Thursday, 17 April 2014, 08:30 , by Neil Camilleri
PN MP and party spokesperson on Civil Liberties Claudette Buttigieg tried to convince her fellow Nationalist MPs to vote in favour of the Civil Unions Bill during the various parliamentary group meetings. Speaking to The Malta Independent yesterday, Ms Buttigieg said that, like many other MPs she shared her opinion during the various PN Parliamentary Group meetings on the controversial law, but in the end it was decided that the best option for the party was to abstain.
“I was one of those who tried to convince the other MPs to vote in favour. Others were against. We debated it for hours, in a number of sessions. In the end we compromised and remained united. I am part of a team and I cannot act as an individual.”
The PN MP looked visibly upset on Monday night as she walked out of Parliament with the rest of the PN parliamentary group. “It was a very difficult moment for me. I was always close to the LGBTI Community. I did not feel that they were letting me down, but rather that I had let them down. It was a very difficult decision which I took, however, with serenity. I am part of a group, I am not alone.”
The PN MP also cancelled a speech she was scheduled to deliver on the stage in St George’s square. “I spent hours writing and rewriting my speech because I wanted to be sensitive to the gay community. I really wanted to attend the celebrations, both because I had been invited and also because I felt that, after my Private Members Bill against discrimination based on sexual orientation, even I had a reason to celebrate with them. But I changed my mind when I heard the crowd’s reaction. I was ashamed and disappointed because many of my gay friends were present. At least I know that many did not take it personally and acknowledged that, as an MP I cannot decide on my own.”
Ms Buttigieg would not say how she would have voted had the PN MPs been allowed a free vote, but admitted that, deep down she would have wished for a free vote. “I think that would have made more people happy. But as a group we decided that this was the best option. And I have to abide by what we decided as a group.”
Ms Buttigieg argued that the PN would have been castigated in every scenario. Voting in favour would have angered party grassroots. Voting against would have angered the more liberal. A free vote would have given off the impression of a divided party. “In the circumstances, abstaining was the best option for the PN. Having said that, we have to wait and see what the repercussions of both our vote and gay adoptions will be.”
She said, however, that a few days after the vote, she is beginning to see everything in a different light. “Both parties promised to introduce civil unions but none promised gay adoptions. Society is “not prepared” for this development and people are realising this. Many have spoken to me since Monday and told me that we faced a difficult decision but we made the right choice.”