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The tricky question of loyalty

Edwin Vassallo

Edwin Vassallo

So, finally, the Marriage Equality law has finally arrived.

No, don’t worry, I am not going to rake over the debate of natural/traditional/pro-family versus liberal/progressive/equal-rights-for-all debate.

Nor am I going to comment on how the LGBTQ community has been cynically used (if not abused) by a government eager to create a rainbow bouquet of virtue-signalling and give the country a Panem et Circensus event to distract from other important things. (Incidentally, how exactly have ‘We Made History’ seeing that we are the 15th European country and 25th in the world to enact similar legislation?).

Nor am I going to tackle the tone-deaf opinion piece by Fr David Muscat who gloated that “Maltese same-sex couples will never walk the red carpet of our historic cathedrals, sanctuaries and countryside chapels and experience the bliss heterosexuals feel when declaring their matrimonial consent before God and his Church.” Unfortunately, he would say that just when, for the first time - according to the NSO, more people preferred, in his words, the “Civil marriage performed during a dull ceremony presided by a bored and probably unwilling paid civil servant“ rather than that offered by the Church.

No, instead I would rather look at the stand taken by Edwin Vassallo, the only MP to vote against the bill.

And no, I am not interested in whether Vassallo’s position was justified. I am however interested in the reaction to his position.

Unsurprisingly, his action was much discussed in the media (and by, in particular, the Labour Party, who could barely contain their glee) as proof of a deep rift within the Nationalist Party. Many were of the opinion that he should have towed the party line. And indeed the Westminster model calls for just that. Vassallo’s critics would say that he was disloyal to his party.

And yet it is interesting that very many of the same people would have found it extremely reasonable, indeed may have expected, MPs on the government bench to have taken a different tack when it came to the choice of supporting, or otherwise, their colleague Konrad Mizzi when he was found to have shares in a Panama company.

So just how much should we value loyalty? And at which point is an act of disloyalty justified, and indeed an act of courage?

Should one be loyal to one’s own, come what may, or should one keep in mind one’s principles? It was a dilemma held by the previous PM Lawrence Gonzi when it came to the Divorce Question.

Is there a point where disloyalty is justified for the greater good?

And the same can be asked when it comes to those who hold high positions in the country’s key institutions.

Is their loyalty first and foremost towards the institutions they represent and lead? Or is there a point where disloyalty to that institution is justified for the greater good?

Take, for instance, the case of Police Commissioner Rizzo.

Back in 2013, he was removed from office just as he was preparing to take ex-minister John Dalli to court. As a man who understood and appreciated the rule of law, Police Commissioner Rizzo stood down and took on the new role given to him by the government, no questions asked. As a result, according to Rizzo’s own testimony in court, the investigation was never moved on as the next commissioner said there was no case.

Would the ex-commissioner have been justified if he, hypothetically, leaked the results of his investigations, thereby going against all that his institution represented in terms of law and order?

Or take the recent spate of FIAU reports leaked to the press. Assuming that the leak came from within the FIAU, something which, I hasten to add, has not been proved, were the anonymous whistleblowers being disloyal to their institution or were they being loyal to a greater authority?

Judging by some of the comments on the newspaper portals, the two FIAU officials who were recently sacked ‘had it coming to them’ as they were disloyal. (Again, for the sake of accuracy, there is no evidence that the two officials were involved in any way in the leak of the documents).

What about in our own lives, how ‘loyal’ should we be to our company, our work colleagues, our friends?

Is it ‘loyal’ to tell the spouse of your friend that said friend is betraying them? Should one remain ‘loyal’ to a boss who is cheating a colleague of yours out of a better wage because she happens to be a woman?

To get back to the Vassallo case, or even the spate of Tonio Fenech articles and his ‘leaked’ letter - should these two have kept things ‘within the family’?

This is very much the opinion of many. And the Labour Party has eagerly taken up that train of thought to cudgel its opponents with.

Hence the talk of ‘deep rifts’ and a party split.

Should one, therefore, assume that absolute loyalty to a party, organisation, institution, is the number one virtue and attests to the strength of that authority? Or does the appearance of a monolithic solid organisation actually hide deeper problems within?

Or put another way: does an act of ‘disloyalty’ fracture a party, institution, organisation, or does it ultimately strengthen it?

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