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Maltese report Maltese report
by Euro Reporter
2011-05-30 07:52:08
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Catholic Malta votes for divorce

Voters in the overwhelmingly Catholic Mediterranean state of Malta have voted to legalise divorce, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced yesterday after a weekend referendum.  Gonzi, who campaigned against the introduction of divorce in the last European country where it is illegal, said it was up parliament to legalise dissolution of marriage. "This is not the result that I wished for, but the will of the people has to be respected and parliament should enact a law for the introduction of divorce," the conservative prime minister said.

Malta is one of only two countries in the world - the Philippines is the other - that bans divorce. Chile was the last country to legalise divorce, in 2004, after overwhelming public pressure. Saturday's non-binding referendum asked the island's 306000 mainly Catholic voters if they wanted a law allowing divorce after four years of separation. Legal separation is widespread in Malta, but there are many legal obstacles to remarrying. "The yes vote has won and we urge parliamentarians to vote a bill for the introduction of divorce," said lawyer Deborah Schembri, who led the yes campaign.

With ballots still being counted and an official result not expected until later yesterday, Schembri said the yes camp won about 54% of the vote based on samples from constituencies. Arthur Galea Salomone, spokesman for the anti-divorce campaign, said: "The people's choice was clear. They opted for the introduction of divorce." Divorce legislation is likely to squeeze through parliament as Gonzi's ruling Nationalist Party has the slimmest of majorities - one seat - and analysts have said at least one of his MPs backed the yes campaign. The Catholic Church, which looms large over the island nation where 95% of the population claim the faith, did not campaign officially in the referendum.


Malta Enterprise moves and applications

Malta Enterprise has applied to Mepa to do minor alterations and to restore and clean the existing façade of what used to be the Institute of Health Care inside St Luke’s Hospital grounds so that it can become the new premises for ME. The restoration and internal alterations applied for include building an additional multi-purpose space at third floor level. Meanwhile Malta Enterprise has also submitted to Mepa a full development application for Phase 1 of a Life Sciences Park at the San Ġwann Industrial Estate including a surface car park and landscaping.

Two applications regarding yacht marinas have been brought to the fore. Next Thursday, the Mepa board is due to consider an application for the laying of temporary floating pontoons and landing platform for seasonal berthing for two seasons with a removable lightweight access way at the Royal Malta Yacht Club at Ta’ Xbiex. And an application has been submitted for the construction of a breakwater and a pontoon at the Mġarr Harbour Yacht Marina in Gozo. MIDI is now preparing to begin the reconstruction of the former stables structure at Fort Manoel along with the construction of a substation, a water reservoir and a pump room.

Among the applications that have been approved by Mepa, Cospicua, after Vittoriosa, will be getting its first hotel, a guesthouse in central Triq l-Oratorju while 49 basement garages and 48 apartments have been approved on a site between Triq Apap Bologna and Triq id-Dugħ in Marsascala. The Għarb local council has been given the go-ahead for an EU-funded project for the restoration of the San Dimitri Chapel.


Flying Air Malta below the radar won’t help it at all

Surprisingly, on an island which has few secrets if any at all, Air Malta’s real position is not quite identifiable. No details have been leaked, for instance, regarding the restructuring proposals submitted to the EU for its kind consideration. That is not to say that hypotheses do not exist, or that there are not confusing signals from some of the actions taken by the government regarding the running of the company. One hypothesis doing the rounds among a number of Air Malta employees is the following: The government has submitted to Brussels a ‘soft’ new business plan. It provides for downsizing of the airline’s operation and its staff, both operational, office and other ground. But the authorities know it won’t be enough. More cuts will be made after the next general election.

One can understand the reasoning underpinning this hypothesis. It stems from what happened before the 2008 election. After several years of tough reining in on certain expenses through a multilateral memorandum of understanding, instead of following up with further necessary medicine the government gave the green light for fresh salary increases, ignoring the mounting losses.

The fall guys for that blatant politicking were not found where it resided in the political class. Austin Gatt, for instance, remained in his pomp more than ever before. It fell to Joe Cappello and Alfred Lupi to be made the fall guys and to be pinned with ‘executive responsibility’, despite the heavy ministerial hand on them and the rest of Air Malta. To rub salt into their wound – they were unceremoniously sacked – Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi lamented that proper action was not taken when it was required. It says much for the professionalism of Cappello and Lupi that they remained silent in the face of the unjust treatment imposed upon them. Though the current staff hypothesis is nourished by both knowledge and silence, I do not fully share it.

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