The Labour Party is currently heaping praise on its ex-leader and previous Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici. Most of it is a formality since many don’t even remember him except for the likes of Chris Fearne and many who do remember him don’t have much sympathy for him, either. Most of the praise lauded to him is just posturing.
Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici presided over some of the Labour Party’s worst years in its history when the leader’s power was ineffective and the Party and the government were run by thugs like Lorry Sant. I’ve recounted Lorry’s Sant story in brief in one of my history books. The year when the Labour Party started collapsing internally was in 1977 when Lorry Sant lost the deputy-leadership race to Joe Brincat and vindicated himself by turning into a corrupt thug. By 1984 Mintoff had already lost his control over the government and the party and leading it on with constant violence by its members and thugs would have been humiliating even further for him. So, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, a loyal and submissive servant of the Labour Party took Mintoff’s place to oversee the imminent loss of the Labour Party in the next elections while the country kept collapsing under the chaotic rule of its government.
Back then there were many Labour rebels who sought to change the course of the Party and in some way, they had been successful, yet the anti-Mintoffians had a foothold already in 1977 with Joe Brincat as deputy leader. Labour stalwarts never admitted how divided and toxic the atmosphere in the Party was back then. Lino Spiteri, Alfred Sant, Evarist Bartolo and other less-known figures like Mario Vella (not Joseph Muscat’s tutor and central banker), served as a sort of internal opposition to the Party and eventually, Alfred Sant’s Grupp tal-Mellieħa did manage to take over the Party and estrange from it Lorry Sant and his thugs (Afred Sant won the leadership race against Lino Spiteri).
Sure, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was a humble and kind man. He was a good friend and lawyer to have, but politically he was on the wrong side of history and his personality doesn’t justify in any way the disasters that Labour brought to Malta in the 1980s. There is nothing which historically makes him a progressive figure in Maltese politics. He was simply an ineffective Prime Minister of a chaotic and criminal government which couldn’t run the country without violence. If anything, his personality was an asset for the crimes of those times.
Even in the things that mattered to him, Karmenu never pronounced his position. Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was gay as I wrote in A Rent Seeker’s Paradise. He never admitted it himself because he accepted the patriarchalism of his society by betraying himself. He was weak in character and as a man and was used for nefarious purposes. I do have sympathies for him for the way he was used because he never sought power for himself, but his place in history will be forever tarnished.