Thursday, 29 March 2012

Independent: Saviour, Franco and Botox Jeff
11 March 2012 by Daphne Caruana Galizia

The patience, such as it is, of Saviour Balzan and his MaltaToday has been worn thin by Franco Debono, with whom there has been a falling-out. I am not clear on why Balzan has suddenly come to share my sentiments about this man, but I am given to understand it has something to do with Debono saying something to Balzan, Balzan reporting it and being sued, and then Debono telling him that he never said he had heard it himself. He said that somebody told him he had heard it.

It’s a shame Balzan never reads my blog or my newspaper column. Doing so is sometimes useful, because you can pick up the occasional tip on, for instance, how important it is to listen to exactly what Franco Debono says, rather than picking up what you think is the general meaning, because as a criminal lawyer of a particular sort, he is highly specific for the express purpose of creating confusion. And if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, it is not. That’s how I knew beyond doubt that he would not vote for Anglu Farrugia’s private member’s motion of no confidence in the government, even as the Labour Party could hardly contain their excitement at the certainty that he would. Like Saviour Balzan, they’re careless with words and imagine that everyone else is, too.

Balzan’s new-found irritation with Debono, who has until recently been MaltaToday’s much-celebrated front-page hero, led to the publication of the following lines on that newspaper’s front page a couple of weeks ago: “Why Franco Debono should either resign, shut up or just do what he said he would do – Saviour Balzan, Page 18”. Sounding terribly frustrated and angry that Debono had let him down for the second time – the first was when he failed to vote for Anglu Farrugia’s motion, Balzan wrote: “I have had it up to here with this man’s banalities. He thinks that he is so intelligent that the rest of us are gullible morons who will simply believe that he alone is right, and that everyone else is wrong.”

Well, Saviour, you got your newspaper to promote and build up Franco Debono and his posturing as long as it suited you and your man in Brussels. You gave him lots of time, lots of space and even tried to give him credibility. So you only got what was coming to you. Please don’t try to pretend that you have only just worked out what sort of person he is. I’ll bet you worked it out at roughly the same time I did, but telling people what you really thought of him didn’t fit with your anti-Lawrence Gonzi agenda.

While General Franco is no longer in favour with MaltaToday, Botox Jeff – I call him that, you understand, not because he uses the stuff himself necessarily, but because he advertises on Yellow Pages that he will botox you for a small fee, if you turn up at his clinic in Haz-Zebbug – is still very much a preferred manufactured news item with that lot. He’s been spread like butter over a lot of their print-space today. Yesterday’s promotion for today’s interview told us: “Chief promoter of last year’s successful divorce bill, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando is once again testing the limit of his government’s Christian Democrat credentials: this time with a proposal to legalise gay marriage.”

I’m surprised at Raphael Vassallo’s (the author of the piece) laxity with words and their meaning, but then refer to point one above on MaltaToday’s failure to understand the importance of precision when choosing one’s words or listening to the words others choose. Botox Jeff isn’t proposing the legalisation of gay marriage, Raphael, because same-sex marriage isn’t illegal like cocaine or heroin. It just doesn’t exist. Botox Jeff is proposing legislation for same-sex marriage. This is pretty much the same scenario we had with divorce, and all those annoying international reporters and commentators telling the world that “divorce is banned/illegal in Malta”, when it never was. We just didn’t have divorce legislation, which is different. The difference between divorce and same-sex marriage in this context is that the Public Registry, even before we had divorce legislation, was obliged at law to register the divorces obtained by Maltese citizens elsewhere in the world, and Maltese citizens were obliged to notify the Public Registry if they were divorced. There is no such registration requirement by either the state or the individual in the case of same-sex marriage. And Raphael, I know it’s commonly called ‘gay marriage’, but really, marriage can’t be gay or straight so stick to same-sex and leave ‘gay marriage’ to the protest-march posters.

But let’s get back to Botox Jeff. It’s not the Nationalist Party’s Christian Democratic traditions that he is “testing to the limit” with his latest wheeze. I imagine he’s thinking of another Private Member’s Bill, his last blast before he fizzles out into the anonymity of a teeth-and-Botox clinic in a Maltese village. And that means he’s going to have to do a bit of testing of the Labour Party’s limits, too, especially given that this party’s Great Leader is on the record as saying he will go only as far as a civil union for two men or two women, but definitely not marriage.

There are only 10 states, the world over, which have legislation for same-sex marriage (as distinct from a civil union or state-recognised partnership), so it’s difficult to understand how those particular ants got into Jeffrey’s pants. I suppose when you have become addicted to being in the news and having reporters call you, and when you’re angry about everything all the time, you have to find ways of opening up the pressure-valve before you explode. The problem with Jeffrey is that, like Franco, he hasn’t understood that you can push that envelope too far. He hasn’t understood that even the Labour Party has now had enough of him and is milking him for his last drops of usefulness.

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