Sixty years ago, on December 20, 1950, Malta was stunned by news of Enrico Mizzi’s sudden death. He had been prime minister for just over three months. He was repatriated five years previously after having been deported to Uganda along with 42 other Maltese nationals in February 1942.

At the time of his death Dr Mizzi was leader of the Nationalist Party, which had obtained the most seats in the general election held in September.

For some, Dr Mizzi, or Nerik as he was commonly known, was a ‘controversial’ figure obsessed with Malta’s italianità. For others he was a hero who dedicated his entire life to politics in the service of his country and its people.

Whatever their views, nobody could deny that Dr Mizzi was a true patriot who was prepared to suffer for his ideals. As indeed he did. He never practised his profession as a lawyer. His time was taken up with politics and writing weekly articles in the press in a bid to convey his and his party’s message.

I only got to know about the man in the late 1940s when I was still a student at the Lyceum. Acquantances who had lived during the 1920s and 1930s and therefore remembered him in his heyday, used to speak about his impeccable integrity and sense of fairness and justice. As a minister he insisted that people should be employed only on merit and not on political leanings or allegiance, even if this meant losing support and votes.

I had been told that once he even paid for the taxi when he used it for personal reasons and not on ministerial business! Obviously, he died penniless.

He was indeed a man of principle. A political giant. A model for all seasons.

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