My cause is an effective democracy. I am one of its rebels | Ivan Bartolo

My loyalty sits with all well-meaning citizens that acknowledge the wrongdoings of our government and aspire to live in a normal effective democracy for the common good, care and peace of mind for all

Nationalist MP Ivan J. Bartolo
Nationalist MP Ivan J. Bartolo

There would never have been a Nationalist Party were it not that 140 years ago there was a rebel with a cause – Fortunato Mizzi, an icon of political acumen, intelligence, patriotism, integrity, honesty and humility. His cause was our Maltese nationhood with the right of full self-determination and State independence. The cause at that time was the germ of an idea. But he was a fully blown rebel in a colony at the apex of the grandeur of the British Empire.

I am fully aware that my seat in Parliament has been given to me on loan by constituents of the ninth district. Maltese citizens that expressed their democratic right at the General Election held in 2017.

Following the outcome of the General Election of 2017, the Nationalist Party launched its bid to elect a new Leader of the Party who will eventually become the Leader of the Opposition. This was the first time I heard of Dr Adrian Delia.

In 2017, someone from Dr Delia’s team had called me and I met Dr Delia for an afternoon tea. We spoke, we exchanged views and that was the beginning of a relationship. I for one endorsed Dr Delia publicly and at the election of the party leader. I did not vote for my friend Dr Chris Said; instead, I voted for Dr Delia. Why?

I voted for Dr Delia as I wanted to cast my vote in the best interest of the Nationalist Party and my country. In 2017, Dr Delia gave hope for a new beginning, a new way. A breath of fresh air. I knew than, and I know now, that the Nationalist Party needs to regenerate and reinvent itself. In 2017, I believed that Dr Delia was the man to get the job done. How wrong I was.

On several occasions Dr Delia accused me of being one of those people who goes hot and cold with the Nationalist Party. He is right to say so as on many occasions I did offer a participative helping hand, and yes, for the same number of times I aborted my attempts and left.

While Dr Delia was always quick to judge my change of heart, he continually failed to review, assess, challenge his own leadership style. He never sat down and tried to understand why I kept going forwards and backwards. The truth is that I always went forward because I wanted to assist our beloved country through the Nationalist Party. Regretfully, despite many attempts on my part to support and contribute, I could not ignore the reality of Dr Delia’s lack of leadership. Dr Delia fails to understand that a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

By 2019, having had several meals, meetings, and interactions with Dr Delia, I concluded that the man has the gift of the gab, but he waffles and lacks the necessary skills when it comes to vision, strategy, management and implementation. My assessment was endorsed by the outcome of the MEP elections in 2019.

Following the MEP election results, I knew for a fact that with Dr Delia at the helm of the Nationalist Party, the party was and still is heading for another significant defeat.

In 2019, this revelation caused me concern as I realised that Malta’s democracy is at risk. With Dr Delia leading the Nationalist Party, the Labour Party may in fact win two-thirds of the parliamentary seats at the next general election. This is what drove me to lead an initiative in which last year, precisely in July 2019, where Dr Delia was subjected to a vote of confidence at the PN General Council. It is important to note that I refrained from motivating my initiative by referring to his personal affairs and or his business dealings. My decisions were simply based on the fact that I know that Dr Delia does not have the necessary political substance and skills to drive the necessary transformation. An oratorical gift of the gab is an important asset, but on its own not only it is not enough - it may even turn out to be dangerous for society.

Surprisingly, and against all expectations, in March 2020 I ended up in the parliamentary group of the Nationalist Party in opposition. Observing the team dynamics of the parliamentary group has reinforced my conviction that Dr Delia is in fact not an individual who can lead. Why?

Consistently arriving late for meetings, walking in and out of meetings, continually fiddling on one’s mobile phone while colleagues are talking, shouting at colleagues, being the first to talk instead of the last, and demonstrating an obvious lack of strategic thinking and planning, are but a few negative leadership traits that led to the complete distraction of the necessary team dynamics in such a complex environment.

While these may sound petty, these negative traits do not inspire the right values and team dynamics. Values such as care, trust and respect are absent; productivity, focus and quality are non-existent. Dr Delia simply does not give importance to people management, effective communication, planning and to own the responsibility of inspiring others to follow. If he does this with such consequences in our small MPs group, I shudder to think what his impact might be were he to be trusted with the leadership and management of our country.

Dr Delia has failed to provide any ‘new way’; to unite, restructure, and reorganise the party. While in his path there were potholes, Dr Delia in his leadership role did the classic mistake of hiding behind his own finger while blaming everyone else.

True leaders listen without being condescending. They must always be ready and willing to hear what others have to say without rushing to judgment. True leaders are forthright with their people. They communicate openly, honestly, and often.

On many occasions I did speak with Dr Delia about the traits and attributes of a leader. My assessment is that it was like seeds falling on rocky soil, shallow earth with no depth to it. With a very short attention span, with his lack of planning, he continually focused on winning the battles of the day. Despite doing my best, always giving him the benefit of the doubt, I failed ever to be convincingly inspired by any sense of strategic direction that was leading him and his team to win the war. He plays with tactical challenges, completely ignores strategy, missing the wood for the trees.

My seat in parliament is on loan. I am reading the sentiment of the Maltese people who wish to witness the Nationalist Party becoming a government in waiting. I read their message through several survey results. It is very clear that people did not warm up to Dr Delia for several reasons.

If representing these people means losing my seat in Parliament, then so be it. I have entered the political arena to serve my country and its people. My loyalty sits with all well-meaning citizens that acknowledge the wrongdoings of our government and aspire to live in a normal effective democracy where the pinnacle values are the common good, care and the critical success factor, being peace of mind for all. This is my cause. I am one of its rebels.