Updated | Adrian Delia faces growing rebellion over Simon Busuttil resignation call

The two former deputy leaders of the Nationalist Party, Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami, are among a growing number of MPs opposed to Adrian Delia’s call for Simon Busuttil’s resignation

Simon Busuttil has received the support of 10 other PN MPs, splitting the parliamentary group almost in half
Simon Busuttil has received the support of 10 other PN MPs, splitting the parliamentary group almost in half

Updated at 6.07pm with Ryan Callus statement

Adrian Delia faces open rebellion from a growing number of MPs, who are opposed to calls for Simon Busuttil’s resignation from the parliamentary group.

The Nationalist Party leader yesterday removed the good governance portfolio from Busuttil’s hands and asked him to resign from the party after the findings of the Egrant inquiry exonerated the Prime Minister and his wife of wrongdoing.

Delia’s call was unanimously backed by the PN administrative council late at night after an emergency meeting.

But the former PN leader has remained defiant, insisting that he will continue to “fight for justice even without Adrian Delia’s support”.

Mario de Marco
Mario de Marco
Karol Aquilina
Karol Aquilina
Jason Azzopardi
Jason Azzopardi
Claudette Buttigieg
Claudette Buttigieg

However, in the early hours of Monday, Busuttil’s defiance found support from Mario de Marco, the former PN deputy leader.

At 1.19am Mario de Marco tweeted the words: “#notinmyname #strongertogether.”

Some 10 minutes later, PN MP Karol Aquilina tweeted the same words, followed by Jason Azzopardi and Claudette Buttigieg.

Beppe Fenech Adami
Beppe Fenech Adami
Paul Borg Olivier
Paul Borg Olivier
Norman Vella
Norman Vella

The same hashtag line ‘Not in my name – Stronger together’ was reproduced on Facebook by the other former deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami, former PN general secretary Paul Borg Olivier and PN candidate Norman Vella.

But on Monday, as time passed by more PN MPs and officials added their name to the hashtag line. MPs Karl Gouder, Therese Comodini Cachia, Marthese Portelli posted the message on their twitter feeds and Facebook walls.

Paula Mifsud Bonnici
Paula Mifsud Bonnici
Alex Perici Calascione
Alex Perici Calascione
Marthese Portelli
Marthese Portelli

PN executive member Paula Mifsud Bonnici declares that she would be voting against Delia's motion to remove Busuttil when it eventually is brought before the executive, while former treasurer Alex Perici Calascione has warned the party leadership not to go down a road that risks splitting the party.

David Casa
David Casa

PN MEP David Casa also joined the bandwagon, having been mentioned by Delia in Sunday's press conference. "I will speak to David Casa at the appropriate time," Delia said.

Claudio Grech
Claudio Grech
Ryan Callus
Ryan Callus

Later in the day, Claudio Grech added his dissenting voice against Busuttil's resignation but interestingly refrained from using the hashtag message like the others did. While acknowledging that the "strategic merit" of using the Egrant story in the electoral campaign was questionable, Grech said Busuttil had an obligation as Opposition leader to raise the issue and ask political questions.

"For the same PN he led to politically lynch him for that is outrageous," Grech added, recalling that Busuttil paid a hefty political price for the election outcome.

But Grech's statement on his Facebook page also contained a veiled message to other in the PN who have refrained from taking a stand despite their obvious dislike for Delia. "I can never be party to the rushed and illogical decision to suspend Simon Busuttil from the PN. Neither can I keep silent merely for the sake of political self-preservation."

MP Ryan Callus also distanced himself from calls for Busuttil's resignation, insisting "the PN's only hope was to unite and not kick out people and definitely not the person who worked against corruption when it was his duty to do so".

Others who later joined the list included two MZPN officials, Jamie Vella and Nicky Azzopardi.

While the PN exponents have not explained the meaning of their actions, the comments on twitter and Facebook below their posts leave no doubt as to what people are understanding.

The Egrant findings appear to have driven a wedge between PN supporters of current leader Delia and those who still profess allegiance to his predecessor.

Adrian Delia called for Simon Busuttil's resignation shortly after the Egrant inquiry findings became known
Adrian Delia called for Simon Busuttil's resignation shortly after the Egrant inquiry findings became known

Delia’s move is the boldest decision he has taken since becoming leader in September last year after having rebuked Busuttil publicly a few weeks ago over his comments on the bird trapping decision by the European Court of Justice.

While those who support Delia insist that he was elected leader by party members and his position should be respected, others are still suspicious of his political direction and motives.

Busuttil’s followers accuse Delia of reneging on the anti-corruption battle, while others in the PN contend that the relentless effort to see corruption everywhere, which culminated in the Egrant saga, led the party to an even bigger defeat in the last election.

It remains unclear what the end-game of the rebel MPs is.

Busuttil has accused Delia of collusion with Joseph Muscat, something the PN leader has described as “absurd”.

On Sunday, in his first reaction after the magisterial inquiry findings were known, Delia called on Busuttil to shoulder political responsibility, given that he had made the Egrant allegations his own last year.

Muscat also called for Busuttil’s resignation in the aftermath of the inquiry that found no link between Egrant and the Muscats, leading the magistrate to conclude that the story was based on false documents and forged signatures.

Occupy Justice and Awturi worried

Meanwhile, in a statement released on Monday morning, Occupy Justice and Awturi, anti-corruption activist groups, said they were “very worried” that a political alliance has formed between the government and the Opposition.

“A political alliance that is ensuring the truth remain hidden and that justice isn’t served. Yesterday, this alliance was unreservedly solidified by the declarations of Opposition leader Adrian Delia,” the groups said.

The organisations said the Opposition was morphing into the government’s mouthpiece when Delia blamed Busuttil in the wake of the Egrant findings.

“As activists, we do not seek any politicians’ approval to say what we believe, but we must also acknowledge that Simon Busuttil, David Casa and others who we now presume are under Muscat and Delia’s axe, have always shown solidarity and support in our fight for truth and justice – even at great personal risk,” the groups said.

They insisted that they will not be silent in front of these actions “so obviously prompted by Joseph Muscat”.

They also reiterated calls for Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s resignations – both of who were revealed to have opened companies in Panama shortly after the 2013 election.

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