Updated | PN says Helena Dalli can’t be taken seriously after ‘admitting’ to misleading voters

The party once again called on Equality minister to state why she was insisting on ‘removing the protection of the unborn child from the law’

Equality minister Helena Dalli
Equality minister Helena Dalli

Equality minister Helena Dalli has come under fire after a video emerged where she appears to imply that the Labour Party had intentionally misled voters prior to the 2013 general election. 

Dalli was speaking during an event organised during a session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where she said that in the Labour Party’s 2013 manifesto, had made reference to equality rather than the full list of reforms it planned on enacting.

In a statement on Monday, the Nationalist Party (PN) said that Dalli, “by her own admission” misled people. It added that it was therefore legitimate for the nation to ask why Dalli and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wanted to remove the protection of the unborn child from the country’s domestic violence laws.

“What is their true intention?” asked the PN.

The minister’s remarks (video above starting at roughly the fourth minute) were made during a side-event organised by Malta during the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which addressed areas on which it has made significant progress domestically.

After listing the reforms enacted by Malta, Dalli was asked whether the government’s civil liberties reforms had “hurt people in Malta”.

“When we were about to introduce civil unions in 2014, there was a poll which showed that 80% of the people were not in favour, even though the majority had voted for this. But you know electoral programmes, it’s a package, and they didn’t realise because we just put in equality as a major pillar for this government,” replied Dalli.

Despite Dalli’s remarks, the Labour Party had pledged to introduce civil unions, as well as the right for same-sex couples to marry during the 2013 election campaign.

The minister said that the poll had prompted many to ask her what she planned to do, given the widespread opposition, with the minister stressing that a lack of popular support was not going to stop the government from doing what was right. 

“This is not a country to have second-class citizens so I said we’ll forge ahead anyway,” she added. 

The minister went on to say that when the government needed to introduced gender identity laws a year later most people were in favour.

“They reailsed we hadn’t taken anything away from anyone and life went on. Its just that people were happier because a section of our society, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, who were not included in the body of legislation of rights were included now, so what’s not to like.”

Doubts on why government refusing to keep protection of unborn child

The PN said the minister’s comments increased doubts as to why the government was refusing to keep a reference to unborn child in the Domestic Violence Act.

“During the discussion on domestic violence in parliament, minister Helena Dalli kept insisting that the protection of the unborn child, when a mother is the victim of domestic violence while pregnant, should be removed,” said the PN. 

It added that Dalli had also told sections of the media that she was ready to hold a discussion, after appeals were made for a national discussion about abortion.

“With this declaration, the minister is again using equality as a pretence to push forward a discussion on abortion.”

Speaking during a political activity yesterday Prime Minister Jospeh Muscat said that over the last ten years his position was, and remained, against abortion. Those who wanted to hold a discussion could do so, but there was no issue, he added.

Labour Party reaction

In a statement issued on Monday, the Labour Party accused the PN of resorting to lies to hide its own internal divisions.

“There is currently a campaign underway to discredit minister Helena Dalli as she makes headway in advancing gender-based and domestic violence,” said the PL, adding that the law was intended to protect the victims of all types of violence by preventing it from happening, and by introducing structures and penalties to “address perpetrators”.

“The Nationalist Party should therefore stop disrespecting the victims of domestic violence with its fake campaign pretending to protect unborn children from abortion.”

The PL said that all the legal provisions and criminalise abortion and protect the unborn child are not being altered through this law and that the Labour government has been clear in its position against abortion.

“As has been repeatedly explained, the changes to the law will not remove any current protection of the unborn child,” added the statement.

“In light of this, it is clear that the Nationalist Party is making up excuses for its internal divisions and the final vote on this law.”

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