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MALTATODAY 13 February 2022

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 FEBRUARY 2022 COMMENT What are we skinning? The feast of St Paul's Shipwreck, celebrated with a necessarily diminished but nonetheless welcome sit- down ceremony in lieu of a full procession in the capital last Thursday. Why are we skinning it? Well, it does mark one of the most important instances of devenomisation in history. Certainly in Mediterranean history. Oh, really? Yeah, really. He drove all poisonous snakes away from the island. How? I dunno, he was a saint. The Gospels aren't endowed with Tolkien-level worldbuilding and magical mechanics, I'm afraid. You know what they're also not endowed with? What? That very episode you've just described. Huh? The Malta-snakes mention in the Acts of the Apostles was about how St Paul was bitten by a venomous snake but was physically unfazed by the experience. Ah, so the 'he drove them all out' – like some Biblical version of the Pied Piper – must have been a post-facto folkloric addition… Yes, in fact it has a populist, fairy tale ring to it. The Maltese indulging in a bit of vintage fake news to prop up an idea of nativist Catholic nation-building. I'm shocked. I'm not. Fast-forward to this year's Valletta ceremony marking the event. What happened of note? Well, former PN candidate and current European Parliament president Roberta Metsola paid a visit to the capital to drum along to said nation-building myth. As is to be expected – nothing terribly exceptional about that. Yes, but protocol dictated that she place herself next to Labour grandee and current President of the Republic George Abela, and Prime Minister Robert Abela. Oh, I see. That leaves the current leader of Metsola's pedigree party – the PN – somewhat snubbed. Yes, Bernard Grech was sidelined in the whole thing. Making for an interesting trifecta as the band played on. Yes. President, Prime Minister and… The next PN leader? The Maltese are certainly skilled at weaving wish-fulfilment fantasies. Yes, so maybe this one will be borne out too. Do say: "It was nice to see a de facto return to (limited) normality for the St Paul's procession in Valletta last Thursday. The political accompaniment of Roberta Metsola's state visit was just the cherry on an off-kilter cake." Don't say: "Do we really need a loud and boisterous annual celebration to remind us of the fact that there are no venomous snakes in Malta? Surely, a series of well-designed placards along nature trails will do the trick just as well…" Women and matters of the heart JOSANNE CASSAR PAGE 6 The Skinny Malta, shrunk down ISABEL STABILE Misinformation on emergency contraception PAGE 6 MICHAEL FALZON The quest for democracy PAGE 7 No 126 – Shipwrecked Saints & Sanctified Snakes SAVIOUR BALZAN What is the tax man doing in Sin City? PAGE 13 EDITORIAL Missing the target on cyberbullying law PAGE 2 As human beings, both men and women are shaped and influenced by our relationship choices, but it seems to me that women tend to be more defined by them

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