‘Fenech Adamis made PN their own property’ - Debono

Putting his finger on the reason why the PN was trounced at the polls, Franco Debono gives the problem names and surnames.

Former MP Franco Debono (Photo: Joanna Demarco/Mediatoday).
Former MP Franco Debono (Photo: Joanna Demarco/Mediatoday).

The last time I interviewed Franco Debono, the PN was still in government and the former Nationalist MP who had just voted against the 2013 Budget was adamant that the writing was on the wall for Lawrence Gonzi et al.

Fast forward three months, and the PN has suffered the worst electoral defeat in history and Debono's stark warnings were proven to be correct.

Aside from the obvious feelings of vindication, the former dissident MP is in a forgiving mood. However, Debono never minces his words, and his verdict is damning and clinical.

Putting his finger on the reason why the PN was trounced at the polls, Debono gives the problem names and surnames.

He insists that former PN leader and party grandee Eddie Fenech Adami "was always lurking in the background," interfering in Lawrence Gonzi's administration.

However the first thing Debono did on hearing of the PN's historic defeat, was to send an SMS to Gonzi, telling the former prime minister that he had forgiven him "for all the harm he tried to inflict on me, my family and the country".

Describing the outgoing Nationalist administration as "the worst government in Maltese history," the Ghaxaq lawyer says that the major reason for the PN's loss is found in the power set-up within the party.

"The PN's problem over the years was that the party was nothing but a showcase for what was going on backstage, behind the curtains, where the real power within the party is vested. Who are they? Richard Cachia Caruana, Austin Gatt and the Fenech Adami family," Debono frankly says.

Explaining that the prevailing feeling within the party after the humiliating defeat was an urge to change, Debono says that the party he militated in for years has failed to comprehend the real problem.

He says that the problem does not lie in the party councilors, executive committee members or the PN leadership.

"I believe, and I might surprise you here, that what must go are none of these. They are not the key problem. They can all head out and go to bed. The rest are all puppets."

So what is the problem, I ask? His answer is simple. The name of the problem, according to Debono, is the Fenech Adami family, Austin Gatt and Richard Cachia Caruana.

"Labour knew, and I also knew that Gonzi's problem was Eddie Fenech Adami. One of the major difficulties I faced and the reason why I could not advance in the party was exactly this. After displacing Louis Galea from parliament because the electorate overwhelmingly voted for me, and because Beppe Fenech Adami always viewed me as a threat, because he has no idea, no charisma and fared worse than I did in 2008, he viewed me as threat to his leadership ambitions."

He adds that when the younger Fenech Adami falsely claimed that Debono wanted to become PN leader, it was a projection of Fenech Adami's ambitions.

While insisting that Eddie Fenech Adami's address during the last PN mass meeting of the campaign was a mistake, Debono says that the former PN Prime Minister and President of the Republic never let go of the party.

"During that meeting, Fenech Adami gave it away, when he said that he picked Gonzi as his successor. Everybody knew it but it was never so explicit before. It's the most direct admission, from the horses mouth, which also sheds light on the fairness in internal PN contests."

"Will we now have another anointment? We now know how things work. Fenech Adami lent the party, which almost became his family's private property, to Lawrence Gonzi. Gonzi's rent came to an end and Fenech Adami now wants the keys back."

Debono explains that Fenech Adami should apologise to the whole nation because he is not above law and a former President of the Republic "does not do such foolish things, on the eve of election".

Fenech Adami interferes in internal party affairs, Debono insists, citing the former PN leader's interference on whether Hermann Schiavone should have been accepted to contest elections on the PN ticket.

"If Eddie Fenech Adami interferes in such petty issues, you can only imagine how much he interferes on more serious matters," a stern Debono says.

"Gonzi's contract came to an end, and Eddie Fenech Adami wants the party back to pass it on to his son. That is the scheme unfolding in front of us," he says on the imminent PN leadership contest.

The former MP says that the PN leadership contest will see the Fenech Adami and Austin Gatt faction pushing for Beppe Fenech Adami's election, former ambassador to the EU Richard Cachia Caruana backing Simon Busuttil and Mario de Marco an "outsider".

Debono explains that Busuttil - who this week insisted that the election was lost before he entered the fray upon his appointment - "was Eddie Fenech Adami's darling... however, in a contest involving his own son, he will back his son".

While saying that Busuttil is the preferred candidate of the Cachia Caruana, Debono says that Beppe Fenech Adami is also backed by chief strategist Austin Gatt, who shared a legal office with Fenech Adami. 

"The intimacy between Gatt and Fenach Adamis is well known, any comment would be superfluous," he says. 

Is he interested in contesting himself?

While stressing that he has received many messages of encouragement to enter the contest, Debono insists that he cannot return, "because I am not interested right now".

What about in three months' time, I ask? His wry reply does not exclude any possibility. He simply says: "A week in politics is a very long time."

"The result proved me right. I was not a spectator; I did not keep my mouth shut. People tell me that if the PN had taken heed of my warnings, they would not have won but at least they would have avoided a drubbing. My hurt is bigger now that I know that the result proved me right."

Excluding his return to the fold in the short term, Debono asks "Why should people return to the fold now... while they were in power they kicked people out, now that they're going through a tough time, they are asking people to return. Why did they not say so before?"

So what needs to change in the PN in order for the party to regroup and become the force it once was?  "First and foremost, the Fenech Adamis, Gatt and Cachia Caruana must let go of the grip they hold on the party. Why do you think Gatt never resigned  as minister? Because the Fenech Adamis would have lost their principle ally," Debono says, adding that the Fenech Adami system is supported by the Mifsud Bonnici dynasty, former PN secretary General Joe Saliba and others in the party structures.

"I expect that the Fenech Adami family lets go of their control on the PN executive, who are nothing but puppets of Austin Gatt and the Fenech Adamis... they should take a step back and leave the dark room where the real power within the PN rests."

He explains that Labour spent 15 years in Opposition, because the people in power would not let go. "When things changed, they achieved a colossal victory. I fear that the PN will go through the same process, maybe worse. They will not let go."

Debono predicts that Labour leader Joseph Muscat will be the first political leader to win two elections at one go - last week's and the 2018 one - unless something "extraordinary" happens.

"The PN suffered a brain drain during the last five years, the party will suffer the consequences of the apartheid politics for the next five, 10 or 15 years," Debono warns.

Who is best placed to help the PN reinvent itself?

"Beppe Fenech Adami would be the worst choice, while I have no idea who is behind Ann Fenech," he says of the lawyer from the Fenech & Fenech legal firm, who pulled out of the race on Friday.

He reserves the kindest words for Mario de Marco. Although claiming that he must shoulder responsibility for the defeat, Debono says the former tourism minister was the "least responsible".

"Remember that the de Marco and Fenech Adami families were always at logger heads, and I believe that if Guido de Marco  had led the PN we would not have the division and partisanship of the Fenech Adami years."

"In hindsight, Fenech Adami is no saint, and his story has yet to be written... the PN does not need another Fenech Adami. It would take the party back to the 80s, to the division and partisanship."

His take on the massive Labour majority is that the people voted with anger against the PN. He explains that the people did not vote out the PN because of its policies but because of its power set up, represented by its refusal to distance itself from Daphne Caruana Galizia, Lou Bondi and Andrew Borg Cardona.

"I rebelled against the power set-up, whose way of doing things boils down to destroying whoever does not abide by the clique's orders. That was the equation. Meritocracy was destroyed - you could only advance if you lick ass."

He adds that the people voted against the lack of accountability and tolerance shown by the party, especially in regard to the way it dealt with Debono and fellow rebels Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Jesmond Mugliett, who were condemned and banned from contesting elections on the PN ticket.

"The PN will only change if the clique is dismantled, otherwise nothing will change. If the new leader is the pawn of this power behind the throne, there will be no real change."

Debono believes that the PN councilors who elected Gonzi as leaders and confirmed him in 2012, should resign en block because the clique is at an advantage since the councilors are easily manipulated.

While noting that holding a primary in which all PN members and non-members could vote for the leader would be an interesting alternative, Debono says that the PN's secretary-general must be at least chosen by the General Council.

Insisting that there was little hope for real change within the PN,  the first thing the party should do was revoke the condemnation on the three former Nationalist MPs.

"The electorate did not approve of such actions. The persons who condemned us were condemned by the electorate. The condemnation of the executive controlled by Gatt and Fenech Adami has no value compared to the condemnation dished out by the people which will echo in Malta's history forever."

All in the Families of Adami's,Demarco's and Mifsud Bonnici's. This has been said by one of your own,some one who knows what was going on inside the party and not by some one from the outside. The party has been hyjacked by the klikka u xibka tal-ħazen,skont Dr Franco Debono.It looks like he is right.
Dr. Franco Debono, The fact is, in my humble opinion, you are a truthful politician the like that one can not compare you to. I believe in you, and have been writing my believes but no politician worth his salt say the whole truth, a politician is like a car salesman show that everything work and his advise is his is the best car. Now what come after is your problem and who care by that time you will forget all the promises. My advise to my good friend is let them keep walking on the quick sand, after all they are drowning and our advise is worthless to a sinking person who keep believing it is the other man's fault.
Emmanuel Mallia
Everything Franco said materialized ! ! They still ignore him ! PN still blames the defeat on other issues !PN never change, as long as it is hijacked by the trio !
Biex jerga jigi kredibli l-PN irid jitlob zkuza lil Franco, JPO, Mugliet, Dalli Joe Borg, u iqaccat barra lil dawk li iffangaw u mohhom kien biss biex jinsulentaw lin-nies -anke Nazzjonalisti -bhal dik tal-Bidnija u l- bella kompanija!
Emmanuel Mallia
If the PN really means change, the trio, and Marthese Portelli, responsable for the colossal defeat, should be expelled from the party. That way and only that way, we believe you !!
Didn't you have to move to Italy? We could really use a break....
Veru ghamlu mhux il-Malta taghhom biss ,,,,,IMMA L'ASSI TAL--PAJJIZ UKOLL! Lanqas it-titlu "Emeritus" ma jixraq il-Capo ta' din il-Clan li mar jiddandan u jintuzgha bhala "GIMMICK" ta' qabel l'elezzjoni f'attivita partiggana! Dan kellu kariga li kellu jirrispeta mhux ta' Kap ta' Partit imma ta' PRESIDENT TA' MALTA! MA KIENX POSTU HEMM, la hemm ulanqas tal-Pieta id-Dar Centrali! Postu mhux hemm la jinghata penzjoni ta' Emeritu imhallsi MIT-TAXXI TAGHNA KOLLHA u mhux mill fondi tal-Partit tieghu!
Well said Franco. Just a tad to many me's and I's within the style of speech to make it more palatable; but in my opinion otherwise it is the absolute and complete TRUTH! I changed my 1 from PN to PL for the first time ever because of these very reasons...the rest of my numbers went on NEW and INNOCENT PN faces.
I think all this is 'irrilevant'...!
@festu I really hope he does just that -- form a new party. That way we can all have a good laugh when he makes a fool of himself and has nobody else to blame. I guess it will anyway be Gonzi's fault, and that of the evil clique... :-)
Bang on, Franco! and @ philipb, believe me there were and still are thousands that wanted their party better led by honest, modern thinking persons, rather than power seeking, money grabbing, mind polluted dinosaurs.
The day the PN takes back Franco Debono in its fold, I will resign my life membership with the party.
Prosit Franco! Ilqatt il-mumar fuq rasu. Il-manuvri ta' Fenech Adami x-xih ghad jinkixfu u Malta kollha ghad tinduna kemm kien ipokrita u agoist. Tinduna wkoll li l-unika "asset" tat-tifel tieghu hu kunjomu ghax mill-bqija m'hmm xejn sustanza. .
Maureen Attard
Ha tibqa tinghi int? Alaqghlu issa. Halli lil kulhadd bi kwietu u ghamel kif kont ghidt li ser taghmel. Mur l-Italja.
well said Franco.
franco you know that many PN sympathisers who voted PN last Saturday are openl;y saying that you were right. Grab this opportunity and set the ball rolling to form a new party since the PN will continue to stumble in between nostalgia and arrogance.
Completely disagree. Many nationalists were upset at the "soft" way the PN dealt with Franco Debono and would have preferred to have him kicked out immediately rather than trying to compromise. There should have been no compromises when principles such as loyalty to PN leadership were at stake and PN should have made bold step in early 2012 to expel Franco Debono and if necessary call an election. There are hundreds I know who were disappointed in the way Franco Debono, JPO, Mugliett were allowed to continue undermining the party.
Debono kummidjant! Mohhu fih innifsu biss! Min jahseb li hu? Ghaliex hadd ma jfakkru li kellu d-dmir jirraprezenta l-kostitwenti tieghu, u mhux jittradihom billi jwaqqa il-gvern li tellghu huma!