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MALTATODAY 3 July 2022

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 3 JULY 2022 NEWS MATTHEW VELLA SPECULATION is rife among Labour ministers as to whether President George Vella could refuse to sign a law to allow IVF couples to test embryos for he- reditary and neurodegenerative diseases. MaltaToday understands the Bill, which tomorrow heads into its third reading before Vella's assent, could be a test for a Pres- ident of Republic whose past comments on embryo freezing – a natural corollary for PGD testing – left little to the imagi- nation. After stepping down as an MP, the former foreign minister dubbed Labour's regularisation of embryo freezing "a complete travesty of morality". The Office of the President this week did not release a comment to MaltaToday when asked spe- cifically over Vella's position on the PGD testing Bill when it comes before him for his ap- proval. In 2021 he was non-committal as to whether he would sign in- to law a bill introducing genetic testing of embryos produced by IVF. "We will cross the bridg- es when we come to them," a spokesperson told MaltaToday when asked whether the Presi- dent had any moral objections to PGD testing. Any act of parliament requires the President's signature to be- come law and refusal to do so – an improbable prospect in Maltese political history – could create a constitutional crisis. Up until this week, Cabinet sources insisted that Vella re- mains uncomfortable with PGD and its ethical implications. The recent appointment of Prof. Frank Bezzina, an academ- ic who does not hail from the political class, as acting presi- dent, also raised speculation as to whether a 'stand-in' had been appointed should Vella object to give his assent to the bill. Malta- Today understands that Dolores Cristina, who served as acting president for over nine years, never discussed the content of the PGD bill with Vella prior to the appointment of Bezzina. When in 2018 the Labour ad- ministration regularised embryo freezing, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said her assent to the Act was "out of loyalty to- wards the Constitution and the democratic process", despite her moral objections. Coleiro Preca had also issued a statement saying she could have chosen not to be in the country at the time the Bill was in its third reading, allowing the act- ing president to sign the law into power, but that she did not want to shirk her responsibilities. George Vella has already made his red lines clear, saying that he will sooner resign his role than sign on a law that would introduce abortion in Malta. His statement, albeit couched in more diplomatic wording, was also made during his inaugural speech at the Palace in Valletta when he laid out the direction of his presidency: "As a doctor, I will fight for the health of this country and the respect for life from start to finish of every indi- vidual," Vella said. PGD testing will allow parents to 'discard' embryos carrying hereditary diseases such as Hun- tington's Disease, which embry- os will however be frozen indef- initely. Ideological differences Before his appointment as head of state, Vella had expressed se- rious reservations on the IVF law changes pushed by govern- ment in 2018. He had branded the IVF bill "a complete travesty of ethics, morality, and human dignity, allegedly to remove 'dis- crimination' imposed by nature herself". The bill made embryo freezing legal after it was outlawed back in 2012, and allowed egg and sperm donation, making treat- ment also accessible to single women and lesbians. Vella had then questioned why government was going down a "slippery slope" to deliver "the utopic promise of equality". In an interview to the Malta Independent in 2018, Vella was paraphrased as someone who believes that "life begins at con- ception" and that a fertilised egg that leads to human life is "sep- arate and independent from its parents". Vella, a medical doctor, disa- grees with embryo freezing, and has said that were he to advise an infertile couple he would make them "understand that these are not capricious decisions, that they are decisions that need to be taken with a formed con- science with ethical and moral standards." Vella has also said allowing same-sex couples to adopt chil- dren via surrogacy was "not na- ture", despite having as MP vot- ed in favour of civil unions and gay adoption. President who called embryo freezing 'moral travesty' could face test on PGD Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg must go – ADPD LUKE VELLA ADPD, the Green Party has said that Attorney General Victo- ria Buttigieg should tender her resignation and be removed from her position if she refuses. In a press conference in Val- letta yesterday morning, ADPD deputy chairperson Sandra Gau- ci said that under the previous Attorney General, Peter Grech, Malta was the only country not to take action after the Panama Papers' revelations. She accused Grech of giving "criminals" am- ple time to clean up their act when he stopped the Police from raiding the Nexia BT offices. Gauci insisted that the situa- tion was worse under Victoria Buttigieg, highlighting how this week the prosecution led by the AG failed to submit the com- plete documentation regarding a European Arrest Warrant, which led to the dismissal of ex- tradition procedures against a man wanted in Italy in connec- tion with drug trafficking. "We have also had the case of the two lawyers accused of the attempted bribery of journalist Ivan Martin when the Office of the Attorney General 'conven- iently' cited the wrong article in terms of the law which led to the Courts freeing them from the accusation," Gauci said. She said the AG was also re- sponsible for the reduction of charges against a criminal ac- cused of attempted homicide of members of the Police Corp, leading to a reduced prison sen- tence on condition that he re- veals all the information he knew about the HSBC hold-up case. "But he did not reveal any infor- mation and still benefits from a reduced prison sentence." "One must agree with the Chamber of Advocates' insist- ence that Victoria Buttigieg should not have been appoint- ed Attorney General in the first place, due to her lack of experi- ence in criminal law. The mam- moth deficiencies being exposed under her remit confirm how right they were," insisted Gauci. "It is time that Parliament, cog- nizant of all that has been taking place, requests Victoria Butti- gieg to tender her resignation. If she refuses she should be re- moved." ADPD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said that institutions should be left to operate freely in the country's best interests but not to defend criminal cliques. "The performance of the Of- fice of the Attorney General in the past few months in particu- lar is of utmost concern because instead of facilitating that justice is done we have its obstruction," Cacopardo said. He said that the Police Un- ion had asked Buttigieg to ten- der her resignation as Attorney General after having approved the reduction of homicide charges against Daren Debono 'it-Topo' in exchange for infor- mation about the HSBC hold-up case. Debono got a reduced jail term but he did not reveal any- thing. "Not only did she not resign, but Buttigieg has gone from one blunder to another. Parliament must take action now to remove her and appoint someone who will not continue to embarrass the nation," Cacopardo said. "The institutions that are there to safeguard our rights deserve all the respect they can get. However, how can we respect an institution that instead of de- fending our society continuous- ly undermines it?" Polidano case CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 In 2021 he was fined €22,000 over animal welfare breaches at his Montekristo Estates zoo in Siggiewi. He had initially plead- ed not guilty but eventually filed an admission. Montebello joined Malta Free- port in 1989, coinciding with the company's initial establishment. Montebello has been the CEO of Malta Freeport Terminals since 2014, also serving as a board member on the Malta Maritime Forum, as well as one of the di- rectors of the AS Hibernians football team, according to com- pany records. Malta Freeport Terminals is the private company that runs the transhipment hub in Birzebbu- gia. The company was privatised by the State in 2004. The com- pany is owned by Terminal Link, the Turkish Yildirim Group, shipping line CMA CGM, and China's lagest terminal operator, China Merchants Port Holdings. In a 2018 interview, Vella said that a fertilised egg that leads to human life is "separate and independent from its parents" Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg

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