Former finance minister Tonio Fenech has come out strongly in defence of Matthew Grech, the River of Love Fellowship member that spoke positively about converting from being a gay man on X Factor Malta.
The former Nationalist MP ended an opinion article on Malta Independent with the phrase Je Suis Matthew, a slogan used to defend free speech in the wake of Charlie Hebdo killings.
Fenech’s sentiment was similar to Ivan Grech Mintoff’s, the leader of Alleanza Bidla and a conservative pundit who spoke on TV.
The two Maltese men specifically condemned the Minister for Equality Helena Dalli, saying she had broken the law in her criticism of Grech’s positive comments about becoming straight.
On the panel show Exodus, Grech Mintoff issued a “final warning” against the Maltese government, saying they need to apologise for their actions
On the panel, which also featured Gordon Manche, the leader of the River of Love Fellowship as a speaker, Grech Mintoff said that Helena Dalli had broken the law when criticising X Factor for showing a contestant speaking positively about converting from being a gay man. He demanded a public apology.
“Correct your mistakes – we are tolerant, much more than you, much more than you! – correct this mistake otherwise you leave us no choice but for us to take our rights back, in the most legal way, because we have the right, as you’ve seen in countries abroad, to express ourselves,’ said Grech Mintoff.
“I hope you fix this mistake, and fast, because I pledge to you from here, Christian or not Christian, on these fundamental rights we are ready to move legally against the government and the Malta Gay Rights Movement – no one is above the law,” he continued.
“I plead with you again in the calmest way, correct your mistakes, leave the X Factor programme alone, and, if you are decent, make an apology. If you aren’t going to be tolerant like you always say you are, we also have the right to take the required steps to make sure that what you are trying to take from us, remains there for the Maltese people,” he said.
“Amen!” said Manche.
Saying the government had broken the law, he warned that they were inciting people instead of representing them
“I am feeling victimised by Helena Dalli and MGRM who are trying to take my right to speak – and they are not going to win on this!” he said.
He said that the freedom of speech was a God-given right – even if you aren’t religious – and that the government clearly gone out of its way to silence their opinion.
“Enough is enough,” Manche said.
Pictured: Ivan Grech Mintoff
In an opinion piece in the Malta Independent, Tonio Fenech expressed a similar sentiment
Condemning the government for their reaction to the Grech controversy, the former Finance Minister said he was “perplexed” at the government’s reaction.
“To be clear from the outset, this issue is not about LBGTIQ people, I respect their choices and God loves us all irrespective of our gender or how we feel,” he begins.
“However, I was quite perplexed when I read the news that, not one, but two ministries issued a joint statement, to condemn frankly ‘their own spin’, falsely claiming that a singer on the X Factor programme, Matthew Grech, made some sort of promotion of conversion therapy for gay people,” he continued.
“Excuse my harsh words but factually the ministries’ claim is simply untrue. I personally heard what Matthew Grech said – he talked about a very personal spiritual experience that changed his perception of life and sexuality, and affirmed that God intended sexuality for marriage, which as he emphasised within the Christian context is between a man and a woman and that sex outside marriage is a sin,” he said.
Pictured: Tonio Fenech
He implied the backlash may have stemmed from ministers’ personal beliefs
“I don’t know, maybe what he said was not music to the ears of Minister Dalli and Minister Bonnici, but certainly whatever he said did not justify the disproportionate reaction and the attack that followed on this person through the statement and the social media,” Fenech said.
“Minister Dalli is Minister for Equality, the right for equality for each and every one of us and not just one group, including Matthew Grech. She is obliged to protect Matthew, his dignity, rights and freedom to choose whether he wants to remain gay, and not expose him to the ridicule of the social media trolls that are always happy to jump on the bandwagon of the ministers’ unfair comments and bash the individual,” he said.
Fenech ended his opinion piece with the phrase: “Je suis Matthew”.