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‘We must put honour back into honourable’

Cardiologist Albert Fenech tells Christian Peregin he would turn down a ministerial post if it was offered to him, as his mission in politics is to convince people to vote PN and prove that honest politicians still exist.

Profile

Age: 60
Profession: Cardiologist
Residence: St Julian’s
Districts: 6 and 10
Status: Single

Why have you decided to become an election candidate?

What worries me about politics is the reputation that these few politicians have given to the whole group

I’ve seen Malta change over the years and I strongly believe the only party that can continue this progress is the Nationalist Party.

My job is to convince people to vote, because not voting puts the country at too much risk and is not a mature way of dealing with your grievances... And secondly, to vote for a party that has a proven track record of taking the country forward.

The party’s current difficulties are completely undeserved and unexplainable. But the internal problems are temporary and will not last longer than the next election.

Do you think there is a problem with the leadership, though, seeing as there seems to be this inability to keep the party united?

The problem with trying to keep a party united when you have a one-seat majority is the one-seat majority.

At the end of the day, no one is going to agree 100 per cent with every policy but problems should be solved internally. What is abominable is to use your position in Parliament to get at individuals you cannot stand.

We recently got rid of people doing a perfectly good job for the country, like (former ambassador to EU) Richard Cachia Caruana.

They got a minister to resign because he said something to the Chief Justice: pathetic reasons that have nothing to do with politics.

Who convinced you to contest?

It came from both sides. I was becoming more and more frustrated and hurt by seeing Parliament reduced to a laughing stock, aided and abetted by an opposition that took advantage of this.

What do you think you can contribute in this scenario?

Well, I have experience in the health sector. I think us generals who work on the frontline could teach a few lessons to people who haven’t been on the frontline for years.

Like what?

There are lots of problems that have to be solved.

Even within the health sector?

Absolutely. I think certain things are simply unacceptable. You cannot offer a free health service to someone and then the one source of medication runs dry. That is something completely avoidable. But in the health sector we’re actually doing very well.

Our health service is classified as the fifth best in the world. Considering the UK placed 22nd and the US 26th, we’re doing quite well.

What worries you about politics?

The reputation that these few politicians have given to the whole group. I would like to reassure people that the majority of politicians are not below the pale and there is such a thing as integrity, loyalty, decency and honesty.

They’re supposed to be honourable. I’d like to make people believe there is honour in the honourable.

What do you think are the main concerns for the Maltese?

Health, education and employment. We don’t have the same problems that every country in the Mediterranean has had, because we’ve had a sensible way of managing things.

Yes, people complain about the cost of living going up but life could be 10 times worse if you didn’t have a job to deal with that.

What is the best thing about your party?

It is sensible and its policies work. And it does listen... This is what bugs me. The poster of Lawrence Gonzi covering his ears is grossly unfair because he is not like that.

What is the worst thing about the party?

This internal conflict. There was a rough period in the leadership contest years back and after that there were a few things that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

I think the whole (EU Commissioner and former PN leadership contender) John Dalli fallout was not handled well.

Doctors are traditionally a bit absent from Parliament. Do you expect to have the same problem?

I’m going to have to make time for politics, but I will never give up time with my patients. I am a cardiologist and I will remain a cardiologist. The politician is just a second job.

What if you’re appointed a minister?

I won’t accept a ministerial post. I can’t be in a job that would take me away from my main job. I will never give up medicine.

Then would you agree you’re being used to get votes rather than to actually contribute?

When you say “being used” you’re implying there’s no volition on my part. I wouldn’t allow myself to be used...

The thing is that there are many people who say they will not vote and I think that is a wrong decision. So I need to convince people to vote for the right party.

So you’re endorsing the party rather than trying to become a game-changer.

A game-changer maybe, but you can still be a game-changer from the backbench.

This last legislature has seen a lot of social issues being discussed: divorce, IVF, cohabitation and gay rights. How would you have contributed to these discussions?

Having worked abroad for 20 years in the medical field, you see life as it is in other places. I think the divorce issue broke a taboo Malta has been suffering from for a long time.

The Church certainly has a contribution to make, but it is a contribution not a diktat. And the way the Church behaved in the divorce issue left a lot to be desired.

What do you think about the way the PN behaved?

Fortunately the PN was given a free vote.

But it took a stand against divorce.

It didn’t. The party didn’t.

Yes it did. The party took a stand against divorce. It allowed MPs to vote freely in Parliament but it campaigned against divorce.

Fortunately the leader, who was of a certain belief, did not impose this on his followers.

Would you have stood in favour of divorce?

I was in favour of it. I voted in favour of it and I’ve taken advantage of it.

What about gay marriage?

I have absolutely nothing against gay marriage. There is no evidence to show gay couples do anything detrimental to the economy, quite the reverse. And until there is evidence homosexual relationships cause harm in any way, I wouldn’t object to it.

And IVF?

It’s about time. It’s a shame we’ve had the equipment for many years. Childless couples need to be given ways short of adoption.

Do you agree the Bill being proposed?

My main principle is to offer IVF to couples who want children. The details can be worked out in a secular age...

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