The Kuwaiti Prime Minister arrived yesterday to attend the state funeral of President Emeritus Guido de Marco today, joining in the nation’s final farewell to the politician and consolidating the Arab emirate’s strong ties with him until the end.

Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah was accompanied by a 25-strong delegation, including ministers and advisers, representing the emirate’s recognition and deep respect for the charismatic statesman, who had supported it in turbulent times of occupation.

The Kuwaiti government continued to express – even until recently, when Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi visited the state in April – its warmth towards Malta due mainly to Prof. de Marco’s service as President of the United Nations General Assembly during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Fulfilling his objective of “a presidency with a purpose”, Prof. de Marco had departed from protocol when he stood up to applaud the emir, who had just addressed the assembly, provoking a standing ovation from the floor. In those circumstances, he even made the exception of descending and escorting the head of state to the exit, a gesture that remains impressed in memories 20 years later.

Prof. de Marco later visited the liberated state on an invitation extended to him to express the nation’s gratitude and had since continued to enjoy its admiration.

The Kuwaiti Prime Minister is scheduled to meet Prof. de Marco’s family at their home this morning and then pay his last respects to the former President at the Palace in Valletta before attending Mass praesente cadavere at St John’s Co-Cathedral this afternoon.

Also due to attend the funeral is Vincenzo Scotti, Italy’s Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, and the widow of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, while many countries are being represented by their ambassadors.

Prof. de Marco, 79, died in his sleep on Thursday after briefly recovering from a critical condition, sending the nation into mourning and stimulating heartfelt condolences and sorrow from every quarter.

Apart from a brilliant career as a criminal lawyer, his important roles in politics served the island through thick and thin, achieving milestones in its history, including independence and EU membership.

Since Saturday, Prof. de Marco has been lying in state at the entrance to the President’s Palace, which has seen a constant flow of mourners. They can continue to pay their last respects and sign the book of condolences until noon today.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who cut short a private family holiday, is expected to pay his last respect to Prof. de Marco this morning, followed by the Speaker of the House, Michael Frendo.

The funeral cortege is expected to leave the Palace for St John’s Co-Cathedral at 2.40 p.m., arriving at 3.05 p.m., where Mass will be said by Archbishop Paul Cremona at 3.30 p.m. Two TV monitors are being set up outside the co-cathedral for members of the public to follow the proceedings inside.

After Mass, the cortege will head for the War Memorial in Floriana, passing through St John’s and Merchants streets, Castille Place and Ġilormu Cassar Avenue, proceeding to St Anne Street, Floriana, through Blata l-Bajda, St Joseph Street, Ħamrun, past Ħamrun Liberty, Ħamrun Spartans and St Joseph band clubs, past the parish church and the St Cajetan band club, through St Joseph High Road, Sta Venera, and on towards a private burial at Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery.

Traffic arrangements

Ġilormu Cassar Avenue (from the junction with Castille Place to the junction with the War Memorial), St Anne Street and Crucifix Hill in Floriana will be closed to vehicular traffic as will St Joseph Street in Ħamrun, from the roundabout junction at Fleur-de-Lys to the junction at St Paul’s Square (known as Fra Diego).

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