Tuesday, 9 February 2010

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.]

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