the action were locked out (violently) and the law was changed to remove the right to strike for doctors. Better accounts, and longer, than this exist for anyone who wishes to consult them, and anyway, this was nothing new, any group of workers which tried to stand up to Mintoff's regime had already suffered this sort of fate, right from the get-go when he was elected in 1971.
Fast-forward a few months and the university students as a whole start demonstrating against the treatment their Medical School colleagues were suffering. The reaction from Mintoff's regime was predictable, given the visceral hatred that was consistently demonstrated for anyone with half a brain who tried to gainsay the man. The police, to their shame, were mobilised, and their ranks were strengthened by thugs whose allegiance was to Mintoff and his Ministerial hangers-on.
Considerations of space do not allow for a full description of the way demonstrations were put down, if I ever get round to writing my book, there will be fuller accounts, but for the time-being, take it from me, and ask your friends my age if you don't believe me, kid-gloves were not part of the uniform.
The writing was slapped clearly on the wall, in letters six foot high and in red, when Mintoff let it be known that as far as he was concerned (a graduate of the University and a Rhodes Scholar, Lord help us) university degrees were not better than "karta tal-incova", which loosely translates to a fish-and-chips wrapper, but less prestigious. This bon mot was met, it need hardly be said, with chortles of approval, and physical demonstrations of fealty, by the thugs and supporters of the regime.
Matters came to something of a head during the 1977 Graduation Ceremony.
Non-graduand students were holed up in Students' House, because the thugs, both in uniform and not, were of the democratic opinion that not a peep of protest should be heard. I was not in Students' House, because my girlfriend at the time (now She Who Must Be Obeyed) was graduating. I was standing next to an old and dear friend, at the bottom of the stairs leading down from Sir Temi Zammit Hall's side entrance, when he was flattened by one of Mintoff's Soldiers of Steel.
His instinctive reaction was dampened when the thug concerned allowed his pistol to show from under his jacket. The police, good men and true, did nothing, it need hardly be added.
Finding our way into the Assembly Hall, as it was then called, for the ceremony, this was disrupted first by the President and his entourage taking umbrage at Graduand Michael Frendo's speech about democratic principles (he was attacked by one of the President's Men) and the Rector, Prof. Borg Costanzi, took what was a courageous decision at the time, to continue the ceremony privately, thereby ensuring that the students graduated, after President Buttigieg and his sycophants stormed out.
Proceedings were disrupted again when a ranting thug charged in, threatening to attack Fr Mario Jaccarini ("dak li jibla l-ostji") because the ranting moron had taken it into his head that the homily had been insulting of the regime. Luckily, there was a cop in the Hall who was not subservient to the regime and tragedy was averted. Behind locked doors, graduation continued, with skirmishes outside.
Mintoff's attack on the University continued, the 1977 incident being just an example of the way he and his regime reacted to anyone who had the temerity to stand up to him. Again, space does not allow a fuller account.
This, readers, is why I object to Mintoff being celebrated within campus, in the very same place where his thugs (he was never near any of this, it need hardly be said, leading from the front was never his forte) brought him out in his true colours.
It is an insult to all of us.
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