Top government official takes time off to campaign against divorce

A veteran civil servant and deputy secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers has taken a front-seat role with the ‘No’ lobby in the divorce referendum campaign, despite a clear ban on political activism among public officials.

Frans Borg, formerly Permanent Secretary in the Social Policy Ministry, has in fact taken two months’ vacation leave ahead of the referendum, at a time when he is also formally militating within the campaign lobby group Zwieg Bla Divorzju.

Frans Borg has represented this lobby in formal meetings with the Broadcasting Authority, and has also signed correspondence on behalf of a group which is officially campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the May 28 referendum.

And yet, Malta’s Public Management Code explicitly precludes public servants like Borg– who is brother to media lecturer Fr Joe Borg, considered very close to the anti-divorce movement – from any form of involvement in political issues and campaigns.

Issued in May 2007, the code of conduct is very clear in this regard. Restriction 7.2.2.2 states that “(Public officers in Scales 1 to 5) are required to maintain a reserve in political matters and abstain from any public manifestation of their views which might associate them prominently with any political party.”

Restrictions for officers in Scales 1 to 13 are even more draconian, including an automatic ban on “speaking in public on matters of political controversy” and “expressing views on political matters in letters to the press, or in books, articles or leaflets”, among others.

The same code was however updated in January this year, and while the restrictions were reworded and somewhat relaxed, the general principles (Section 2) still apply: “It is of the utmost importance that Ministerial and public confidence in the impartiality of the Public Service shall not be impaired in any way. For this reason, activity in the political field, legitimately open to the ordinary citizen, is not considered compatible with the holding of certain posts in the Public Service.”

Furthermore the new directives make it clear that any position within Scales 1 to 5 – which include permanent secretaries within ministries – is considered ‘politically restricted”.

Nonetheless Dr Godwin Grima, head of the Civil service and author of the abovementioned amendments to the code, sees no contradiction between Borg’s involvement in the referendum campaign, and his role as deputy secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers (among other prominent public service positions).

“The introduction of divorce in Malta is not considered to be of a party political nature,” Dr Grima told MaltaToday.

Frans Borg himself said that he considers the two roles – political activist and civil servant – to be compatible: “Although I see no conflict between what I am doing and my official duties, I confirm that I requested the permission of the Principal Permanent Secretary for a period of vacation leave and permission was granted.”

But the divorce issue has since been elevated to the status of “party political” by the ruling Nationalist Party: which has not only adopted a clear stand against its introduction, but has also made clear – through its leader Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi - that it intends to campaign for a ‘No’ vote on May 28.

Furthermore, the provisions of the Referendum Act are such that involvement on an electoral level is automatically restricted to political parties, as reported on Sunday.

Effectively this means that for the purposes of administering and monitoring electoral proceedings, the divorce referendum is by definition ‘of a party political nature’.

Only political parties are automatically entitled to representation on the Electoral Commission, which is responsible for the entire electoral process.

 

Different weights and measures

The same Public Management Code has been cited in the past to pressure members of Alternattiva Demokratika and the defunct party Azzjoni Nazzjonali to relinquish their roles in the executive of these parties.

In 2008, former AD secretary general Victor Galea was pressured into resigning his political post on the grounds that he could not continue exercising his teaching profession, as teachers in public employment are precluded from any political activities.

A letter sent from the Office of the Prime Minister instructed the permanent secretary in the Gozo Ministry to inform Galea that as a teacher, he “may not hold the post of Secretary General of AD.”

Acting upon the OPM’s instructions, the Gozo Ministry duly informed Galea that he had to decide on whether he intends to continue serving as AD’s secretary-general.

The OPM’s letter to Galea claims that it was acting following “reports carried out in the local press… that Victor Galea has been elected as Secretary General of Alternattiva Demokratika.”

The OPM offered Galea the option of taking “unpaid leave to occupy a statutory post in the central executive of a political party” – according to another provision in the same management code.

Two Azzjoni Nazzjonali officials, the vice-president and treasurer of the party, likwise resigned their political posts after receiving similar letters.

But the Prime Minister denied any knowledge of the letter sent to Galea at the time, insisting that the case had been prompted by a “bureaucrat who had gone by the book” in issuing the letter to Galea.

The Prime Minister had also intervened by ordering the suspension of the letter and for the position to be reviewed.  The OPM also acknowledged that apart from Galea “there are other people who have positions in the civil service while occupying political posts.”

More in Divorce Referendum
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let them all take time off,leave,whatever,veterans or newlyweds,it s all for nothing.
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The right to vote is the tool that every citizen has, not using your tool is really bad for yourself. You have a powerful tool, that is the right to vote to elect or kick asses out of parlament. Not as I belive in divorce itself, but I will vote yes, because Divorce will do nothing bad to marriage. It is the Lies , the betrayals, the no respect, those destroy marriages. Also every human being knows and has the right to live his life. Also This refendum is just a political religious issue , focus well and you will understand. I will vote yes no matter what, cause it's my right to vote. And personally I will vote in the general election against PN for sure, as the PN took the stand agaisnt divorce not cause they belive in family values but because they are mirroring the church, so I will use my vote to try to see the PN goes out of govermentMy vote can go to anyone but no to PN. those that are PN and wants the divorce , next time in the general election go and vote for PN again, remembering he squeezed you balls with what you are hoping for , even if it passes to yes, still GonziPn did all and is doing all to make the NO vote to divorce wins RESIST OR SERVE!
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People take a guess - PN are sending letters to people to encourage them to be assistant electoral commissioners on behalf of the party. Not political my eye. This divorce issue is political to the brim so this person had no right whatsoever to do what he's doing. This divorce issue since it's a social issue - once a referendum has to be held (because i'm against a referendum as divorce is a civil right and there is already divorce obtained from other EU countries and legal in Malta - you only have to have money) - anyway - this referendum should be impartial not with PN/PL/AD representations. I believe that the asst. commissioners should all be under the auspicies of the Electoral commission NOT tied in any way to any political party. I will not take part as an electoral commissioner, because already as it is i'm against the referendum per se, let alone tied to any of the political parties. All political parties instead of creating this mayhem should have seen why those who have money enjoy the possibility of obtaining a divorce from any EU country and validated in Malta, while those who do not have the necessary means will have to remain in a status quo or just separate without possibility of ever remarrying. This is lack of civil and human rights. This is what the political parties should be discussing - Equal rights - not divorce!!!
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Some Pro-Divorce writers are saying or writing that they will not vote as they are 100% sure that the Anti-Divorce voters will win the referendum. This is may be a trick to fool Anti-Divorce voters not to vote as well, thinking that even without them, it will make no difference. Some say that PL lost the last election as they were 100% so sure that Labour will win the election and many did not bother to vote. Everybody knows what happened. Remember that abstentions do not count as pro or anti Divorce votes. So it is our duty to make the sacrifice and vote.
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'falzon silvio It is not a question of voicing his opinion, which under other circumstances he has every right. The estacode prohibits him and since gonziPN took a stand on divorce the matter has be politicised then Mr Borg has no right to campaign as it is forbidden by the Esta code, Labour MPs and sympthisers were made to chose therefore I see no reason Mr Borg is exempted, I hope a PL government will look into the matter and penalize Mr frans Borg as befits him.
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@janette sant You are very wise, by not voting you are playing into gonzi's hand, people like ruin the country by letting things in a status quo, which suits the ruling party very much. Go and vote YES for divorce only that way gonzi will realise he is mistaken.
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Jien ma ghandix idea ta dan frans borg; pero la lahaq..... ma tantx naf nies jilhqu ghax kapaci imma aktar importanti lil min taf. Nigu ghal punt ta llum, nahseb li dan ma hux kaz politiku u jien nemmen li anke dawk tal-politika tal-AD; tal-PL u tal-PN ghandhom ikollhom certu ammont ta flessibilta ghax il-politika suppost servizz ghalina l-poplu.
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Why anyone cares what that say or what the others says? All have a mouth to speak, so who have a mouth let them speak. Personally I don't care whom they are, Who is sane must believe in himself, cause who is sane knows what is good in HIS LIFE, and it is his RIGHT. So ignore these people, completely. Me personally this divorce issue is disgusting from politicians. It's just a political religious issue now, nothing else nothing more. It does not take a divorce law to break marriages/relationships, it's the disrespect, the unfaithfullness, the Lies those that destroy marriages. I still wil vote yes no matter what, and if the divorce law will not pass, still nothing wil be changed, it's just a matter of time (years) and every one will continue to live his life, but the most blame will be on PN , cause the PN took a stand against it, the results wil show in the next general election, there is no escape for GonziPN, Time will tell. Resist or Serve!
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He should stick to his own private affairs. He should follow the rules.
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Firstly, not everyone who lives abroad is a Nationalist or a Gonzi supporter. Secondly they aren't likely to make it possibloe in any way for anyone who lives abroad to vote for this since chances are that people living abroad will vote in favour. And if any one thinks that they are going to "protest" by not voting, you are very wrong. Not voting means that you automatically are voting 'NO', so you'd be doing them a favour. Remember the massive screw-up in the EU referendum? Thats why they want to keep people abroad.
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Tumas, kieku jien nfaddal man. Dawn fundamentalisti sakruna il bieb
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You are so right xprun! I'm currently studying abroad and looking out for flights, but I guess they are not interested in us in this case! When are they going to understand that the more they try to shove religion down our throats, the more we will resist it!
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ISMA JANETE, MHUX BIS GONZI HEXA KOLLOX IMMA JM WKOLL. MISSU MA TAX GHAL REFERENDUM. GONZI HAXXEJ! NAQBEL U JIEN WKOLL MHUS SER NIVVOTA IMMA GHAL LABOUR IVA F'2013
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First Gonzi tries to creat a double hurdle,then we lose 3000 voters because of Gonzi, now Public servants working against divorce.They have no right. Screw it. I protest by not voting. I cannot stand the hypocracy. What is the use?just a waste of time and good tax payers money so that GonziPN can have the last laugh in parliament. No vote from me. I willprobably be out till sunrise anyway and sleep the day off. Prosit Gonzi, you messed it up well and good. No vote in the General elections either so it won't happen again
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I did not think that we would have to hold a referendum just to bring in some basic rights to people who wanted a Divorce. Now i will have to vote with my hands and feet to vote YES. The old dictatorial establishment of the sixties is rearing its ugly head again. Here we go again.
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Dan Frans Borg hu hu Dun(sic) Joe Borg Beirut; Frans Borg minn Assistent Kap tal-iskola mill-ewwel lahaq Direttur tal-Eduazzjoni waqt li haddiehor jitbazwar u ghandu xorti jekk jiehu promotion wahda f'hafna snin. Frans Borg fl-iskola niftakru qatt ma jaghmel xejn hlief jigri barra u rari kien jidher gol-iskola u dejjem kellu l-barka minn fuq. Illum jilghabha tal-qaddis li hu kontra d-divorzju!! L-istess kif jilghabha tal-Qaddis huh il-qassis li lin-nies johodhom bil-hlewwa jew bil-herra skont ma' liema partit izommu! Fejn hu l-Arcisqof? Din hi l-Knisja Maltija? Hallina Frans, ilna nafu kemm int faccol u opportunist! Imisskom tisthu int u huk!
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I believe that any person has a right to promote any topic s/he believes in. However one question we should all consider is what should be the position of Maltese citizens that are married just by Civil marriage if these unfortunately cannot continue with the marriage? Do these people have a right to terminate a civil marriage? What is the position of foreigners who live in Malta but were married by civil marriage do these need to go back where they got married to get the divorce and then return to Malta and remarry? Besides, happily married people will not have to divorce and separate and can go on living happily through their life but for those that have no option but to separate who are we to say that these cannot remarry? How can I impose on others my believes - by voting AGAINST I will be imposing my will on others but by voting FOR I will be giving these people the right to choose.
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Two weights two measures; it is as if we are still living in pre-Napoleonic France. If its good for France Borg -who is a PN loyalist ( and good luck to him)- but why not to AD officials, or to PL officials like Wenzu Minoff who had to resign his editorship because GonziPN(-its him again)- accused Mintoff of breaking the Estacode! Hypocrisy and double standards is the order of the day!# Just heard the news that people who have money-can get divorce in Sicily or the EU: those who can't afford it, have to accept to remain hostage to the 'hypocrisy brigades': they abound a lot in Malta and are-unfortunately- the dominant species! When money talks divorce listens!
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Kemm hawn QADDISIN go dan il pajjiz (Tal Micky Mouse )Jiena ma nafx kif dan Franz Borg irid jindahal fl-affarijiet personali tan nies Hadd ma jiehu pjacir li iz zwieg tieghu Jitfarrak imma jekk jigri HEKK ghax dak li ikun ghandu joqod ghaddej min hafna inkwiet inkella jistenna li wiehed jew wahda jispiccaw il HABS jew il QABAR Heqq ma hemmx xtaghmel dik l-uniku SITWAZJONI li wiehed ikollu jiehu Issa mhux xorta qedin min jitfarraklu iz zwieg tieghu min spicca ma ohra jew spiccat ma iehor (POGGUTI )ghallura hekk sewwa Lil Dr Eddie Fenech Adami nghidlu li ZMIENU ghamlu u ma ghandux ghal fejn JINDAHAL ghax bli qied jaghmel qed juri li il Prim Ministru li ghannna Dr Gonzi ma jiswa ghalxejn Ftakar Dr Fenech Adami kemm kont TGHAJRU lil Mintoff li kien Zmakat dak id diskors li kont ghidt lil Mintoff illum japplika ghalik ghax int (Dr Eddie Fenech Adami )ukoll ZMAKAJT barra min hekk int ghandek l-uliedek MIFRUDIN u ghax ta Adami il Knisja malajr taghthom l-ANNULLAMENT
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Luke Camilleri
Will the Leave taken be with Pay? Will he continue to have his mobile calls, internet connection , telephone service, car milage and other perks be paid by the tax-payer while he is on leave? . If these expenses will contionue to be paid and the leave given is with pay....than we are certainly a country of BIGOTS and HYPOCRITES! . Chaps like him do not need divorce legislation , they just go and get Annulments!
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Well said alchemist and there are many more like him who are simply leeches sucking away our tax money. If Dante was alive today he would have added an extra level exclusively for the maltese nationalists who have done good over the last 25 years by the misappropriation of tax money.
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Seeing that he is able to take two months off work in pursue of a useless crusade means that this gentlemen does not have a busy schedule. The government may therefore terminate his employment and save us some taxpayers' money
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HAWWADNI HALLI NIFHMEK. Safejn naf jiena din mhix kwistjoni politika, tant li anki MP's miz-zewg nahat tal-kamra, min hu favur u min hu kontra, allavolja fli stess partit. Issa jekk din se ssir glieda politika ghidulna car u tond.
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Mid-dehra dal-bniedem hadd ma jridu mieghu !!. Ilu jaghqad minn ministeru ghal iehor iktar minn zugraga !. U ma nehodhiex bi kbira, ghax dan alla jbierku minn instructor qishom ghamlulu xi rocket u sploda 'l fuq !!. U filli kien Segretarju Permanenti fid-dipartiment tal-edukazzjoni, u wara, misterjozament tnehha.Deffsuh fid-dipartiment tas-Sigurta Socjali, tnehha.Insomma kull fejn kien tant ibbrilla li malajr raw kif ghamlu u tajruh. Issa twikkew bih l-ufficcju tal-Prim, u sab ruhu deputat segretarju tal-Kabinett !!!. Milli jidher tant sabuh efficjenti li ndunaw li jistghu jghaddu minghajru imqar ghal xaghrejn !!!. Kieku pozi u ggieget u ngravati u files u briefcases ghandna, imma stoffa m'hemmx. Imma ghandu l-aqwa haga: Jigi hu dun Joe Beirut Borg u huh iehor kien xufier ta' Eddie. U bi kwalifiki bhal dawn tilhaq kullimkien. Awguri.
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Kollox jidher li hu permess f'isem il-krucjata religjuza (sic) tad-divorzju. Ifakkruni fil-famuzi krucjati meta kienu joqtlu u jippersegwitaw lill-Musulmani f'isem Kristu. Ara biex igibu l-istudenti u haddiema (li ilhom is-snin kbar imsifrin u li kienu l-kagun li l-PN tela' fil-gvern) biex jivvutaw fir-referendum qed jittubaw ghax jahsbu li se jivvutaw favur. Viva Malta kattolika!