Parties trade barbs, accusations in first televised election debate

Both parties confirm abortion not on the agenda, but Labour leaves door open for discussion on euthanasia

The two main political parties faced off in the first of a series of televised electoral debates
The two main political parties faced off in the first of a series of televised electoral debates

The Labour government should stop using gays as a smokescreen whenever it found itself facing allegations it could not in any way refute, Nationalist Party candidate Clyde Puli said tonight.

“You always use gays when you feel you are sinking, so stop it,” he said. “Forza Nazzjonali will be legalising gay marriages, since the Labour government was not courageous enough to go beyond civil union, despite all its claims.”

In the first of a series of political debates organised by the Broadcasting Authority and hosted by Mario Micallef, Puli joined Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia to face off against Helena Dalli and Silvio Schembri for the Labour Party.

The four politicians exchanged frequent barbs and accusations in the hour-long debate, accusing each other of lying and of misrepresenting themselves.

Farrugia - who spread out an old Malta Labour Pary flag in front of her - said that the choice on 3 June should be based on the respect for others and a love for clean politics, in an attempt to do away with the corruption and bad governance that has become the norm under the current Labour administration.

“This will be the chance for all Nationalists, Democrats, true Labourites, even Mintoff supporters, to return the country to its former glory and take it away from the grasp of this Panama-Labour government,” she said.

Dalli confirmed that abortion was not on the Labour Party’s agenda but acknowledged that euthanasia was an issue that needed to be discussed.

“This government did a lot to introduce measures that made society a much better place,” she said. “We listened to the debate on the morning-after pill, we abolished reparative treatment, and we introduced numerous measures in favour of gender equality.”

Puli said that that Forza Nazzjonali was also categorically against abortion, because the parties believed in the sanctity of life, from birth to death.

“That is why we are also against the introduction of euthanasia, although we realise that a serious discussion on how to treat patients throughout their treatment would be welcome,” he said.

Puli said that Dalli had failed to promote gender equality.

“She did not defend women, and when Joe Debono Grech attacked Marlene Farrugia in Parliament, she defended Debono Grech,” he claimed. “She did not defend women when she removed Angela Callus, because she was not of the same political beliefs.”

Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia spread out an old MLP flag in front of her
Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia spread out an old MLP flag in front of her

Schembri accused Farrugia of having filled the parliamentary secretariat of the health ministry with her relatives while her partner was minister for health.

“Back then the PN you have now cosied up to accused you of corruption,” he said. “Today you’re only good for the PN because of your hatred for the prime minister.”

He called on the two political opponents to condemn statements appearing online calling for the incarceration of prime minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle and for their two children to be sent to a children’s home.

“I hope you condemn other online statements wishing the children of Labour supporters contract cancer,” he said, in an obviously-rehearsed rant on claims made online and never attributed to PN or PD representatives.

Farrugia said that the vulnerable would have the most to gain under a new government composed of the PN and PD, as was obvious by the many sound proposals Forza Nazzjonali had already put forward.

“The Panama-Labour government chose to defend the corrupt throughout the four years,” she said. “If people want to vote for true Labour values, they have no option but to choose the Forza Nazzjonali on 3 June, because the Panama-Labour only has the interests of the few at heart.”