Monday, 22 February 2010

Times: Questions Labour must answer
Monday, 22nd February 2010 by Salvu Felice Pace

The stall set out by the Labour Party leader for his Movement of Progressives and Moderates at the end of the general conference demands a proper scrutiny. Joseph Muscat must be prepared to answer questions that are worrying many citizens. So far, he has done what his predecessor, Alfred Sant, did regarding the Partnership proposal. No details were even given as to how that proposal was going to work out in practice.

Dr Muscat's stall includes some moral issues. On abortion he was categorical enough. He had to be, considering that one of his deputies had made a pig's ear of the whole issue only a few days previously. Even so, Toni Abela's inconsistencies have not vanished because Dr Muscat has spoken from on high.

The stance about the introduction of divorce raises a lot of questions. Dr Muscat keeps repeating that, once elected, he will personally present a Bill in Parliament proposing divorce.

One is left wondering whether this is a personal crusade or a policy to be adopted by this nebulous movement that is supposed to be growing.

If Dr Muscat is so keen on having divorce as a civil right, there's nothing to stop him from presenting a private member's Bill now. Why not? Are his calculations predicting that the proposal would be a vote catcher? If so, then why not include it in the manifesto?

Dr Muscat spoke about giving people a second chance. Is he in favour only of restricting divorce as a one-time concession? We need to know. Previous experiences have shown that once the gene gets out of the bottle, no one can predict what happens. When abortion was introduced in the UK there were many caveats. Today there's abortion on demand.

Dr Muscat was clear enough in telling anyone who may be prejudiced against gays that there's no room for him in his new movement. But he wasn't so clear as to where his policy on gays' rights will take the country. Is he suggesting that gays will be given the right to marry and to adopt children by a future Labour government? There are people in the Labour Party and in the country who are not too keen to contemplate such developments. Civil partnerships are one thing, same sex marriages are another. Dr Muscat must spell it out.

For many citizens the whole business of having a movement within a political party or vice versa is becoming rather confusing. Dr Muscat spoke about the Movement of Progressives and Moderates' firm belief in a sustainable policy of cuts in taxation. And, yet, the Labour Party, even under Dr Muscat's leadership, has been crying buckets every time subsidies are removed and the price of whatever is passed on to the user. As a government they would have carried on subsidising every lame duck outfit.

These inconsistencies must be explained by Dr Muscat. One can't have it both ways. You subsidise and you create inefficiencies and you have less leverage for cutting taxation.

Health was also an issue tackled by Dr Muscat. He was quoted as having said that "like the British Labour government has done, we will make our service one of the best in the world".

First of all, the myth of a national health service in the UK is just that. There has been, for a long time, a postcode lottery. The service you get depends on where you live. This is a point made in the EU 2007 report about health services in the UK.

The same report also mentioned that, in the UK, there is the highest mortality rate of cardiac and cancer patients, the incidences of asthma are also the highest and MRSA infections in hospitals are also sky high. Why is Dr Muscat aiming so low for our health service?

Yes, the UK has the best patient's charters but what use are they in practice?

Of great interest was Dr Muscat's clarification that anyone joining this movement will not be joining the party but will joining an idea.

Meaningless words. Do I take it that when Labour Party members are knocking at doors to get us subscribed we are now being given a choice? The truth is that all this talk about a movement is nothing but a ploy to provide a veneer to hide the stark reality of what the Labour Party is in practice.

So if you are thinking of joining the Movement of Progressives and Moderates make a reality check. Demand clear-cut answers from Dr Muscat about these issues. And beware that this movement is being used by Dr Muscat to fulfil his ambition to become Prime Minister of Malta at 39 years of age and president of the EU for six months in 2017.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Di-Ve: The Marriage Non-Debate and the EU
Saturday, 08 February, 2003 by Fr Colin Apap

Malta's Catholic Archbishop's ability to promote HOPE in a turbulent world is amazing. Mons. Joseph Mercieca strongly appealed to newly weds in 2002 to denounce the evil influence of secularism and materialism that were the cause of so many broken marriages.

Mons. Mercieca, echoing the Pope´s recent pronouncements, was speaking in his traditional annual letter to newly married couples who tied the knot throughout 2002. His impassioned appeal comes at an appropriate timing. The family has been under stress because of many factors not the least because of looming legislation that reflects the prevailing secularist mentality on the family.

HOPE is a Journey made up of facts and concrete choices: we cannot build.

HOPE on slogans similar to waving empty flags flying in the midst of lost opportunities.

It is no hidden secret that several liberal maltese thinkers would look forward to the prevalent EU mentality on the family as the solution to radical change in maltese legislation vis a vis the traditional maltese family. It is quickly rebutted that no EU legislation can affect our legislation. Neither on abortion nor on the legalization of same sex marriages.

Will the Church be better of if Malta joins the EU?
It is a well-known fact that the European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved two important motions demanding that EU states should incorporate legislation favouring both abortion and same sex marriages.

These are the latest facts: The European Parliament narrowly approved a report asking the 15 member states to give live-in couples, including homosexuals, the same legal rights that marriages enjoy.

The final vote on amendments to the annual report on rights in the European Union rejected an article that "urged" the member states "to permit marriage between persons of the same sex."

The amended report was approved 277 to 269, with 14 abstentions.

The relator of the report was Dutch Labor Party member Joke Swiebel, chairwoman of the Europarliament's Gay and Lesbian Intergroup.

What?s the value of such official pronouncements? The vote isn't binding on the member states, but rather constitutes a legal point of reference for them.
It is to create a legal framework.

A tradition. An official consensus on certain social and moral issues that are at the very centre of catholic teaching. Such official pronouncements will be very useful as a reference point of the mind of EU legislators. Binding decisions of the Court of Justice will be based on such official pronouncements. They are done with a purpose.

No one would believe that European Members of Parliament would pass non-binding legislation because they have nothing else to do in Brussels.

When I was in Brussels to see for myself the workings of EU institutions I had the chance to meet several fellow-priests from Europe and particularly from catholic Ireland.

We were told that the Bishops stand on The Moral Question is to accept the least evil of the proposed legislations. "This is the best deal we could get", they were told.

In this way so many laws will become part of our legislative corpus without the need of "Crusades" or campaigns or any local exercise in sensibilisation. Those who would not speak now would hold little credence when they will speak in the future.

Divorce, on the other hand, seems to be already accepted as a reality in Malta too. There is a damning silence that speaks louder than facts.

Those same people who so rightly cautioned one and all about the "divorce mentality" ? which is even worse than legislation about divorce itself - has lost their prophetic clout.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Times: Stress on the Pope's teachings

Preparations for Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to Malta are in full swing, as the Church gears up to integrate the run-up to the papal visit with Lent, which starts today.

Various commissions, namely those dealing with youth, children and the laity, will be promoting the Pope and his teachings throughout activities held prior to his visit on April 17 and 18.

Martin Chetcuti, speaking about the activities targeting young people, said the aim was not only to attract practising Catholics but also young people who felt distant from the Church. The activities for young people, the crux of which will be an activity at Valletta Waterfront, are similar to the World Youth Day activities, which are at times criticised for having an element of Pope-worship.

When confronted about such comments and the Church's intention to reach out to people distant from the Church, Fr Savio Vella, the Archbishop's delegate for young people, said the ultimate aim was not to promote the Pope but Jesus.

To this end, the Diocesan Youth Commission will be holding talks at the University, the Junior College and rehabilitation centres where they will be talking to young people about faith-related issues and about the contents of the Pope's teachings. During these talks, free copies of the Pontiff's book, Jesus of Nazareth, will be distributed.

Asked about the Facebook group No to Pope Benedict XVI in Malta, initiated by former Alternattiva Demokratika candidate and gay rights activist Patrick Attard, Fr Vella said that, while they encouraged dialogue with whoever had problems with the Church, the latter would not be taking a militant stance against such initiatives.

A website on the papal visit in Malta, aptly named, was launched yesterday. It updates users on news related to the visit and offers links to pages where people can register for the activities.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Il-ĠensIllum: PL 90 sena - Aġenda għas-snin li ġejjin

Evarist Bartolo
Taħt il-PL tjiebu l-kundizzjonijiet tax-xogħol. . .
Taħt il-PL tjiebu l-kundizzjonijiet tax-xogħol. . .
Hemm il-ħtieġa ta' xandir pubbliku nazzjonali ħielet mill-jasar tal-Gvern. . .
Hemm il-ħtieġa ta' xandir pubbliku nazzjonali ħielet mill-jasar tal-Gvern. . .
13 ta'Frar 2010

Biex inkunu nafu fejn sejrin, irridu nkunu nafu fejn aħna u rridu nkunu nafu mnejn aħna ġejjin. Min iwarrab l-imgħoddi, jitlef l-identità tiegħu u ma jafx iżjed min hu, u jinġarr mal-kurrent bħal ħut mejjet. Ma jagħmilx sens li biex nidhru moderni nsiru qisna aġenzija tar-riklamar, ħsiebna biss fit-teknika tal-preżentazzjoni superfiċjali bla ebda valuri u prinċipji li jmexxuna u jispirawna.

Tul dawn l-aħħar 90 sena, għandna ħafna biex bħala Laburisti nkunu kburin bl-istorja tal-partit tagħna meta:

- daħħal il-vot għal kulħadd, nisa u rġiel li għall-ewwel darba kisbu leħen u sehem biex jinfluwenzaw dak li jiġri f’pajjiżna;

- daħħal il-libertà tal-ħsieb u tal-kuxjenza biex il-poplu tagħna jibda jinħeles mis-superstizzjonijiet u l-injoranza;

- daħħal is-separazzjoni bejn Knisja u Stat, u l-Knisja ma tibqax tiddetta kif għandek tivvota u timponi d-dnub il-mejjet kif kienet għamlet fuq il-Partit Laburista;

- daħħal drittijiet ċivili għal min kien imwarrab u mkasbar bħall-omosesswali;

- pajjiżna beda jmexxi lilu nnifsu u ma baqax bażi militari u navali, u jkun favur il-paċi flok il-gwerra.

Il-Partit Laburista għallimna naqbżu għal dak li hu tagħna, anki ma’ pajjiżi ferm ikbar minna. Bena l-ekonomija tal-pajjiż bl-aqwa riedni f’idejna: banek, ajruport u port, linja tal-ajru u tal-baħar, żviluppa t-turiżmu, il-fabbriki u t-tarznari. Daħħal l-edukazzjoni għat-tfal kollha u fetaħ opportunitajiet ġodda għaż-żgħażagħ. Bena s-servizzi soċjali biex jaqta’ l-faqar.

Tejjeb il-kundizzjonijiet tax-xogħol. Ħoloq u qassam il-ġid u bdiet tikber il-klassi tan-nofs. Daħħal sistema nazzjonali tas-saħħa biex il-kura jeħodha kulħadd. Eluf ta’ familji qed jgħixu fi djar diċenti minħabba l-programm qawwi tal-Gvern Laburista biex jibni djar u jqassam art pubblika bl-irħis.

Fadlilna ħafna x’nagħmlu għall-ġid tal-poplu tagħna biex :

- ma nerġgħux insiru kolonja, u llum li ninsabu fl-Unjoni Ewropea rridu nsaħħu s-sehem tal-Parlament nazzjonali biex infasslu l-ħidma tal-Unjoni Ewropea mas-27 pajjiż ieħor u mal-istituzzjonijiet Ewropej ;

- ikollna kostituzzjoni repubblikana moderna adattata għas-seklu 21;

- indaħħlu drittijiet ċivili bħad-divorzju għal dawk li ż-żwieġ jitħarbtilhom, drittijiet umani sħaħ għall-omosesswali u t-transgender ;

- ikollna regolaturi tassew indipendenti u jaqbżu għaċ-ċittadini kontra l-abbużi tal-Gvern u tas-settur kummerċjali fil-prezzijiet, kontijiet u taxxi;

- ikollna xandir pubbliku nazzjonali ħieles mill-jasar tal-Gvern u li jkun spazju demokratiku li jesprimi d-diversità fil-pajjiż;

- ikollna servizzi pubbliċi tal-edukazzjoni, saħħa u ħarsien soċjali mill-aqwa;

- noħolqu l-kundizzjonijiet meħtieġa għal żvilupp ekonomiku qawwi marbut mal-ġustizzja soċjali u l-ħarsien ambjentali.

Irridu nuru li kapaċi nwieġbu għal dak li jridu minna l-Maltin u l-Għawdxin fid-dinja tal-lum u ta’ għada.

L-Orizzont: Divorzju

15.2.10 minn Platernian

Meta indirizza l-konferenza ġenerali tal-Partit Laburista l-ġimgħa li għaddiet il-Kap tal-Partit Dr Joseph Muscat reġa’ tenna li, jekk ikun Prim Ministru, jintroduċi ‘private members bill’ li jipproponi d-dħul tad-divorzju f’Malta. Aspett ta’ din il-wegħda li għadni ma rajt l-ebda kumment dwarha huwa li, skont l-interpretazzjoni tiegħi, il-PL mhux qiegħed jikkunsidra li d-dħul tad-divorzju jkun fil-programm tiegħu fl-elezzjoni li jmiss. Kieku kien hekk, il-Kap ta’ Gvern Laburista ma jintroduċix abbozz privat li jħallih suġġett għal vot ħieles, anki fost il-Membri Parlamentari tiegħu stess.

Naħseb li Dr Muscat ikkonkluda, bħalma għamilt jiena, li jista’ jagħti l-każ li fil-pajjiż għad m’hawnx maġġoranza favur id-divorzju. Kieku kien il-kuntrarju, aktar kien ikun probabbli li l-Kap tal-Oppożizzjoni jaħdem għal pożizzjoni formali tal-PL favur id-divorzju u, jekk ikun fil-Gvern, iressaq fil-Parlament liġi li jkollha l-qaw wa tal-gvern warajha u li allura tkun suġġetta għall-Whip Laburista. Forsi, kien ikun ukoll aktar probabbli li l-PL jipproponi referendum fejn il-poplu jkun mistoqsi jekk iridx id-divorzju.

Il-Mexxej Laburista diġà jaf li hemm għall-inqas Membru Parlamentari Laburista li huwa kontra d-divorzju u jista’ jkun hemm oħrajn. L-istedina tiegħu lill-Partit Nazzjonalista li jħalli l-Membri Parlamentari tiegħu jivvotaw skont il-kuxjenza hija mnebbħa mill-kalkolu li forsi l-approvazzjoni ta’ ‘private members bill’ ikollha bżonn l-appoġġ ta’ deputat jew deputati Nazzjonalisti. Ma nafx jekk il-mod kif Dr Muscat qiegħed jipproponi deċiżjoni rigward id-divorzju tinkludix ukoll il-kalkolu li, jekk il-PL ma jiħux pożizzjoni formali favur id-divorzju, forsi jkun hemm inqas ċans ta’ attakki diretti u konsistenti mill-Knisja Maltija fuq programm Laburista fl-elezzjoni li jmiss. Il-Kap Laburista żgur jaf li, anki jekk il-Knisja Kattolika f’Malta m’għadhiex tinfluwenza l-imħuħ kif kienet fl-imgħoddi, l-impatt tagħha ma jistax ikun injorat.

M’għandix dubju li, meta l-Kap Laburista jistieden lill-kap tal-PN biex iwiegħed vot ħieles fil-leġislatura li jmiss, huwa mhux qiegħed jistenna tweġiba. Dr Lawrence Gonzi mhux beċċun. Il-kap Nazzjonalista jaf li d-dħul tad-divorzju jista’ jkun karta elettorali qawwija li, b’appoġġ mill-Knista Kattolika, jilgħabha biex issaħħaħ il-pożizzjoni tal-PN f’kampanja elettorali.

Jekk il-konvinzjoni ta’ Dr Gonzi hija li fil-pajjiż għad m’hawnx maġġoranza favur id-divorzju, ikun jippreferi li ma jidhirx “progressiv”, anzi li jikseb l-appoġġ tas-sezzjoni konservattiva tal-elettorat li forsi, għal raġunijiet oħrajn, kienet tkun lesta tivvota Laburista minn hawn u sentejn oħra.


Fil-moviment ġdid li qiegħed jipprova jibni l-PL m’hemmx post għal min huwa preġudikat kontra l-‘gays’. Hekk qal il-Kap Laburista Dr Muscat il-ġimgħa li għaddiet.

Waqt li nifhem is-sens tal-messaġġ li ried iwassal, jiġifieri li wieħed għandu jifhem l-għażliet personali ta’ kif igħixu ċerti nies u ma jeskludihomx jew jiddiskrimina kontrihom minħabba f’hekk, ma naħsibx li dan ifisser li se jsir xi test biex jeskludi lil dawk li ma jħossuhomx komdi bil-‘gays’.

Wara kollox, il-moviment li qiegħed jipproponi Dr Muscat mhuwiex, safejn naf jien, xi organizazzjoni formali bi strutturi tagħha fejn il-membri jkunu suġġetti għad-dixxiplina li wieħed normalment jassoċja ma’ partit politiku.

Jien ċert li Dr Muscat jaf tajjeb li, anki jekk hawn nies, fosthom membri tal-Partit Laburista, li huma lesti li jaċċettaw il-‘gays’ u ma jqisuhomx nies ħżiena jew morda, dan ma jfissirx li dawn l-istess nies ikunu lesti li jagħtuhom ċerti jeddijiet. Il-Kap Laburista qal li l-‘gays’ għandhom jedd għal ħajja dinjituża. Probabbli li ħafna jaqblu jew jaslu li jaċċettaw pożizzjoni bħal din. Iżda lil hinn minnha?

Il-PN diġà qiegħed jattakka lill-Mexxej Laburista li mhux qiegħed jipproponi ħidmiet konkreti dwar ċerti materji, fosthom il-jeddijiet tal-‘gays’. Ngħiduha kif inhi, għandu raġun.

Waqt li nifhem li l-iżvilupp ta’ temi soċjali u politiċi jirrikjedu ż-żmien għal perjodu ta’ diskussjoni, jiena nittama li l-PL jiċċara l-pożizzjoni tiegħu fix-xhur li ġejjin. Ma jistax ikun mod ieħor jekk il-moviment ġdid propost mill-Kap Laburista jkun irid jittieħed bis-serjetà. U wisq naħseb li anki l-istess ‘gays’ mhuma se jitolbu xejn inqas.

Naturalment, il-problema qiegħda fid-dettall. Xi tfisser l-idea ta’ ħajja dinjituża? Forsi li koppji ‘gay’ ikollhom ċerti jeddijiet ċivili u legali, ngħidu aħna bħalma ppropona l-PL fil-kuntest tar-reviżjoni tal-liġijiet tal-kera?

Probabbli li jkun hemm għadd konsiderevoli ta’ nies, fosthom jiena, li ma jkollhomx problema dwar din l-idea. Forsi li koppji ‘gay’ ikollhom jedd jiżżewġu? Probabbli li l-maġġoranza tan-nies, fosthom jien, ikollhom problema serja dwar dan. Forsi li koppji ‘gay’ ikollhom il-jedd li jadottaw tfal? Naħseb li wisq inqas u inqas ikun hemm qbil mill-moderati li Dr Muscat irid li jkun hemm fil-moviment.

Imbagħad, wieħed irid jiddiskuti wkoll b’liema mod il-moviment ġdid jew il-PL se jipproponu jeddijiet ġodda. Jekk dwar id-divorzju l-metodu se jkun ‘private members bill’, allura kemm u kemm aktar għandu jkun hemm l-istess metodu fejn jikkonċerna ċerti jeddijiet għall-‘gays’?

Fejn għandu jkun hemm proposti li jkunu adottatti formalment fi programm elettorali li Gvern Laburista mbagħad ikun marbut li jwettaqhom, u fejn proposti li jistgħu jitħallew għad-diskrezzjoni personali tal-membri parlamentari. Fejn għandu jintuża l-istrument ta’ referendum, u fejn le?

Dr Joseph Muscat għandu sfida enormi, għax kif ammetta huwa stess, dawn il-materji soċjali u kulturali jistgħu joħolqu differenzi sostanzjali u til­wim mhux biss bejn il-progressivi u l-konservattivi, iżda wkoll bejn il-moderati u l-progressivi.


Fix-xhur li ġejjin se jkun importanti wkoll li nkunu aktar dixxiplinati intellettwalment fuq l-idea ta’ xi jfisser li tkun progressiv.

Tkellimt ma’ għadd ta’ nies li donnhom jaqblu mal-idea li tkun “progressiv” għax l-oppost tagħha huwa li tkun “konservattiv” u allura, b’assoċjazzjoni, li tkun antikwat u reazzjonarju. Skont dawn, li tkun progressiv għandu konnotazzjoni pożittiva li jagħtik vantaġġ fuq partit “mhux progressiv”.

Ħafna nies donnhom jaħsbu li, li tkun “progressiv” ifisser li tkun “liberali”. Iżda dan iwassal għal ħafna konfużjoni. Jekk il-liberaliżmu tħares lejh minn lenti kulturali, allura hemm art komuni bejnu u bejn il-progressiviżmu. It-tnejn jemmnu f’kunċett ta’ jeddijiet naturali u libertajiet ċivili li huwa dover ta’l-istat li jħarishom.

Hawnhekk wieħed jista’ jara kif jagħmel sens id-diskors tal-kap Laburista dwar il-jeddijiet tal-‘gays”, fost oħrajn. Iżda, jekk il-liberaliżmu tħares lejh minn lenti ekonomika, allura hemm differenzi kbar mill-progressiviżmu.

Il-liberaliżmu ma jħaddanx l-istess idea ta’ intervent mill-Istat, distribuzzjoni iżjed mifruxa tal-ġid fis-soċjetà, politika soċjali (ngħidu aħna kura universali b’xejn) aktar inklussiva, diskrimi nazzjoni pożittiva f’ċerti oqsma (ngħidu aħna favur in-nisa, kif ippropona l-kap Laburista).

Ngħidu aħna, il-liberaliżmu żgur huwa kontra l-monopolji u duopolji. Allura, meta Dr Muscat stqarr li l-moviment ġdid “iwaqqaf” monopolji u duopolji li jwasslu għal żidiet abbużivi fil-prezzijiet, b’daqshekk sar liberali?

Ma naħsibx, anki jekk ir-rapport li qrajt ma nafx jirriflettix preċiż dak li qal il-kap Laburista.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Independent: Unlike Paul, Obama has yet to shipwreck in Malta – maybe he should
11.2.10? by Douglas W. Kmiec

My fellow Americans suddenly all seem to be asking whether Barack Obama will deliver the “change we need.” If one is unemployed, of course, as nearly 10 per cent of Americans are, the snap answer tends to be negative, but let me suggest that judgment is unfairly premature. It reflects the emotional response to a shifting economy, which recent economic data suggests is now outdated.

It also takes no account of how the Obama campaign of 2008 was an invitation to our nation not only to recover from an inherited economic mess but also to clarify its modern thinking. Interestingly, my being perched here near the stunningly fascinating cliffs of Dingli has prompted a mental comparison of our two nations. Please permit me to safely navigate a few of these thoughts with you on this feast day of Saint Paul.

Once revered by Europe for its closely woven society of “little platoons” (families, churches, volunteer organisations), America has been “bowling alone” (sociologist’s Robert Putnam’s well known phrase for the unsatisfied anonymity of modern life) for four decades or more now. To think of such things in Catholic terms, we are a far distance from the parish life of the 1950s which flowed over with youth organisations of all types as well as matching ones for adults like the Altar Rosary and Holy Name Societies, not to mention the fully-outfitted Knights of Columbus, and for the particularly dedicated, the Knights of Malta.

These entities still exist in the US, but the membership in most places is far less than a single platoon in size (although the Knights and Catholic Charities do raise a great deal of money put to good use). By contrast, here in Malta I have discovered a faith practice much richer and far more culturally alive than in many parishes of the United States. Malta is heavily Catholic – 98 per cent – and the islands seem organised by parish neighbourhoods with each parish celebrating a distinctive festa complete with a procession of saints, fireworks and three-hour high masses. Mix in a strong work ethic, the joy of sharing speciality pastry and pasta varieties, and finding time to walk over to the neighbours or stroll through San Anton gardens or along the waterfront, and one realises that the Maltese seem to have made a vocation of building up their lives in relation to the lives of others.

Re-reading that sentence you may think I’ve made Malta a little bit of Brigadoon, which, of course, is another Isle – an “Erin-go-brah” one of which my Irish-American wife is quite proud and that has been “green” long before the President encouraged the rest of us to be. My good friend Ambassador Dan Rooney (owner of the Pittsburgh Steeler (American) football franchise and now chief of mission for the US in Ireland) was featured during the US Super Bowl. It was a nice tribute, but I can tell you that when we were doing the “Dan & Doug Show for Barack” during the ’08 campaign, we would touch on how our nominally abundant lives and those of our fellow citizens always seemed to be lacking. Our immediate answer to that unremitting ache was for voters in Pennsylvania to fill the hole with “a vote for Obama”. Led by Catholic voters, Pennsylvania did just that by a significant majority and both of us remain confident in the President’s judgment, leadership, and willingness to find common ground.

Recent polls indicate that 75 per cent of American voters see these same qualities, even as a figure just under one-half think President Obama is doing the job he needs to do. Knowing the President, I know he grades his own performance by an even tougher metric – one that won’t be met until meaningful work and basic health care is available to everyone. Here again, I have invited the President to examine Malta’s commendable earlier embrace of universal health care. Some Maltese tell me the provision of particular medical services in Malta is subject to long waits, etc., but such imperfection in care does not obscure Malta’s recognition of health care as a basic human right.

In thinking through the change America needs, Malta is a helpful country of comparison. Making health or educational services universal is expensive, but it is a choice that has delivered some notable benefits to Malta: longevity and well-educated young people who marry and raise families and have risen to the top of their fields in medicine, law, and business around the world. Malta also didn’t have an economic crisis of its own since it kept to traditional lending practices that evaluated the strength of collateral and the character of borrowers. It also insisted on the sale of equities which was, in fact, equitable – that is premised on real corporate performance, rather than balance sheet manipulation and costly speculation that such artificial value would go on indefinitely – or at least long enough to cash a large and unmerited bonus check.

Of course, Malta cannot stand totally astride the debates over divorce and abortion or the quandary surrounding same-sex marriage. But here is an island secret I have discovered: these divisive, personal, and highly sensitive topics need not be all consuming. These are topics to be thought about and discussed with respect, but not permitted to interfere with the enjoyment of each day and the blessing that day represents. Divorce, abortion, and same-sex marriage are of course illegal in Malta, yet all exist here de facto. The leaders of the PN and PL have interesting takes on these issues. The American ambassador has his own view, and maybe after several rounds of frozen margaritas and nachos at the Hard Rock, I might say something about it. Nah. Let me just say that in America at least, turning too many of these intimate questions over to the government is unhealthy, unwarranted, and unworkable. But a lot depends on the homiletic strength and empathy of the Church, so what is needed to be said in public law varies by context even as a universal teaching is at the core.

In Malta, the usual divisions tend to exist on these questions, with young people being more liberal than their elders, but again, neither demographic wants to be consumed by the intractable nature of these questions. It seems to be the preferred Maltese way to find enjoyment in each other’s company – accepting folks as they are, following football of course – the exciting and intensely competitive European version played without helmets and pads – having dinner at each other’s houses, helping out as well as one can with the external problems of the world, such as Haiti, and thoughtfully challenging the Iranian government’s continuing escalation of its assault on human rights, but never allowing these global worries about future conduct to displace today. The Maltese refuse to indulge the pretence that on this earth – even in this near idyllic place in the Mediterranean – there is likely to be a definitive resolution to such things.

Malta lives in the here and now, even though many Americans might well be a tad unsure where this here is exactly. It distresses some of my Maltese friends that their proud nation hasn’t come to the greater attention of the average American tourist and investor. This Ambassador and the American embassy have its shingle out for just such purposes. But as you welcome Americans with the Biblically-recorded “uncommon kindness” shown to Saint Paul, the Maltese may wish to recall something about life in the USA. When Americans conjoin the words “here and now”, we mean it more as a demand upon others rather than a commitment to enjoy a life well lived in the present moment. And when our demands are multiplied at wireless speed via the ubiquitous Blackberry, daily life is burdened with typing on keys too small to be seen as we text our way through a drive-through line for a fast food dinner. For us, purchases are to be “smart and final” and meals “hot and now”. True to the name of the most popular hamburger shop in southern California (“In and Out”), much of what we eat has only a fleeting association with nutrition. Americans are learning, at times painfully, that gratification in an instant creates dissatisfaction in perpetuity. (Though if you’re really hungry, you can’t beat the Cheeseburger Double Double with fries and a Vanilla shake. Sorry, Mr President, I’ll do a couple extra miles on the treadmill.)

A great many voices in the States – most of whom appear on Oprah – contemplate living for today, but embedded in our psyche is the drive to have it better than the previous generation. On this rests the “American Dream”. In this well-told American tale material anxiety is transformed into the entrepreneurial spirit that patents new inventions and makes a better mousetrap. Undeniably, this has yielded success defined in the capitalist sense illustrated well enough by new construction, almost any American roadway, or the abundance found in discount groceries. You’ll need to determine for yourselves whether it is a vice or virtue to choose so strongly the material over the things that really matter, as C.S. Lewis might have said.

Just one caution from a visitor who has all the vulnerability of someone too caring for you to be dissembling: the choice you make will be consequential – just as it has been for us. It can’t be otherwise.

Douglas W. Kmiec is United States Ambassador to Malta

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Independent: AFM denies discrimination on basis of sexual orientation
9.2.10 by Chiara Bonello

None of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) rules or regulations discriminate in any way against potential or actual members on the basis of sexual orientation, a government spokesperson said.

This comment came in reply to a BBC report last week, claiming that Malta was one of the 10 EU member states which did not allow for gay people to serve openly in the armed forces.

According to a different government spokesperson the study lists two appendices; both of them list the nations which are party to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The first list is of those nations which are party to this convention, and which have also since lifted this ban on gay persons serving in the armed forces. The second list outlines those countries which have not yet lifted this ban.

Malta is indeed party to the convention, he said, although it does not feature on either list. Since the ban never existed in Malta in the first place, there was no need for any ban to be lifted he said.

Still, what one can deduce is that since there was no ban to be lifted in the first place, the author of the article must have assumed the ban was still implemented in Malta.

In the UK the law had to be changed, when a case brought by four British ex-service personnel to the European Court of Human Rights in 1999 resulted in a verdict that this was a violation of the right to privacy, under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This makes it apparent that similar cases could be brought against other countries, which are also party to the convention. Until then, there is no obligation to change the rules.

A number of openly gay persons currently serve in the AFM, and there is no issue whatsoever when it comes to a person’s sexual orientation, the spokesperson said, and there never has been.

The attitude with the AFM is one of “live and let live”, and no person will be denied entry into the AFM based on the fact that they are openly gay. A person’s postings and duties depend on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation, the spokesperson said.

L-Orizzont: Tasal fi tmiemha l-Konferenza Ġenerali Annwali “speċjali” tal-Partit Laburista: TWELID TA’ MOVIMENT
9.2.10 minn Victor Vella

“Diskors kuraġġuż… pożittiv… bla ebda attakki u tgħajjir… diskors ta’ siegħa li fih il-Prim Ministru Gonzi ma ssemma xejn… diskors tajjeb li fih inkluda miż-żgħażagħ sal-anzjani, mill-persuni b’diżabilità sal-‘gays’, mill-fqar sal-persuni tal-klassi tan-nofs, minn konsul tazzjoni mal-unjins sa stat lajk, separat mill-Knisja.” Dawn kie nu xi kummenti li għaddew lil l-orizzontgħadd ta’ delegati li lbieraħ kienu qegħdin isegwu d-diskors tal-Mexxej Laburista Joseph Muscat fi tmiem il-Laq għa Ġenerali Ann wali deskritta bħala speċjali u li se tibqa’ mniżżla fl-istorja bħala li welldet il-Moviment tal-Progressivi u Moderati.

F’dan id-diskors ta’ Dr Muscat spikkaw diversi punti li s’issa f’pajjiżna ftit li xejn qamet diskussjoni dwarhom. Fost dawn kien hemm dik tal-bżonn ta’ aktar pieni ħorox għal min jattakka persuni anzjani, rego lamen tazz joni biex persuni anzjani u vulnerabbli ma jispiċċawx mormijin fi sptarijiet u abbandu nati.

Dikjarazzjoni oħra importanti kienet dik li l-unjins kollha u għalhekk anke l-FORUM, għandhom ikunu fil-Kunsill Malti għall-Iżvilupp Ekonomiku u Soċjali (MCESD). Joseph Muscat iddikjara wkoll li l-prinċipju tan-newtralità – li għalih tant ħadem il-Partit Laburista, għandu jibqa’ jkun inkluż fil-Kostituzzjoni. Il-Mex xej tal-Moviment, semma’ punt ieħor kruċjali – dak li verament id-demokrazija tkun mgħożża u kulħadd ikollu d-dritt li jsemma’ leħnu mingħajr intimidazzjoni. Waqt li għal darb’oħra reġa’ ddikjara li l-moviment hu kontra l-abort, saħaq li l-moviment se jkun qed jaspira għal stat lajk, li jkun ħabib mal-Knisja imma mhux ħaġa waħda mal-Knisja Kattolika.

Semma’ wkoll il-liġi opportunitajiet indaqs għall-persuni b’diżabilità u l-mira li l-postijiet tax-xogħol ikollhom tnejn fil-mija tal-ħaddiema b’diżabilità. Spjega li din hi xi ħaġa li trid tkun ittrattata, biex verament tirrifletti l-ħtiġijiet tal-lum u tkun ta’ benefiċ ċju għall-persuni b’diżabilità. Saħaq fuq l-im portanza li s-suq tax-xogħol u l-edukaz zjoni jkunu miftuħin beraħ għall-persuni b’diżabilità.

Konferenza ghal kollox differenti

Il-konferenza ġenerali tal-bieraħ mhux biss kienet waħda storika għall-Partit Labu rista għax rat il-bidla minn partit għall-Mo viment ta’ Progressivi u Moderati iżda fiha wieħed seta’ jinnota għadd ta’ bidliet sinifikanti – sinjal tal-ħidma li saret fl-aħħar xhur biex isiru l-bidliet neċessarji li jirrif­lettu ż-żminijiet li qegħdin ngħixu fihom. Kienet konferenza li fiha ma spikkawx l-attakki fid-diskors tal-Mexxej. Il-konferenza ma ntemmitx bis-soltu innu tal-Partit Labu ris ta, imma bl-Innu Malti. Mhux hekk biss, iżda fil-konferenza tal-bieraħ spikka in-nuq qas ta’ tixjir ta’ imkatar mad-diskors tal-Mexxej – li minflok intlaqa’ bl-applawsi.

F’sala ippakkjata bid-delegati, Joseph Muscat intlaqa’ bi preżentazzjoni viżwali fuq skrin kbir bid-diska “We Weren’t Born to Follow” tal-kantant Bon Jovi. Diska li nħar ġet fl-aħħar ġimgħat u li l-lirika tagħha hi simili sew tal-għanijiet tal-Moviment tal-Progressivi u l-Moderati. Id-diska li tgħid li għa da se jisbaħ jum aħjar u biex finalment kulħadd iqum fuq saqajh u jżomm ma’ dak li jemmen, kienet ukoll parti mill-messaġġ tal-Mexxej Joseph Muscat.

Il-mozzjoni approvata

F’din il-konferenza li damet għaxart ijiem, ġiet approvata b’mod unanimu l-moz zjoni programmatika. F’din il-mozzjoni tfasslu l-prinċipji li fuqhom se tkun imfassla l-politika, il-manifest elettorali u l-pjan għal pajjiżna.

Il-Mexxej tal-Moviment tal-Progressivi u l-Moderati, Joseph Muscat qal li b’dak li qed isir qiegħda tinkiteb l-istorja ta’ pajjiż na. Spjega li l-Partit Laburista kien f’salib it-toroq, imma għażel it-triq ambizzjuża, għa żel it-triq għall-futur – it-triq għat-twaq qif ta’ moviment.

Joseph Muscat qal li “stajna għażilna l-kumdità li ma niddiskutux. Li ma nistaqux. Li nħallu kollox l-istess. Li ma nkomplux inbiddlu. Minflok għażilna t-triq l-iebsa, għa żilna moviment ġdid li se jwassalna għal pajjiż aħjar.”

Minn Kostituzzjoni ghal ugwaljanza, drittijiet civili u Stat lajk

Il-Mexxej tal-Moviment elenka l-politika li biha se jimxi dan il-moviment, li l-għan tiegħu hu li jiġbor fi ħdanu lill-prog ressivi u l-moderati.

Dr Muscat qal li “il-moviment se jkun jemmen f’Kostituzzjoni li jkun id-dokument li jgħaqqadna. Kostituzzjoni li l-movi ment ma jiddejjaq xejn li tiġġedded biex tir rifletti l-aspirazzjonijiet tan-nies waqt li żżomm il-prinċipji ewlenin fosthom in-new tralità.

Prinċipju ieħor tal-moviment se jkun dak li “jgħożż id-demokrazija. Issemma’ leħ nek mingħajr intimidazzjoni. Wieħed mill-impenji tal-moviment hu li anke min ma jaqbilx magħna se jkollu l-libertà kollha li jgħid dak li jħoss.”

Il-Mexxej tal-moviment kompla jgħid li “l-moviment se jkun jemmen fil-konsultaz zjoni vera qabel ma jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet. Mhux limitat għal ċerti nies imma li jinkludi lill-unjins kollha ta’ pajjiżna fil-Kunsill Malti għall-Iżvilupp Ekonomiku u Soċjali (MCESD) ħa jsemmgħu leħinhom bħall-għaqdiet ta’ min iħaddem.”

“Il-moviment se jkun jirrispetta l-valuri ta’ pajjiżna. Kull bidla se tirrispetta s-sisien tagħna bħala soċjetà. Valur fundamentali tal-ħajja. Moviment totalment kontra l-in tro duzzjoni tal-abort f’pajjiżna. Moviment li se jixpruna d-drittijiet ċivili għal soċjetà denja fid-diċennju l-ġdid”, kompla jgħid Dr Muscat.

“Il-moviment se jaspira għal Stat lajk, li jkun ħabib tal-Knisja – imma mhux ħaġa waħ da mal-Knisja. Stat li ma jindaħalx lill- in dividwi fl-għażliet tagħhom. Stat li jħobb il-familja u li ma jkomplix jabdika mid-dmi rijiet tiegħu għat-tisħiħ tal-familja. Ma tgħab bix piżijiet fuq il-familji u li tgħin fil-preparazzjoni ta’ familji ġodda.”

Dr Muscat saħaq li “moviment li ma jiddejjaqx li jiddiskuti l-bżonnijiet il-ġodda tas-soċjetà. Mhux lest li jitfa’ l-affarijiet taħt it-tapit. Se nintroduċi personalment abbozz ta’ liġi dwar id-divorzju, b’vot ħieles lill-Mem bri Parlamentari. Ma rrid niġġudika l-ħajja privata ta’ ħadd. Kulħadd għandu jin għata ċ-ċans għat-tieni opportunià fil-ħaj ja. Nistenna li n-naħa l-oħra, ukoll tagħti vot ħieles lill-membri Parlamentari tagħ ha.”

Il-Mexxej tal-Moviment tal-Progressivi u l-Moderati qal ukoll li “l-moviment mhux se jiġġudika l-orjentazzjoni sesswali tal-per suni differenti. Ma jħarisx lejn persuni ‘gay’ bħala marda. Mhux imaqdar u jiġġudika imma li jirrispetta lil kulħadd. Moviment tal-ugwaljanza bejn is-sessi bħala dritt u mhux pjaċir lin-nisa. Miżuri li jibbilanċjaw bejn il-ħajja u x-xogħol. Moviment li se jkun minn ta’ quddiem biex jimbotta lin-nisa fil-politika”.

"Qed nipprovaw ninghogbu...min ma jemminx mhux postu maghna"

Fid-diskors tiegħu, Dr Joseph Muscat wieġeb għall-kritika li kienet qiegħda ssir b’mod kostanti – dik li kien qed jipprova jingħoġob ma’ kulħadd. Qal li “hawn min qed jgħidilna li qegħdin nipprovaw nin għoġbu ma’ kulħadd. Le, xejn minn dan. Jekk ma temminx f’dawn il-prinċipji li semmejt, mhux postok fil-moviment tal-prog ressivi u l-moderati.”

“Irridu nkunu moviment tax-xogħol. Aħna jinteressawna l-kontijiet għax hemm punt aktar fundamentali – ix-xogħol. Dik id-deċiżjoni qiegħda timmina l-ħolqien tax-xogħol f’pajjiżna. Ix-xogħol ikisser il-faqar u jgħolli l-livell tal-għixien tal-klassi tan-nofs. Il-moviment irid Stat li ma jżidx il-piżijiet, ma jżidx it-toqol fuq il-familji. Irridu nagħmlu s-servizzi tas-saħħa pubblika u l-edukazzjoni pubblika l-aqwa fil-pajjiż, fl-istess waqt li nħallu lill-Knisja u lill-pri vat ikomplu jaħdmu bl-aqwa mod possibbli.”

Min jabbuza mill-haddiema... ma jihux kuntratti tal-Gvern

Il-kwistjoni tal-abbużi fuq il-ħaddiema u l-iskjavitù modern ukoll kien trattat mill-Mexxej tal-Progressivi u l-Moderati. B’re ferenza ċara għall-kuntratti li ngħataw mill-Gvern lill-kumpaniji li kienu qegħdin jabbużaw mill-ħaddiema billi anke jagħtuhom paga inqas mill-paga minima, hu qal li “l-moviment se jara li min jabbuża mill-ħaddiema ma jiħux aktar kuntratti mill-Gvern”.

“Il-moviment se jkun tal-edukazzjoni u tal-innovazzjoni, bit-tfal fiċ-ċentru u l-ġeni turi u l-għalliema imseħbin fil-proġett. Irridu nkissru l-figura ta’ erba’ minn kull għaxart itfal li ma jkomplux bl-edukazzjoni wara s-16-il sena. Nemmnu fir-riċerkaturi Maltin li huma fost l-aqwa fl-Ewropa. Dan se jkun moviment tas-solidarjetà soċjali fejn il-viżjoni tagħna ta’ Stat hu ta’ Stat li ma jindaħalx imma li ssibu meta jkollok bżonn. Mhux Stat ta’ burokrazija imma Stat li permezz ta’ servizzi soċjali flessibbli issibhom hemm meta taħseb li inti waħdek – meta taħseb li ħadd ma jista’ jgħinek. Appell lill-ħaddiema taċ-ċivil biex jissieħbu f’dan il-proġett. Mhux il-klijent għandu tort imma s-sistema – u allura ejjew nirranġaw is-sistema. Għandna l-eżempju tas-16,000 persuna li ma kinux jafu li min ħabba l-ftit żieda tal-għoli tal-ħajja suppost bħala kumpens għaż-żieda fil-prezzijiet, se jitilfu l-għajnuna supplementari li għandhom bżonn biex jgħixu. Servizzi soċjali li jirrispettaw lill-anzjani li taw snin twal ta’ ħidma għal pajjiżna. L-anzjan mhux toqol fuq is-soċjetà imma esperjenza vasta. Inħarrxu l-liġijiet kontra l-vjolenza fuq l-anzjani. Nassiguraw li l-persuni b’diżabilità jkollhom opportunitajiet fid-dinja tax-xogħol. Niftħu diskussjoni dwar x’jagħmlu l-persuni b’diżabilità meta l-ġenituri tagħ hom jiġu neqsin.”

Moviment ta' sahha ta' kwalita'

Joseph Muscat emfasizza li “dan se jkun moviment tas-saħħa ta’ kwalità, saħħa fil-ħin u saħħa b’xejn. Mhux saħħa ta’ imwiet fuq l-istreċer. Irridu ninvestu aktar biex ikollna ħinijiet determinati minn qabel ta’ kemm persuna tista’ tistenna għal operazzjoni fuq il-lista ta’ stennija. Bħal m’għamel il-Gvern Laburista Ingliż, aħna se ndawru s-servizz għal wieħed mill-aqwa fl-Ewropa. Irridu nkunu moviment tal-klassi tan-nofs. Din se tkun id-dar għal dawn in-nies. Il-klassi medja kienet drat taħdem aktar biex imexxu l-familja tagħhom ’il quddiem. Imma illum qegħdin jaħdmu aktar u jaqilgħu ferm inqas. Klassi li qiegħda taqla’ fuq rasha. Il-klassi tan-nofs hi ċ-ċavetta tas-suċ ċess. Se nkunu moviment tal-ekonomija u se noħorġu lill-pajjiżna mir-riċessjoni. Ekonomija li tikber għax tagħti l-flus fil-bwiet tal-ħaddiema, tas-‘self employed’ u tal-is tudenti. Viżjoni ekonomika ta’ xogħol u ġid. Il-moviment mhu se jaċċetta qatt li jkun hemm id-daqqa tal-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma. Tnaqqis sostenibbli ta’ taxxi. Nem mnu fit-turiżmu bħala ċ-ċavetta mill-ġdid għas-suċċess tal-ekonomija. Il-ħaddiema kol lha fis-settur jingħataw il-motivazzjoni. Moviment li joħloq il-‘green jobs’. Moviment li jassigura li Għawdex joħloq ix-xogħol għall-Għawdxin imma wkoll għall-Maltin”.

"Min ge maghna mhux se jintrabat ma' partit imma ma' hsieb"

Dr Muscat qal ukoll li “dan se jkun mo viment tal-prinċipji li dejjem kienu f’qalbna. Dan hu l-moviment tal-ġustizzja soċjali. Mhux biżżejjed jinħoloq il-ġid imma jrid jin qasam ġustament. Min miexi ‘l quddiem jibqa’ miexi ‘l quddiem, imma rridu ngħinu lill-batut. Dan il-partit irid ikun l-partit li jaqbeż għall-foqra. Se jkun moviment li jem men fit-trasparenza politika. Jemmen f’paj jiż li jimxi skont x’taf u mhux skont lil min taf. Il-korruzzjoni hi taxxa oħra fuq il-fa milji. Stat li jibża’ għall-assi tiegħu. Stat li ma jkollu xejn kontra l-privatizazzjoni imma assi kruċjali u strateġiċi ma jistgħu jinbiegħu qatt. Nerġa’ ntenni t-twissija, li l-Air Malta mhix għall-bejgħ”.

“Dan se jkun moviment tal-konsumaturi bi drittijiet Ewropej, kemm tal-prodotti u servizzi tal-Istat kif ukoll tal-privat. Movi ment taż-żgħażagħ li se jkunu l-mutur li jix prunaw il-bidla. Moviment għall-ambjent. Wieħed mill-akbar sfidi ta’ din il-ġe ne razzjoni hi l-isfida tal-ambjent. Irridu nku nu kreattivi. Irridu li jkun hemm reklamar ta’ art mill-baħar. Fuq in-nifs u l-arja, inkwetati bil-livell ta’ arja li qegħdin jieħdu t-tfal Maltin. Aħna m’aħniex komdi li ngħi xu f’din is-sitwazzjoni”.

Moviment tal-Gustizzja Socjali u l-konsumaturi

Fid-diskors tiegħu l-Mexxej tal-Moviment tal-Progressivi u l-Moderati qal li “ap prezzajna lil dawk li dejjem kienu magħna. Smajna lil dawk l-eluf li jħossuhom maqtugħin mill-politika u lil dawk li emmnu fl-elezzjoni li għaddiet li l-Partit Laburista ma kienx l-aħjar għażla.

Din il-konferenza poġġietna f’salib it-toroq fi żmien meta spiċċaw il-monopolji eko nomiċi u politiċi. Spiċċa ż-żmien meta bilfors trid tintrabat ma’ partit jew ieħor. M’hemmx voti tagħna u voti tagħhom. Il-voti huma tan-nies li jieħdu d-deċiżjoni minn darba għal oħra. Ħerġin minn era tal-partiti tal-bieraħ. Min ġej fostna mhux se jintrabat ma’ partit imma ma’ idea ta’ Malta bħala l-aqwa fl-Ewropa. Qegħdin naraw nies minn kull oqsma, ta’ kull età, li qegħdin jaqsmu magħna l-ideal. Dan il-proġett mhux se jintemm mal-ġurnata tal-elezzjoni. Din hi viżjoni għal pajjiżna. Biex jgħix dan il-moviment, dan irid jibqa’ użat mill-partit.”

Spjega li “għamilna għażla f’din il-konferenza favur ħelsien ta’ għada. Li nkunu l-aq wa fl-Ewropa. Għandna l-isfida tal-2017, meta Malta jkollha l-Presidenza tal-UE. Din mhux sfida ta’ gvern imma sfi da ta’ poplu. Mhix se tkun sfida ta’ nofs pop lu. Biex nilqgħu għal din l-isfida, ma nis tgħux inkunu kuntenti bil-medjokrità. Ir ri du niffokaw biex nagħtu tmexxija lill-Ew ro pa, biex nuru li l-iżgħar pajjiż kapaċi daqs l-akbar pajjiż tal-UE. Irridu nuru rieda enormi biex turi li l-poplu hu akbar mid-daqs tagħna. Għalhekk il-PL qed jagħ żel it-triq ta’ moviment. Nistieden lil kul ħadd biex jingħaqad magħna f’dan il-movi ment jekk temmenu li għada jisbaħ jum aħ jar. L-aħjar snin għal pajjiżna għadhom ġej jin”.

Times: 'We want a secular state' - 'No place' for prejudice against gays

Monday, 8th February 2010 by Cynthia Busuttil

Labour leader Joseph Muscat at the end of his party's 10-day general conference yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Labour's new movement for progressives and moderates wanted a state that was friendly with the Church but not at one with it, party leader Joseph Muscat said yesterday.
"The movement aspires to a secular state," he said. The state would not interfere in the choices of individuals. He was speaking at the end of a 10-day general conference that unanimously approved a motion laying the foundations for Dr Muscat's promised movement.

This movement, he said, would not shy away from changing Malta's Constitution to reflect the needs of today's society.

However, the Constitution would remain the guiding document and no changes would be made to "strategic principles", primarily the fundamental concept of neutrality. In an hour-long speech, Dr Muscat said his party had chosen the path of challenge and change rather than keeping things the way they were.

"Today we are rewriting the history of the country because, when it found itself at a crossroads, the PL chose to take the ambitious, visionary and futuristic road."
Dr Muscat said the movement would bring together progressives and moderates who wanted to make changes for the better. "They might not agree on everything but know that the future lies in this movement," he said, insisting that the movement would not replace the party.

In a speech that the Nationalist Party yesterday criticised for touching on many subjects without delving deeply into any in particular, Dr Muscat said the new movement would work to give women a bigger role in a male-dominated world.
The movement wanted a state which did not place more burdens on the family and which took action to stop monopolies and duopolies that led to abusive price increases.
He spoke about the importance of having a sustainable pension system and stressed that the pension problem could not just be solved by raising the retirement age.
He highlighted the need to set up structures to protect the elderly, including laws that would lay down harsher penalties for violence against old people. "We need to introduce a concept of vulnerability," he said, adding that regulations were also needed to ensure that old people were not abused by their families.

The new movement would work towards providing high quality, timely and free healthcare, and also work in favour of the middle class while sticking up for the poor.

The present high level of taxes was not sustainable, he added.

He said the movement was also committing itself to allow freedom of expression. "Democracy also means the right to speak out without the fear of intimidation."
He reiterated his pledge to introduce a Bill on divorce and give Labour MPs a free vote if elected to power, because he believed that everyone should have the right to a second chance if their first marriage did not work out.

There was no place in the movement, he said, for people who were prejudiced against gays or against those who wanted to form a family after their first marriage had broken down.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, the Nationalist Party said Dr Muscat did not come up with a single concrete proposal or a course of action he intended to take if elected to government.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website. More comments can be found here.]

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Times: Progressive and very stuck
Sunday, 7th February 2010 by Mark-Anthony Falzon

There's nothing more annoying than half-baked ideas. Especially when they masquerade as pro-gressive but are in fact as 'new' and 'fresh' as the holed socks at the bottom of my drawer. I'm not referring specifically to Labour, by the way - they're not the only self-proclaimed progressives around, nor do they have exclusive rights to the word.

Take 'the family'. It has become de rigueur to declare that 'we're seeing new forms of family' and then go on to mumble something about 'public discussions' on cohabiting couples, gays, family-friendly policies, and such. Nothing remotely tangible, just a bunch of vague buzzwords and more hot air than is trapped inside Richard Branson's toys.

Let's say there are indeed new notions of family we need to take on board. It's mad to spend your life trying to define family and to create some legal tangle ('cohabitation rights', 'civil partnerships', and so on) that attempts somehow to accommodate everyone who is not happy with a cat for a companion. Useless and quite unnecessary, because there's a simple solution. It's called 'marriage'.

Let's start with gays. Catholic Church and the imam aside, few would argue these days that gay men and women should not live with their partners. Most sane people recognise that gays have feelings, that they have a right to be in live-in relationships, and that those relationships need to be regulated in some way. And yet the minute 'marriage' is mentioned, poor Gaby Calleja is left standing alone. Or maybe in Patrick Attard's arms, which won't do.

Half-baked idea number one. It does not make sense to declare that gays should have equal rights and that their partnerships need to be regulated, and then to shy away from saying that that regulation should be done in the normal fashion. Marriage is the word. If you're afraid to say it, you're not progressive.

How about heterosexual couples? You'd have thought things are clearer-headed at this end, but they're not. Again, talk of 'the family' has become a convenient device to complicate matters and buy time. For example, we can see that marriages are becoming less stable. Knowing the argument will take us to a world beginning with 'd', we happily take a detour to 'family'. If marriages are becoming shorter-lived, we have to strengthen them by means of 'family-friendly' measures, the classic argument goes.

Only, I doubt how many people really believe throwing money at couples will make them stay together longer. If that were the case, richer couples would be more stable. Elizabeth Taylor, for one, would be coming up to her diamond.

Childcare centres and the like are a great idea (even though the expert family therapist told us on telly that they ruin the family). They can make the lives of functional couples much easier. What they cannot do is make dysfunctional couples functional. So no, cheaper electricity bills and tax rebates will not do the trick. They are just another half-baked idea, a distraction from the real issue.

That being that, a solution must be found to regulate marriages which end well before death do them part. That solution exists. It is ancient and almost all countries have it. But we're afraid to go there. So, if family-friendliness doesn't work, we proceed to try out another distraction.

How about regulating cohabitation, the progressives scream. I hope these smart arses know what they're talking about. To give cohabiting couples automatic rights is for the State to jump into bed with people. It means two people cannot cohabit freely, without legal implications. Hardly progressive I'd say. I'd have thought the way forward would be to regulate those who choose to be regulated, and let the rest do as they please. The former system is called 'marriage', by the way.

Ah, the progressives say, but how about those who cannot get married? How do we cater for these 'new forms of family'?

Presumably they mean people who are trapped in previous marriages, and gay couples. Again, the solutions are easy.

In the first case, people should not be trapped in marriages. If, for whatever reason, they decide their time together is up, they should be free to move on. Provided there is legislation that regulates the continuity of kinship responsibilities after marriage, and therefore protects children. On gay couples, I've said.

These two solutions are called 'divorce' and 'gay marriage'. If you like to talk about 'new forms' but don't like to go all the way, you're not progressive.

What we need is a spot of back to basics. Marriage has existed in every known society in history. It's a wonderful invention. It allows people who want to combine partnerships with rights to do so. It also leaves the rest, call them families or whatever else you will, to do as they please. Marriage is so wonderful, in fact, that we should make it available to as many people as possible.

As for the 'new forms of family', who cares? I might choose to call my dog 'family' (many people do), but I will never be able to marry my dog. He's too fluffy, and in any case he's an animal and animals cannot consent to marry people. Even progressives must draw the line somewhere.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times´ website.]

Times: PN and PL ridicule the divorce issue - AD
Saturday, 6th February 2010 - 17:30CET

The divorce issue is once again being denied the importance it deserves, AD said in a statement.

AD chairman Michael Briguglio said:

"It is crystal clear that despite all 'progressive' rhetoric, Labour will not change anything regarding divorce. If Labour wants to be taken seriously it should clearly insert the right of divorce in its manifesto and promise to introduce this civil right immediately should it form the next government.

"Once again, Labour is trying to please everyone at the same time, to the detriment of citizens who need to divorce to regularize their family situation. The 'progressive and moderate movement' seems to be no more than a slogan of vague rhetoric".

Mr Briguglio said that the Prime Minister's statement also confirmed the PN's anti-divorce stance. The PN was not reading the signs of the times and was burying its head in the sand on such an important issue.

Spokesman on civil rights Yvonne Arqueros Ebejer said that despite the absence of divorce, couples whose relationship failed were still separating.

"What is needed is more inclusive family-friendly policies in all areas. By family we mean all kinds of families - that is people who choose to share their life together and support each other. Society is changing and politicians should respond to these changes.

"The posturing of the PN and PL in this sphere is leading us nowhere. Both of them do not have the vision and the courage to implement truly progressive and long term policies which while supporting families also take into account the new and diverse forms of families in our country. Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi are choosing to try and please everyone - something which is impossible in life - in their populist race to get just one more vote than the other come next elections."

AD reaffirmed its official party policy in favour of giving all couples in Malta and Gozo the legal means to regularise their relationships in the eyes of the law.

"We do not mince our words: AD is for the introduction of divorce. It should be kept in mind that the state is already discriminating against Maltese couples who cannot seek divorce overseas, which divorce is recognised by the Maltese state."

AD added that it was also clearly and unequivocally for the regularisation of relationships of cohabiting partners and for same-sex partnerships and civil unions.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times´ website.]

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Times: From the prisoner to the prisoners

Thursday, 4th February 2010 by Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap, San Ġwann

February 10 is a landmark in the history of the Church in Malta. On this day we, Maltese Christians, celebrate the event when St Paul, the prisoner apostle, was shipwrecked on our shores.

What makes this particular historical episode an ongoing vivid and providential remembrance? What prevents it from becoming a lifeless nostalgia? The key word which kept reverberating in my heart and mind in my reflection is prisoner.

The 19th century American author and writer, Henry Miller, said: "The prisoner is not the one who has committed a crime, but the one who clings to his crime and lives it over and over". The prisoner is the person who is continually being enslaved by her/his own evil doings.

Reflecting on today's existential malaise, which is rapidly creeping and deteriorating the highly technological societies of our time, Pope Benedict XVI has rightly reiterated on various occasions that the principal root which is imprisoning modern men and women is the dictatorship of relativism. In fact, in his address of June 6, 2005, to the participants in the ecclesial diocesan convention of Rome, convened at the basilica of St John Lateran, the Holy Father said: "Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires.

"And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego". Can we not say that even in Malta, the island of the prisoner apostle, our society is also getting impoverished and disintegrated by egoism, prejudice and fragmentation? Are we not Maltese being deluded by what appears good and true, by what gives a temporary positive feeling and then leaves our spirit in that tragic and massive spiritual crater?

Relativism is the ending result of Kant's "self-limitation of reason". When reason is imprisoned in its own world without approaching the wide spectrum of life, unfortunately it breeds and fosters the pathologies of religion, such as terrorism, and the pathologies of science such as ecological disasters.

Within the same address Pope Benedict XVI continued to accentuate the moral distortions which relativism infuses in society, principally with the introduction of uncommitted unions, same sex marriages and abortion.

"The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man...from here it becomes all the more clear how contrary it is to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman, to systematically close their union to the gift of life, and even worse to suppress or tamper with the life that is born."
As we all well know, the traditional Catholic Maltese mentality is getting progressively influenced and slowly giving in to new ways of thinking that regard as morally acceptable same sex marriages, uncommitted unions and abortion. Are these modes of reasoning and acting making us freer as God's redeemed children would be or rather imprisoning us more and more into the slavery of sin, death and disintegration?

St Paul came to our shores as a prisoner, negated from total social freedom. Yet, interiorly he was the freest person on earth, precisely because he was "a prisoner for Christ Jesus" (Eph 3, 1). For Paul this meant "sharing in suffering for the gospel in the power of God" (2 Tim 1,8).

But this power turned the apostle of the gentiles into a free man because under the Holy Spirit's unction he could gradually grow into the qualities of Jesus, namely in "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5, 22-23).

St Ignatius of Loyola is reported to have said: "It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey". Whom do you want to obey, the tyrant called relativism or the liberator called Jesus Christ? February 10 is waiting for a sincere answer...

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Di-ve: Muscat addresses party delegates
by John Paul Cordina -
03 February 2010 -- 20:35CEST

Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat said that one had to acknowledge that a Nationalist government had proven beneficial in the past, although he stressed that it has since lost its direction.
Answering questions from party delegates during its general conference on Wednesday evening, Dr Muscat said that although it might be an unpopular thought among those present, a PN government had, at times, performed well and acted in the country’s interest.

He was asked to list the PN government’s mistakes over the past 20 years, to which he initially quipped that he would need far too much time to do so.

The question-and-answer session, which would be televised on the party’s station later in the night, was held because the party had nothing to hide, Dr Muscat maintained.

The first questions targeted the concept of a “movement of progressives and moderates” that the Labour Party was seeking to transform itself into. The Labour leader said that increasingly, people were attached to ideas, rather than political parties, and this needed to be addressed. He also noted that the party would start to falter if it stopped changing.

Answering a delegate’s concerns that the party won every election except general elections, Dr Muscat said that he hoped that this fear remained, to avoid the party being overconfident in the run-up to a general election.

Questions and answers addressed a wide variety of topics ranging from issues affecting the party to specific policies including utility rates, agriculture, housing and even Air Malta.

Dr Muscat said that a Labour government would allow policemen and soldiers to unionise, albeit without the right to strike for obvious reasons.

He revealed that a design brief for the emblem which would replace its traditional torch had been done, but that it would be the party’s 25,000 members who would select its final design.

Addressing a question about Labour’s policies on gay rights, Dr Muscat did not mention specific policies, but noted that the state should not interfere in one’s personal life, and added that whoever did not respect the dignity of gay people had no place in the movement.

When asked on the issue of poverty, the party leader said that work, education and a strong welfare state were important to address it, noting that education was particularly crucial.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Di-Ve website.]

L-Orizzont: L-aħjar snin għadhom ġejjin – Joseph Muscat

Il-Mexxej Laburista Dr Joseph Muscat qal li l-Partit Laburista huwa dak il-partit li kapaċi jagħmel id-differenza fil-pajjiż, waqt li sostna li l-aħjar snin għal pajjiżna għadhom ġejjin.

Huwa qal dan meta kien qiegħed iwieġeb sensiela ta’ mistoqsijiet li sarulu minn delegati tal-Partit Laburista bħala parti mill-attivitajiet li qegħdin isiru fil-ġimgħa tal-Konferenza Ġenerali annwali tal-Partit Laburista.

Dwar din l-idea ġdida ta’ sessjoni ta’ mistoqsijiet magħmulin lilu, Joseph Muscat qal li dan huwa proċess demokratiku ta’ partit miftuħ.

Huwa qal li l-Partit Laburista m’għandu xejn x’jaħbi u fl-istess ħin, irid iwieġeb id-dubji li għandhom in-nies.

“Dak li qegħdin nagħmlu huwa li qegħdin nerġgħu niskopru l-prinċipji tagħna biex naraw għaliex jeżisti l-Partit Laburista,” żied jgħid Joseph Muscat.

Qal li l-Partit Laburista ma jridx jimpika mal-Partit Nazzjonalista, iżda jrid jara x’jiddistingwih bħala partit.

“Il-Partit Laburista għadu jemmen fit-twemmin bażiku tiegħu, dak li huwa jagħmel parti minn partit tal-ħaddiema għax huma l-ħaddiema li waqqfu dan il-partit,” qal il-Mexxej Laburista.

Madankollu, il-Moviment Progressiv u Moderat tal-Partit Laburista llum ma jinkludix biss il-ħaddiema, iżda wkoll lill-istudenti, lill-pensjonanti, u lis-‘self-employed’, żied jgħid il-Mexxej Laburista.

Joseph Muscat qal li l-Partit Laburista jrid jaġġorna l-mod ta’ kif jaħsibha, iżda l-prinċipji tiegħu jibqgħu l-istess.

Qal li madankollu bħalissa jinsab f’salib it-toroq għax jista’ jagħżel bejn li jibqa’ jipprova riċetta li għadda żmienha nkella jipprova esperiment ġdid. “Hija din it-tieni għażla li l-Partit Laburista qiegħed jagħżel,” qal Joseph Muscat waqt li argumenta li l-moviment huwa ikbar minn partit.

“F’moviment, ikun hemm persuni li forsi ma jħobbux jintrabtu ma’ partit, iżda ma’ idea,” qal Joseph Muscat.

Huwa spjega wkoll li l-progressivi huma dawk li ddejqu mill-irbit tal-bieraħ u jrid jkunu miftuħin għal-libertà ta’ għada.

Joseph Muscat qal li l-Partit Laburista mhux se jwiegħed affarijiet li ma jistax iwettaqhom. Fil-waqt li appella lid-delegati biex ikomplu jżommu saqajhom mal-art, huwa qal li jista’ jkun li fis-snin li għaddew, il-Partit Laburista kien kunfidendi żżejjed, iżda din id-darba, huwa importanti li jkompli jżomm kuntatt man-nies u jkompli jiftaħ il-bibien tiegħu għal nies ġodda fi ħdanu.

“Ningħaqdu flimkien bħala poplu biex insalvaw il-pajjiż u ntuh il-ġejjieni li jistħoqqlu”, żied jgħid Musat b’akklamazzjoni min-naħa tad-delegati preżenti.

Dwar it-tibdil li dan l-aħħar qiegħed iseħħ fil-Partit Laburista, Joseph Muscat qal li għalkemm dan il-proċess jista’ ma jdoqqx f’widnejn kulħadd, ma jistax jinħoloq il-moviment mingħajr ma jkun hemm ċertu tibdil.

Bħal ma saħaq il-Ħadd li għadda f’intervista li saritlu, ilMexxju Laburista Joseph Muscat tkellem dwar l-Air Malta u sostna li Gvern Laburista ma jbiegħx l-Air Malta jiġri x’jiġri għax din il-kumpanija hija parti essenzjali mill-istrateġija tal-Partit Laburista dwar it-turiżmu. Huwa qal li t-turiżmu huwa l-mod ta’ kif nistgħu ninvestu fix-xogħol.

Joseph Muscat kien mistoqsi wkoll dwar il-faqar u l-opportunitajiet tal-ommijiet li jkunu jixtiequ li joħorġu jaħdmu, kif ukoll dwar il-problemi li jiltaqgħu magħhom il-koppji meta jiġu biex jixtru d-dar tagħhom.

Joseph Muscat qal li l-qasam soċjali huwa pilastru importanti ħafna fis-soċjetà tagħha, u huwa għal qalb il-Partit Laburista.

“Għaldaqstant il-Partit Laburista se jkun qiegħed jimpenja ruħu biex meta jkun fil-Gvern iħares lejn dawn l-oqsma bħala prijoritajiet fl-aġenda tiegħu,” żied jgħid il-Mexxej Laburista Joseph Muscat.

Dwar id-drittijiet tal-Lesbjani, Gay, Bisesswali u Transgender (LGBT’s), Joseph Muscat qal li l-Partit Laburista jemmen li kulħadd għandu dritt għal ħajja privata tiegħu mingħajr l-indħil tal-Istat.

Qal li l-omosesswalità mhix xi difett jew marda u saħaq li persuni omosesswali għandhom id-drittijiet tagħhom. Huwa fakkar kif kien Gvern Laburista li neħħa l-omosesswalità minn reat kriminali.

Dwar il-Pulizija, suldati u membri tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili, Joseph Muscat qal li dawn għandhom id-dritt isemmgħu leħinhom mingħajr ma jistrajkjaw.

Sostna li Gvern Laburista ma jagħti l-ebda kuntratt lil xi kumpanija li tisfrutta l-ħaddiema tagħha waqt li appella għal djalogu soċjali ġenwin.

Fil-bidu tad-diskors tiegħu, Joseph Muscat ikkommemora l-mewt ta’ disa’ ħaddiema li 15-il sena ilu kienu mietu fit-traġedja tal-isplużjoni tal-Um El Faroud fit-Tarzna ta’ Bormla.

Independent: ‘Old recipe is a key to failure’ – Joseph Muscat
4.2.10 by Annaliza Borg

“We are at the crossroads of keeping the party for us or opening it to all Maltese and Gozitan people,” said Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat at the introduction of a question and answer session with party delegates yesterday evening, as part of the Labour Party’s annual general conference.

“Not changing the old recipe is a key for failure,” he believed.

The Labour Party was rediscovering its values and what it stands for. Its delegates and members must be clear in what distinguishes them and therefore their identity.

“The party is intrinsically a workers’ party.” Dr Muscat noted that time has changed. Moreover, the time of yesterday’s political parties was over and some people were ready to connect with an idea but no longer with a party.

“We need to get rid of mediocrity once and for all,” he said.

Honesty and promising things which can actually be implemented will help to move on and win elections. Overconfidence, as was the case in the past, will not result in success. On the other hand, contact with people was necessary.

The party could not close doors to people but needed to open them wide. It was not a question of having people take another’s turn but one of vision to save the country and give it the future it actually merits.

“We must continue to be constant as we were in the past year and a half, giving proposals to the government on matters where we differ and voicing agreement when necessary,” he said.

Dr Muscat plans to continue driving change from the day after the conference as change was the party’s “lifeblood” even though it was difficult.

Criticising the government for Air Malta’s losses over the past year, Dr Muscat said a Labour government will never sell the national airline as this was intrinsically important for our tourism industry.

He also noted Dr Gonzi’s recent announcement that the dockyard sale was paying e52 million over 30 years. This was no large amount and its equivalent was promised to bus owners in a day, Dr Muscat said.

There was a time when the Nationalist government was successful and achieved important goals, Dr Muscat believed. However, the current government led by Dr Gonzi had lost its soul and all contact with people. Change was necessary.

Moreover, Dr Muscat said he was leading the workers’ party which was to create productive employment for everyone.

Speaking about the current financial situation, Dr Muscat said responsible tax cuts were the key to improvement as each euro in people’s pockets circulates and brings growth.

With reference to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender persons, he asserted that everyone had a right to live without state interference. Homosexuality was no disease or condition and these people had a right to dignity.

The progressives’ and moderates’ movement was no home for those who believed otherwise, Dr Muscat said.

Questions regarding the party’s traditional values, attracting people to the party and winning elections, the link between Dr Muscat’s vision of a new movement and the labour party, plans for Gozo, social housing and current water and electricity bills, were put forward.

PL also paid respect to the nine dockyard employees who died while working on the Um El Farroud ship 15 years ago.

Independent: Gays not allowed to serve openly in armed forces, Malta included, report says
Gays not allowed to serve openly in armed forces, Malta included, report says
Apart from the US, 10 of the 27 countries in the European Union also do not allow gay people to serve openly in the armed forces, according to the Palm Centre at the University of California – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia, a BBC report said yesterday.

This is because the European Court of Human Rights ruling that drove the UK to change its law was the outcome of a specific case brought by four British ex-service personnel.

The ruling said that banning gays from openly serving in the military was a violation of their right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This means that similar cases could be brought against other signatories to the convention, but until then the countries are under no obligation to change their rules.

Times: The President on the family
Thursday, 4th February 2010 by Ranier Fsadni

President George Abela's speech at the recent national conference on the family has been criticised for foreclosing what should be an open-ended discussion and for peddling myth. At least, the latter charge is true although I'm not sure he was trafficking the myths identified by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM).

President Abela made explicit that he was giving a personal view. Although he indicated his inclination to exclude homosexual unions from his understanding of both a marriage and a family, he raised the issue as a question.

He did not pre-empt discussion even on this point, let alone those concerning heterosexual couples. He was just canvassing the terrain public policy needs to review.

MGRM charged the President with limiting his definition of family to married heterosexual couples with natural children. It would have been psychologically intriguing if he had: It is public knowledge that he has an adoptive brother. But the speech explicitly uses the term "family" to refer to instances involving adoption, single parents and people setting up a new household after a broken marriage.

The speech does have serious limitations. But MGRM misidentified them. Whether President Abela believes homosexuality is unnatural, I do not know but his argument does not hinge on that myth.

He made assumptions about the nature of children, not homosexuality. He asserts human nature is such that children need both a male and a female parent and long-term stability in their parents' relationship. He calls marriage the "cradle" of the family because he assumes that heterosexual lifelong monogamy evolved out of the needs of human biology: children's need for security and long-term growth.

Of course, this view does imply that a homosexual couple cannot provide as good a home environment as a heterosexual couple but it implies the same about nuns running orphanages, not to mention single parents and others. It is not a view attributing vice to being homosexual, a consecrated celibate or a separated parent, but, rather, a statement about what, despite any individual heroism, it is possible to achieve given the needs of children. (However, he clearly believes that state and other aid can mitigate the "disorienting" impact of missing parents but not that of being raised by a homosexual couple.)

President Abela's main aim is not to condemn couples who cannot wholly meet children's developmental needs but, rather, to establish three points.

First, the family must be subservient to the needs of children, with adults ready to subordinate their own needs by making "sacrifices".

Second, not all family models can be judged equally able to provide the stability and male-female complementarity that (on this view) children need.

Third, public policy needs to define both marriage and family. This way the best model - the "traditional model" for President Abela, adapted to gender equality - can be upheld so that married adults are better able to take responsible decisions while family policy is better able to strengthen it while mitigating the weaknesses of other models.

As I read the speech, it leaves open the question of whether the introduction of divorce is advisable. Certainly, one can share President Abela's assumptions and be in its favour. The problem lies with some of those assumptions.

President Abela's account of the family's past, globally and in Malta, is a myth. The "traditional family", as we know it today, indeed even the modern secularised European family, was radically shaped by the Christian Church (and a good thing too, given what was displaced).

What "tradition" you pick also matters: What is colloquially called the traditional family in Europe and Malta probably dates, in terms of dominance, no more than 100 years or so and represents the spread of a middle-class family model across class boundaries. (Visitors to 18th century Malta found the prevalence of marital infidelity remarkable while parish priests were concerned about the rate of marital break-ups.)

Getting the past terribly wrong does not always matter for a policy-maker. Here it does. The past reveals that "tradition" has a record of diverse family forms, repeatedly destabilised by social and political development even in the distant past.

We should not be wondering whether the "traditional family" model applies to all of us but whether it can be adopted by anyone at all today. No marriage today has any real precedent in traditional society. Even those managing to live marriage as a life-long commitment cannot find in the past a model for a marriage that lasts several decades after menopause. A hundred years ago, average life expectancy was about 50. In some European countries, the average duration of a modern marriage, about 14 years, is almost the same length as the average duration a century ago, about 16 years (then cut short by death).

This does not mean that life-long marriage is today an impossible ideal. It does mean that the old ideal needs to be lived inventively. Continual re-interpretation, not once-and-for-all definition, is our lot. We might not be able to spare our children some disorientation but we can try hard to serve as models of how to deal honestly and dutifully with it.

The environment in which authenticity and marital stability are to be sought is itself highly unstable. Targeted state and other aid can be helpful; as a general principle; child-centredness sounds sensible to me. But it seems unpromising for policy to begin with definitions, especially on the basis of a mythical past and an unstable, diversified present.

The philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-84), who was homosexual, once told an interviewer that while heterosexuals had models of union to follow, homosexuals had to invent their own. Here is the memo MGRM should have sent the President: Your Excellency, we are all gays now.

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Times: No place for homophobics in Labour's new movement - Muscat

Thursday, 4th February 2010 by Kurt Sansone

Joseph Muscat speaking during a question-and-answer session with Labour delegates at the party's headquartes in Ħamrun. The meeting was chaired by former Super One head of news Miriam Dalli.

Those who hated gay people or who believed that being gay was a sickness had no place in the new movement of progressives and moderates, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said yesterday.

Defending the notion of a state that did not pry into the private lives of individuals, Dr Muscat said the rights of gay people were central to the principles of the new movement.

"Being gay is not a defect, not a sickness or something bad. Gay people have a right to a dignified life," he said, insisting this was one issue that signalled the difference between the new movement and the Nationalist Party.

Dr Muscat was speaking during a question-and-answer session with Labour delegates chaired by former Super One head of news Miriam Dalli.

The session formed part of the party's marathon 10-day conference, which ends on Sunday. The one-and-a-half-hour long event was filmed for transmission on Super One and each time he answered the questions, Dr Muscat stood up from the stool he was sitting on.

Fielding questions from the floor, Dr Muscat said a Labour government would give police officers, soldiers and other uniformed corps members the right to join a union, however, without the right to strike.

He said that in its 90th year of existence, the PL would be asking people to submit their ideas on a new emblem to replace the traditional torch and it would be the party's 25,000 members who would choose the final design.

The brief for the new emblem was ready, he added, and it reflected the party's aspiration to become a movement of progressives and moderates.

The choice of emblem was cosmetic, Dr Muscat said, but it signalled the party's intention to continue changing even after this general conference, which had the aim of turning the party into a movement, was over.

A sure sign of the PL's attempt to reach out towards the middle ground was Dr Muscat's reiteration that the "responsible reduction of taxes" was central to job creation.

"I know this is not traditionally part of a social democratic party's discourse but if it helps to generate jobs and incentivise work we should have no problem to adopt it," he said, underlining that for some time the PL stopped talking about work.
Urging Labour delegates not to take victory at the next election for granted, he said the "best days for this country were yet to come".

"I do not want this party to suffer from overconfidence as it did in the last election. We have to keep our feet on the ground," he said in answer to a question by a veteran activist who was worried that the party was capable of winning every electoral appointment except the general election.

Dr Muscat said there was a time when the Nationalist government was working well and did good things for the country but accused Lawrence Gonzi's Administration of losing its "bearings and its soul".

"The country needs change but we also have to have the courage to acknowledge what is good," he said, insisting this was part of the mentality change the party had to undergo.

"It is easy to say no; more difficult to say yes. But change is our lifeblood," Dr Muscat said.

Earlier, the Labour leader commemorated the nine drydocks workers who died in the Um el Faroud explosion 15 years ago to the day.

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Times: Abortion talk 'leads to confusion'
Thursday, 4th February 2010

Talk of abortion in national discussions as something justifiable leads to confusion over the value of life, according to Gozo Bishop Mario Grech.

He said not everyone recognised the absolute value of human life and so would consider discarding children about to be born with a defect or disability. This led people to doubt the meaning of life, Mgr Grech said on the feast of Don Bosco last Sunday.

Last week, comments by Labour's deputy leader Toni Abela provoked the ire of pro-life group Gift of Life when he reiterated a position expressed years before, that he would consider abortion as acceptable in cases such as war-rape or when the child was born with a disability.

The Bishop said confusion also existed about the nature and aims of marriage. While these concepts were clear in the minds of some people, others were proposing "false and dangerous concepts of marriage and the family".

Also last week, President George Abela came under fire from the Malta Gay Rights Movement for defining the family as a man and woman in a life-long commitment linked to procreation. In the movement's view, this excludes any other form of relationship, including childless marriages and homosexual relationships.

Mgr Grech said it was irresponsible to pander to public opinion on these issues, saying "responsibility and justice demand that serious issues such as these are presented according to their objective truth.

"It is only in this way that we can give sensible answers to anyone begging to know the true meaning of life."

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Times: Absence of an essential parental figure

Wednesday, 3rd February 2010 by Jacqueline Calleja, Balzan

With reference to the Malta Gay Rights Movement's objections to the President of Malta's speech regarding marriage, it is correct to remember that in a child's life both the paternal figure and the maternal figure have great importance which nothing and no one can ever replace.

Sometimes, sadly, for one reason or another, for example the death of one of the parents, this figure comes amiss and can never be wholly substituted, even by the most loving of relatives. There will always be someone terribly important missing from that child's life.

To sanction this by law, as in the case of adoption in same-sex marriages, is wrong. In a Western society which is always harping on the rights of the individual to be protected, it is paradoxical to endorse such adoptions with the knowledge that in all instances they necessarily imply beforehand the absence of either one of the parental figures so essential for the healthy psychological and emotional development of every child in such an adoption.

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Times: Blog: No gay matter

by Charlò Bonnici, Wednesday, 3rd February 2010

Let me say it from the outset. I respect the right of every person to make his or her choices in life including with whom to share a life, a house and whom to love and cherish. In a local contest I also go one step further: I am ready to support, even in parliament, the call for more legal rights for same sex couples who have chosen to live together and to build a life together.

However, I must admit that I am utterly disappointment with MGRM's latest position against President Abela's statements in favour of positive action to safeguard the Maltese family. The Head of State spoke at a national conference entitled The family: yesterday, today and tomorrow organised by the Ministry for Social Policy.

MGRM takes exception to a number of statements included in the President's speech and in my opinion manipulates a number of points raised by the President in order to push forward their cause.

MGRM feels that by defining the family as a man and a woman, in a life-long commitment which sometimes leads to procreation, the President excluded all the other forms of relationships that may exist including that of childless couples. Whoever followed or read the President's speech would realise that the Head of State's intention was not to exclude anyone but to focus on a concept of ‘family' which has existed since time immemorial and which he, myself and many others feel is the ‘ideal' we should strive for.

MGRM is entitled to its opinion on this basic issue, however it should not try to impose it on anyone else particularly on whoever has a role in this country of doing what is obviously in the national interest. This also applies to the definition of ‘marriage'. MGRM and others seem to challenge this notion as well.

So now we are under pressure to accept that ‘marriage' as we have known it for so many years needs to be re-defined to suit the ambitions of a powerful lobby who want open up this concept to other forms of relationships as well. Just because some countries have allowed same-sex ‘marriages' does not mean that this trend should be accepted by others. This has nothing to do with prejudice or discrimination. This has nothing to do with semantics.

If MGRM does not believe that the country should to do its utmost to strengthen the Maltese family, as defined by the President, it's ok. This is a free country and everyone is entitled to one's opinion. However, they should realise that by doing so they might be doing a disservice to the same people they are supposed to speak for.
Many gays and lesbians are happy to be living as part of a so called traditional family unit. I am sure they do not mind that their President or any other politician speaks in favour of positive action aimed at safeguarding the same ‘family' concept they are obviously happy with.

The local gay and lesbian lobby also takes exception to President's Abela questioning of whether children adopted by same-sex couples could lead to the suffering psychological and social harm. I am sure the President didn't mean that all children who are growing up within such setting have psychological or social problems.
On the other hand, I am sure that there are children growing up within a ‘traditional' family who are suffering for some reason. However, why MGRM expected the Head of State to speak about exceptions rather than the norm, the logical, the truth that has been tried and tested since many, many years, escapes me. Yes, the truth is that children will benefit more from a heterosexual family. Having a mother and a father is much better than having just a mother, just a father, just two women or just two men raising you. It does not mean that the different forms of ‘family' cannot guarantee ‘love, responsibility and the ability to provide for the needs of the child'. We are talking here about what's best. What's ideal.

MGRM's disservice to the same people it is supposed to speak for continues in the last paragraph of their press release when they describe the conference ‘nothing more than propaganda for a conservative's government agenda and the religious right that sits solidly behind it'.

So those running the association representing gays and lesbians have turned their guns onto the government for taking the initiative in discussing such an important subject claiming that this was just a propaganda exercise. My feeling on reading this part of their press statement was that MGRM seems to be dancing to someone else's tune. I hope I am wrong. MGRM also criticised the Church for taking part in a conference, aimed at discussing a subject close to its heart in, ‘full force'.
So now MGRM are expecting the Catholic Church to stay away from such a discussion not to give the impression that they are pulling the government's strings!

Come on MGRM! You should take a reality check. Taking such irrational positions does not help the cause of the people you should be representing. There are issues you should be working on in tandem with others. No one is saying that you should not come out in force to put pressure where pressure is due. It's your duty to do so because there are still miles to be covered in a struggle for equality and justice. But by taking the route you seem to be taking you run the risk of being labelled a radical group alienated from a society you should care for.

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