The Malta Independent 11 November 2019, Monday

Updated (2) - Hands off Maltese flag: Zammit Lewis photo draws criticism

Tuesday, 13 August 2019, 11:19 Last update: about 4 months ago

A photo showing Equality Minister Edward Zammit posing with a flag which had the rainbow colours replacing the red half of the Maltese national flag has mostly drawn criticism, with some describing it as a shocking gesture.

Tampering with the Maltese national flag is in breach of the law and there are provisions in the law against such behaviour.

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The importance of the national flag is highlighted by its mention very early in the Constitution of Malta. Article 3 in fact gives its description: The National Flag of Malta consists of two equal vertical stripes, white in the hoist and red in the fly. A representation of the George Cross awarded to Malta by His Majesty King George the Sixth on the 15th April, 1942 is carried, edged with red, in the canton of the white stripe

The flag, a constitutional symbol, is then protected in terms of article 6 of the Emblem and Public Seal of Malta, which says that “It shall not be lawful for any person to publicly vilify by words, gestures, written matter, whether printed or not, or pictures or by some other visible means, or in any manner to deface, the National Flag of Malta or the Emblem of Malta.” 

But Zammit Lewis, who has recently replaced Minister Helena Dalli after the latter was nominated as Malta’s next European Commissioner, might also have to face political consequences for the gesture.

The photo was originally posted on the Facebook page of Malta Pride, but was shared by the minister on his own page, effectively an endorsement of the way the Maltese flag was tampered with.

Comments placed beneath the minister’s post gave a clear indication that not everyone agreed with the way the Maltese flag was tampered with. People commented that the Maltese flag should just be “white and red”; other said they had nothing against the gay community but the Maltese flag is a sacrosanct symbol that should not be tinkered with. This photo is an insult to the Maltese flag, another said.

A few others came to the minister’s defence, saying that even Canadian PM Trudeau was seen with a Canadian flag to which the Rainbow colours were added on either side.

In a brief statement - posted as a comment beneath this story - the Allied Rainbow Communities said they have "no intention of changing the Maltese National Flag and in no way we are vilifying it - it's a symbolic gesture to show Pride in MALTA's progress to include everyone in its equality agenda."

Asked for his reaction by Maltatoday, Zammit Lewis played down the criticism.

"There is absolutely no doubt about my full respect to the Maltese flag and I assure you that I work hard every day to serve the Maltese people to the best of my abilities. I am also privileged to work within a government that implemented unprecedented and numerous measures as regards to civil liberties," the Equality Minister said.

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