Thursday, 20 September 2012

Malta Today: Labour congress sounds approval to ‘free society’ and a ‘better standard of living'

Labour congress discusses the future of the family and equality and civil in the second session open to the public.
Tuesday 18 September 2012 - 20:46 by  Miriam Dalli

The Labour Congress discussing the future of the family.

The Labour Congress this evening approved two motions calling for a "free society" and a "better way of living".

Discussed in two separate events, the participants in today's congress highlighted the future of the family as stemming from a better way of living and a free society where diversity is respected and celebrated.

While discussing the future of the family, Labour's deputy leader Anglu Farrugia insisted that it was useless having the best policies available if the family wasn't supported and the quality of life improved.

"The challenge for a new government will be to eradicate poverty," he said.

During interventions from the public, the need for more childcare centres was highlighted.

Carmen Fearne, a social worker, complained about the lack of resources available for working parents. Hailing from Marsaskala, Fearne argued that there were no childcare centres in the locality, making it difficult for working parents. She said that not all families would have the possibility to let their children with the grandparents.

On the elderly, Fearne said she was "fed up" with the number of elderly left alone.

"There are elderly who can't even make to hospital appointments, because of the lack of transport means. Everywhere they go they have to wait: whether it's at the hospital, or to pay their bills," she said.

Fearne suggested the availability of a community worker in each locality to help out with these elderly. "Her role would be to coordinate. Visit those who are alone to at least coordinate and oversee that they are well and have everything they need."

Eliciting applause from the audience, Fearne said that together with Joseph Muscat, dignity can be again given to the elderly.

During her intervention, MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja asked for the recognition of gay couples. Her call was supported with a round of applause from the public.

Calleja recounted a personal experience were two gay couples got married in Portugal: "As their friends, we could only share their joy through a video on YouTube. Don't they have a right to celebrate this special occasion with their loved ones as well?"

Millennium Chapel Director Fr Saviour Grima said that education was very important for the family.

"Education by teaching our children what are the important things in life. To learn them understand how to choose between what is materialistic and what is not. It's time to also teach families how to make their budget."

Grima also called on the public not to forget about poverty suffered by many families. Poverty, he said, where families lacked bathrooms, or lived in garages.

"We have statistics that show that some children haven't been attending schools for two years because their families don't have enough money to pay for their uniforms," he said.

Grima also said it was time to introduce the 'green card system'. "This way, government would be giving money to these families and at the end of the month that family would also give a breakdown of how it was spending the money."

On equality and diversity, the Labour congress approved a motion calling for a free society.

PL executive secretary Lydia Abela said that Labour believed in the separation between the state and the Church. "It's the public morality that should bring order in society. In the near future, we will be guaranteeing citizens the opportunity to live in a free society," she said adding that no politician had the right to define what the family is.

"Government shouldn't intrude in the people's lives. Its duty is to safeguard rights and obligations."

Speaking on gender quotas, MCWO member Lorriane Spiteri criticised the government's decision not to support this strategy.

"There isn't enough knowledge on gender quotas. First of all they could be temporary measures to help women become elected on boards. It's not an issue of a woman not being qualified enough to sit on a board but a question of broadening her opportunities," she said.

Simone Palmier, a Maltese women practicing Muslim religion, spoke about the difficulties faced by students who are stopped from wearing their hijab with their school uniform. Palmier also referred to employment problems suffered by women, who despite having the necessary qualifications, would still be turned down because of their headscarves.

Family lawyer Ruth Farrugia said that children also had their own rights. Yet, the Convention for the Rights of Children was not applicable in Malta and pointed to a number of contradictions in the Maltese law.

Speaking on IVF, Farrugia said that this will directly impact the rights of children. On the adoption of embryos, Farrugia said laws should guarantee that the child will always know who the original parents were.

"Children have the right to be brought up in a family. But then again there is no legal definition of family. The state however has the responsibility to guarantee that each child is given the opportunity to grow in the best environment possible."

Speaking on the rights of disabled persons, consultant Joe Gerada said speaking on rights was a chance to celebrate diversity.

"Disabled persons have the right to education, to work and to contribute to society just like everyone else. It's not disabled problems who have a problem but how society looks at them," he said, adding that society was at times "scared" of how to approach them.

Gerada insisted that a society should be inclusive to all.

"The challenge for society is to keep in mind accessibility and diversity. Persons with disability have had enough of running from one place to another to access services. Why isn't there a one-stop-shop covering all services?" Gerada said.

"I cannot but laud the PL's decision to give persons with disability the opportunity to live in the community, and not isolated," he said.

Gerada insisted that the Guardianship Act, as presented by Family Minister Chris Said, should be revised. He also lamented over the lack of action by the government to ratify that United Nations Act on persons with disability.

Ronald Casha from the Malta Humanist Association called for a secular state. "A secular state doesn't mean a country without religion but the respect for all religions," he said.

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