President George Vella has called off a scheduled trip to Australia in February, indicating he intends to be in Malta when the abortion amendment goes through parliament.

That way he can sign off on the law himself if he agrees with the amendment’s wording, or else resign if he remains uncomfortable with it.

The decision effectively dismisses rumours that the president intends to repeat the IVF vote controversy, when he went abroad to avoid signing the law.

But when fielding questions from Times of Malta on Friday, he refused to comment on whether the decision was linked to the abortion vote.

President Vella replying to questions.

“Those decisions are taken depending on the work exigencies and other appointments,” he replied, when asked why the trip was called off.

“We change our appointments according to the circumstances.”

Asked specifically whether the decision had anything to do with the abortion vote, Vella said people have been speculating.

“Speculate as much as you want. It won’t be the first time that people have speculated.”

Times of Malta asked him whether he ruled out that the decision was not connected to the abortion vote.

“That’s what you are saying,” he said.

Some sources said the trip had been postponed but not cancelled. Trips are often rescheduled for a number of reasons, they said.

Three-week trip scheduled for early February

The three-week trip was scheduled for early February and maintains a tradition that has seen every president in modern times visit Maltese emigrants and their families in a tour of Australian cities, towns and Maltese clubs.

It is considered one of the more important trips during a president’s tenure.

Last week, the Australian magazine for Maltese emigrants, The Voice of the Maltese, notified its readers in Australia that the “planned visit has been cancelled”.

“Arrangements in Australia for this visit by Malta’s head of state were advanced. No reason has been given for the cancellation. An official announcement is expected soon,” the brief notice said.

Sources said that another trip to Geneva, later in February, has also reportedly been postponed.

Sources say Vella is uncomfortable with the amendment as worded, fearing the change would allow for the termination of a pregnancy when a woman’s health, rather than her life, is deemed to be at risk.

It is not clear when a final vote on the bill will be taken.

Vella’s tenure as president comes to an end next year. If he resigns before his time is up, he will be the first president in history to do so.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us