Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Times: Confrontations and contradictions

Tuesday, 18th January 2011 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

What struck me as odd during the television coverage of the press conference launching the Marriage Without Divorce movement was the unusual inventiveness of the PBS cameraman who had to use all his ingenuity to mask the fact that there were far more people on the top table than in the audience. This did not augur too well.

Then we had the unsurprising declaration by the 70 parish priests of Malta and Gozo that they are “fully behind” the movement but significantly not part of it and the final coup de grace that even anti-divorce stalwarts like President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami and several other prominent anti-divorce parliamentarians will not be joining the anti-divorce movement because they had either not been asked to nor “formally approached”.

With such an inauspicious start I would be surprised if the movement will last the month.

Meanwhile, we have been informed that divorce will make marriage redundant, which, to all intents and purposes, it is already.

Take a good look around you and see how many members of your family, extended family, acquaintances and friends are living “outside” marriage for one reason or another. Divorce provides a means to regularise these relationships by allowing second marriages. However, and here lies the crunch, I am sceptical about the extent that people will avail themselves of divorce once it is entrenched in the law, which is possibly why every so often the Prime Minister reminds us all about his electoral promise to introduce cohabitation laws.

The need for divorce, it seems, has already been superseded.

Now, were I part of the anti-divorce movement, I would be extremely alarmed by the very word “cohabitation”. This is legitimising of what should, under Catholic law, be utterly unacceptable and, yet, not a word has been uttered about it by anybody! Nobody has batted an eyelid. In my opinion, should one place cohabitation and divorce in the balance, it is patently obvious, even to the most recalcitrant of my detractors, that the “lesser of the two evils” is undoubtedly divorce.

However, let us ignore the canonical merits and demerits of cohabitation but examine what it means civilly, which, fundamentally, is the creation of two classes of civil union: formal registered marriage and informal registered marriage but registered all the same. Cohabitation, which is a roundabout, and let me add, unsatisfactory method of addressing gay issues among other things, will be the state’s form of recognition of all unions between any two people who perforce must sign some form of contract, duly witnessed and registered, declaring that they are a second-class couple who are not married. Frankly, I simply cannot understand what all the hoo-hah is about. Why not simply bite the bullet and introduce divorce and same-sex marriage or, if you feel more comfortable with it, same-sex partnership?

For the last 30 years I have taken my morning coffee out of this porcelain mug that commemorates the ill-fated marriage of the Prince of Wales and the then Lady Diana Spencer. It has a hairline crack in it however my coffee simply does not taste the same out of anything else. Any coffee drinker will confirm this weird phenomenon. I have drunk my coffee out of this mug during the virulent press battles between the Prince and Princess, their separation and divorce and even the tragic death of Diana and hope to be still using it during the marriage festivities of their elder son to Kate Middleton.

Life simply goes on doesn’t it? So, as the Prime Minister has promised to provide a roadmap for the resolution of the divorce issue, one wonders which way this map is going to go. Whether or not he provides a liberal solution whereby Parliament takes up the issue and introduces divorce without the ludicrously expensive and capricious expedient of a referendum remains to be seen. Be that as it may, the government is having a very bumpy ride on so many counts that, malgre moi, I cannot help feeling very sorry for the Prime Minister. With Nationalist Party backbenchers doing a brilliant job creating utter mayhem who needs the opposition?

Does the PN need a complete and thorough overhaul to see this legislature out? With PN backbenchers declaring that “heads must roll” over the honoraria issue it looks as if it does. However, I feel all this hysteria is highly irresponsible and that the undermining of governmental authority is a dangerous precedent.

The honoraria issue should not have been left to develop into this ludicrous impasse wherein MPs have to declare whether they are donating it to some charity or not. Therefore, although the overhaul is necessary it must be carried out as smoothly as possible causing the least possible disruption to the day-to-day administration. It has to date been a legislature of non-stop confrontation; ironically not with the opposition but with the electorate as a whole and, even worse, with hitherto diehard PN supporters. Whether about St John’s Co-Cathedral or the Renzo Piano project, whether about divorce or cohabitation, whether about power stations and the state of the environment, the government has found itself in a situation wherein it has been soundly whipped by its own men, primarily due to some fatal flaw in its policies. Ironically, there was not one confrontational issue remotely connected to the credit crunch but that is another story altogether.

Lawrence Gonzi needs to sort this out before the government collapses because the PN as a party will not be able to withstand these largely internal onslaughts for much longer. At the end of the day, we must all work for the common good of Malta and not for one party or another as that would be simply cutting off our noses to spite our face.

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

1 comment:

  1. I for one would much prefer sensible, sustainable and 'family friend;y' cohabitation laws and rights than divorce.

    Oh and "the 70 parish priests of Malta and Gozo that they are “fully behind” the movement but significantly not part of it". What is that? Reminds me of a Bill Bailey joke; "I suppose you could be in the Axis of Evil, in a non threatening kind of way. In the catering, or a reception girl." WTH, just show the Chruch's hand behind this debacle once and for all.