Political heat not gone away
At least the past week brought some respite from the unforgiving summer heat and the bubbling heat of the political fray. Attention was mostly on the in-vitro fertilisation draft Bill put forward by the government for a short period of public discussion after having waited for years to determine the best course.
The proposed course is already creating much controversy. Every proposal does that in Malta, let alone an issue as profound as this one, from the ethical and medical points of view, as well as the bishops’ pronouncement on it.
I doubt that the authorities will get clear guidance from the views put forward. The opinions that will count most are those of the medical experts and already they are at opposing poles.
An interesting non-technical aspect of the Bill is the role Chris Said, the Justice Minister, is having in promoting it.
Dr Said has been put to the fore of government pronouncements in recent months. There is more to that than meets the eye.
He is charismatic, communicates well and gets along easily with people, even those who carry along problems that other members of the Cabinet have been unable to solve. This Gozitan politician is very clearly going places and might not be so dark a horse when the Nationalist Party gets around to choosing a new leader, whichever way the result of the general election goes.
Meanwhile, there is a considerable amount of water still to pass under the bridge, whether Prime Minister Gonzi goes for a mid-autumn or an early spring election.
Ministers and parliamentary secretaries performing on the public platform will be all out to show their mettle, and never mind the summer perspiration and drying mouths.
While the week has shifted away somewhat from deep political issues they have not, of course, gone away. The two major parties are still regurgitating the past, not least the Mistra affair.
It now transpires that the Nationalist grandees knew, before voting started in 2008, that Alfred Sant was right all along in his accusations and political attack.
Yet they continued to promote Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando as some martyr though they themselves, according to Richard Cachia Caruana, gave him, and confidentially urged others to give him, the least possible preference under the single transferable vote system.
Little wonder that PN general secretary Paul Borg Olivier, while calling urgent media meetings on how the Mistra story broke, pathetically refused to take questions on the deeper issue.
What also became clearer in last week’s comparative calm was the extent to which Dr Pullicino Orlando has further humiliated the Prime Minister by forcing him to enter into the queerest of coalitions with him.
Lawrence Gonzi might be happy with that lesser of two evils – the second being a Pullicino Orlando constantly on the warpath. He cannot be happy with his tattered self-respect and dignity.
Nor can it be said that the so-called coalition has calmed Nationalist nerves. There is still the question of how to reply to Franco Debono’s demand that his punishment – not being allowed to contest the coming general election – be revoked.
If the PN does accede to Dr Debono’s demand, it would lose more face than a million Chinese leaders embracing capitalism. It would, anyway, be a cynical decision and the word will be out to blackball Dr Debono should he really choose to contest.
If the party decision-makers stick by their decision, there is no saying what the angry MP will do.
He will not bring down the government, should Parliament really meet again in October, but he just might come out with a fresh outburst or two.
The IVF Bill has shifted attention from the nitty gritty of current politics. It has not driven them away. The fresh summer heat forecast by the weatherman will be accompanied by fresh political heat soon enough.