Where are Labour’s feminists?

Whoever took the decision to withdraw the suspension and give Clint Axisa a job at IM when the court case is still underway has simply ignored the impact such a decision can have on female co-workers... The sullen faces of ministers at vigils for femicide victims are rendered meaningless and fake by actions like these

Clint Axisa’s reinstatement at Infrastructure Malta is wrong. The former senior official at Transport Malta was suspended on half pay as per civil service rules when he was charged in 2022 with sexual harassment on the place of work.

Evidence also suggests he had done his best to try and convince one of his accusers not to press charges. Axisa is out on bail and is pleading not guilty but the case against him is still ongoing. 

Whoever took the decision to withdraw the suspension and give him a job at IM when the court case is still underway has simply ignored the impact such a decision can have on female co-workers. 

ADPD’s Sandra Gauci is right when she says Axisa’s reinstatement is a sign of disrespect towards women. It is in instances like these where government must really stand up to be counted on women’s rights. 

The sullen faces of ministers at vigils for femicide victims are rendered meaningless and fake by actions like these. 

In Gauci’s own words: “An alleged perpetrator, undergoing criminal proceedings, seems to be able to use his party membership as a 'get out of jail free card'.” Can anyone fault her? 

We just wonder what Labour’s feminists have to say about this; or have they gone mum because Axisa is ‘one of them’?

The sacred and the profane 

What the parish priest of Paola’s Christ the King parish does with the church building is  up to him and the town’s Catholic community as long as it is within the confines of the law and planning regulations. 

When this newspaper last Sunday published details of a planning application filed by Fr Marc Andre Camilleri to transform the upper part of the church belfry towers and the outside area above the portico into a restaurant, it passed no judgement whatsoever on the plans. It was simply, like it has been doing almost every Sunday, reporting on plans it believes could be of public interest. 

The outrage was not expressed by this newspaper but by many others who felt the conversion of part of the church building into a commercial enterprise was morally objectionable. 

We will not dwell for long on those few like Jason Azzopardi who deliberately targeted the messenger by accusing the journalist of lying and being anticlerical. It would seem that for the learned lawyer, freedom of expression starts and ends only with those whom he deems friendly. He, of all people, should know better than setting the hounds on a journalist who was only doing his duty to bring to light something of public interest. 

And no, the title of the report was not misleading because the plans submitted by the parish priest’s architect with the application did reference a ‘class 4D licensed restaurant’. The journalist was so correct in his reporting that after it saw the backlash from parishioners and believers, the Curia said the application was being amended to make reference to a class 4C licensed establishment - an eatery where no cooking is allowed on site, so no restaurant. 

Now, it makes absolutely no difference for this newspaper whether the parish priest chose to have a restaurant, cafeteria or ice cream parlour on his church. 

The arguments he makes to justify the plans make commercial sense. He could have gone about things better had he discussed this with his community – after all, the church belongs to them as well – prior to forging ahead with the plans. 

The bigger issue here from a secular standpoint is how do you finance the upkeep of cultural and architectural heritage associated with churches in our communities. 

The Paola parish priest found an innovative way of using ‘abandoned’ spaces within and on top of the church building to create a commercial establishment that could render some income. 

He is not the first to do this. Indeed, a priory in Mdina had transformed the ancient refectory space into a restaurant some years back. And the Mosta parish has a museum attached to it. 

The bigger question is how can the custodians of these magnificent buildings, which also belong to the community and serve as focal points for our towns and villages, physically maintain them. Part-commercialisation of these spaces can provide a stream of income to cover running costs, especially if Malta is serious about tapping the religious and cultural tourism sector. 

Additionally, the State can also step in by financing specific and defined projects that lift the burden of capital expenditure. 

This is not about the State propping up a faith but about supporting the historical, cultural and traditional value of religious buildings. 

As for the moral arguments being made against commercialising such spaces, that is for the church authorities to deal with. Catholics have long been living with the commercialisation of sacred spaces, something that has become more of a necessity in the face of reducing numbers of active celebrants. 

Nonetheless, it is certainly not the Prime Minister’s place to tell the church what to do within its property, as long as what is being proposed is within the limits of the law and does not impinge on the common good. 

Having said this, we cannot ignore the irony of those pious few, scandalised by Robert Abela’s needless comments on the Paola parish church, who found no objection when Archbishop Charles Scicluna some years ago chose to hastily judge new lighting that was still being installed on the facade of Castille without knowing what the final product would look like. Today, nobody remarks that Castille’s beautifully-lit facade is akin to disco lights. 

Similarly, in a few years’ time nobody will be remarking about the indecency of sipping a cappuccino in an elegant setting atop the Paola church. We will probably be ruing the decision not to have a restaurant, instead.