Saturday, 29 January 2011

Turkish delight and other delicacies

In a land like ours, which is small and everything done by anyone is known to everyone in quicker time than it takes to say “Which hat shall I wear?”, I find it quite strange and dotty the way certain people in the public spotlight act and react and talk.
What’s he on about I hear the editor and the readers shout in exasperation? Most of our politicians are lawyers or at least that is my impression. The leader of the Labour Party isn’t but he is very nicely aided and abetted by two erstwhile deputy leaders who are. So in their spare time all these lawyers obviously have to ply their trade to earn their keep, otherwise their plush livelihood could be threatened. That would be the last thing I would ever wish to see inflicted on our good lawyers with a political bent.
I’m also never sure if these lawyers remember that what they say in court to defend nefarious or petty criminals can and does reflect what they, the lawyers, think and feel about life in general. I can assure you I have an argument brewing here in my mind that will soon be let out of my long-winded bag.
A prominent lawyer who is also very involved in politics had a strange case to defend. This lawyer is the opposition party’s spokesman for justice and, therefore, technically, could be in the running for the justice portfolio if the PL is voted into power in the next election. The strange case involved a Turk, in his 30s, who was in love with a 16-year-old girl who subsequently dumped him. Said Turk turned from lover to obsessive stalker and sent the young girl threatening text messages. The girl’s mother was rightly bothered and took action by reporting all to the police who, subsequently, took the appropriate action and arraigned the Turk. The mother and daughter were both ready to forgive the Turk for having had sex with an immature, underage girl. The mother was quoted as saying that as long as the Turk mended his ways and stopped threatening and harassing her daughter all would be fine and forgotten.
I have nothing but praise for all concerned as our forgiving nature shines in the mother’s and daughter’s stance. No talk of racism coloured the mother’s reasoning: she never said how terrible Turks and Muslims were. Thank God for these mercies in our land, which seems to beget bigoted racists at an alarming rate.
Where does our potential future Minister of Justice come in? He, as I said above, was the defence lawyer for the Turk. Nothing wrong there, I hear all lawyers cry out in unison. Someone has to defend the man and, of course, I agree.
Donning his hat of defending lawyer the possible future Minister of Justice said things I would find hilarious if they weren’t utterly disturbing. This lawyer said he has fought for the age of consent to be lowered from 18 to 16. Again nothing wrong there at all; he is certainly allowed any and all views. And in an age where 16-year-olds seem undeniably advanced and mature I think he surely has a point. The learned gentleman, however, did not stop there.
“The police,” he is quoted as saying, “would have hundreds of arraignments a month on their hands if they had to charge all teenagers caught having sex in public places.”
So just because it’s rampant it shouldn’t be stopped? Is this how he will act when he dons his ministerial hat?
If there is just one crime happening in town would the police be expected to go out and stop it but can lie back and enjoy the scene if there are a number of crimes? Is this the way he will run the ministry or expect the police to act?
The idea the police must not waste their time on petty stuff is fine and acceptable. The minister-to-be could also scream that, for all he cares, all women and girls, up to whatever age he wishes the age of consent to be, can have wanton sex. But his way of saying the police should not act to stop any crime because it happens often misses the whole point of crime detection and avoidance.
I know it is a terrible comparison but right now the Mexican authorities have so many murders happening in their country the police are rightly losing hope of solving or stopping them. But I hope the Mexican Minister of Justice hasn’t thought of taking a feather out of our lawyer/politician’s cap and asking his staff to stop bothering because so many murders are happening they can’t keep up with them.
I shake and quake when I hear or read similar accounts of what learned men and women say without thinking of the consequences. I’m sure the Turk was given a lesser sentence after the lawyer’s eloquent defence. And good luck to the Turk. But it would be a tough sentence on the inhabitants of Malta if this lawyer becomes Minister of Justice and practises what he is preaching in court.
This article first appeared in The Times on January 29 2011

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Of marriages made in heaven

Marriages of convenience are, to say the least, strange beasts. But if we introduce divorce in Malta they could always be dissolved by a Maltese court. And hurrah to that I say, to the echoing agreement of Maltese liberals and other assorted folk.
So what am I on about?
Jeffrey Orlando Pullicino and Evarist Bartolo recently, figuratively and conveniently, got together to launch the Iva (yes) To Divorce movement. It’s a pity they didn’t name it the Iva For Divorce Organisation as then it could have been shortened to I DO. No harm in the marriage between the two at all. In fact, I hope it will be a start to further cooperation between the two giant parties and their individual components who could find a lot of common ground if only they, and we, their followers, change their, and our, mindset.
Let me immediately state I agree that divorce should be introduced in this fair land of ours. I cannot see how divorce can harm the family as an institution. Hasn’t that institution been harmed enough with broken marriages through separation and marriage breakdowns? Will children born out of a second marriage contracted after divorce be any worse than the ones born to parents still legally married but are in what is now fashionably called a partnership?
Back to marriages of convenience: Mr Bartolo marrying Dr Pullicino Orlando sounds as if it’s made in heaven. It’s like a Hindu in India marrying a Moslem and fostering a Catholic. We should all sing our praise heavenwards and say a few words of thanks to Shiva, Allah and, maybe, put in a few secret words to our own Alla. But, God permitting, I still have a few problems with this marriage regarding the Yes To Divorce movement.
Even their name seemed to be made in hell. The Iva For Europe was a movement that asked for unity not divorce. And much as I like the idea of yet another yes movement, couldn’t these two important and prominent politicians come up with a new name? Maybe they should have found something more in tune with division like Disunity Rules or something even pithier like the Le movement.
I don’t think a movement or a slogan can be patented but I would have expected the Iva For Europe campaigners to stop the usurpation of their movement’s name. At least to give our land a bit of fun and games and the courts some more work to be postponed sine die.
I cannot imagine stranger bedfellows than Dr Pullicino Orlando and Mr Bartolo. They both have a winning smile and are both very media-savvy. But beneath their endearing demeanour lies something worrying. I have nothing but admiration for the two politicians and I know they are both honourable men. However, I am inclined to believe they had more than the nation’s well-being in mind when they agreed to cohabit in their pro-divorce stand. Both have a political life verging on the peripheral. Both need a new impetus to get back on the national radar. Both must have thought some maverick tactics could get them noticed and their pasts, whether murky or contentious, conveniently filed under the carpet. Mr Bartolo fought for some leadership post he didn’t get and he doesn’t seem to be the most beloved of the new Labour leader.
Dr Pullicino Orlando, well, the whole galaxy knows about this man. Before the last election, he was the galaxy’s champion for anything environmental. All the while he was being touted as Malta’s green messiah, he was somehow, directly or indirectly, involved in some grand design to turn, or have his land turned, into some flashing disco. So from messiah to pariah in two easy steps was the name of the game for him. He now plays around with his vote in Parliament and so the Prime Minister has his hands tightly tied to keeping said Dr Pullicino Orlando quiet and good. As all legislatures come to an end after five years even without a maverick MP voting the government out of office, Dr Pullicino Orlando needed to find another cause célèbre to make him an electable politico. So it was decreed, by the heavens above, that he and Mr Bartolo espouse divorce.
As I said, I am all for unity between diverse factions and I also am all for divorce. I do object strongly when these movements/organisations/think tanks, which always claim to be liberal, start acting in illiberal ways themselves. If the Church says anything about divorce the intelligentsia accuses it and its spokesmen of blasphemy against democracy or of corrupt practices even before the election or the referendum are announced. And if Eddie Fenech Adami talks about marriage and divorce the Iva movement comes out against him and drags his children’s marital situation into the public domain. Isn’t that the most illiberal and despicable of actions?
The strange name of Iva to divorce and division should get another of our stalwarts into sloganeering mode. Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici who is, strangely enough, still screaming and ranting, should launch another of his crusades and movements and give birth to another Iva organisation: the Iva to Divorce from Europe Movement (yes idem: and more of the same).
Marriages, the gurus tell us, fail if they are not based on love. Clerics add that failure is assured if the marriage partners do not pray together. I hope and pray the marriage between Dr Pullicino Orlando and Mr Bartolo is not just for their selfish ends and they will prove me wrong in my analysis of the situation and remain happily united forever and ever.

This article first appeared in The Times January 8 2011