Adrian Delia’s allies mull ‘dignified exit’ for troubled PN leader

‘Delia not being himself’, party allies tell Vella de Fremeaux

September 2017: Nickie Vella de Fremeaux by the side of her husband Adrian Delia in NEWS his first mass meeting address at the PN’s Independence celebrations
September 2017: Nickie Vella de Fremeaux by the side of her husband Adrian Delia in NEWS his first mass meeting address at the PN’s Independence celebrations

There is trouble at the heart of the Nationalist Party’s embattled leadership.  

In a tumultuous week that saw Opposition leader Adrian Delia confirming reports that his wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux had requested a legal separation, his close aides Clyde Puli, Pierre Portelli and Hermann Schiavone have been engaging in discussions on the future of Delia and the prospect of his resignation.  

With Delia’s marital breakdown now taking centre-stage, Nationalist MP Hermann Schiavone has sent out messages to Vella de Fremeaux describing the less than serene state of the PN leader, and that Delia might soon require the help of his closest MPs to make a painless exit from the party helm. 

In mobile phone messages sent out to Delia’s wife, Schiavone spoke of Delia “not being himself”, and that secretary-general Clyde Puli and head of media Pierre Portelli were talking to him “on the matter to see the way forward.” 

But in a more harrowing message of submission, Schiavone calls on Delia’s wife to support her husband. “You have to decide. You either support Adrian like us, or else we discuss a dignified exit for him.”

Elsewhere, reports from inside the PN headquarters have described tense moments and more than one occasion in which Delia has mulled the prospect of resignation.

One particular witness spoke of Delia having one drink too many at festive receptions, that has party officials worried about him.

Adrian Delia received a legal letter from Vella de Fremeaux’s lawyer on 23 October requesting him to officially vacate the matrimonial home, and agree to separation proceedings and map out their community of acquests, the separation of estates, and settlement of outstanding debts.

After news of the separation request was published in the press, Delia released a comment acknowledging that his relationship with wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux, a lawyer like her husband, was passing through a “difficult period”.

Rumours that the couple’s relationship was under pressure were making the rounds ever since Vella de Fremeaux gave a no-holds barred interview to Lovin Malta, in which she spoke about the pressure Delia’s public role had put on the family.

September 2017: Nickie Vella de Fremeaux by the side of her husband Adrian Delia in his first mass meeting address at the PN’s Independence celebrations
September 2017: Nickie Vella de Fremeaux by the side of her husband Adrian Delia in his first mass meeting address at the PN’s Independence celebrations

In his statement earlier in the week, Adrian Delia said he would be doing his best to protect his family’s wellbeing. “My wife Nickie and I are passing through a difficult period. I will keep doing my utmost to protect the wellbeing of our family and our children and to this end I humbly ask for our family’s privacy to be respected, at this delicate moment more than ever,” the statement read.

Delia clinched the PN leadership in September 2017 in a tense campaign overshadowed by accusations of financial impropriety.

Since being elected PN leader in September last year he has had a difficult ride at the top after having to face internal dissent.

Delia and Vella de Fremeaux have been married for 17 years and have five children and live in Siggiewi. But Delia has left the family home and has been living in Zebbug for over seven weeks.

In August shortly after the Egrant inquiry exonerated the Prime Minister’s family and a following a candid interview by his wife Michelle Muscat to MaltaToday, Vella de Fremeaux called out ‘friends’ who had excluded her son from parties because of politics.

But she did not accompany her husband during the PN’s Independence Day celebrations in September and was only present on stage for the mass meeting on 20 September. The mass meeting was Vella de Fremeaux’s last public appearance with her husband.

Two days later she gave Lovin’ Malta an uncharacteristically candid interview for a politician’s spouse, in which she spoke of regret at her husband’s decision to enter politics, and the toll her husband’s political run has had on herself, her relationships with other people, and her children.

“They either love you or hate you,” she said of the public following her husband’s election. “When you go out and people look at you or don’t talk to you, or you say hello and everyone’s silent, everybody looks at you, it’s terrible. And I feel it, let alone my children. Even if you are on your own and it’s coming from outsiders, when it is coming from within and you know what you’ve sacrificed, you’re feeling all this pain for my children...,”

“I mean, I feel pain, but for me, my priority is my children,” she continued. “And you see that we’ve done this to better the situation, to try and save democracy, at the end of the day, Adrian could have just stayed at home and we could have just lived our happy normal lives.”

Even further evidence of the invidious state of the party’s top echelons came in an online Facebook spat between Vella de Fremeaux and Pierre Portelli, the PN’s head of media who left his post at the Malta Independent to see Delia elected.

In the spat, Portelli accused Vella de Fremeaux of having been “weaponised” against the Nationalist Party after she took the side of TV scriptwriter Sandro Vella who was in litigation with Portelli over an intellectual property claim. Vella wrote the story for Net TV’s ‘Fattigi’, but left before the airing of the pilot after learning that Portelli was using his company Watermelon Productions for the series’ production on the party TV station. Vella filed a court application claiming his intellectual property was stolen, which found the support of Vella de Fremeaux in an emotional post on Facebook.

Pierre Portelli himself posted a reply on her Facebook status – since then removed – telling his party leader’s wife that she had “no idea of the details of this sad episode in my life... you were fed lies and half-truth and didn’t take time to listen to the other side of the story.”

Portelli accused her of having been “weaponised” against him and Media.Link – the party’s media company – and “against decent case and crew, and ultimately against the party your husband leads.”

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