Both sides cry foul as campaign immediately gets dirty

The divorce referendum campaign barely got off the ground this week, and already it is mired in accusations of muckraking and unethical behaviour from both sides. 

First to cry foul was the No movement - Zwieg Bla Divorzju – which last week objected to the use of derogatory language by their pro-divorce counterparts. But objections from the Yes camp were quick to follow, especially when parodies of their official billboards – targeting individual campaigners such as Deborah Schembri and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando – were widely circulated on the Internet.

Schembri in particular is portrayed as a lawyer scheming to introduce divorce for purely personal gain.

In comments to MaltaToday, Pullicino Orlando tore into the email campaign as an example of “the worst form of political campaigning”.

“It is indicative of the fact that the NO camp doesn't have valid arguments against responsible divorce.,” he said when contacted yesterday. “They are resorting to the dirty tactics one usually associates with the worst form of political campaigning making it obvious who is guiding them to do so. Doing so whilst presenting oneself as a paragon of Christian virtue and a defender of moral values makes this even more distasteful.”

But the No movement also had stern words of condemnation for the "unacceptable” way its opponents were conducting their own campaign.

The use of the word “bghula” (bastards) to describe illegitimate children on billboards was singled out as particularly odious.

Zwieg bla Divorzju chairman Andre Camilleri said that these were “derogatory terms which we no longer use, and it comes from a movement which claimed children should not be used in the divorce debate without reason.”

‘Baghal’ literally means a beast of burden, and is especially used to describe a mule: the mixed offspring of a horse and a donkey. By extension it is also used as a pejorative term for illegitimate children.

Nor is it the only instance of questionable language on pro-divorce billboards. The use of the word “pogutti” – a slang term referring to ‘cohabitating persons’, for which there is no direct equivalent in English – also caused offence amonf No campaigners.

However, when levelling these and other accusations, both sides seem to be overlooking the mote in their own eye.

As already observed, the same campaigners who reacted so furiously to the use of vulgar language on the Yes billboards, had no qualms in resorting to calumny themselves… especially in the insinuations regarding Debnorah Schembri herself.

And while the same Schembri reacted to the launch of the Zwieg Bla’ Divorzju billboards by objecting to the use of children, her own lobby group’s campaign – launched the following day - also portrayed children on its billboards.

“Children are also the victims of domestic violence so responsible divorce gives hope to children as well,” Schembri said in defence of this apparently contradictory position.

When asked why Moviment IVA had resorted to use such offensive terms in its billboard campaign, Schembri replied that they were chosen for their “shock value.”

“We wanted to annoy people with the term,” she admitted, explaining that the idea was to make people aware of the unfavourable conditions that children find themselves in as a result of the lack of responsible divorce.

But she refuted claims that the word victimises children, adding that terms like “children born out of wedlock” only served to “sugar-coat” the reality of the  situation.

“It would be far better to work so that the conditions these children live in are eliminated, rather than opposing the choice of wording that says it like it is,” she said. 

Meta l-knisja tibda taghti l-annullamenti gratis nibda nemmen dal bilboard.
If there is a more disgusting person in Malta than this Andre Camilleri, one has to look a lot deeper into the comments of the No campaign. But then when one achieves his personal gains through his association with the religious hypocrisy in Malta, there can be no mistake where his alliances lie. The biggest hypocrisy of Andre Camilleri that can make anybody sick to their stomach is, his statement that children should not be referred to, in the campaign. As if divorce and maintenance payments would not involve children or their civil rights to be recognised. One as brilliantly hollow as Andre cannot find fault in this kind of twisted theatre, due to the fact that the chirch annulments decrees that the marriages never existed. And if children could not be used in this divorce campaign, one would ask Andre the religious crusader, should the children who got abused and sexually molested by all those pedophile priest be also excluded from conversations and their civil rights for damages that in the USA alone amounted to 1 billion dollars?
"Zwieg bla Divorzju chairman Andre Camilleri said that these were “derogatory terms which we no longer use, and it comes from a movement which claimed children should not be used in the divorce debate without reason.” André Camilleri must take the Oscar as the biggest hypocrite in Malta. He is opposing divorce which means that cohabiting couples cannot marry and their children are born out of wedlock - effectively bastards. Yet he pretends to be shocked if they are referred to as "bastards". Can you be more hypocritical than that?