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‘Gonzi must acknowledge he was wrong, history proved me right’ – Debono

Franco Debono believes the PN administration’s downfall was not down to the personal agendas of government MPs, but the direct result of former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi’s failure to carry out necessary reforms, including ones which he himself had championed.

Jurgen Balzan
23 August 2013, 12:00am
Franco Debono, in the heat of the 2012 political crisis, is now Commissioner for Laws
Franco Debono, in the heat of the 2012 political crisis, is now Commissioner for Laws

In reaction to Gonzi's extensive interview in MaltaToday's Sunday edition, in which the former PN leader said that his government's troubles boiled down to "personal agendas," the former MP and current Law Commissioner said, "The only personal agenda at play was Gonzi's obligation towards Austin Gatt and Carm Mifsud Bonnici."

"When will someone ask him whether he was distracted by the blunders committed by education minister Dolores Cristina, health minister Joe Cassar and home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici? And what about Austin Gatt's scandals? How could he even blame backbenchers when he surrounded himself by such incompetence at Cabinet level?" Debono said.

In his interview, Gonzi refused to delve into the events that led to Franco Debono's vote against the 2013 Budget, which eventually brought his government down.

"I'm not going to describe anything. It was a problem that led to the dissolution of parliament on a budget vote," Gonzi said. Asked whether he resisted Debono's ambition to be minister, a dismissive Gonzi said "it was always about personal agendas".

Speaking to MaltaToday, Debono retorted, "History proved me right. I did well to vote against the Budget and the electorate endorsed my stand wholeheartedly, since it supported my stand, resulting in a massive historic defeat for a party that defended Austin Gatt's actions at all costs. If the electorate wanted Gonzi to implement the budget, they would have returned Gonzi to office, but they did the opposite. So I was right all along. Has Gonzi realised that an election came along, which he lost heavily?"

He also called on Gonzi to acknowledge that it was the people around him who let him down and the backbenchers' stands were a natural reaction to the dreadful ministerial performances.

Debono insisted that the big reforms he championed during the last legislature were important and valid. "Moreover, it is absolutely normal for backbenchers to have ambition, especially when a number of ministers failed badly."

He added that the failings of the previous administration were down to Gonzi's stubbornness in defending a number of flailing ministers, such as former transport minister Austin Gatt and former justice and home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici.

"I ask him whether my reforms were valid or not and why these were never implemented. It is evident that Gonzi was held hostage by these ministers. When Gonzi talks about personal agendas, he should explain them first and foremost. It was he who chose the Cabinet which suffered the greatest electoral defeat in Maltese history."

He adds that while Gonzi felt threatened by talented persons, other ministers were also scared of his potential.

"When people elected me in 2008 instead of the likes of Louis Galea and Helen D'amato, it was obvious the electorate saw in me someone who could deliver on a certain level. Why did Gonzi not let me work? Isn't he ashamed to have messed up all the reforms such as public transport, MEPA and local councils? How can he then speak of personal agendas?"

The Law Commissioner asked whether the former Prime Minister rues his failure to implement a holistic justice reform and the failure of a number of his ministers, which he believes were one of the major reasons why the PN lost by 35,000 votes in the March election.

"There is something very wrong with his reasoning. It is clear that he is detached from reality. Why does he persist in unfairly blaming others, myself included? Due to attacks from people close to him I still have police security behind my home's door and this is hugely unfair. This is the only reason why I am replying to him," Debono said.

"Instead of speaking about Libya and the economy, Gonzi should speak about the shambles he left the PN and the country in. This is the man who led the party to its greatest ever loss at the polls and to add insult to injury, he left behind a bankrupt party," Debono added.

On the phone messages the former MP famously sent to Gonzi at the height of the political crisis in the latter part of the last legislature, Debono said that the vast majority of his messages regarded policy, reflecting the popular sentiment of the vast majority of the electorate.

However Gonzi's insistence in ignoring Debono's calls for change were the reason why the dissenting MP went public with his disagreements in 2009.

 "At one point in January 2012, when things had really degenerated, I did tell him that he was speaking like (blogger) Daphne Caruana Galizia. For some reason he never speaks about Austin Gatt's arrogance or Stephen Spiteri's lifestyle which was, to say the least, embarrassing."

The Ghaxaq criminal lawyer who was also appointed as the coordinator for the Constitutional convention following the March election pointed out that he had forewarned Gonzi about the imminent electoral debacle back in 2009, when the PN had also lost the European Parliament election by 35,000 votes.

Debono admitted that following Gonzi's stubborn stance, he once told the former PN leader that he was "the worst politician since Count Roger," the Norman Count of Sicily who conquered Malta in 1091.

"I am serene because no amount of spin will twist history. The reforms I championed are all documented in parliament and however hard Gonzi spins facts, he will not erase the reforms I proposed from history. My draft bill on party finance, my motion about a holistic reform of justice and home affairs, my calls for a new Constitution are all documented in parliament."

The Law Commissioner feels aggravated for having proposed various institutional reforms ranging from justice and the home affairs sector to party financing and from public transport to State broadcasting.

"Doesn't he feel humiliated that he did not implement a justice reform in nine whole years? Doesn't he feel let down by the people he surrounded himself with? He should be grateful that I granted him a lot of time, time which he did not deserve."

In Sunday's interview, Gonzi pointed out that his preferred mark of success was Malta's involvement in the Libyan conflict. In February 2011, Malta broke off its friendship with Gaddafi from one week to the other to join an international alliance of Atlantic and Gulf States supporting the Libyan uprising.

However, Debono said that despite taking a stand against Gaddafi, Gonzi was the last Western leader to visit and hug the deposed dictator.

"Gonzi was so naive to go to Gaddafi when other western leaders seem to have got cold feet. I recall Gonzi's delegation coming back in fits of laughter from Libya because Gaddafi had a Pif Paf spray bottle on his desk. Moreover, he pointed out that Malta was only fulfilling its duties in receiving evacuated persons from Libya, given that Malta was the safest and closest port of call."

He points out that Malta's vocation to assist troubled neighboring countries dates back to the 1853 Crimean War and although Gonzi was nowhere around back then, Debono says "Malta had already earned the title of nurse of the Mediterranean. It has nothing to do with Gonzi but with our geographical position and our generosity.''

On Gonzi's claims that the country's financial health was secure, Debono said that the former PN leader should have also explained that his finance minister, Tonio Fenech, was hopping from one scandal to another, in clear reference of Fenech's involvement in a number of embarrassing situations.

In 2010, the former finance minister's private secretary Noel Borg Hedley had admitted to receiving bribes from Peter and Jeffrey Montebello of JPM Brothers, in the form of donations to the campaign for Fenech, in return for reducing fees owed to government departments.  

A year earlier, Fenech had accepted an invitation to accompany businessmen Joe Gasan and George Fenech on the latter's private jet to watch an Arsenal match in Spain, in clear breach of the Code of Ethics.

"Moreover, what credibility does Gonzi have in taking credit for the country's solid finances when the Nationalist Party's finances are in such a bad state?" Debono said in reference to the PN's reported debt of €8 million.

"My message to Gonzi is that I wish him and his family well, and I hope that one day we could meet for a coffee, however he must be more objective in his declarations, and we must all strive for national reconciliation. We must let bygones be bygones, leave aside personal agendas and be more objective," Debono said in reconciliatory tone.
Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...
Dr Gonzi has will indeed go down in the annals of our poilital history as the person who has now himself become irrelevant after his failures of calling Dr. Debono irrelvant. What goes around certainly comes around to haunt you.
Joe Bugeja
Debono, I think you are a quak. REally I am not a fan of Gonzi, but you act like a little spoiled child. Time to grow up.
Yanika Chetcuti
But how the heck is it possible to remain so blinded by hate and arrogance, such as fundamentalist bulls**ters, like rhinos. Thank God so many Maltese voters saw the light and voted maturely so as to eliminate once and for all the evil clique.
dr.debonoma tahsibx li qieghed tara kbir tgid mhix ha jigi jiehu kafe mieghek Dr. Gonzi int traditur ta malta u tal-pn imissek tisthi titkellem hekk fuq Dr. gonzi jaqaw hadt dak li ried,kemm ghad trid tibki dwar dak li ghamilt il-pn hadd mhu se jinsa dak li ghamilt int li zammejt il-pn bhalha rahan ghal skopijiet politici tieghek ibqa zgur li hadd mill-pn mhu se jehodlok b'idejk anzi min jarak hlief stmerrija ma jarax fik, u mhux hekk biss in-nazzjonalisti li telghuk jishtu is-siegha u il-mument li ghamlu dan.
Prosit Franco, illum nafu li kellek ragun.
albert leone
IT WILL BE A LONG WAIT , a very long wait , WAITING FOR AN APOLOGY from Dr. Lawrence [email protected] Consiglio Gonzi is still the pea under Debono's seven mattresses? As much as Dr. Franco Debono is, as Gonzi once defined him as “a splinter in his small finger”….. that truly ended up as a THORN in Gonzi’s side and the administration of the Party! Gonzi is gone, PBO is gone, the Financial Controller is Gone, A. G. is gone , the Party finances are gone, the Part-time employees of the PN are gone ….. only RCC and the GonziPN oligarchy seems to be left! The OLIGARCHY , word revived and become synonymous with Franco Debono and GonziPN, & Co.! GONZI maybe be gone but he will not be forgotten AS DR. FRANCO DEBONO will not be forgotten
albert leone
Knowing Gonzi, it's going to be a long wait, a very long wait ....... though he might just give it a thought whilst doing his "OBSERVATIONS" @ The Maldives!
Anthony Pace
Gonzi is still the pea under Debono's seven mattresses.
victor Degiorgio
Oh do shut up Franco!!! Now you have what you wanted...the downfall of the PN government, a job with the PL as a Commissioner of Law together with a chauffeur driven car! What else do you need?? A monument?? who knows, if you keep bragging like this forever you might even get one!
Janice Sant
Dr Gonzi was a complete flop! He burdened us with 5 billion euros of debt; he bankrupted his own party; he burdened future generations with the mess at Mater Dei, EneMalta, Air Malta. Was responsible for two excessive budget procedures against Malta! But the cherry on the cake was the appointment of the worst ministerial cabinet in maltese history: Austin Gatt, Tonio Fenech,George Pullicino, Mifsud Bonnici,Jason Azzopardi: what proof do we need more?
Lennex Brincat
Franco ghandek ragun biex tbiegh. Pero ibqa zgur li Gonzi mhux se jaccetta din . Joen ghalija il-leader u l-Prim Ministru kien AG Aust u int kellek elf ragun tressaq vot ta' sfiducja fih ukoll . It- tnejn li huma kienu responsabbli ghal dik id-damdima li ha il -Partit Nazzjonalista.
roderick degiorgio
Mr.Debono could not take it anymore watching these imbeciles with power.This guy should have been the leader of PN.
roderick degiorgio
Mr.Debono could not take it anymore watching these imbeciles with power.This guy should have been the leader of PN.
Will this demagogue never learn to keep his mouth shut?
Stuart Micallef
Franco, bniedem mahmug, disonest u ipokrita bħalek Malta ghadha qatt ma rat.
nigel mifsud
In one aspect, the former Prime Minister is quite correct; the past government’s troubles did indeed boil down to personal agendas. The hbieb within a hbieb circle’s personal agendas. Greed that was allowed to actually run the various portfolios, whether it was greed for personally prestigious future fame, or, as features have and are still emerging, a possible greed for lucratively rewarding personal gain, it was personal agendas. The country’s needs were hardly primary, if factored in at all. Arriva and Enemalta to name but two. The best thing that a future Nationalist Party can do, if it really has its party’s interests at heart, is to invite Dr Franco Debono back into its fold. It will only be with the inclusion of members who have the same integrity and self-sacrifice for their party and country, that may eventually revive the confidence back to the electorate. The exclusion of the clikka, circle within a circle, Swiss account and media controlling ‘I’ll support you if you support me’ dream mentality has to be purged.
The elections are over. Let it go. You won. What's done is done. Look to a brighter future.
Dottore Debono...sta zitto per un giorno, per favore!
alfred zarb
Is franco going to act as watchdog for the present administration? he's had many bones to chew on these first 6 months without opening his mouth or is he in some way constrained because of certain obligations?
I said it and I am going to say it again, the interviewer in last Sunday's interview in Malta Today, was more interested in not asking awkward questions to Dr Gonzi. No questions were made on the state of GonziPN after Gonzi's leadership, or the 600Eur pay raise behind everyone's back instead we were given a sermon about moral high ground from the fantasy world of Dr Gonzi. Sorry Malta Today on this interview you could have done a lot better instead you failed big time.
alfred aquilina
The cherry on the cake was the wikileak of Gonzi's comment regarding the lack of competent people around him.