Prime Minister says Opposition leader has taken a ‘bigoted position’ on adoptions by gay couples.
Sunday 15 December 2013 - 11:27 by Jurgen Balzan
The leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil's hard-line stance on adoptions by same-sex couples showed that he is being held hostage by an extremist faction within the PN, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
Last week, Busuttil called on the government to refer the matter of gay adoptions to Parliament's family affairs committee to seek a social impact assessment before the matter is taken further.
Describing this stand as "bigoted" and "hypocritical," Muscat said that nobody has a right to adopt, insisting the right belongs to the children.
However, Muscat said that Busuttil "made a mess of it in his call to introduce a social impact assessment on the adoptions of children by gay couples. It is a bigoted position and I believe that such a study would be challenged at a European level because Busuttil's proposal presumes that same sex couples are different and he is discriminating against gay couples. This would only marginalise gay persons. "
Speaking on Labour's One Radio, Muscat pointed out that the PN had backtracked from the position taken on gay adoptions before the election, Muscat said: "I held former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi as a conservative, however I never thought his successor would be more conservative than him."
Explaining that the two major parties had the exact same position on gay adoptions before the election, Muscat called on opposition MPs to return to the same stand the PN had before the March election.
He put the PN's dithering on gay adoptions down to Busuttil's incapability of "taking a stand on anything because he is hostage to an extremist faction. He is showing that he is more conservative than Gonzi. I tell my colleagues on the opposition benches that all they have to do is go back to the position the PN had before the election."
Muscat said the decision should not be guided by what the majority thinks on gay adoptions but by what is right for the country.
"I militate in a party which has always made tough decisions, Labour was born to represent workers who had no voting rights. We are the party which gave workers and women the right to vote, we introduced civil marriage and we always had the conservative forces against us. In 10 years time the people will judge us on whether we were on the right side of history and I am confident that we are on the right side of history."
He added that government favoured a social impact assessment on a case-by-case basis for each adoption, whether by gay or straight couples and individuals.
Highlighting the differences between the two major parties, Muscat said that Busuttil was putting his own partisan interest ahead of the country's interests over migration and the controversial Individual Investor Programme.
Accusing Busuttil and the nationalist MEPs of trying to tarnish the country's reputation in Europe, Muscat said that he knows how the European Parliament works and the investigations on the IIP were instigated by the opposition.
"Simon Busuttil is putting his partisan interests before the country's interests. They are not shaming Malta but only themselves. They have not yet accepted that they are no longer in government," Muscat said.
He added that the talks with the opposition were not at a standstill as claimed by Busuttil, stressing that he looked at things in a positive manner and expressed his conviction that an agreement was possible.
Admitting that government "did not explain itself well" on the citizenship scheme, Muscat said that once an agreement is reached with all stakeholders and "hopefully with the opposition," the government will embark on a communications programme which will make things clear.
He added that recent criticism in the British press of the citizenship scheme which will allow rich foreigners to gain Maltese citizenship against a €650,000 donation, "shows that the British views the Maltese programme as more advantageous than the British one."
Reassuring listeners that the scheme will be "internationally attractive," Muscat defended the IPP by claiming that if there is nothing wrong in granting citizenships for free to thousands of foreigners who take advantage of education, housing, health and welfare programmes, "what is the problem in accepting persons who pay for citizenship."
On the forthcoming European Council meeting which will address the migration issue, Muscat said that the European Commission only moved on migration because Malta "stamped its feet."
"I am satisfied that the Commission has come up with an action plan, but I will not be entirely satisfied before I see words put into action in summer."
He said the government's priorities were the repatriation programme and providing aid to Libya. Muscat added that Malta was in talks with Italy, the UK and the US which were aiding Libya in its capacity building.
"Recently, for the first time ever, the Libyan government expelled people for being in the country illegally and 300 persons were caught tying to flee Libya by boat and these were returned."
He said the EU action plan should prioritise helping Libya guard its borders, however he said it was premature to announce plans before Thursday's EU summit.
"We are working hard on an issue which is a priority for us. It certainly is positive to discuss the EU action plan and now we look ahead at the implementation of these set targets."
On the latest revelations on the Enemalta oil scandal, Muscat said that he was "concerned" by the institutionalised bribery at Enemalta.
"As a citizen I feel sad at the kickbacks paid to Enemalta officials while the people were paying for excessive bills and the company's debt ballooned."
However, Muscat sounded an optimist note and said that the government's planned reduction in utility bills, the appointment of Michael Falzon to oversee the procurement process and the Chinese investment in the state utility would secure the company's employees future.
Muscat said "the people can see the big difference in the way the company was run before the election and the way Enemalta is being run now."
On PN leader Simon Busuttil's claims that the Opposition shouldered its responsibility for the oil scandal by losing the election, Muscat said the Opposition leader was trying to downplay his role in the previous administration.
"The least we expect from Busuttil is for him to stop hiding. The people surely do not believe what he is saying. It is clear that Busuttil has no control on the party and he is hostage to the extreme factions within the PN. It might go down well with the PN militants but not with the middle of the ground voters."
On the Xemxija case in which the previous PN government had brokered a €4.3 million land swap with Fekruna Bay restaurateur to be able to remove environmental eyesore just days before Malta went to polls, Muscat said that the compensation given in haste before the election is only the tip of the iceberg.
Insisting that former lands minister Jason Azzopardi had to carry responsibility, Muscat said "The concession might be legal but it is immoral and unacceptable. I will not go into the legal side of it, but it certainly was politically unacceptable and immoral."
On his recent visit to South Africa for the memorial service celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela who died last week, Muscat said "it was a memorable event which Malta could not miss out on."