Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Times: 'PL can kick me out' - [Adrian Vassallo] MP; Demands apology from PL youths

Sunday, 13th June 2010 by Christian Peregin

Labour MP Adrian Vassallo at his home yesterday "relishing" his moment in the spotlight. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Labour MP Adrian Vassallo will "definitely not" stand at the next election if the PL's manifesto contradicts any of his moral values. But until then he does not feel he should leave the party.

Dr Vassallo told The Sunday Times he will only put his name forward for the 2013 elections if he can have a free vote on "issues of conscience" like divorce. But according to sources close to the Labour leadership he is unlikely to be selected as one of the party's MPs.

"For all I know, the party would have already kicked me out by next election. And if that's what they want, they can do it. But I don't see why we cannot have different opinions in a party. Otherwise we would be a theocracy," he said.

The Labour MP sparked controversy when he said he would prefer to live in Iran where religious beliefs were forcibly defended and moral values upheld, than in a country like Malta where hotels offered pornography to their guests.

Asked whether he considered himself to be a good representative for a party which is trying to portray itself as progressive, Dr Vassallo said it was up to the party to decide, but he pointed out he had always remained loyal to the 2008 electoral programme.

Despite being aware that some people within the party want to get rid of him, he insisted he was only a "lone ranger" because other MPs were afraid to speak out about their beliefs.

He said the next election would likely be fought on moral issues and the result would depend heavily upon whether the Church took a stand to fight certain liberal positions.

Dr Vassallo admitted he is "relishing" his moment in the spotlight and said he had received calls of support from around five Labour MPs last week, as well as also getting positive feedback from a number of Nationalists.

He appreciated the fact that the party's leadership did not make any attempt to silence him and that Joseph Muscat had described such disagreements as "healthy".

The only thing that hurt him was that a number of Labour youths joined a Facebook group aimed at raising funds to buy him a one-way ticket to Iran, which he said quickly turned into an obscene hate group.

The group was later deleted by Facebook after it received complaints. "If it were up to me I would not have stopped them from saying whatever they wanted to say. But Facebook itself thought otherwise. So censorship does exist in the modern world... unlike what some people are claiming", Dr Vassallo said.

Denouncing his critics as "anarchists" and "people who don't believe in anything", he criticised Labour Youth Forum general secretary Alex Saliba and member of the national executive Nikita Alamango for joining the group and said he expected an apology from them.

He said he also received offers from people to "give a hard time" to those who poked fun at him on Facebook, but he wholeheartedly rejected this possibility.

Dr Vassallo said he understood that his views were unpopular especially among younger, more liberal people, because of the "generation gap", but this was no reason for them to try to censor his political beliefs.

He stressed that his Iran comment should not be taken to mean that he agreed with certain Iranian policies such as the hanging of gay people.

"My point was about religious fervour and the upholding of moral values," he said.

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

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