Letters: 27th April 2014

On diverse MPs' views

On Monday 14 April I went to Valletta, together with people from all walks of life, gay and straight, to witness a wonderful moment in our country’s history, when two bills were enacted in parliament to place homosexual citizens on the same level as everyone else.
First, the civil unions bill, giving same-sex couples in a committed relationship the ability to have their union registered and recognised by the state, with the same rights and obligations as marriage. In fact it’s a pity that it wasn’t called by its proper name – marriage – but I hope that this unnecessary distinction will be removed in the not too distant future.
This same bill also addressed the elephant in the room: yes, it would include the right for children being raised by two parents of the same sex to have both of their parents legally recognised, instead of just one.
Also on the same day, another bill passed, unanimously. The private member’s bill proposed by Claudette Buttigieg to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was amended by the government to add gender identity.
This bill was a very important one, since one still hears of people facing discrimination because they’re gay, and it’s unfortunate that Buttigieg was deprived of her opportunity to be with the crowd at such a beautiful occasion, because she deserved to be there with us. She also worked for this. The intent behind PN’s mass abstention did not, in my view, show a united front. On the contrary it showed a party that prevents its MPs from having, or showing, a diversity of views.
What’s the use of having both liberal and conservative candidates if, at the end of the day, the party decides how all of them will vote? There’s nothing wrong in having a few votes from the opposition or government benches that are different from their companions’ – in fact it shows maturity. I hope that this becomes the rule for the future.
Outside parliament, the moment when the crowd heard that the bill had passed was one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve seen – people hugging, laughing, crying tears of happiness. I’ve never seen an act of parliament produce so much joy (eat your heart out Konrad). I only wish that the detractors could have seen those faces. I think that anyone who saw that scene, and heard the testimony of the children of gay parents would have lost any lingering bitterness.

Ramon Casha, Qormi

Part of the solution or part of the problem?

In a recent interview, the president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses started off by stating that “the issues affecting Malta’s health services were never about the ability or professionalism of medical staff” but followed this with yet another diatribe against consultants.
The Medical Association of Malta would like to commend all the nurses working in the health service for their dedication, and high professional standards both in their relations with patients and their medical colleagues.
MAM is concerned that Mr Pace’s negative approach may cause anxiety or distress to patients. He attacks consultants’ working practices and implies that there is conflict between the medical and nursing professions. We want to reassure patients that nothing could be further from the truth. Doctors and nurses are deeply satisfied when a patient’s condition improves. We work hard together, on a daily basis, as a team with mutual respect to achieve this aim.
Medical consultants take responsibility for patient care at Mater Dei. The number of operations, outpatient visits, and inpatients has been increasing consistently since 2007 by an average of 10% per year. Consultants work morning, afternoon and evening or weekend sessions to the extent that last year MUMN ordered industrial action in the operating theatres because “doctors are operating too many patients”.
MAM and its members will continue to strive to further improve standards of medical care. MAM has participated in both the task force set up by Joseph Cassar, and the working group set up by Godfrey Farrugia to identify the strategic approach to face the current problems afflicting the health service. Unfortunately MUMN did not participate and then complained about a lack of consultation.
Our country needs major infrastructural investment and increased human resources to deal with the ever-increasing demand for high quality health services. We need to work together to achieve this. We need to find solutions and not create problems.

Gordon Caruana Dingli, President, MAM

No comment where there should have been

Since its first issue, I always found time to read MaltaToday and the first thing I look for is the opinion page of Saviour Balzan. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t, but I could do neither when I read his opinion about the civil union and adoption law that recently passed in parliament.
I was very much confused when I read that Saviour was looking for a bishop to lead the Church.
Balzan questioned where the Church and its bishops were during the civil union debate. I think everybody, Balzan included, knew the position of the Church regarding the civil union and adoption law proposed by the Labour government. Even those sitting in parliament knew it when he boasted about how the law would show the clear separation between State and Church.
To tell the truth, I too asked questions after the celebration that took place in St George’s Square. I expected Catholic leaders to comment at least, to defend the Church’s teachings, principle and values. I do not want our bishops to get involved in politics, as perhaps Lino Spiteri once thought, as I do not want the Church to be gagged by politics.
Because of his admission that he is not a practicing Catholic, I doubt Balzan’s sincerity in complaining about out bishops. I, neither a sinner nor a saint but a practicing Catholic, am very sorry about their silence because I feel that more is to come. I believe that this is the second stage, after divorce. I was mainly against divorce because I am convinced that it would open the floodgates of all evils.
Balzan showed us that he is confused at to what is best, a society with or one without the Church. In my opinion, a society without religion is like a jungle of beasts. A society without values and leaders without principles will lead us all towards anarchy. Let us be progressive but never beyond the red lines.
Balzan also complained about the silence of society. Where do you expect society to complain when the media does not help it? We know quite well that some only give half a page for society to give its opinion while others always feature the same names. How can we complain if we are ignored?

Joseph Muscat, Mosta

Administrative committee's role

On Saturday 24 May, voters whose names appear on the electoral register will be called upon to vote for the candidates of their choice in the European Parliament and local council elections.
Although it can be argued that the EP elections have largely eclipsed the local ones, the importance of the latter should not be underestimated.
We must never forget that the rights and associated duties of self determination and democracy permeate through every level of governance, and remain valid even in the smallest locality.
Rather than being unaffected by local politics, or believing that it pales into insignificance when compared to national politics, it is the efficient running of our communities that makes an immediate difference to our daily lives; better roads, cleaner streets and safer neighbourhoods are key to improving our quality of life.
Administrative committees, even those representing Malta’s smallest localities, when run efficiently and in a forward­-thinking manner can have a ripple effect on the residents’ well­being and their direct involvement with public matters, as well as acting as a barometer of the nation’s political maturity.
Rather than being a launch pad for ambitious ideas about national politics, administrative committees should be seen as a touchstone that connects policymakers with the public sentiment at a very granular level.
Although PN party officials have a lot on their plate at the moment, their response to the national issues of the day can only benefit from being more aware of the day­to­day concerns of the people it is trying to serve.
As a PN candidate running for office in the Kappara Administrative Committee, I am acutely aware of the disillusionment and concerns of the people of this hamlet.
Kappara has formed the backdrop to my childhood and adolescent years, however in recent years large businesses, increased traffic and major infrastructural changes threaten to change its character forever.
A cross­-party effort to reverse this trend and chart the course for sustainable development and conservation of its heritage treasures instead could set an example to other administrative committees, local councils, and the central government, of how a people-­centric, collaborative approach benefits all.
Both political parties, and the PN in particular, have to take into serious consideration the opportunities that lie at the grassroots level in order to rebuild bridges where these are no longer, as well as lead in a fairer, more resident oriented way, where honesty and transparency have been doubted.

Simon Ellul Sullivan, Kappara