PN reiterates ‘united party’ message after Busuttil comes up short on De Marco

After Busuttil failed to muster strong defence for De Marco, PN attempts to reinforce ‘unity’ message as Labour mock ‘PN leader’s weakness’

Simon Busuttil non-committal on blogger's attack on deputy
Simon Busuttil non-committal on blogger's attack on deputy
The PN has insisted it is a united party despite critics taking to task Mario de Marco (right), seen here with Simon Busuttil
The PN has insisted it is a united party despite critics taking to task Mario de Marco (right), seen here with Simon Busuttil

The Nationalist Party has sought to defend the image of a united party tonight after Opposition leader Simon Busuttil failed to spare a few words in defence of his deputy leader, Mario de Marco, criticised in a missive by columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia when she suggested the MP was not pulling his weight to support Busuttil.

Busuttil would not be drawn on the attacks made against De Marco during a visit to the offices of Fexserv on Wednesday morning, simply stating that he understood De Marco’s medical condition had kept him away from the public sphere. “He has my understanding,” he said.

But he preferred entertaining questions on maverick PN candidate Salvu Mallia, saying the outspoken TV presenter was making a “big contribution” to the party.

On Wednesday evening, the PN issued a statement emphasising its “unity under Simon Busuttil in his fight against the most corrupt government Malta ever had… he is leading a team in a fight against corruption while Joseph Muscat is isolated in a corrupt clique caught red-handed opening secret Panama companies.”

It accused Labour of “spinning a story that does not exist” after the PL that morning said pointing out that Busuttil could not muster a condemnation of Daphna Caruana Galizia’s “attack” on de Marco.

In its own statement, issued after Busuttil’s comments, the PL said: “This is more proof that an extremist clique inside the PN has taken over and confirms Busuttil’s weakness.”

In her blog on Monday, the Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote that she was unimpressed by De Marco’s contribution and that of many other opposition MPs “to the good fight to turf those corrupt knaves, villains and blackguards out of the seat of power”.

“De Marco and other Nationalist MPs seem to be going out of their way to communicate the message that it is irrelevant to them whether the Nationalist Party wins the upcoming general election or not.”

The PN deputy leader took to Facebook to justify his “absence” from the political sphere, which he said was due to the fact that he has had to recover from two major surgeries.

De Marco found support from perhaps a likely quarter: Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, whose own health problems were the subject of violent speculation on Caurana Galizia’s blog.

De Marco has undergone two major surgeries and other relatively minor interventions, and had to endure a facial paralysis as well as several MRI scans and eight UK hospital visits. “I believe in a degree of personal privacy and hoped my sporadic but needed and justified absence would go unnoticed or be understood. Regrettably it seems that this was not the case as evident from recent comments online over the last few days.”

Also writing on Facebook, Keith Schembri, who has also recently been in the news because of health issues, said he empathised with De Marco. “I understand and empathize with Mario De Marco and know what he is going through. Some battles are not fought in public. Human dignity is subservient to no one,” Schembri wrote.

But Schembri’s comment triggered Caruana Galizia’s ire once again, prompting her to post a new message late last night, switching her focus on to Schembri.

“Too many people on this benighted island want to have their cake, eat it and bake it again. They want to block their public position while they take their time recovering – in Schembri’s case on a public salary, refuse to keep the public informed of the current state of affairs, and then also tell the public that they have no right to know, demanding privacy,” she wrote

Caruana Galizia said that if Schembri wanted privacy, he should resign his public position. “And if you don’t want to fight your battles in public, get out of your public post.”

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