Labour leader Joseph Muscat said today that the divorce issue 'will not go away' if the No camp triumphs at next Saturday's referendum.

Speaking in an interview on One Radio, Dr Muscat said the will of the majority would have to be respected and he therefore expected the Bill for the Introduction of Divorce to be withdrawn for this legislature if the No camp triumphed.

But the issue, he stressed, would not go away and would need to be discussed once more between all the parties.

He insisted that he would remain in favour of the introduction of divorce, even if he was the last man standing.

However, he said, he would vote against divorce is somebody could persuade him that not introducing divorce would benefit children, or that there would not be any more marriage break-ups if divorce was not introduced.

Malta, Dr Muscat said, was seeing two marriage break-ups per day and those who were opposing divorce were not proposing any viable solution to this situation.

Divorce, he said, would not hurt children any more than separations or annulment. So would separations and annulments be banned as well? Indeed, divorce would offer the possibility of remarriage which meant that children would grow up within a family and not out of wedlock.

Cohabitation meant no rights and duties, whereas remarriage would ensure that duties and responsibilities were safeguarded.

Dr Muscat said the Church had a right and a duty to speak out. His big question, he said, was about the role of the government, and, particularly, the Prime Minister.

Dr Gonzi, he said, had imposed his personal values on the party, but he was now running scared and refusing to give interviews to defend his position.

Had the PN not decided to adopt a position on divorce, Malta could have had a situation where the people were free to decide without the politicians and according to their conscience. The fact that the PN had taken a position meant that some people felt they should follow the party line.

The PL position, Dr Muscat reiterated, was that the people should vote according to their conscience.

His own personal view in favour of divorce were well known. He was proud of his position but would not impose it on others. This was a milestone in the country's history. Indeed, time would show that he was right, independently of the outcome of next Saturday's poll.

The referendum, he said, needed to be held because of the need for a popular mandate, Dr Muscat said. Should the Yes vote triumph, he was confident that the majority of MPs would respect the will of the people and vote for legislation to introduce divorce.

If the No camp triumphed, he expected the Bill to be withdrawn and the issue would be closed for this legislature. Nonetheless, the issue would need to be discussed once more because the views of the minority - and probably a large minority - could not be ignored either. All sides would need to discuss it further, Dr Muscat said, adding that he did not wish to see a divided country. The PL should not impose on this matter but its position for the future would be known at the appropriate time.

Dr Muscat argued that divorce would not change the current scenario with regard to separations and break-ups but would only offer the opportunity for remarriage.

He said he agreed with those who said that marriages were still strong in Malta. Therefore one should have nothing to fear from divorce, he concluded.

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