[WATCH] Mintoff worried that divorce would lead to men abandoning women and children

On tonight's Xtra Sajf, former Labour Minister Joe Debono Grech revealed that former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff was uncharacteristically stubborn when it came to his position on divorce

Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff would not budge on divorce
Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff would not budge on divorce

Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff was stubborn in his position on divorce, because he was worried that, given the option of divorce, men would leave their women and children, leaving nobody to take care of them, according to former Labour minister Joe Debono Grech.

Speaking on Xtra Sajf on TVM on Thursday evening, Debono Grech explained that social services were only just starting out in the 1970s and 1980s in Malta – and that this created a genuine concern for the then Prime Minister when it came to the issue of divorce.

“Europe can do what it wants… the world can do what it wants… when you find the money for me to feed these families, let me know,” was what Mintoff would say, Debono Grech said.

Debono Grech joined the Labour Party in 1959 as Secretary and President of a number of branches within it, but did not become minister until 1983.

The reason for this, he said, was that he never wanted to become a minister. He was eventually appointed minister of Parastatal and Investments after Mintoff told Debono Grech’s wife that if he does not accept the post, he will be sacked.

Asked by host Saviour Balzan whether his late wife was involved in politics, Debono Grech explained that her support was essential.

“If your wife is not foursquare behind you, you shouldn’t get involved in politics… because it will break you and your family… and in my time it was worse, because there was tension. With Mintoff, you never knew when you were going to come home… I used to go home at 2am,” he said.

Debono Grech said he wouldn’t hazard to compare prime minister Joseph Muscat to Mintoff, as the latter was suited for the role during the time he was in office, but would not be good today.

“God forbid that Mintoff and Muscat are the same… I wouldn’t even compare the two. Mintoff was good for his time... Muscat managed to become a statist – which none of us expected. The disgrace today is that the country does not have an Opposition…” he said.

When asked what Mintoff did to curb the political violence that went on in the 70s and 80s, Debono Grech insisted that Mintoff was very much against violence, and had a lot to say about it.

But Balzan said that violent incidences had an impact on the Labour Party’s credibility. “What used to happen, realistically?” he asked. “To declare that you are against violence is one thing, and to decide that the situation cannot carry on is another.”

To this, Debono Grech said there were elements from both sides. “Mintoff did sometimes involve the police and the commissioner in these situations. Nobody talks about this.”

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