[WATCH] Small number of MPs wary of politicising hunting referendum

While nine of the 39 MPs who took part in the vox-pop chose not to comment, the rest – 22 Labour MPs and eight PN MPs – said they would be voting ‘Yes’. 

VOX POP: How will MPs vote in the referendum? • Video by Ray Attard

A small number of members of parliament opted not to take part in a MaltaToday vox-pop on the spring hunting abrogative referendum, arguing that they were in favour of calls for the issue not to be politicised.

On Monday evening outside parliament, MaltaToday asked 39 MPs how would they be voting on 11 April when the Maltese electorate will be deciding whether or not to have regulations which allow Malta to derogate from the EU Birds Directive cancelled from the statute book. 

But only nine of those questioned chose not to give an answer, arguing that they wanted to respect the campaigners’ call for political parties not to politicise the issue. 

Two of these were Environment Minister Leo Brincat and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna. The six others were all Nationalist MPs, including the PN’s spokesman on hunting Charlo Bonnici.

Brincat said that while he was aware of the government’s electoral pledge in its manifesto and the Prime Minister’s consistency on the matter, one should keep in mind that the issue has now been passed onto the electorate. 

“Just like the Prime Minister himself stated, the political parties and the government need to make room for other voices to be heard in the debate. As a member of the Cabinet I feel that I should respect the civil society’s wish by refraining from commenting publicly on the matter,” Brincat said.

The environment minister added that the government would be respecting the outcome of the referendum, and therefore the civil society should be allowed to make its choices freely.

The same sentiment was expressed by Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech, who said that the public should be able to decide on its own without being influenced by the political parties.

Shadow environment minister Marthese Portelli took the same position, saying that both hunters and environmentalists had expressed their satisfaction over the parties’ decision not to turn spring hunting into a political football.

“We should respect this choice,” she said. 

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna also opted not to voice his opinion on the matter explaining that, once the referendum was called by the people, the electorate should be able to formulate its own opinion.

“It is time for the politicians to take a step back. We always accuse politicians of wanting to interfere. This time we must take a step back. I have my own opinion but we should allow the people to debate as they should and make an informed decision,” Scicluna said.

Recently appointed spokesman for hunting, Nationalist MP Charlo Bonnici said his new role within the party did not make it possible for him to express his personal opinion on the matter.

“As a spokesman for the Opposition on the matter, I cannot comment as an MP but as a spokesperson, and therefore I can only speak for the PN’s position. We will allow the public to listen to the two camps, who will explain why the electorate should vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the referendum,” Bonnici said.

He added that the two major political parties have agreed that this matter should not be politicised, allowing the voters to make their choices freely.

Gozitan MP Frederick Azozpardi (PN) said that it is up to the people to decide while PN spokesman for arts Joe Cassar suggested that the media should not wait outside parliament for the MPs now that it was agreed that the referendum should not be politicised.

Former rural affairs minister George Pulliciono said he will decide on his vote while in the voting booth, while PN MP Robert Cutajar said it would be irresponsible if MPs were to influence the public following the agreement reached.

Contrary to deputy leader for party affairs Beppe Fenech Adami – who declared a ‘Yes’ vote – the Opposition’s deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Mario de Marco preferred not to voice his intentions.

“While I do have a stand on the subject, I don’t think it would be opportune to say what it is, risking to politicise the matter more than it has already been,” de Marco said.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo has publicly admitted that he was still undecided, while backbencher Deborah Schembri said she had still to listen to further arguments from both camps before taking a final decision.

While nine of the 39 MPs who took part in the vox-pop chose not to comment, the rest – 22 Labour MPs and eight PN MPs – said they would be voting ‘Yes’. 

The only MP who has so far publicly announced she will be voting to ban the spring hunting was Labour backbencher Marlene Farrugia.  

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