Grech threatened the sack for Delia and Azzopardi in PN discord meeting

Adrian Delia ‘in tears of joy’ and Jason Azzopardi given short shrift by Grech: how the PN’s discord was mismanaged

Adrian Delia (centre) with Jason Azzopardi (right)
Adrian Delia (centre) with Jason Azzopardi (right)

A mawkish audio recording from Adrian Delia was sent out to well-wishers on Thursday evening on WhatsApp. In it, the former PN leader sent out a teary ‘thank you’ in a voice broken by emotion: “Thank you to those who kept believing in me, when everything was stacked against me. I can lose 1,000 elections but truth will always out, but I will never lose my integrity.”

Delia had emerged triumphant from a ‘showdown’ in which PN leader Bernard Grech forced Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi to back down on his long-held claims against the former party leader.

Both MPs faced a threat of expulsion in a PN executive committee meeting that did not take place, but was part of Bernard Grech’s heavy-handed approach to get his two warring MPs to get off each other’s back.

According to sources who spoke to MaltaToday, Grech placed both MPs under huge duress, including Azzopardi, who played a central role last year in mounting the challenge to Delia’s leadership.

Sources close to the two MPs told MaltaToday that Grech had referred to the MPs’ feud as “a millstone around the PN’s neck”

A source close to Azzopardi said the MP was left speechless under the weight of accusations from Grech, who was accompanied by party aide Ray Bezzina.

“He was told that he erred in posting the libel victory against Vincent Borg,” sources close to the MP said. Azzopardi’s defamation case against Borg, a canvasser of Delia, was what provoked Delia’s litany of accusations against Azzopardi in the first place, prompting Grech to call for a PN executive meeting.

But Grech’s approach to the matter was instantly derided by MPs close to both Delia and Azzopardi, who saw the Facebook spat as not worthy of a meeting with the entire parliamentary group.

A source close to Delia said the former leader felt that both MPs were judged by the same yardstick. “Azzopardi has been mounting a whispering campaign against Delia for the last year and yet nothing ever came of it. He had to either put out or shut up – Grech told him as much.”

Another source close to Azzopardi confirmed that the PN leader was putting the MP under pressure, even though his closest allies in the parliamentary group and in the executive were quick to make it clear that Grech  would not have the numbers to move against Azzopardi.

Grech was said to have been unmoved when Azzopardi explained his suspicions of Delia, referring to chats he had with Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech after it was known he owned the Panamagate company 17 Black; and of the money pledged to the PN by Fenech in a bid to thwart David Casa’s re-election bid for Europe.

“Grech accused Azzopardi of having raised expectations ‘unnecessarily’ because the allegations bandied about have never led to anything,” said a source close to Azzopard.

“He also ignored Azzopardi’s protestations about what various magisterial inquiries he had kick-started with Simon Busuttil had achieved... he simply brushed it aside.”

Both sources close to the two MPs told MaltaToday that Grech had referred to the MPs’ feud as “a millstone around the PN’s neck”.

Grech was also heard telling Delia that his Facebook post, in which he reminded the public of the bad blood inside the PN between his faction and that allied to former PN leader Simon Busuttil, had “messed up the polls”.

Delia was said to have insisted that if a party motion was brought up against him in the evening’s executive committee meeting, he would pursue his allegations against Azzopardi “in all avenues available to him”.

Grech attempted to convince Delia to stop attacking Azzopardi, but Delia countered that he “had been quiet for too long and would no longer stand for Azzopardi’s provocations”.

A couple of hours later, Delia was approached and the notion of a joint reconciliatory statement with Azzopardi was floated.

The sources said Delia insisted he would only accept such a statement if it included Azzopardi’s recanting the major allegations he had raised about him. They claimed Delia actually supplied much of the wording in the statement himself.

At no point in the statement does Delia apologise for the accusations raised in his Facebook post which triggered the entire incident.