The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: The Inclusion Minister who excludes

Wednesday, 12 June 2024, 07:37 Last update: about 2 months ago

She will not resign.

It’s pointless calling for the resignation of the Inclusion Minister whose words last week were totally against the principle of inclusion she should be pushing forward as part of her responsibilities.

And her superior, the Prime Minister will see nothing wrong with what she said. His standards are not high. Last March, after being found guilty of a breach of ethics by the Standards Commissioner following a “propaganda video” posted on the social media, Robert Abela refused to apologise. So he will certainly brush aside what Julia Farrugia Portelli said. After all, during the election campaign Abela’s own words more than once were as divisive as those of his minister.

And, more than this, given the results of the European Parliament elections – and with the outcome of the local council elections still to be known, with Labour fearing another blow here too – Abela has bigger problems on his plate in this point in time.

What did Farrugia Portelli say? In a speech in one of the Labour Party activities during the last week of the campaign, she said that the people are “allergic to Bernard Grech”. She defended herself saying that the words were taken out of context, and published her whole address on the social media. But the personal accusation against the Opposition Leader remains, and no matter how much she sugar coats it, her remarks are offensive. (And, now we know, Bernard Grech has led the PN to make inroads into Labour’s lead for the first time in more than a decade, so she was wrong in that sense too.)

What made it worse for Farrugia Portelli is that she is the minister responsible for inclusion. She is the government’s voice on equality. She should set the example for others to follow. She is there to see that everyone, independent of their religion, status, gender, political affiliation, physical abilities and more should get the same treatment. And yet she allowed herself to stoop so low.

Farrugia Portelli does not get too much media coverage. Her current portfolio does not excite journalists that much. Her star, which never rose high, started to fade even more when she made the “mechanisms” comment to the BBC at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a remark that probably cost her the position of Tourism Minister. At the first opportunity, she was relieved of the tourism portfolio and relegated to responsibilities where she could do less harm to Malta’s reputation abroad.

Still, even here, she couldn’t help drawing attention to her for the wrong reasons. Last year, at the height of the summer season when large pockets of Malta were sweltering in a long heat wave without electricity, she told us that we should not complain but use the downtime to read a book.

Her comment was harshly criticised as it was felt she was downplaying the inconvenience that people were suffering because of the power cuts – some of which lasted more than a day – and also because it was felt that she was belittling the pleasure of reading, downgrading it to a pastime that should only be resorted to when you have nothing else to do.

Last week she was at it again.

But don’t expect her to resign. Or that the Prime Minister will take her comments seriously.

Labour has more important things to deal with right now. Still, she should not have spoken the way she did.

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