The Nationalist Party – and MP Edwin Vassallo specifically – has once again incurred the wrath of two prominent Labour MPs after voting against a bill intended to give more rights to victims of gender-based violence and rape.
Minister for European Affairs and Equality Helena Dalli and Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Julia Farrugia Portelli strongly criticised the Nationalist Party for showing “yet again that it is divided on issues that make a difference in the every day life of people” after yesterday’s parliamentary session.
“The main thing about last night’s vote is that, for the first time in the history of this nation, we could have left parliament as two forces united as one, to send a strong message against these kind of crimes. But instead, all that came out was the division that is in the Nationalist party,” said Julia Farrugia Portelli at a press conference.
“What has become of the Nationalist party now? Do we have a Nationalist party of Simon Busuttil, and a Nationalist party of Adrian Delia?” asked Helena Dalli.
Last night’s second reading of the bill saw Edwin Vassallo vote against the adoption of the bill, with Vassallo saying he had the approval of Nationalist leader Adrian Delia to vote freely.
While the bill went through anyway, with only Vassallo voting against, the Labour party took the opportunity to pounce on the division in the party.
Farrugia Portelli pointed out that Adrian Delia had allowed Vassallo to vote freely when just months ago he had not allowed a free vote over the recent 100-hour leave IVF bill.
“This is an embarrassment – as a society we could have shown where we stand as a country,” she said. “We had the opportunity to show that as a country we are moving forward. And it’s a shame how the opposition wasn’t united, but it also showed that it cannot be an alternative opposition as a strong opposition is one that can internally unite its members.”
“It’s a sad thing that we can’t even be united on this kind of law, a law that gives protections to everyone who is in any situation of violence,” said Helena Dalli. “This law is to protect everyone who suffers violence, and we don’t even have parliament united unanimously on this.”
“While we are constantly saying that society needs to come together against violence, parliament is divided,” she continued. “The Honourable Vassallo has a problem with the word ‘gender’, and I say, what opposition, what PN is this? Is it a different PN than that who in the previous legislature voted to enter into our constitution that there wouldn’t be discrimination on the basis of gender?”
“Thats why I can’t understand the words I heard yesterday. If theres a new party, a new PN, they should tell us that they’ve made a new party,” she said.
She also pointed out that there were PN deputies that “were prepared, praised the bill, and didn’t find even a comma in the bill to criticise, and even told us ‘prosit’; and then you have others who are trying to scare with the bogeyman, who clearly do not know what their own party did in the previous legislature.”
She remarked that people like PN Deputy Leader David Agius “had told us that ‘Mother’s day and Father’s day were going to end’; and now we see that, of course, they didn’t end. These people try to scare us not because they actually believe in what they are saying, but because they want to do things differently because they see a government that is moving forward.”
The bill, among other things, intends to give powers to the authorities to remove proven long-term abusers from a household, as well as give a mandate for increased punishments for proven abusers.