Maria l-Maws puts on a show

Published: April 19, 2008 at 9:00am

Evarist Bartolo

Maria l-Maws was on TVM last Tuesday night, being interviewed by Reno Bugeja. I don’t quite know why, but Maria l-Maws puts me in mind of a nun without a habit and wimple – not a priest, but a nun. It could have something to do with that deliberately low, monotonous, faux-gentle tone, which some nuns are excellent at using for the delivery of menacing words. It could be because if you were to wrap a wimple round his head he would pass muster as Sister Evarist, or Suor Bartolo. Anyway, when I look at him and hear him speak, all I can think of is nun, nun, nun and not mouse, mouse, mouse. But because his alter ego is Maria l-Maws, mouse it’s going to be.

Reno showed Varist (or Ev, as he is known among tal-pepe circles) a video clip of a television broadcast he had made in the 2003 referendum campaign, asking Malta in that nun’s voice to vote No, not to vote, or to spoil the ballot-sheet. There he was, repeating the mantra of His Master’s Voice – a man who now wishes to be considered statesmanlike enough to be prime minister, telling the nation to scribble on the ballot-sheet while in the polling-booth. Does this happen anywhere else in the democratic world? I’m just wondering. It seems shameful to me, but Evarist made his request with such nun-like confidence that he almost convinced me of the normality of senior politicians telling people not to vote or to rip up or ruin their ballot-paper.

Il-parabboli ta’ Bartlu

Reno said he would show him another video clip, and Varist replied: “Nista nimmagina liema.” Well, what do you know? It was one of those didactic ‘let’s make things simple for simple minds’ intimate chats he likes to have with television viewers, the assumption being that they all have a mental age of three and like to be spoken to in parables and metaphors a la Dom Mintoff.

In this one, he was talking about the European Union and its regulations as a pair of one-size-fits-all shoes, which we have to wear whether they fit us or not. “Trid tilbes l-uniformi tal-EU, trid jew ma tridx,” he said. Any moment, and he might have brought out a couple of puppets on strings to give us a demo: a balena clearly marked with the letters E and U, and a makku sporting the George Cross. Suor Bartolo pulls the strings and the balena eats the makku while the children burst into tears.

The weird thing is that, in the exchange of views which followed this clip, you could see Evarist getting all hot under the collar at the very thought of EU membership. Is he over it, or is he not over it? He’d better let us know. Reno asked him about U-turns and non-U turns and credibility, and Evarist tried to get out of his tight spot by putting on that attitude of outraged self-justification that he likes to adopt when he’s painted himself into a corner. He tried to compare the Labour Party’s shifting position on the EU to that of Britain’s Conservative Party. It just didn’t wash.

206 Laburisti in Haz-Zebbug didn’t vote

Then he let slip a bit of information that tells us how the big cheeses in the Labour Party know more than they are letting on about the Laburisti who didn’t vote in this last election. There were ‘mijiet’ in Haz-Zebbug alone, he said: 206, to be precise. I asked around the living-room to be sure that I had heard correctly. Two hundred and six? You mean, not 205 or 207, or about 200, but precisely 206? Where did that six come from?

Il-ggant tal-palazz

Then it was back to another video clip. By this time, I was looking forward to them for their amusement value. There Ev was again, speaking in parables:

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista qisu l-ggant tal-palazz. Libsulu werqa biex jghattu dak li hemm taht; werqa bl-istillel tal-Ewropa.

Il-ggant tal-palazz. They were all screaming with laughter on the sofa thinking he was speaking about the giant at the end of Jack’s beanstalk. Then somewhere from the dimmer recesses of my memory I retrieved the information that the large bronze of Andrea Doria that stands in the courtyard at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta was known as il-ggant tal-palazz. Some puritanical governor or other had a fig-leaf soldered on to protect Doria-cum-Neptune’s modesty from the eyes of the ladies, or vice versa. Il-ggant tal-palazz – oh good grief.

Unilateral TV disarmament

Then Ev was on to the subject of television stations owned by political parties. He thinks there shouldn’t be any because they are a financial burden. Well, that’s a non sequitur if ever there was one. If the cost is crippling the Labour Party, then the Labour Party should give up Super One, but what we are speaking about here is something like the question of unilateral disarmament in the Cold War. I won’t do it unless you do it too. Neither of us will do it unless we are forced to do so. Soon, I expect, they will be holding bilateral meetings to ensure that each disarms when the other does so.

Evarist thinks that the money would be better spent in developing policies. I hate to break this to him, but to develop policies what you need is people with brains, not money saved on a television station.

L-ekonomisti tal-jukebox

Time for another clip, and we were treated to the sight and sound of Evarist speaking about l-ekonomisti tal-jukebox – sorry, gujkboks: titfa l-flus u ddoqqu d-diska li trid.

Another clip, this time showing Evarist rounding on university professor Kenneth Wain with the words and gestures of a nun. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but he didn’t go on the attack like a man. “Missek tisthi!” Mouth takes on shape of pig’s rectum. “Imbasta professur tal-universita!” Mouth makes ‘pooh-ghalik’ gesture. “Ghax ma’ tmurx tara….” He sits with hands crossed across his knees, tut-tutting, pooh-poohing and x’gharukaza-ing, wearing the sort of scornful and contemptuous expression usually seen on old ladies watching a girl go by in skimpy shorts. You get the drift. Kenneth Wain was in the Yes Movement, and Evarist thought that we should vote No, not vote or spoil our ballot-sheet.

Evarist says that when you educate your children, they vote Nationalist

Like Silvio Parnis, he said he was concerned about the number of children of working-class Laburisti parents who are not voting Labour, because they feel it is beneath them. Iss hej, their parents make sacrifices to ensure they get a good education, and then off they go and vote Labour. Of course, what Evarist is really saying here, though I’m sure he didn’t mean it quite that way, is that when people are educated they start voting Nationalist. Ev did the opposite, of course. His Nationalist parents struggled to give him and his siblings a proper education, and then off went Ev to become a Laburist.

Wow, he read Mao

Reno Bugeja asked him about his youthful flirtation with Communism. Yes, he replied. I read the works of Mao, Lenin and Marx. Oh god, I said, there on my sofa. What next – Jonathan Livingston Seagull? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? The Little Prince? A Che Guevara T-shirt worn without irony? A Deep Purple Live LP? So 1974.

Then Ev began boasting about how the Labour Party had cleaned up its act post 1992, and how it had set up the Board of Vigilance and Discipline to keep things under control and to clear out corrupt and violent elements. And Reno reminded him that he was the chairman of that board when it took the decision to expel Wenzu Mintoff and Toni Abela – for speaking out against corrupt and violent elements in the party. Ah, but they were washing Labour’s dirty laundry in public, and that’s unforgivable. “Illum hbieb hafna,” Suor Bartolo said. Ar’hemm, hej – definitely not leadership material, but then neither was his friend Fred.

15 Comments Comment

  1. P Portelli says:

    Evarist is a disgrace to Labour. Pity he did not stay with his Nationalist roots!

    He gloated that he is the only candidate for leadership who has ministerial experience. Then it turned out that in the short 22 months he was a minister he was responsible for the change of student stipends u-turn, was responsible for accepting Charles Mangion resignation on a rather trivial administrative slip – which led to resignation of George Abela from consultant to the PM – ( Bartolo tried to wriggle out if it by saying he does not remember – he does not remember my foot) and to put the cherry on the cake he was the one most influential on AS to call Mintoff’s bluff and go for early elections just when George Abela was preaching the opposite. Who needs ministers who foul so badly in such a short time? And if he messed it up as minister just imagine where our country would be if we elect him as a Prime Minister when so far in his life he was not even responsible for an understudy except during the horrible 22 months of his disastrous ministership?

    I well remember Evarist who prefers to wash his dirty linen inside the red glass house, publicly chastising on l-Orizzont the criticism of ALfred Mifsud to AS after he was re-elected, abusively, as leader following the 2003 defeat. Time has a habit of separating the men from the boys.

  2. Carmel Scicluna says:

    Daph, ma nafx ghadekx tiftakar l-attakk despikabbli li Maria l-Maws kienet ghamlet fuq Mario Azzopardi (il-Mulej). Jekk insejt, ha nghinek tiftakar: Il-Mulej, meta kien ghadu maghhom, kien baghtilhom xi karikaturi ta’ Dr Fenech Adami bil-kundizzjoni li ismu jibqa’ anonimu. U s-Sur Editur tal-gurnal Laburista, il-Helsien, Call-His-Bluff Evarist Bartlu, meta l-Mulej beda Kontrokurrent fin-Nazzjon, kiser sfaccatament ir-rabta li kull editur serju jkun marbut biha, u mhux biss kixef isem min baghatlu l-karikaturi ghall-gazzetta tieghu, imma attakkah personalment ukoll. Meta l-Maws kien minghalih se jpingi lill-Mulej f’dawl ikrah u qal kemm qed jithallas ghall-kontributi tieghu, Azzopardi qallu wahda u tajba: ” Bartolo jghix go villa. Jien go flett. Meta jrid inpartu!”
    U l-attakk tal-Maws fuq il-Professur Wayne? Quddiem ghajnejn it-telespettaturi stess! Insejtu?
    Tkun idea tajba kieku jinkixfu dal-borom minn xi delegati qabel il-hatra tal-lider il-gdid. Tajjeb li jkollna xi delegati li jimbarazzaw ftit lil dan is-serp velenuz liebes ta’ soru jew ta’ gurdiena tad-drenagg. Ikollhom lider jekk jahtru lilu, e!

  3. Meerkat :) says:


    Here’s Maria l-Maws with ze wimple

  4. amrio says:


    He! He! He! LOL!

    Thanks I needed a good laugh. I’m currently at work, been here since 5:30am and will be here until at least noon. Plus that I have slept the grand total of around 9 hours these past 4 days due to work exigencies…. Oh! the joy of working in ICT!

  5. Meerkat :) says:

    @ amrio

    Hey! Poor dear kemm tipprovdi ghall-familja.

    Just for you

  6. amrio says:


    The prezzie you sent me has been blocked as inappropriate by my IT Security! Must be something nice and rude! I will watch it at home later on.

  7. Meerkat :) says:

    @ amrio

    Oh I forgot that a link with the words ‘science’ in it is considered rude by IT… your IT security must be a closet maltastar-er with a science fetish

  8. Amanda Mallia says:

    Daphne – About the “nun” bit … You hit the nail on the head! EB reminds me of one particular nun who was the headmistress of our junior school for a few years. (Maybe the “black ruler” will remind you of who I mean.)

  9. Amanda Mallia says:

    Daphne – Maybe the leaf was welded onto the statue lest some man regularly passing by gets an inferiority complex …

  10. Amanda Mallia says:

    About the TV station bit mentioned in the article:

    Maybe Evarist would like us to go back to the bad old Labour days, when all we had locally was Xandir Malta. We could then have PN propoganda transmitted constantly, off people’s taxes to boot. sounds familiar? I’m sure he’d love that, wouldn’t he? After all, they saw nothing wrong when Labour did it for so many years.

  11. amrio says:


    My IT Security is gosh horror another PN diehard…

    Do you believe this? Just before going home this afternoon I browsed Maltastar, and my PC reported a virus! (This is true I’m not makling this up)

    Now tomorrow IT Security will be doubly miffed with me (for getting a virus on our network and for browsing maltastar!)

  12. combinaguai ):-) says:

    I remember being a 2nd year student way back in 1997 (God! That looks a VERY long time ago!) when Varist came up with the uniquely wonderful idea of teaching university students how to start saving an enormous debt with banks (or with the government, I’m not sure which).
    Anyway, can ANYONE think of a better way how to start off life in your salad days with something like minus Lm1500 (Eur 3494.06 to be FAIR), equivalent to some 3-4 months’ wage?
    No better way to teach these fore-runners of university hamalli some disciple, ain’t it?
    Thankfully, being already in 2nd year I managed to get away with the former stipend system (ah, those were the days, my friend!). Still, for comraderie’s sake, I was there shouting “Injuranza! Injuranza! Injuranza!” in front of the palace with the other university population. My oh my! Wasn’t that fun… and true…

  13. Meerkat :) says:

    @ amrio

    Ahseb u ara if you browse the poodle’s site…you’d bring the whole network down

  14. David Zammit says:


    You said:

    Anyway, can ANYONE think of a better way how to start off life in your salad days with something like minus Lm1500 (Eur 3494.06 to be FAIR), equivalent to some 3-4 months’ wage?

    Yes most of the university students all around the world apart from malta who don’t have stipends and actually have to pay a fee to study at uni.

  15. combinaguai ]}:-) says:

    @ David Zammit

    Good try at taking things out of context. But not good enough. After all we are in Malta, not all around the world. If our university students were given an impetus to further their education, why should we not grumble that some nitwit decided to do away with it? (without consultation and without mentioning it in the electoral campaign, please note)
    There are, of course, students in Malta who start life with some four-figure number debt due to some car they decided to buy, or a flat or something of the sort. But surely you would notice the difference between:
    Person A who has Eur3500 debt with a bank because s/he bought a car; and
    Person B who has Eur3500 debt with a bank because out of the blues Varist and Sant decided to change the stipend system.

    One brought it on himself, the other had it imposed on him. Now if you fail to see any difference in that please give me your address and I’ll forward my bills to you, ok?

Leave a Comment