Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 00:01 by Ivan Fenech
Photo: Chris Sant Fournier
Our Prime Minister has found his principles. It’s just one actually, and it comes as a relief that it’s only one, as it is the result of bent thinking and a perverse line of thought that verges on the irresponsible.
When last week the Nationalist Party came up with a clear, logical and responsible policy on civil unions and gay adoptions, his pompous reaction was: “I will not compromise on my principles!”
Every time this man is cornered, he stamps his feet, throws a tantrum, and goes for grandstanding. We’ve seen it on the pushback policy and EU immigration. We haven’t seen it on the passport sales scheme because that’s crumbling down all around him. So now he wants to put up a show on gay marriage. Actually, he has no right to.
The Labour Party electoral programme clearly promises civil unions for same sex couples, hence there is no mandate for same sex marriages. And yet, Muscat says: “We had even assured the gay rights movement that civil unions would be considered equal to marriage.”
Well, we all know that Labour promised many things behind closed doors, but the electorate was told something different.
Now our Prime Minister is saying that two months before the election he had “publicly” told Times of Malta he was in favour of gay couple adoptions. Who cares? It was not in the electoral programme either. To justify his new stance, he is arguing it is a point of principle, based on his belief in equality. And there lies the whole problem behind the paradox that has become Labour.
In his years as party leader, Muscat stripped Labour of all its principles to introduce his own brand of liberalism, and, more importantly, to reach out to Nationalist opportunists ready to jump on his bandwagon.
In the natural order of things, the party would first agree on the principle and definition of equality and then draw up policies on gay marriage, civil unions and adoption. Instead, we have a Prime Minister who tells us he’s already made his promises to the gay lobby, and now applies a twisted principle to justify them. But he has no mandate to do this, not even from his own party.
Things have reached a stage where someone within the party should really stand up, reign him in, and tell the Prime Minister that this is not about him or what he personally believes and that grandstanding and vouching to “stand alone” if necessary is incompatible with democracy.
Mandates apart, to equate civil unions to marriage, to treat two unequals as equals, is to undermine one of the most basic pillars of our society – the family - and all in the name of a superficial interpretation of the meaning of equality. This is not a principle, but a perverse logic, and as always, he’s playing to the gallery.
But when the Prime Minister extends the argument to add his personal approval of adoption by gay couples, then we are verging on the irresponsible.
Someone within the party should really stand up and reign him in
Nationalist MP Chris Said laid it out very clearly in parliament – “Adoption is not a couple’s right”. But the Prime Minister seems to think so, because he approves it and wants to give gay couples the “right to apply”.
The PN is pushing for a social impact study on the adoption of children by same sex couples.
Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna (but shamefully not the other bishops) also wants an impact study on how gay adoptions will impact society. But our Prime Minister doesn’t want to hear about that.
He told the Opposition in Parliament: “What are you worried about? I don’t think that any dangers to adopted children would be linked to the sexual orientation of the parents.” The shallowness of such thinking is astounding.
This is not a matter of opinion, or of some twisted thinking, but a serious responsibility on the shoulders of decision makers who must take major decisions that could impact society.
Serious politicians would want to do this in the most mature, informed and responsible way.
But our Prime Minister, in all his wisdom, doesn’t need a social impact study. It’s another case closed for him. The infant Sun King has spoken.
Which brings us to Labour and human rights. Why is Labour so allergic to them?
True, the signs were always there. Labour seems more at ease doing business with undemocratic states like China and weak democracies like Azerbaijan, and finds nothing untoward in welcoming the Ukrainian president to Malta as his police are beating protesters to pulp back home.
Speaking at an interview on One Radio on the now infamous passport selling scheme – answering cutting edge questions I’m sure – our Prime Minister said he would not “tolerate abuse, bullying and the ridiculing of Malta by its own politicians”.
Actually, it is words like these uttered by the Prime Minister that should not be tolerated.
It is not his option whether or not to tolerate politicians that speak to the international press to rubbish his passport takeaway scheme. It is not Malta that is being ridiculed but Joseph Muscat and his government. To equate a government to the country harks back to those horror Mintoff years and the much abused slogan “Malta first and foremost”. National interest, as defined by Labour then, came before human rights.
Those who disagreed with them were branded inciters and saboteurs. Muscat appears to be saying much the same today.
One can suppose that when our Prime Minister blurted these words, he was still riding high on the Malta Today survey results published that morning giving him a stunning 17 per cent “trust” lead over the Opposition leader. There were also negative findings that emerged from that survey, so it shouldn’t really have gone that much to his head - to the point that he equates himself and his government to the state, echoing Louis XIV’s “L’état, c’est moi”.
According to the Prime Minister, “foreigners do not see a government and an opposition, they see a country which is ridiculed by its own politicians”. No, actually, that’s Mintoffian isolationist thinking.
“Foreigners” see a government and an opposition, especially when the two are at loggerheads.
“Foreigners” don’t think that when a local politician criticises his government he is ridiculing, bullying or abusing his country.
“Foreigners” see criticism as an expression of an opinion, an exercise of a human right, and the more the opinions differ, the better. That’s how a “foreigner” coming from a western democratic state would think.
If a “foreigner” shoves a microphone into your face, our Prime Minister seems to suggest, you should just smile and tell him about Malta’s wonderful beaches and sunny weather, that all is fine, and that yes, our dear Prime Minister, his government and his country are all good and great, just like Kim il-Sung.
Of course, Muscat’s intolerant outburst is a knee-jerk reaction to the international bad press that came in the wake of the IIP scheme he personally launched in London and Miami.
Some weeks ago, his Interior Minister similarly suggested that ridiculing the IIP scheme could be made punishable by law because, like Muscat, he can’t handle or understand the freedom of the media.
This is what really happened over the passport sale scandal, whatever the Prime Minister may say. The international press ignored the IIP scheme until it was approved by Parliament.
The day after, Reuters distributed a story which made the rounds. Some, not all, media gave it their interpretation, coming to the conclusion that this shameless money-spinner, the lynchpin to the government’s roadmap (yes, I am ridiculing, Mr Prime Minister) is another desperate attempt to balance the budget, just like those undertaken by indebted Mediterranean countries.
Did our Prime Minister expect them to phone up his Finance Minister to get a clarification?
It is a good thing they didn’t, given his recent international performance.
In a democratic world, people have a right to ridicule their leaders, their government and yes, why not, their country, both at home and abroad.
A government, on its part, has the duty to ensure that no one’s right to express his opinion is in anyway stifled. Our Prime Minister says he won’t tolerate divergence of opinion by politicians in the foreign press, and yet respondents to the survey say they trust him more.
Now doesn’t that make you want to ridicule some people?