Grech’s call for urgent PN executive meeting raises more questions than answers… about him

Bernard Grech’s decision to convene an urgent meeting of the PN executive has done more than highlight just how real the rift within the party is - for many, it has not only shown a clear lack of experience but also wrong advice

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

The decision by Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech to call for an emergency meeting of the party’s executive committee following an online spat between MPs Jason Azzopardi and Adrian Delia, has many members questioning the intention.

The executive will be meeting on Thursday evening but the leader's decision to take the matter to one of the party's highest organs has left many party members baffled and questioning Grech's leadership skills.

The social media spat was spurred by a Facebook post penned by Azzopardi, announcing that he won €1,000 in damages from Vincent Borg, known as Ċensu l-Iswed, over a claim the latter made on social media about the MP, last summer. At the time, Azzopardi was part of a group of rebel MPs who pushed to oust Delia from the leadership,

Borg is a Delia supporter and provided security for the then PN leader at the time.

“I know he was used, fooled and manipulated to throw mud at me,” Azzopardi said on his Facebook wall, insinuating that it was Delia who tried to "throw mud" at him.

No sooner had Azzopardi announced his victory that Delia hit out at him, challenging him to sue him for libel over a series of statements.

On Wednesday, Grech announced on Facebook that he had convened a meeting of the executive committee so that “as per the statute, the same executive committee will take all the decisions it deems applicable in these circumstances”.

But this decision has left many MPs and members of the executive fumming that Grech chose to once again hide behind a party structure rather than nip the incident in the bud.

A number of committee members told MaltaToday that Grech should have chastised the two MPs himself directly and made it clear he would no longer tolerate any dissent or similar behaviour.

"Grech could have simply come out against the two MPs’ behaviour, and he would have done himself a big favour in the process, finally fully embracing the role of a leader capable of making tough decisions as necessary," one MP said. "But no, once again he is hiding behind the executive committee, hoping it will do what he does not have the guts to do himself, whatever that may be."

Another MP said Grech’s decision was further proof, if any was needed, that the PN was lacking someone "mature and with experience" at the helm.

"Calling this urgent meeting is madness, and will only bring more ridicule upon the party at a time when we were hoping to start challenging Labour for votes," the MP said. "Unfortunately, all Grech did was show the whole country just how lacking in experience the leadership is."

Other committee members were incensed, convinced the leader’s decision would only play into the hands of Labour.

"Why do we insist on airing all our grievances in public? And why did Grech have to turn this into the media circus that it is bound to become?"

READ ALSO: PN attempt at unity with social media rules challenged by Delia-Azzopardi spat

Unanswered questions

But Grech’s decision to call the executive has done more than highlight just how real the rift within the party is. For many, it has not only shown a clear lack of experience, but also points to Grech surrounding himself with the wrong advisors.

Ironically, it seems not many believe Grech actually decided to call tonight’s meeting himself, but that he was simply following the advice of someone within his inner circle.

Various executive committee members have scoffed the notion that the meeting tonight would lead to Azzopardi’s and Delia’s – or both’s – expulsion from the PN parliamentary group or from the party, despite rampant rumours and scaremongering on social media.

Article 7 of the statute does give the executive that power, but all sources who spoke to MaltaToday said going down that path would be political suicide for Grech and the PN.

"Such a decision would create a huge rift and take the party down a road that no one who truly loves the PN wants to go down," an MP said.

Grech could also be hoping that Azzopardi or Delia – or both – be referred to the party’s Commission for Ethics, Discipline and Social Media.

But insiders once again point out that if that is Grech’s intention, he once again failed to understand how the procedure works.

Because according to Article 144 (1), any party member can submit a grievance to the commission about the unethical or unseemly behaviour of another party member.

So Grech could have simply referred both Azzopardi and Delia to the ethics commission himself without going through the whole rigmarole of calling tonight’s meeting.

And therein lies another issue. If Grech hopes the executive will refer the two MPs to the ethics commission, the simple answer is, it cannot.

Because Article 45 of the statures clearly states that the executive must decide in cases involving breaches of the code of ethics, disciplinary cases and cases that involve the expulsion of a party member, "as referred to it but the administrative council according to the procedure and regulations laid down in the statute".

The administrative council definitely has not referred any such cases to the executive.

In fact, MaltaToday is informed that Grech actually cancelled a meeting of the administrative council scheduled for this afternoon.

What has left many party members most angry – if a browse through public social media groups is any indication – is that, with his hasty call for an urgent meeting tonight, Grech has managed to wipe all the work that he was doing in the past weeks as the party appeared to be on the road to offering a credible challenge to Labour.

“Now, once again, we are to the theatrics that had become the norm under Delia’s leadership, except this time, the most aggrieved appear to be those who put Grech there in the first place,” the chairman of one of the party’s regional committees told MaltaToday.

“Grech should have stepped up and shown he could be a leader, but instead tonight will show him that he has bitten off more than he can chew.”

READ ALSO: Delia wants no show of force outside PN headquarters