Anti-divorce lobby decries ‘bullying’ over media reports on civil servant

Anti-divorce lobby takes umbrage over MaltaToday reports that deputy Cabinet secretary is taking active role in campaign.

Updated at 3:10pm with Saviour Balzan's comments.

The Moviment Zwieg Bla Divorzju is claiming the media is engaging in a “systematic bullying campaign” against its members, after MaltaToday revealed that the Cabinet’s deputy secretary was taking a front-seat role in the ‘no’ lobby.

Frans Borg, a former permanent secretary in the social policy minister, has taken two months’ vacation leave ahead of the 28 May referendum, at a time when he is also formally militating within the lobby group Zwieg Bla Divorzju.

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

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 on public officers in Scales 1 to 5, who 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 include 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.

In its reaction yesterday, the Zwieg bla Divorzju chairperson Andre Camilleri said everybody was free to participate in the referendum campaign, and called on the media to be “more cautious in their reporting and inform the people of what they will be voting upon, instead of attacking individuals personally.”

The lobby claimed the media – without explicitly referring to MaltaToday – was systematically bullying its members.

Mediatoday managing editor Saviour Balzan said MaltaToday’s story revealed the inconsistency of the head of civil service. “In a democratic and normal society, this story has a particular news value, given that in the past 40 years scores of civil servants were denied the right to participate in activities of controversy or of political nature.

“The accusation of bullying is an echo of the criticism made to the media of being ‘provocative’ for reporting particular news items.”

The Public Management Code states that “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, updated in January 2011, 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 above mentioned 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.”

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.”

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Law to divorce is the first step. Later one goes only down.
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Rules are rules, but the one who wrote these rules is also holier than thou.Yes or No, the divorce will come to Malta the way it did in Ireland
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Open letter to Mr. Dr Lawrence Gonzi Prime Minister, of Malta Republic Dear Sir. As countrymen Servant of God Pope John Paul II, we would like to thank you so much for the tenacious defense of moral order and the foundations of our civilization. We want to assure you of the solidarity of our nation and the people of Malta at that particular time when in the legislation of the Republic the Christian nature of marriage as an indissoluble relation of man and woman is being undermined. We believe strongly that such thanks to your attitude this foundation, the cornerstone of a healthy society will be saved in Malta. May the Good Lord has shed light of the Maltese on the entire Europe and has attracted our erring continent back to Himself.
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I am voting YES, and with great joy, because I belive in the right that every human being have, to decide for himself and not depend on someone else to decide or impose on him.
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Keith Goodlip
The Moviment Zwieg Bla Divorzju is claiming the media is engaging in a “systematic bullying campaign” against its members,---- This movement, by going public, is open to public critisism- If they can't stand the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen.
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Why all this fuss? It is obvious that the diarchy of Church and PN ruled this island. Do not imagine for one instant that these play by the book. No rule every stood in their way. These people have the delusion of possessing a divine right to rule. As regards Mr. Borg and his role in the anti divorce crusade, so what? Intellectually and culturally, he is by no means a heavy weight both. His curriculum attest he is a mediocre bureaucrat whose ascent to the higher levels of the civil service has more to do with his pedigree than competence
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If in my country was a ban on divorce, my parents would try to be together despite the difficulties. It would be better for my family.
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Speaking of divorce I came across a narrative about how a woman was appointed chief in a polygamous society. She was the only next of kin to the deceased chief and no males. Some were reluctant to accept a woman as chief when it was suggested that there was a close male, the son of the second wife, who could be chosen instead. The reply was "Yes the son is a male, but the second wife is more like a girlfriend" She remained a chief and gave birth to another two daughters. I heard other similar remarks from divorced people or their children. Like, "I remarried after a long time But I still consider my first husband as my husband" "My mother (divorced) enjoys the periodical meetings with my father (her ex husband) go out shopping together and have a good time even if she has a boyfriend " Apart from religion I concluded that it is natural that a first marriage is always considered the marriage no matter what the situation is.
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Speaking of divorce I came across a narrative about how a woman was appointed chief in a polygamous society. She was the only next of kin to the deceased chief and no males. Some were reluctant to accept a woman as chief when it was suggested that there was a close male, the son of the second wife, who could be chosen instead. The reply was "Yes the son is a male, but the second wife is more like a girlfriend" She remained a chief and gave birth to another two daughters. I heard other similar remarks from divorced people or their children. Like, "I remarried after a long time But I still consider my first husband as my husband" "My mother (divorced) enjoys the periodical meetings with my father (her rex husband) go out shopping together and have a good time even if she has a boyfriend " Apart from religion I concluded that it is natural that a first marriage is always considered the marriage no matter what the situation is.
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Argumenti tal-parrocca li juru kemm Malta haqqa ahjar minn dawn il-grupp antekwat li gabuna idd quddiem u ohra wara!
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*who is not good even with remarrying will be still not good for him or her. But there are others who really deserves a second chance.* I mean for whom marriage will still not do any good, whom am I to get in their things? it will be he and she who will have to face all their marital problems. but than there are many others who really deserves a second chance. Who don't deserve a second chance ? i think we all deserve a second chance on a particular issue. This anti divorce movement , thye are not speaking for themselves for sure, they are their representing the church for sure. I am sure that if this time the No campaign will win, theer will eb a second attempt in a few years. This is justa mater of time, until the new generation takes over. many of these anti divorce capaigners will be gone , as if never existed. ahhaahaha they think thye they will stop divorce from entering in Malta for ever :) I write here not cause I want divorce , but cause I have the opportunity to write :)
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One thing use common sense, wether it be andre camilleri, the PM etc. etc.. You think all the ppl care about whom are these people? I just use my vote and that's all, it mine and i will vote how I like . Noone can tell me to whom I can vote. With yes or no in the referendum nothing will change. all people will continue with their lives,it's just a law to pass why all this Fuss to stop it? If I love someone what i care if there is a divorce law? we don't have adivorce law here , but all knows the truth here, thousands of lgeally seperated couples, and hundreds of them all ready with new men and wome, with new born kids .. Whats this fuss to say NO? who is not good even with remarrying will be still not good for him or her. But there are others who really deserves a second chance. and yes laws are suppose to be for all the same andre camilleri i dont think the media is bullying a bully, cause I think it's vice versa. Is he breaking the ethic law yes or no. So according to ethics law , i think he is and with the blessing of the PM. SO laws are for fools right? RESIST OR SERVE!