Monday, 25 February 2008

Malta Today: Gonzi's muddle on cohabitation promise

Gonzi's muddle on cohabitation promise

Sunday, 20 February 2008

By Julia Farrugia

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday appeared somewhat muddled over the cohabitation issue, claiming during a televised debate that the Nationalist Party's electoral programme for 2008 includes the promise, originally made in 1998, of legislation to regularise cohabiting couples.
However, none of the 353 proposals included in the PN manifesto makes any reference to cohabitation.
Shortly before the 1998 election, then Nationalist Party leader Eddie Fenech Adami had promised that if elected, he would amend the law in order to grant legal rights to persons who are cohabiting. But 10 years later, the promised cohabitation law has still not materialised.
During last night's debate on TVM, organised by the Broadcasting Authority, this newspaper asked Dr Gonzi whether it was embarrassing for him to once again ask for the vote of thousands of separated people who are still waiting for this reform.
The Prime Minister insisted: "You're wrong. That promise did not vanish from our electoral programme. On the contrary, we re-confirmed that we want to look into this situation."
Gonzi avoided the question when asked specifically whether the PN electoral promise 10 years ago was just a political convenience stunt. But he admitted that the existing law does not protect people who are living together outside wedlock, and made an impromptu promise which is not included in the PN's electoral programme.
"Our law already gives limited protection (to cohabiting couples), but in my opinion this is not enough. And yes, I do believe that we need to change the law. I am determined that in the coming legislature we have the duty to change the law affecting couples who are cohabiting in this particular sector."
Asked by this newspaper why the Nationalist government did not make this change over the past 10 years, including during his four-year premiership, Gonzi said: "Yes, yes, I know. I did a lot of stuff during my four years. I did not manage to do everything."
Shortly after Gonzi kept on insisting: "it is not true that the electoral promise vanished from our electoral programme. It could be that not everyone reads all the proposals. But it is there."
During the same debate, Lawrence Gonzi simply ignored questions put by MaltaToday focusing on gay people.
With reference to his promise to single-handedly reform the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, Lawrence Gonzi stated that this will be the biggest challenge he has faced ever in his entire life.
But he stopped short of saying specifically how he will conduct this reform: for instance, how he would eradicate conflict of interest among architects appointed to MEPA boards.
MaltaToday referred Prime Minister Gonzi to a case dating back to 18 July 2006, when MEPA deputy chairman Catherine Galea did not declare her personal interest and was present during an ODZ decision session on land belonging to her clients.
Earlier this month, MaltaToday asked Minister George Pullicino whether Galea should have been asked to step down after this particular case. On that occasion, the Environment Minister said that he did not "feel the need to answer hypothetic questions."
Asked whether he himself would have removed this architect under the same circumstances, the Nationalist Leader stated: "Don't you think that it is obvious that one would remove people with conflict of interest? Isn't it obvious? Do I need to say it?"
But when reminded of Minister Pullicino's response, Gonzi defended his minister, claiming "George Pullicino carried his work in a very good way."

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