Apathy, genetic testing and more of Bernard

We’re an overcrowded city masquerading as a country, that is looking shabbier and uglier, driven by immense greed and led by a political system that seems to be surviving without an effective Opposition, a necessity to keep the elected executive in check

Working in a newsroom means journalists are constantly on the lookout for stories that have some gravitas, but it is a process in which you get a feeling for what is really on people’s minds. It becomes worrisome when you realise that, every time you meet someone, they are skirting politics or the mention of war in Europe. It’s going to be football, the summer holidays, or some smashing restaurant…

What is clear is that the Labour administration thinks it can perpetuate a situation where, without people being bothered too much with news, the general public feels as if we are living in a perfect world here in Malta. I’m talking of a conscious decision to avoid interaction with the press, give the impression that all is fine in the state of Denmark… not a bad idea for those in power, even though it does not look good.

Because not all is fine, is it? It appears as if nothing irks the public: whether it is migrants at sea being refused rescue by the armed forces; the rising retail prices index; the state of peripheral roads; the constant demolition of our village cores… the country still needs some very intensive therapy. We’re an overcrowded city masquerading as a country, that is looking shabbier and uglier, driven by immense greed and led by a political system that seems to be surviving without an effective Opposition, a necessity to keep the elected executive in check.

Which brings me to PN leader Bernard Grech.

As I write, we await the verdict for the result of a one-man contest for the leader of the Nationalist Party. For what is now just a confirmation exercise, it almost looks like one of those autocratic states that boast about having a democratic election with one candidate to choose from.

The election comes weeks since the PN attained its worst possible electoral result, enabling Robert Abela to get the green light for the next five years with that kind of majority.

Bernard Grech will probably have thanked all those who voted to keep him on as leader – certainly he should thank so many leadership would-be’s who did not stand for election against him. Because the truth is, Grech is not leadership material. He will be able to manage the PN for the years to come, but he will be unable to counter the Abela tsunami.

And those who think that Roberta Metsola will return to Malta... should remember three things: 1) She is riding high, very high – the pettiness of Maltese politics not for her right now 2) After the EP presidency, she could even go higher, with an amazing future for herself and her family abroad.

I have sort of come to believe that the PN is simply not in a position to rise to the occasion as things stand. Is it serving us a party? In another country it would have disappeared into nothingness, especially given that so many of its people seem to be only thinking of themselves – jumping in for a year or two, then jumping ship when it starts sinking. If the PN cannot rally behind an issue that strikes a chord with the public, then it is not in any position to force change.

Now comes Bernard Grech’s next big challenge: the 2024 European elections.

Metsola has risen so fast as EP president, you can imagine that she is now proper Commission material. I think Robert Abela could be the type to enable that kind of bid, kicking her upstairs and away from a potential leadership bid for the PN. That opens the question of whether Metsola will contest the EP elections again, of course.

Then you have David Casa, who has probably lost the Maltese electorate middle ground which the PN yearns for.

So could there be some new faces in the European elections that perhaps could even dent Grech’s own standing? I am referring here to some rumours that Grech’s predecessor, Adrian Delia, could be seriously considering a run for MEP. After his successful double-constituency election, he could be considering a European bid that sees him outflank Casa.

Grech will still have to contend with what his vision for the 2024 elections will be. Together with his appeal, these two factors can create quite the ripple effect. If Grech is not leaving any impact, if he does not stand for some kind of aspirational issue, then he is not inspiring the middle ground. The PN’s councillors have given him a mandate of over 80%. That might be enough to have him stay on and manage the party into the coming elections. But is Grech the person who can galvanise the party with a fighting chance to take on Abela?

Anti-choice brigade

Miriam Sciberras, a campaigner against IVF rules for embryo freezing, surely loves children and naturally embraces life.

But on Saturday she claimed embryo selection under preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), “does not deliver a ‘healthy baby’ but provides a tool to enable the selection of which baby will live and which baby will be frozen in perpetuity.” She was backed by Caritas Malta and the Church’s marriage counselling unit Moviment ta’ Kana and other Catholic organisations.

Now it is abundantly clear that Sciberras is against medical experts ‘playing God’, who give couples the chance to have children free of hereditary diseases. Until this week, those parents who wanted to ensure that their children would not inherit their genetic diseases had to resort to pay thousands, in overseas clinics, to carry out testing on embryos and select those that are free of disease. It is a process that saved parents and the children the anguish that could follow later.

Sciberras may believe that all oocytes and blastocysts are sacred and that genetic testing is not loved by God.

But ultra-conservatives’ desire to control who gets to do what with their bodies, simply because of the utter egoism of these Catholic zealots, are unable to apply reason and weigh the ultimate good of this science.

To oppose genetic testing on a developing embryo as a matter of faith, is fundamentally sick.

Sciberras, Caritas, and all the Catholic NGOs who are signing up to Life Network’s anti-science and anti-family statement, are out of synch with the public and insensitive to the concerns of parents how know why the genetic testing of embryos is necessary.