When Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici’s secretary wrote to a 13-year-old schoolboy in Buffalo

Published: May 18, 2012 at 10:10am

You absolutely must read the story in the link below. You must, I tell you.

43 Comments Comment

  1. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Here’s the letter from Mario Cacciottolo. It’s peppered with exclamation marks and sounds like something written by a schoolboy or a timesofmalta.com habitue’.

    The US state department found the incident amusing. Here’s their letter, and the photo which was a very great shock to us!! , according to KMB’s staff.

  2. Sarah says:

    The secretary seemed to like the word “grossly” and the use of exclamation marks.

  3. elephant says:

    Great story, Daphne – I hope that the people who matter will have time to read it all. The man’s story is nice and simple and easy to follow. Thank you for bringing it up.

  4. Roy says:

    Great story and I hate to be a stickler, but, a “battered old bus to Msida” in 2012?

    Everything else seems to check out though, particularly the veiled racism ingrained in our culture and the description of the 80s.

  5. X. says:

    This is hilarious (or should that be hilarious!!!!?).

    I wonder what Mario Cacciottolo BA DPA* has got to say about it all.

    “Look, here,” she said, pointing to a line in the phone book. “He has a B.A. and a Diploma of Public Affairs, so this must be him.”

    She explained that in Malta, people listed their degrees in the telephone book, and Mario had a Bachelor of Arts degree and a DPA, a Diploma of Public Affairs, listed after his name.”

  6. Groucho says:

    Ooh, exclamation marks!!!

    I don’t know whether to say that this man was ahead of his time, or that nothing has changed since with these people!!

  7. Wenzu Cole says:

    Absolutely loved it.

  8. Martin says:

    Digging deeper and deeper – you must be really short of material.

    [Daphne – It’s turning out to be one of the more popular posts, Martin. This may disappoint you, but I do know what interests people. That’s why you’re glued to my hip.]

  9. Ian says:

    This is brilliant, Daphne. Thanks for the read.

  10. Top class says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing. I encourage everyone to read both his blog posts related to this incident.

  11. mac says:

    Was this letter written by a German/Austrian? The Germans are very fond of using exclamation marks in any write-up!!!!!!!!

  12. Rita Camilleri says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

  13. Pat Zahra says:

    ‘…stage a mock UN session…’

    I’ll bet that fool Cacciottolo took ‘mock’ in the sense of ‘jeer at’.

  14. Wayne Hewitt says:

    Certainly the press in the US was much freer than the press in Malta those days.

    [Daphne – It still is, Wayne.]

  15. el bandido guapo says:

    Oh My! Oh My! Oh My!

  16. NOTMLPandproudofit. says:

    Thanks to Dom Mintoff’s anti-West rhetoric about “l-Ewropa ta’ Kajjin u l-Ewropa ta’ Abel”, most of the outside world took it for granted that before 1987 Malta was part and parcel of the Libyan Jamaharijah.

    That was my own experience during the Seventies and Eighties when I lived away from Malta. When I returned to Malta and became a regular subscriber to TIME magazine, I was forever inundated with adverts written in Arabic and meant for Middle Eastern consumers.

  17. el bandido guapo says:

    Must also add that it is rather revealing that despite buddy-buddying up to LIbya and other African states, Karmenu’s lot objected vehemently to the Maltese being portrayed as dressing up “bhall l-Gharab” – as there is no other way of putting it.

  18. Zachary Stewart says:

    Great story. It really made my morning. Thanks for linking.

    I love the line “so called free press in your country.” I’m not sure that many stories were being written about Malta by the American press in 1986. Hence the void that led to that adorable Gaddafi costume.

    Things like this make me love your country so very very much.

  19. Natalie says:

    The whole story is hilarious, as well as David Seminara’s account of his trip to Malta. Good find, Daphne!

    [Daphne – As with most other things on this website, it wasn’t me who found it.]

  20. John Schembri says:

    From this letter, which was written a year and a half before the end of Karmenu Vella’s Golden Years one can observe that:

    The prime minister’s office was still using typewriters, when in the US children like David were already playing computer games.

    The Malta coat of arms was more like that of a banana republic.


    The telephone numbers were five digit, proving that the use of telephones on a Strouger system limited their use on the island.

    Thank God that “Ir-raba rebha” (fourth electoral victory) never materialised.

  21. JoeM says:

    Can it be that you might have been duped? This blog post stinks really badly. It feels like it’s been written by a semi-literate Maltese. Take this line, for example:

    ‘They use the euro in Malta and the bill came to 70 cents – 40 for the coffee and 30 for the pastizzi.’

    Only a person who thinks in Maltese and writes in English would write ‘came to …’ to mean ‘amounted to’.

    [Daphne – No, not at all. ‘The bill came to…’ is idiomatic English. ‘The bill amounted to…’, on the other hand, is not. It’s clunky. If I were to wonder at all – and I don’t, because you have a facsimile of the type-written letter right there – it would be about an American who says ‘bill’ rather than ‘check’.]

    The supposedly typewritten text of the reply from the OPM is fully justified, indicating that the letter was made by computer. For an administration which was so against the use of computers, it is highly unlikely that one was used by the secretary to the PM himself. I have copies of letters dated 25 August 1984 written by Mr J. Sammut, Administrative Secretary at the OPM, where the typewritten text is, understandably, left justified.

    [Daphne – The IBM Selectric could justify right-hand margins as early as 1966.]

    Another point: All correspondence issued by the OPM used to bear an OPM number, typed alongside Our Ref. at the top left hand corner of the letterhead.

    [Daphne – The big thing about the 1986 government, Joe, is that there were no rules. It seems a little odd, to say the least, that you see the failure to include an ‘our ref’ number (your ref? would a schoolboy have one?) as evidence of forgery when this man’s boss was at the time leading convoys of lorries and dockyard workers into Valletta to attack the law courts, shops, the Archbishop’s Curia and much else. Why would a government that saw nothing untoward about smashing into the law courts then be a stickler for reference numbers on letters to schoolboys in America? I live and breathe writing styles, and I can tell you that this style is particularly difficult to fake when you are not Maltese. It’s not even easy for Maltese people to fake it because they tend to overdo it. And the writer of the original blog-post is definitely a native English speaker.]

    I’m sure that it wasn’t you who thought out this little piece of fiction, but I hope that you haven’t been duped into believing that it’s true.

    [Daphne – Why would I or anyone else bother. Who would even think up a story like this?]

    After all that’s been said and written, however, I must say that I enjoyed the humour.

    • La Redoute says:

      Why would anyone go through the elaborate fraud of creating a fictitious persona, complete with a personalised website and email address, showcase a repertoire of published work and dozens of photographs, for the sole purpose of ‘manufacturing’ a story to tell the world of Malta’s political incompetence and hysterical chippiness in the 1980s?

      Why, if Dave Seminara tuned into Al Jazeera and Smash he could have seen Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici telling the world what he still thinks of Libya and the EU.

      “we have always worn European fashions”. In 1980s Malta? Please.

      • La Redoute says:

        Try this, JoeM:

        There’s a contact link on the site. I’m sure Dave Seminara would love to hear from another Maltese crank. A perfect pair of bookends: one who thought Seminara was a threat to Malta’s dignity, and another who thinks he doesn’t exist.

        Oh, and you’ve clearly never taken typing lessons, or you’d know that right-justification was an acquired skill.

  22. RJC says:


  23. Mark Thorogood says:

    What a great story this is.

    “I’m not surprised they were angry at you,” he said. “The truth is that we’re a bit defensive and we don’t really like Arabs.”

  24. fb says:

    What a story !

  25. Paul Bonnici says:

    If you address someone by name in a letter, you end it ‘Yours sincerely’ not ‘Your faithfully’.

    This was English lesson one when I was a school boy in the sixties. Now we say ‘Hi’ in letters it seems.

    And those exclamation marks are an embarrassment.

  26. Thanks for the link and glad some of your liked the story! Hope you saw Part 2? http://www.gadling.com/2012/05/17/a-traveler-in-the-foreign-service-making-peace-with-malta-part/

    I’m really surprised to think that someone believes that I could have actually made that letter up! Crazy! I still have the original- that’s a scanned copy. Along with the letter, they also sent me two books about Malta and a photo of Bonnici. I still have the books but have lost the photo. (Though I remember that he was NOT smiling).

    If anyone doubts my story, drop me a line I’m happy to verify every line! [email protected] And by the way, I love Malta and plan to return for a longer trip next time.

    • Not Tonight says:

      Most of us have no doubts in our minds about the authenticity of this story. Yet, others are in denial that they actually voted such fools into office and prefer to conjure up conspiracy theories than face facts.

    • La Redoute says:

      Did you say you lost the photo? Then you’re lucky. We had to put up with the real thing for years and he still pollutes our TV screens occasionally.

      No. He doesn’t smile in official photographs. He gloats.

  27. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Those of you who think that his story was made up – here’s Dave Seminara:


  28. One other note: The scanned copy of the letter at the top of this page is just page 1 of the letter, there’s a bit more on Page 2 along with Mario’s signature, which I obviously haven’t forged.

    Here’s the link: http://o.aolcdn.com/os/money/dailyfinance/pdf/malta-incident-2.pdf

  29. James says:

    Great stuff. As you said, Daphne, one simply couldn’t make this story up.

  30. Gahan says:

    Minghalija il-PRO ta’ KMB kien is-Sur Baghbas tal-Mellieha, li kien jahdem l-Air Malta, l-istil ta’ kitba huwa tieghu.

  31. bookworm says:

    Had Dave encountered the likes of ‘Carmen’ Mifsud Bonnici, he wouldn’t have ventured so far as to be obsessed in apologising and making amends.

  32. Mike says:

    How backwards we were, jahasra.

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