PS mourns “a warrior”

He was a major figure in the PS during the 90s

Progressive, militant, he was also a party activist who sometimes got his hands dirty

“I’ve realized that there will be too many people at my funeral, so I’ve decided not to go,” joked Patrick Moriau, a lump in his throat, during one of his final public appearances, on May 1. It’s appropriate to recognize the sick man who, that day, called on militant socialists “to rediscover the warrior spirit.” The jovial old hippie broke into the Belgian political scene during the 90s.

Patrick Moriau died Saturday afternoon at the age of 62, following a long struggle with cancer. “Make sure to say that he was a man of integrity, because sometimes that’s forgotten,” insisted the former PS president Philippe Busquin, a friend of Moriau’s.

It’s a fact that a few sour notes were struck during Patrick Moriau’s tempestuous career, even when he went into battle for the most progressive causes: the decriminalization of marijuana, and the coming of another globalization. He was one of the most zealous on the famous “Tobin tax,” the sworn enemy of “brazen capitalism” – the fight against price speculation on staple foods.

But, “the man of conviction and combativeness,” as he was called by PS president Paul Magnette, was also a party operative who had to – for better or worse – get his hands dirty in the party’s business when he became its secretary general.

When the Agusta affair scandal caught up with him in 1997, Patrick Moriau was a rising star in the PS: press secretary, then cabinet head-assistant to Philippe Busquin, then minister of social affairs. His personality, as much as his debonair beatnik allure, brought the media into his orbit. He never minced words and was not reluctant to give interviews; wasn’t he a journalist by training?

He was also quite popular: elected deputy in 1995, he also became mayor of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont the same year. He was one of the most visible members of the parliamentary commission that tried to untangle the mess in the judicial and police systems uncovered by the Dutroux affair (he produced a very controversial work based on that experience: A Commissioner’s Notebook).

However, the investigators of the “Cool cell” have, for all these years, patiently followed the trail of bribes that the French aircraft manufacturer Serge Dassault gave to the PS to assure he would get an important military contract (the “Agusta affair”). Patrick Moriau was accused of forgery, use of forgeries and money laundering when he began work as PS secretary general in 1991 During the transition between Spitaels and Busquin, he put his fraudulent gains (some €625,000) into an account in Luxembourg.

The affair did not come to trial until several years later: Patrick Moriau was found guilty, but was not penalized because of the time that had passed – it had, according to the court, “gone beyond a reasonable delay.”

The investigators were themselves convinced. He was not personally enriched in this scheme. Not any more, no doubt, than in the “Citta Verde” affair, the name of a huge building project in the municipality of Farciennes which led to Patrick Moriau being accused once again. This time of passive corruption. Moro, the Italian group promoting the project, provided funds to a music festival held in Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont, home of Patrick Moriau, president of the socialist federation of Charleroi. “Nothing but sponsorship,” hammered Moriau. It seemed nothing would ever change his geniality, optimism and friendliness.

He was a militant until the end, “a defender of liberty and fundamental rights,” emphasized Chamber president André Flauhaut. “A man whose deep local roots never kept him from an enthusiastic openness to the world,” said Rudy Demotte, president of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. He was close to the people, it’s true. Whether they were from Hainaut, which he defended ardently, or from any other part of the planet, if their cause seemed to him to be just and compatible with his idea of human solidarity. “Even in sickness, he thought of others,” Philippe Busquin explained.

Patrick Moriau was also a republican, convinced that his death would take away from the jubilation aroused by King Philippe’s accession to the throne.


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