Tributes to Lino Spiteri

Dominic Fenech: the latest memory, which will be a lasting one, was the tremendous dignity with which lately he bore his murderous illness. He knew all along how serious his condition was... A man with his days counted who did not for a second succumb to self-pity.

Lino Spiteri – an ‘intelligent all-rounder and one of the only politicians who had criticised Dom Mintoff’
Lino Spiteri – an ‘intelligent all-rounder and one of the only politicians who had criticised Dom Mintoff’

George Abela – former President

I will remember Lino Spiteri as an intellectual who was capable of properly analysing every situation and as a courageous person who was never afraid to say what was on his mind. In my opinion, these were the typical ingredients of Lino Spiteri throughout his political and civil life. I had the great fortune of being a very good friend of his and I have many lovely memories of him.

George Vella – Foreign Minister

I used to look up to Lino Spiteri when I started my political career. He was a very intelligent all-rounder and a born politician. He criticised when criticism was warranted and indeed was one of the only politicians who had criticised Dom Mintoff.

He was very economically competent during his tenure at the Central Bank, a talented author, very dedicated to his work, and a good leader.

We belonged to the same circles and I remember him as a man who had a great sense of humour and a fun character to be around.

READ MORE • OBITUARY Lino Spiteri, his own man

Eddie Fenech Adami – former Prime Minister and President  

Lino Spiteri was undoubtedly a man of above average intelligence. He was a man of few words but he always said what was on his mind and when he did speak it was always with sense, without any empty words. He was an outstanding man of gravitas.

Dominic Fenech – Dean of the Faculty of Arts

Talking about Lino in a few words is an impossible task. I count myself lucky to have known him in politics and in his writings. But above all that I have known him as a dear friend. Being a friend of Lino meant having a point of reference always available at more than one level -- personal, emotional, intellectual, cultural. He was a fiercely loyal person who also deeply valued the loyalty of others. But his interest in people generally was genuine, even those who did not know him too well.

Where does one start recounting memories? Hearing the master of his Oxford University College, Sir Alec Cairncross, speaking of him as one of the brightest minds he ever met? Listening to him at his Central Bank office conversing on the telephone with world financial big shots? Interrupting Dom Mintoff midstream when the rest held their silence?

There was the time when foul means were used to defeat his bid for the party leadership, even before darker revelations emerged. He took it on the chin like a man, and only those who hurt him looked small. He could be glad like a child whenever he held his latest published book in his hands. He delighted in his family gatherings. Ditto when enjoying a meal with friends. He loved good food in company. A full man, big as a house yet at home with the simplest and most mundane of life's experiences. 

He had great self-esteem, drawn from his mother's devotion and unbounded belief in him, I think. I commented about it once. He laughed and said, 'do you know why my mother did not call me Einstein? Because she had not heard of him'. He was disabled, suffered from it, overcame it, and became the stronger for it.

He did not suffer bullies, even physically. One notorious thug tried to needle him and was lucky to dodge a well-aimed kick. A fellow minister challenged him once to a fight 'with one arm tied behind my back'. I cannot repeat what Lino replied, but a bullet would have been less devastating. He said the way to deal with a bully is to show you're not afraid of him.

But the latest memory, which will be a lasting one, was the tremendous dignity with which lately he bore his murderous illness. He knew all along how serious his condition was. He dared to hope but did not feel entitled to fool himself. A man with his days counted who did not for a second succumb to self-pity.

John Dalli – former Finance Minister

Lino Spiteri was a political heavyweight within the Labour Party and although we had our differences, we agreed on a crucial issue. I had spoken with Spiteri about my plans to set up the Malta Financial Services Authority and he had decided to cooperate. His cooperation helped get the Labour Party on board, one of the few times that there was political consensus in Malta.

The result was a unique economic motor that is still going strong today. Spiteri was pro-Europe and he apparently agreed with my decision to introduce VAT, one of the preconditions that Malta needed to fulfill before becoming an EU member state. When Alfred Sant removed VAT, Spiteri soon resigned as Finance Minister. He could see that Sant’s objection to VAT was a political decision based on his objection to Malta joining the EU.

Lawrence Grech – former editor of The Sunday Times of Malta

Lino Spiteri’s defining characteristic was his belief that every Maltese person had a duty towards the island, be it through taxes, work, etcetera. He was a very able journalist, prolific in both English and Maltese, and wrote about a variety of topics – from business to economics.

He had very leftist views that did not go down well with everyone. He was a very cultured person and was at the forefront of Malta’s literature movement in the 60s. However, the allegations made against him in the run-up to the 1992 election for leadership of the Labour Party hurt him significantly.

Ultimately, he was a very balanced and honest person who loved his family.  

Ugo Mifsud Bonnici – former President

Lino Spiteri was a very interesting person, both a genuine adversary and a good friend. He always made sense whenever he spoke, even in his criticisms. We often met up personally, sometimes to discuss possible political solutions and sometimes to share our experiences over drinks.

Anton Grasso – author

Lino Spiteri was more an author than a minister and his inner economist came out in his writing. Although he didn’t publish many books, the ones he did were all well thought-out. His death is a big loss to Malta.

Gorg Peresso – author

Lino Spiteri had a modern, telegraphic, concise, modern and in-your-face style of writing. His works are an integral part of Maltese literature and one cannot study contemporary literature without studying Spiteri.

Immanuel Mifsud – author

Lino Spiteri particularly excelled in novels that included social commentary, including comments about social injustice that reflected his Marxist ideology. Although he was an intellectual, his narratives didn’t reflect this intellectuality. I hope that someone gathers up his works because many great authors leave behind unpublished works. This will be a just and lovely gesture.

Clare Azzopardi – author and teacher

I believe that, through his novels, Spiteri will never be forgotten and his book ‘Rivoluzzjoni Do Minore’ in particular stands out as an influential piece of work. 

As a literature teacher, I hope that Spiteri’s works will continue to be studied throughout different levels of education.
Adrian Grima- author
From a literary point of view, Lino Spiteri leaves behind him a wealth of fiction, especially his early novel Rivoluzzjoni do Minore (1980) and short stories like “Riħ il-Ħamsin,” a piece of unrelenting prose that investigates the life of a married couple in their fifties. His literary figure and work allow us to reflect on the relationship between fiction and politics, especially in the case of those writers, in Malta and beyond, who are also politicians. They seem to have an advantage over other writers because of their privileged access to the (under)world of politics. But they are also, inevitably, immersed in that world. The great challenge they face, I suppose, is to narrate it both from the inside, and from the outside. That can't be easy.