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[LISTEN] Adrian Delia: ‘The Nationalist Party is going through some turbulence, but it’s no coup’

PN leader Adrian Delia at his most candid yet: Caruana Galizia ran character assassination campaign, and Simon Busuttil should have followed Gonzi’s lead and resigned from MP

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
4 November 2017, 11:00am
PN leader Adrian Delia was explicit in his Radju Malta interview
PN leader Adrian Delia was explicit in his Radju Malta interview
He is the new kid on the block and his ‘new way’ is discomforting pretenders, Opposition leader Adrian Delia told Radju Malta presenter Andrew Azzopardi. But Delia is discounting claims and press reports of the split inside the PN: one led by the old guard that has not taken kindly to his election as PN leader.

“Yes, there is a certain preoccupation for people who are seeing all this from outside,” Delia said in reference to the public infighting on social media between MPs, and a motion by his leadership rival Chris Said which seems to be angling for an inquiry into his own leader.

“It’s not a moment of crisis, but the passage of what we’re going through. It’s like a company that for years has been led by generations of the same family, and suddenly an outsider is now running things. This naturally creates resistance. But this change came about through a democratic election.

“It’s a process that the PN must pass through, especially after its electoral losses. It is healthy. There are still those who are stubborn and refuse to accept this change. I have not taken any antagonistic position towards anyone, and my mission is to meet anyone. The press has made a meal out of this. It’s no coup, more like some concern and turbulence. It’s resistance against the departure from the old way. They don’t like the new way of doing politics,” Delia said, referencing his campaign slogan.

 

Chris Said (left) with Simon Busuttil in the background during a summer festa while the PN leadership campaign was underway
Chris Said (left) with Simon Busuttil in the background during a summer festa while the PN leadership campaign was underway
Chris Said and Simon Busuttil

But Delia was quick to point his finger at Chris Said, who this week tabled a motion demanding an inquiry into public officials that were targeted by Daphne Caruana Galizia in her blog.

“Said’s motion has not reference me by name or by position. I read the motion,” Delia said when asked to explain Said’s own comment to MaltaToday that the motion included MPs. “What bothered me is that Said took up this initiative when there is the parliamentary group in which to discuss such things. He then chose to make all this public when internal matters should not be discussed so liberally out in the open.”

Delia also said that had he resigned as Opposition leader after an election loss, he would also resign as MP – in a reference to Lawrence Gonzi after the 2013 loss. Azzopardi was quick to suggest that Simon Busuttil’s political showboating was a hindrance.

“That’s up to him, up to the people to decide that. He has a right to attend the protests… I took a personal decision not to attend the protest,” Delia said, refuting claims that MPs had refused to walk alongside him at the first Civil Society Network protest in the wake of Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Delia said that the PN had offered its full support and assistance to the Civil Society Network’s demonstrations. “When they asked our assistance, I gave it to them fully. They know it. They are people who seem to have followed closely the work [of Caruana Galizia].”

But he also suggested that voters did not vote for the PN because they felt Caruana Galizia was the party’s ‘official voice’. “At least that’s what has been written about the election, before and after,” Delia said. “But right now it is the country’s best interest that we have to look after. It is healthy that civil society takes the lead in expressing its anger… but as a party we must choose the opportune moment, and ensure we do not destabilise our country.”

 

Delia said Daphne Caruana Galizia ran a character assassination campaign agianst him
Delia said Daphne Caruana Galizia ran a character assassination campaign agianst him
Daphne Caruana Galizia

Delia was one of the party leaders not present at the funeral of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, admitting that he was a persona non gratae by the family.

Caruana Galizia was the first to break news that Delia had managed an offshore account for a Maltese property landlord whose London tenements had been implicated in a prostitution racket. Her stories were backed up independently by MaltaToday when it carried a separate investigation into the details of the story.

“I am completely in favour of freedom of expression. But there are extremes that are exceeded when they tend to be very personal circumstances,” Delia said as he built up his narrative on Caruana Galizia’s stories about him.

“After having lived your life correctly and honestly, having to face extreme accusations such as being a drug trafficker, a money launderer, a trafficker of prostitutes… it is clear that there is hurt here. Can’t a private person, even a public person, feel umbraged by this kind of liberty?” Delia asked, explaining the reason for filing five libel suits against Caruana Galizia.

“I said sorry [to the Caruana Galizia family] because it was a human thing to do, just as my anger had been. I live with that regret.”

Delia was even more clearer about Caruana Galizia’s stated aim that he should not have been elected leader.

“Let’s be honest. Take everything that was said over three months. Don’t you think this was an act of character assassination?”

He said it was only in a sign of respect to the family of somebody who was assassinated, that he dropped the libel cases. “I said that I would be ready to cooperate with the police if there was something to be investigated.”

Nationalist Party problems

Delia then said that the PN’s own problem with the electorate was that it had distanced itself from voters.

“Someone I met in Gozo gave me a three-second analysis. The PN always won comfortably when it was in dialogue with people. When it forgot people when in government, it won by a whisker. When it hurt people, it lost big.”

Delia refused to point his finger at predecessor Simon Busuttil for the PN’s second consecutive electoral loss in 2017, saying he had taken responsibility for the loss by resigning. “He promoted the principle of honesty in politics on which I want to build upon. But you cannot be only negative - ‘only’ being the operative word. You cannot call focused criticism of something that is wrong, like corruption, ‘negative’.”

Delia actually made reference to a Facebook post he made in 2013 just days after the PN’s electoral loss, where he called out “intellectual arrogance” as one of the problems of the PN’s political message.

“Again, attacking corruption is a positive message, not negative. What I said is that you cannot only criticise… taking to task ministers on the Panama Papers does not exclude having to agree that the economy is performing well.”

Presenter Andrew Azzopardi however faced Delia with the accusation that the PN led a four-year campaign against the country’s institutions, by taking to task judges appointed by the Labour administration, or anyone who had a blood relation to a Labour MP or MEP. “The five police commissioners that came and went since 2013 did not go because of the PN…” Delia retorted.

Delia was also asked to explain his tax situation, after it transpired that he paid no tax in 2015. A recent salary declaration presented to parliament shows he earned some €150,000 in professional fees in 2016, making him one of the highest paid MPs. As Opposition leader he now forgoes his professional income. “I have a pending issue on the rate of interest charged on unpaid taxes. I will be paying my tax bill by the end of the year, but we have to see whether a 12% interest rate on deferred taxes is fair. But it is untrue that I evaded tax.”

At this point, Delia suggested that other people were evading taxes, and Azzopardi pressed him to name the person, whether he was a public official, instead of using the information as political fodder. “Let’s ask all MPs - all of them - whether what they have declared since they’ve been in office, is indeed true. We should be strengthened a system of checks and balances for MPs to declare their net worth when they enter politics, and when they exit.”

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.