Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona
I have long compared Lawrence Gonzi to Laocoon. And yes, in its final death throes his legislature is fraught with controversy which for the most part is unnecessary. Because many a time the government has been warned that should it dig in its heels over specific issues and not compromise with the people directly concerned, opposition of the bitterest kind will surely follow. I confess I find this self-flagellation utterly bewildering.
So, after the great divorce cataclysm that was predicted turned out to be a damp squib with the electorate clearly opting to go against the diktats of a vacillating government which had made the fatal political mistake of pronouncing the party as being against divorce, we are now pussyfooting with cohabitation.
Strange you may think that while there was all that Sturm und Drang during the divorce issue, nobody is batting an eyelid about cohabitation. If the pundits considered divorce to be anti-marriage what on earth is cohabitation? The mind boggles.
Yet the persistent silence of the Joe Zammits (from Paola) of this world is deafening. I cannot understand it.
Let me spell it out. Contrary to what the government may think, cohabitation, a sort of second class marriage, is not going to satisfy the demands of the gay community. The reason is very simple. Heterosexual couples have the choice of going first class with marriage or second class with cohabitation.
Homosexual couples have only one choice; to go second class and therefore the discrimination is deemed, quite correctly, to be unacceptable. It is a form of apartheid as homosexuals would then have to resign themselves to being second-class citizens which is out of the question; absolutely and unequivocally.
If this very simple analogy cannot be grasped by those introducing this law then I am afraid just do not bother with it and leave it to the next legislature to sort out. However, all is not lost as we are waiting for the tweaking of Minister Chris Said’s draft by our new independent MP and I feel that the government’s reactionaries, who are definitely one of the sea god’s most virulent serpents, are going to have to, once again, swallow the toad and relent or else...
What a waste of time and energy. The gay community has made it amply clear that although because of our Catholic culture the word ‘marriage’ may be omitted and be called civil partnership, all the prerogatives of marriage itself should render a gay civil partnership at par with a civil marriage. Cohabitation, in this context, is simply not an issue.
In 2008, on the eve of the election, the PN had not yet officially met the Malta Gay Rights Movement to discuss gay issues and the movement was going to take the appropriate action when a question was planted to save the day during Xarabank where Lawrence Gonzi mentioned cohabitation and very fleetingly incorporated the gay issues.
It was like extracting a molar without anaesthetic. That may have just clinched it at the time but at a subsequent meeting with the Prime Minister held at Villa Francia at the instigation of MEP Simon Busuttil at which I was present, it was very clear that the government and the gay community were speaking at cross purposes to levels that even the late Harold Pinter would have baulked.
On the other hand, we have the Leader of the Opposition emerging from sticky situations smelling of roses as in last week’s resignation saga following Joe Grima’s vitriolic reaction to the article about the late Dom Mintoff by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith in The Catholic Herald.
Joseph Muscat is making it very clear there are limits to everything and that he will not tolerate the party to be misrepresented by any of its members.
Grima can say what the dickens he likes about anyone in his private capacity but not when he is being taken to represent the views of the Labour Party. It is as simple as that.
While Gonzi struggles to extricate himself from the mortal embrace of the serpents of Poseidon while, paradoxically, giving these same serpents the strength and nourishment to become even more deadly, Muscat is quietly learning from the mistakes being made, almost like death wishes, by this legislature and resolving not to ever go down the same pathways.
It is very obvious that he has made it clear he will stand for no nonsense and that he is all in favour of dispensing with blind party politics in favour of smooth, transparent and equitable administration.
The one-seat majority has been Gonzi’s nemesis since day one. I have said it before and I will say it again that we have now had two disastrous legislatures because of the inadequacy and ineffectiveness of this situation. It must not happen again.
In this case, the government has been stymied by no less than three of its own MPs and in the midst of the final act of this sad drama we now have Franco Debono providing his own little red herring about the power stations, which at this juncture is simply inappropriate if not pathetic.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and while the PN struggles to limp painfully to the end of its legislature, the PL leadership has in the past four years extricated itself from the ideological shambles it was in after the disastrous decade of 1998 to 2008.
The fact that Grima has, without a murmur, done the honourable thing and complied, shows that, yes, Muscat means business and that one may reasonably expect him to be just as equitable and sagacious in future.