Thursday, 25 April 2013, 08:30 , by Daphne Caruana Galizia
The government has promised a bill on same-sex civil unions before the summer. This is a far cry from the proper marriage, under the existing marriage laws, which the gay lobby thought it would get by voting for Joseph. Unfortunately, what we saw over the last two or three years was a sort of Tulip Fever pandemic in which people heard one thing and believed another. They actually heard Muscat say on television that he doesn’t think marriage between two people of the same sex is quite right, and that he won’t go beyond civil union. But still they believed they would get marriage by voting Labour.
Now for my next question: will the bill for civil union between two people of the same gender also provide for the dissolution of that union? It has to. Marriages can now be dissolved through divorce. There has to be concomitant provision for the dissolution of civil unions. Married people of different genders must live apart for a minimum of four years before being allowed to divorce. Equality cuts both ways. Will people of the same gender, in civil unions, be permitted to dissolve that union without the obligation to first live apart for four years? Or will they be allowed to dissolve their union after a shorter period or none at all, on the grounds that a civil union is inferior to proper marriage?
Oh, the dilemmas, the dilemmas.
Even as the government made its announcement, we were told that the prime minister is in Paris, visiting with his socialist friend Francois Hollande, who is currently besieged by massive demonstrations against his gay marriage bill, put to the final vote in parliament the day before yesterday. Muscat, seeing all this, will have been only further entrenched in his position against same-sex marriage, which rather makes a mockery of his speech to one particular mass meeting in which he told his supporters not to be afraid of hell-fire when supporting “unions between people of the same sex”.
If he’s not afraid of hell-fire in his objections to gay marriage, then what exactly is Muscat afraid of and what’s stopping him? Something akin to what Hollande has been subjected to, I quite suspect.
High prices and bad book-keeping at the prison tuck-shop made the main story on The Times’ front page last Monday. Of such stuff are the problems of a small island-nation made. But they really are not, are they? This might be some politician’s idea of communicating to the newspaper-reading public how ‘action is being taken because we are full of energy’. Just like the Minister for the Police, Justice, Army and Broadcasting turning up at the same prison on a Sunday evening to catch warders out in the act of skiving off (he caught the wrong warders, apparently), or the Minister for Social Policy closely inspecting a Housing Authority flat and getting cross for the cameras about a missing soap-dish in the shower.
This might be the sort of thing to which those of restricted imagination can relate, but others are beginning to worry. Do our cabinet ministers really think of their role as being nothing beyond these issues with which they shouldn’t even be getting involved? While Marie Louise Coleiro is getting mad about soap-dishes for old ladies, and Manuel Micallef is chasing warders instead of putting on his slippers for a Sunday night in, who is looking after the big things, the policy, the matters cabinet ministers are there for?
And while we are on the subject of missing soap-dishes, the Social Policy Minister asked angrily how we would feel if the old lady in the Housing Authority flat with the missing shower soap-holder were our mother. What would we do? The answer to that question, which she no doubt intended to be rhetorical, underscores the difference between somebody who is naturally inclined towards Labour and somebody who is naturally inclined towards the Nationalist Party. People like Marie Louise Coleiro Preca get all hot under the collar, blame the authorities and summon the press and the politicians for a good old kvetching session, expecting somebody else to solve their problem, as of by right and free of charge. “The government owes me a soap-dish, even though it has given me a flat and a pension already.”
And people like me, who can’t stand this attitude, would go right out and buy 10 of those shower-gel bottles with an inbuilt hook that allows you to hang them off the shower-door or tap, and say “Hey ma, this is what people use nowadays. It’s safer, more convenient and more effective. You have 10 of these bottles and I’m putting them in your cupboard so that you won’t run out for some time.” No soap-dish, no politicians, no whining, no fuss, and above all, no soap – because we sensible people know that one of the worst and most dangerous combinations in a household-accident-risk scenario is an old person, a wet surface and a dropped bar of soap.
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca is pretty useless if she doesn’t know that. It’s not as though she can’t work out for herself that giving a 90-year-old woman a bar of soap in the shower is like giving a three-year-old a pair of surgical scissors or a bottle of bleach: a recipe for disaster. If she wants to help her colleague the Health Minister cut down on those hospital waiting-lists and A & E queues that appear to be the cause of his emotional liability, then she has to stop encouraging old ladies to have soap-dishes and soap in their showers.