Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Independent: Political card games and the forgotten cohabitation bill

13 June 2012 by Raymond Sammut, Mellieħa

As the crucial date of the divorce referendum was fast approaching, our Honourable Prime Minister decided to play another trump card. On realising that his gamble of relying on the strong influence of the local Roman Catholic Church to dissuade the local faithful from approving the proposed divorce legislation in the referendum was faltering, his party came up with another proposal – the cohabitation bill. This seemed to be intended to appease the sufferings of thousands of separated couples who had been denied the worldwide acknowledged right to divorce (except in the Philippines) and who had opted to form a “loose” partnership with other spouses/partners. These unfortunate couples thought that finally, they could breathe a sigh of relief, and that what formerly society had looked askance, their cohabitation status would now be regularised. This would consequently entitle them to the benefits and entrust them with obligations of a so-called “normal” married couple in the Maltese community. Little did they realise however that this was not to be, because the peoples’ representatives held the pack of cards in their hands.

When the result of the divorce referendum turned out substantially in favour for the introduction of divorce legislation , this caused quit some consternation amongst the majority of members of the party in government. Following the lead of the honourable Prime Minister, and with their hand on their heart, several of them declared that they would vote against the peoples’ expressed wishes claiming that their conscience prevented them from voting in favour of divorce legislation. They also did so on the vote concerning the so-called ‘Honoraria’ (the secret ministerial remuneration increase of €500 per week albeit now suspended) whereby with the same solemn argument, and with tongue-in-cheek they also voted in favour of it. However, eventually justice prevailed, and the vote for the introduction of divorce legislation passed through in Parliament in spite of the Prime Minister voting against the people’s wishes. Alas, for the considerable number of cohabitating couples, this overdue divorce legislation had arrived too late, and whilst they were looking forward to regularise their position with what was termed to be more acceptable to the claimed clear conscience of the Prime Minister and his entourage, the cohabitation bill has been shelved to gather dust. Or has it not?

Unless our honourable Prime Minister is keeping this as yet another card up his sleeve and will table it as soon as general elections date is announced. But by then it would be too late. He will go down in history as the gambling prime minister who has failed every step of the way, and lost every card game.

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