Sunday, 8 February 2009

Times: The engagement party [Interview with Paul Borg Olivier]

Sunday, 8th February 2009 by Kurt Sansone
[Excerpt from the Interview]

Now where has that e-mail gone? Paul Borg Olivier recounting his slip of the mouse.

He's only been general secretary of the Nationalist Party for six months, but Paul Borg Olivier has already had his fair share of controversies to deal with.


"Diversity of thought is positive. It goes to show that the PN is not a party of yes-men but it is also a party that can work with a sense of loyalty. This makes us different from the PL," he says.

Diversity is an issue the PN will have to contend with more often in the next few years as the distinction between its more liberal wing and the conservative majority becomes more defined.
The one issue where that difference is bound to create tension is the regulation of non-traditional families.

MEPs Simon Busuttil and David Casa voted in favour of a non-binding resolution in the European Parliament calling for the non-discrimination of co-habiting individuals, including gay couples.
They even went on record in favour of legislation that grants rights to cohabiting individuals.
Is this a way of speaking one language in Europe and another one in Malta?

"Absolutely not. The PN is consistent on this aspect. There is no doubt that Maltese society is evolving and we have people living in non-traditional family set-ups.

"Before the election and even after, the PN insisted that in this legislature it should find better ways of regulating the rights and obligations of people who cohabit," Dr Borg Olivier says.
He makes it a point to underline that Dr Busuttil and Mr Casa did not vote for the right to civil marriage for gay couples. However, he is very cautious when talking of civil partnerships for same-sex couples.

"This needs to be taken in a wider context of what civil partnership means. One needs to be careful when making a distinction between partnership and marriage. What should be regulated first are the legal obligations of two individuals who are living together, even if they are of the same sex," Dr Borg Olivier says.

Another sensitive issue is divorce. Social Policy Minister John Dalli had said the time was ripe for a discussion on the matter but the Nationalist Party has had no structured internal debate on divorce since Dr Borg Olivier's election to the post of general secretary.

"The PN will still believe in the value of the family in its traditional form. This is a basic principle we will continue believing in," he says, while acknowledging the reality of relationships that are not in the traditional form.

However, he insists the PN was elected on a mandate and electoral programme which did not include divorce.

He is unfazed by the argument that there have been other issues not mentioned in the electoral programme, which the PN has addressed such as membership in the Partnership for Peace.
Dr Borg Olivier smiles and insists there is a fundamental difference between PfP and divorce.
"Our priority is to implement the electoral programme but it does not mean that divorce should not be debated," he says.

When the debate will start and in which forum is another issue altogether.

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