Questions surrounding the President’s role have begun to simmer after the cabinet unanimously approved former Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella as Malta’s next President.
While mostly ceremonial, the President plays the important final role of signing a new bill into law.
A President’s refusal to sign could trigger off a constitutional crisis in Malta. Legislation on civil unions even had to be pushed back after Former President George Abela refused to sign the bill on moral grounds.
Vella, an outspoken conservative, has publicly disagreed with the Prime Minister on a number of issues as the government ushered through its liberal agenda, despite being one of the longest standing Muscat loyalists, backing him as far back as the PL leadership election in 2008.
With more progressive legislation on the cards, especially in the fields of reproductive rights, Lovin Malta has taken a look at some of Vella’s strongest quotes over the years:
While the Labour Party did not include it in their 2017 manifesto, with Muscat repeatedly saying that the government does not have a mandate to introduce the practice, the debate surrounding the subject has begun to gather steam as Malta’s first ever pro-choice movement launches this weekend.
Should public pressure rise and the PL decide to go after abortion as their next liberal achievement, Vella might be asked to sign a bill which would legalise it during his term
In the past, Vella had previously called on Parliament to expressly include the unborn child as a member of the family in a bill for domestic violence.
“One is against [abortion] not because of Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or any other faith’s morals. It is because it is intrinsically wrong and against nature.”
Vella was one of the government’s harshest critics during the debate surrounding the amendments to the Embryo Protection Act, saying he would have “definitely” voted against the bill had he still been a Member of Parliament, on the grounds that it included the freezing of embryos.
“A complete travesty of ethics, morality, and human dignity, allegedly to remove ‘discrimination’ imposed by nature herself.”
“[IVF] is a wonderful medical procedure that offers couples who because of particular difficulties, experience difficulties to beget children through the natural methods of conception, the chance to have children of their own to love, nurture and shower with affection.”
“The question that comes to mind is: from where does any member of Parliament acquire the power and the right to legislate in favour of the slow killing of embryos in freeze?”
Following public outcry, the government’s plans to introduce surrogacy were temporarily shelved, but remain on the cards and is expected to be introduce within this legislature.
Vella has often vented his suspicion around the idea of ‘altruistic’ surrogacy.
“Everybody knows what happens: it becomes commercialised, it is commodification and it is only in the interests of the eventual couple and not of the embryo itself.”
Under Muscat, Malta has become a trailblazer in LGTIQ rights. While most of the Labour Party seem to be four-square behind their Leader, some conservative voices voiced their discontent. Vella, chief amongst them, found particular issue when equal marriage rights were introduced.
“I am for civil unions but I do not agree with gay marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman. I agree with civil unions because they [LGBTI persons] deserve the same rights as everybody else. The fact that their rights are recognised by law, in an institutionalised way, is important.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has also been close to Vella’s heart, particularly during his tenure as Foreign Affairs Minister. The Presidential nominee has often voiced stern words when talking about the crisis, clearly backing the Palestinian cause by defining it as a “case of ethnic suppression… if not ethnic cleansing.”