I really love Malta. Anyone who says it doesn’t rock must be stone deaf or worse. Some time ago while the world was passing through one of its most momentous periods tinged with blood, tragedy and radiation fears, we, or, rather, our representatives in Parliament, discussed for eight or nine long sessions how or when we were to vote for divorce. And the vote approaches where we will have to agree or not to divorce. If our esteemed members don’t deserve their salary and super-special pension for anything I’m sure no one will grudge them their earnings for being super good at nitpicking.
I don’t know if, after all this time, anyone remembers or followed it very well – the marathon debate, I mean. We had Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando promising us he would vote with the opposition even before the debate opened. So if he knew even before he heard the debate how he was going to vote why bother debating? Couldn’t he, at least, have told us he thought he was going to vote with the opposition but that if, by any chance, one of the long speeches in Parliament changed, or maybe dulled, his mind, he would change it and just maybe vote with the government side? At least it would have given us a bit more interest in the outcome.
It was like watching a game of football with extra time and a few dozen penalties but with foreknowledge of the result. Rather an inane exercise, I’d say. The referee could have stayed home and cooked a wholesome meal for his friends. If Dr Pullicino Orlando hadn’t told us how he would be voting, he would have proved to all of us he really was a free spirit unshackled by pre-conceived, pre-ordained ideas.
In fact, I now await his solemn pledge that in the referendum he will vote, not according to what he wishes or thinks is right, but that he will come to a conclusion after all the bigwigs of the land have regaled us with more insights and studies and views. This will prove to us, lesser mortals, that his vote will be cast as a real, free-spirited person in what should be a choice based on very solid and sound conclusions.
I also need a lot of weighing in the divorce debate. I just can’t decide how to vote, so I am still waiting for said bigwigs to convince me. I am at heart very much in favour of divorce, so, at first sight, I wish I could vote yes to divorce as proposed by the referendum. But I’m not too sure I want to vote yes and have a strange smile-fest from the likes of Dr Pullicino Orlando, Joseph Muscat and Evarist Bartolo, all doing an Irish jig to celebrate the passing of their Irish-style divorce in Malta.
As the famed DJ and anti-divorce campaigner told The Times, after the divorce laws are in (if they are) he will be waking up every day thinking of and wishing he could divorce. I do fear that the uncontrollable desire to get divorced will surely happen to us married men and women of this rock. We will all end up craving to get divorced just because it’s in the statute law. And at my age, waiting for four forlorn years to get myself a divorce will really be tough. Four years added to my age right now and I’ll end up being given the divorce papers, or whatever you get when you get divorced, together with my kartanzjan and pension. Not really the best time to get myself back on the marriage market.
So, maybe, I’ll opt for a no to divorce on that day. This will mean, of course, that my cherished idea of being a young-at-heart liberal would then go down the proverbial drain.
At the start of the campaign we nearly had an eerie silence from the Church authorities. Now, close to the actual vote, we seem to have a deluge of words and actions but still not, it seems, officially sanctioned. Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech has declared a holy war on all Catholic adults who even dared think they would vote in favour of divorce. The bishop raved and ranted against all “brigands” and “wolves”. There seems to be a whiff of antagonism in the house of our bishops. Would they − horror of diabolical horrors − be allowed to divorce or whatever happens to bishops who can’t work together?
The Archbishop and the band of seven wise priests seemed to indicate that the best way forward would be restrained debate and definitely no crusades. I know history teaches many lessons and the Church in Malta does not want to go the whole hog and fight divorce the way they fought Dom Mintoff and his obnoxious ideas back in the 1960s by using all sorts of Catholic, but hardly Christian, stuff and decrees. The way the Church has been acting makes you feel it has lost its bite.
Even the anti-divorce campaigners don’t seem to have made much of a campaign. I remember the frontman of the campaign promising us that prominent politicians and other leading personalities were going to join the fight against the damning demon of divorce. The yes to divorce campaigners sound even more histrionic than the more sedate, supposedly anti-liberal no-to-divorce camp. In fact, the dullness was only coloured by a silly Nazi slur swung by one divorce campaigner.
Except for a few ex-Presidents and a DJ, I haven’t been too impressed by what the anti-divorce movement has produced. What’s happened? Is it all going to be let loose on us closer to the day of reckoning? Will we, the startled and wanting-to-be-illuminated citizens, before making our decision be assaulted with all sorts of mind-numbing data and arguments that we will not be able to refute or refuse?
Could it be that, then, this onslaught of ideas will change the course of our coarse history and Dr Pullicino Orlando, after weighing all the arguments, will publicly recant and tell us that, after a long and proper deliberation, he will, after all, not vote in favour of divorce?
This article first appeared in The Times May 21 2011