The author of a controversial Dom Mintoff biography says he had been asked to rewrite or censor sensitive passages about the former prime minister’s personal life but refused to do so.
Mark Montebello, a Dominican friar and historian, told Times of Malta he had been approached to edit out sections of the recently published book and had even been asked to self-censor by a number of people, including the Mintoff family.
“I stand by my text and the rigorous work that was carried out prior to publication. I know what I wrote and take responsibility for it,” he said.
“My work is professional. I don’t need to give anyone the last word, not even the family.”
Mintoff’s two daughters on Tuesday described the publication as “profoundly unethical and immoral”.
Anne McKenna and Yana Mintoff both dissociated themselves from the book, which they insist is “riddled with inaccuracies, factual distortions, unsubstantiated allegations, hearsay and lies”.
They complained that no members of the former prime minister’s family were consulted or given a preview.
The 640-page book, The Tail that Wagged the Dog: The Life and Struggles of Dom Mintoff (1916–2012), lifts the veil on Mintoff’s private family life, in one section also portraying him as an adulterer who abused his wife.
Reacting to the family’s remarks, Montebello insisted the work was in no way intended to offend. It had been written as “an authoritative review” of the Labour leader’s life.
I know what I wrote and take responsibility for it
“This isn’t a personal issue for me. It is a professional matter and it must be dealt with as a professional endeavour, especially since it is a historical book and so it will not necessarily be liked by everybody.”
As the first analytical and extensively researched book on Mintoff’s life, it had to be thorough and could not avoid dealing with him as a person or tackling his personal life and character, he said.
The book took about seven years to research and write and was edited by 10 reviewers from both sides of the political camp.
It did not surprise him that some parts of the book had dominated the early discussion but this was the natural life-span of such a work.
“Naturally, there is attention being paid to certain aspects of the book that are eye catching but, eventually, as time passes, it is the economic and political analysis that will be viewed as the more important elements of the work,” he said.
Times of Malta, which is publishing excerpts of the book, reported on Wednesday that the Labour Party administration had issued an informal directive for the book to no longer be sold from party HQ and for any promotional content to be pulled from its media arm.
Weighing in on this, Montebello said he had never been censored by the PL in the past.
“It is only now that the Labour Party appears to be having second thoughts,” he said.
Times of Malta will publish a second selection of excerpts from the book on Sunday.