Views expressed by former minister Alexander Cachia Zammit (The Sunday Times, March 21) on the apologies made by the Maltese Church and state to former child migrants cannot be allowed to pass without comment.
He asserts, for example, that it is up to the Australian Church to apologise and not the Maltese, seemingly unaware the Australian Church apologised over 10 years ago.
He also seemed unaware that the Christian Brothers' institutions were not alone in caring for Maltese child migrants - the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Nazareth also cared for them. They too apologised over 10 years ago.
Dr Cachia Zammit then makes the extraordinary claim that the Maltese government is the least to blame for the sad outcomes of the child migration scheme, when it enticed the main architect of the scheme, Br Conlon, to Malta with the principal aim of convincing the Christian Brothers to include Maltese children from deprived backgrounds into their scheme.
Once Br Conlon agreed to include the Maltese the Maltese government invested substantial sums to pay for the children's passage to Western Australia and their upkeep in the Catholic institutions. The government also collaborated with the Church to promote the scheme to the parents of prospective candidates.
For Dr Cachia Zammit to then claim the government and Church of Malta were free of any duty of care for the children they enticed into the scheme is preposterous.
No one has ever doubted that the intentions of the scheme were noble and that some Maltese children benefited from it. But this is of little consolation to those who were harmed and continue to be adversely affected by the loss of their childhood. Yet Dr Cachia Zammit and his ilk do not even concede that hurt and damaged former child migrants exist.
He implies that the allegations were intended to bash the Church. One could expect him to be well placed to form this conclusion. After all he was Minister of Emigration and he visited some institutions in 1963 and spoke to some of the child migrants. No child migrant, he claims, approached him with any allegation and it took so long for someone to eventually come forward and complain about treatment they received.
Why were 11 years allowed to pass before an Emigration Minister visited the child migrants in the Perth institutions? Why was he unaware of repeated allegations of abuse made by Maltese child migrants during the 1950s to Maltese Church officials in 1953?
How did Dr Cachia Zammit expect Maltese child migrants to approach him about the abuse when meetings with dignitaries were always in the presence of the Christian Brothers and knowing how others were punished when they bravely made allegations?
How did he expect the children to write home about the abuse when all letters sent home were reviewed by the Brothers? How could he obtain a true understanding of the institutions when he visited only two of the six institutions that housed Maltese children?
The three children he met were from Tardun, perhaps the least controversial of all the child migrant institutions. They were encouraged to join the scheme by Dr Cachia Zammit and they were the only Maltese child migrants to receive land from the scheme. Little wonder they failed to complain.
But Dr Cachia Zammit failed to visit boys who lost limbs through accidents while in the care of the institutions. Did he know about these children? He certainly made no mention of them on his fact-finding mission to Perth.
A measure of the fact-finding success of Dr Cachia Zammit's visit to Perth can be gleaned from the fact that he waited for advice from the Australian government about their suspicions, which he received after he returned from Australia, to act.
This was after he failed to meet with the Christian Brother director (as planned) in Perth because of a police investigation. That was in 1963 and the scheme continued until 1965. Dr Cachia Zammit describes such 'prompt' action as 'immediate steps'.
Perhaps Dr Cachia Zammit owes an apology to the former Maltese child migrants for his negative, ill-conceived and unsubstantiated position on the apologies from Malta's Church and State.