Thursday, 26 December 2013

Times: Was the lesson truly learnt?

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20131210/blogs/was-the-lesson-truly-learnt.498370#.UrwqndKAQ8k
Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 09:45 by Fr Joe Borg

These last few days saw quite a number of interesting developments on the sale of citizenship scheme (or to use the official name: Individual Investor Programme). This Sunday the Prime Minister said that they could have done things in a better way, meaning I suppose that the government should have consulted and listened more. Last week the Minister of Finance was more radical. When speaking to a Committee of the EU Parliament Prof. Scicluna listed several aspects of the scheme (for which he blamed ‘Henley Something’) that could be changed in line with criticism made before the government decided to ignore all and one and got the law approved by Parliament. Prof. Scicluna’s speech outlines an agenda that could lead to a national consensus on the subject; that is, if the views of the Minister of Finance represent the views of the government.

The moral of the story is very simple: consultation and consensus should be the name of the game in such matters before the horses bolt.

But has the lesson been truly learned?

We will know this week when Parliament continues discussion the proposed law on civil unions.

I had consistently made two points about this law.

The first one is that both parties had promised the enactment of a law on civil union which both parties said was not a law legalising same-sex marriage. Since there is a general consensus in the country that the proposed law is a law for same-sex marriage in all but name should not Government agree to amend it in such a way as to respect what it promised and what the people voted for? This will only be done if the distinction between marriage and a civil union is made in fact not just in name. The law as it stands does not do this. Political honesty should inspire the Government to accept amendments in this respect.

The second point I repeatedly made is about adoption by same-sex couples in a civil union. The Marriage Act does not have a provision about adoptions and neither should this law on civil unions have one. Adoptions should be discussed within the parameters of the adoption law. Before expanding the adoption regime in Malta I proposed that there should be a holistic study assessing the adoption regime whether by married couples, or individuals or, if it is to be the case, by couples in a civil union. What are the strengths and the weakness of the procedures currently adopted? How can they be improved? Has experience showed us that adoptions by single persons have proven to be in the best interest of the children as adoptions by married couples? Is the way adoptions by married persons are effected in the best interest of the child? What does experience overseas tell us about adoptions by gay couples? Is there a clear indication that such adoptions will prove to be in the best interest of children in Malta? The government knows that there is a massive popular reaction against adoption by same sex couples. This opposition should be taken into account, addressed and studied as part of the assessment I am proposing. These are questions that such a study should look into. I am not saying a definitive yes or a definitive no. I am saying: let’s study it before rushing in a law based on a meagre process of consultation.

If these issues are not addressed then one could justifiably conclude that the Government has not truly learnt the lesson that it is saying that it learnt and that the opening of negotiations with the Opposition was only a tactical ploy to gain time, hoping that the international outcry against the scheme would die down.

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