Saturday, 10 July 2010

Times: Pullicino Orlando presents divorce bill - PN group to meet tomorrow

Motion not discussed in PN parliamentary group - AD welcomes move

Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said today that he has presented a Private Member’s Bill for the introduction of divorce.

"The aim of the bill is to dissolve marriages which are irrevocably broken down to prevent the greater harm to the common good which is caused by the present local situation in which re-marriage is impossible and unregulated co-habitation is rife," Dr Pullicino Orlando said.

"It also aims at correcting the injustice suffered by those who wish to re-marry if they wish to do so. It is unjust to marginalise legally separated couples and prevent their further participation in a stable, healthy family environment. A further aim is the elimination of the discriminatory situation which arises with regards to couples who cannot seek a divorce overseas. Divorces granted overseas are recognised by the Maltese state."

Dr Pullicino Orlando said he knew that most of his colleagues, himself included, adhered to the Catholic faith.

"We cannot ,however, allow our religious sentiments to interfere with our obligations towards citizens who wish to regularise their position in society following an irrevocably failed marriage."

He said the bill draws heavily on the legislation present in another predominantly Catholic country, Ireland, and makes it possible for couples to file for divorce only if they have lived apart for at least four years in the preceding five years. This will ensure that no one files for divorce capriciously or as a result of a spur of the moment decision.

It also ensures that all possible avenues for reconciliation have been exhausted before the institution of proceedings.

"As Mgr. Charles Vella, the founder of the Cana Movement, said: ‘Divorce will not lead to marriages in Malta disintegrating’ and ‘the roles of the Church and the State should not be twinned’. Pope Benedict said that : ‘It is not the role of the Church to build a just state but that of citizens and politicians," Dr Pullicino Orlando said.

Nationalist Party sources said that Dr Pullicino Orlando's motion was a personal initiatiave and had not been discussed in the PN parliamentary group. The sources said it was unlikely that the motion would come up for debate before the House rose for its summer recess in the middle of this month.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat has already declared himself in favour of divorce legislation. He declared, even before he became PL leader, that should he become prime minister, he would move divorce legislation and allow a free vote to Labour MPs.


Alternattiva Demokratika in a statement said it welcomed Dr Pullicino Orlando's motion on the introduction of divorce.

'It is heartening to see that at least one member of parliament has welcomed AD's proposal for the legalisation of divorce in Malta. We also welcome the fact that he has followed up our proposal to draw on Irish divorce legislation. We augur that other parliamentarians follow up the proposals of AD and Pullicino Orlando, especially since AD is the only party with a clear position in favour of legislation on divorce', party leader Michael Briguglio said.

Yvonne Arqueros Ebejer, AD spokesperson on Civil Rights, added: 'It is high time that Malta aligns itself with the rest of world on such a basic civil right. The introduction of divorce would permit thousands of persons to re-marry, thus enabling the strengthening of families'.

Arnold Cassola, AD spokesperson for EU and International Affairs, added: 'If such legislation were introduced, Malta would no longer be the black sheep of the EU as regards this basic civil right'.

The Nationalist Party in a statement this afternoon said the Prime Minister had convened a PN parliamentary group meeting to be held tomorrow to discuss the divorce motion.

"The Prime Minister believes that the discussion in the PN should be guided by the conviction that the best measures should be taken in favour of the family and its members, particularly the most vulnerable," the PN said.

The text of Dr Pullicino Orlando's motion can be seen [here].

See Archbishop's reaction in separate story.

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