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Opinion • February 8 2004

Thanks ‘KAP’

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando is in party mode as he pays tribute to Nationalist leader Eddie Fenech Adami

I first became actively involved in politics in 1979. I was a student at De La Salle College and I rebelled against the measures taken by Mintoff against Church schools. I helped to organize protest marches against the ‘educational policies’ that were being forced upon us. Most of them were disrupted by ‘socialist’ thugs who would do their best to ingratiate themselves to the government of the day by beating teenage boys and girls up. The police would usually help them out. These experiences were profoundly disturbing but they helped me to understand that the world outside the sheltered cocoons of school and home could be a very cruel and hard place. They helped me to grow up.
October the fifteenth, 1979, is a date I will never forget. The Times of Malta offices in Valletta were razed to the ground by a mob incensed by false allegations that there had been an attempt on Mintoff’s life. Nationalist Party clubs were totally destroyed. The house of Eddie Fenech Adami, the leader of the opposition, was ransacked; his wife, children and elderly mother terrorized. These shocking events guaranteed ‘Black Monday’, as the day came to be called, a place in the history books. This was also the day when I first saw Eddie in person. I accompanied my father, who knew him even before he became a Member of Parliament, to his house. His fortitude in the face of such a heinous attack on his family and home impressed me. He seemed more concerned about dissuading the more excitable supporters around him from carrying out reprisals than about the personal hardships he was facing. I realized that I had met a rare man.
I have been fortunate in serving as a Member of Parliament under his leadership for seven years now. I can say that I have come to know him better. Nothing I have seen him do or heard him say has dampened my admiration in any way. He is not only an astute politician and a brilliant strategist but a very caring, if reserved, man. He will find the time to phone you up and ask after your health when you are ill. He has never discouraged me from speaking my mind and was supportive even when I had to take difficult personal decisions. He will be a tough act to beat. For the past, the present and our future, thanks ‘kap’.
Yesterday’s announcement signals the end of a glorious era for the Nationalist party. It also marks the beginning of a new one. In a few weeks time we will have a new leader. He, like Eddie, will face a baptism of fire. The situation is not as bleak as it was in the seventies. Democracy is not threatened and the way forward has now been mapped out. But the enthusiasm which typified the Nationalist administrations of the nineties has all but faded. Hard decisions have to be taken if we are to be put back on track.
It seems clear that the leadership battle will be a fair one. This bodes well for the future. Our new leader will have to rally all the valid people available around him once he is elected. He cannot afford to lose anyone in the ‘fight’. He will thus also be able to bank on the support of the many supporters the party has. Although they may be overtly and exasperatingly critical at times they will give him their unqualified support when it matters. Given all the above, I am confident that our party will be in a position to serve this country well. The solid foundations which have been laid out so painstakingly over the years will be built upon and Eddie’s legacy will be well taken care of.

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