19 MARCH 2003

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Dom Mintoff returns to woo Bormla

By Kurt Sansone
It was a pristine Dom Mintoff who yesterday addressed a sizeable crowd of sympathisers at the street market in Bormla.
A makeshift stage with a lacklustre backdrop depicting the words ‘Front Maltin Inqumu’ (Malta Arise Front) in red and white, saw the old lion being greeted warmly by a crowd that was left waiting for more than half an hour. There were no signs of animosity similar to those witnessed when Mintoff was a guest on Xarabank that was produced from Bormla’s main square last year.
People flocked beneath the stage with Labour Party handkerchiefs in hand as a lone person kept the crowd alive with an occasional foghorn blow.
It was Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici who laid the groundwork for il-Perit. In a short fiery speech Mifsud Bonnici attacked the European Union and criticised government’s negotiations. He accused government of wanting to sell Malta, endanger neutrality and allow the EU to overrun the country.
The former prime minister warned that EU membership would mean the introduction of taxes on property, job losses and a threat to freedom.
Mifsud Bonnici then introduced Dom Mintoff as the father of Malta’s neutrality and freedom - to which the crowd applauded.
But in masterly fashion Mintoff stood up and asked the crowd to observe at least half a minute of silence to commemorate the memory of General Workers’ Union section secretary Tony Coleiro, who died in December. The half-minute of silence never came as Mintoff rambled on with his speech.
But the Coleiro mention was an unexpected sign of goodwill. Despite being close to Mintoff during the turbulent months between 1996 and 1998, last year Coleiro had openly criticised Mintoff for attacking the MLP. The rift between the two reached its climax when Coleiro and other people heckled Mintoff during the Xarabank programme.
But yesterday in Bormla, the birthplace of both Mintoff and Coleiro, the former premier was in no mood for conflict with people close to his ideals.
The referendum was rubbished as a futile exercise and, just as he did in Zurrieq on Saturday, Mintoff warned the people not to vote for the Nationalists in the forthcoming election.
Since taking back to the streets after the referendum, Mintoff is looking more reconciliatory toward the Labour Party. Occasionally, he does throw a jibe toward the obstinacy of Labour leader Alfred Sant but the criticism is nowhere near what it was in 1998.
The feeling among Cottonera Labourites, who still hold Mintoff in high esteem, is that just before the election Sant and Mintoff would come around to bury the hatchet.
Sant’s talk of reconciliation and his open invitation to Labourites, who feel estranged from the party, to forget the past and join the team also points toward the direction of peace between him and Mintoff.
However, up till yesterday both Sant and Mintoff have refrained from referring to each other in a positive way.
Meanwhile, Cottonera still awaits the return of its beloved Perit back into the Labour Party he fathered for almost 40 years. And if that does occur, it would send shivers down the Nationalist Party’s spine.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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