Update 2 | Debono co-option postponed after former PN president cries foul at vote

Mark Anthony Sammut accuses Jean Pierre Debono of adding two names to eligible voters in PN executive that voted for him to be co-opted to the House • Debono reacts, calling Sammut a liar

Jean Pierre Debono (left) with PN leader Adrian Delia
Jean Pierre Debono (left) with PN leader Adrian Delia

The co-option of Jean Pierre Debono to the House of Representatives will not take place after the Speaker of the House was informed that the motion will be postponed.

On Sunday evening the former president of the PN’s executive committee, Mark Anthony Sammut, cried foul at the voting procedure that took place on Saturday to co-opt Jean Pierre Debono to the House of Representatives.

The co-option has since been postponed.

Sammut, who resigned the same day by way of taking political responsibility for the disastrous result suffered by the PN in the European and local council elections, said neither David Stellini – the Gozo MP who vacated his parliamentary seat earlier in the week – nor treasurer David Camilleri were entitled to vote for the co-option.

Indeed, the PN executive meeting, which includes a selection of Nationalist MPs, voted by 42 votes to 40 to co-opt Debono, the chief political advisor of Opposition leader Adrian Delia, instead of Gozo councillor Kevin Cutajar.

READ MORE • Unchallenged by MPs, Adrian Delia lives to fight another day: INSIDE THE PN EXECUTIVE MEETING • Co-option debate reveals party split, but Delia is defiant: ‘I will take the PN to the next general elections’

But Sammut has cried foul in a Facebook post where he alleged that Debono, as assistant secretary-general and political coordinator, was the only with access to members’ attendance data and that this list was given to Sammut only on Saturday before the secret ballot took place.

“It was brought to my attention after the meeting that certain members did not have the right to vote… Stellini, who voted, lost his right to vote after his resignation as MP; and David Camilleri only had the right to attend the executive meeting without the right to vote. But he was still listed as an eligible voter by the party’s secretariat.

“Only one person could have added him to the list, and here the conflict of interest is clear,” Sammut said in an indirect reference to Debono.

On Facebook, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi – one of the most vocal critics of Delia – posted a screenshot of the Microsoft Excel properties data for the voting list created by Debono, accusing him of fraud. “Do they really have the courage to say that nobody is bigger than the party? Have they any shame in speaking of the ‘establishment’? OUT.” 

“The result of the vote is vitiated,” Sammut said on Facebook. “The Gozo seat has been stolen in bad faith. This again confirms my decision not to participate in this type of leadership, and I once again appeal to these responsible officials to resign.”

But Jean Pierre Debono also reacted in a public post, accusing Sammut of deception, and of being responsible for the voting list.  “Sammut asked me for the list before the meeting started and I told him I had nothing to do with the list and the preparation of this election since I was directly involved in it. Sammut knows he did not get this list from me and that I did not compile the list, so it had to be him to see that the list was correct, updated and according to the Statute. Sammut called the names for the election one by one to vote. Sammut knows this and what I am saying is nothing but the truth.”

Earlier in the day the PN Gozo Regional Committee challenged the co-option of Jean Pierre Debono to Parliament, insisting that allowing Stellini to vote in Saturday's executive committee was in breach of the PN statute.

The co-option also breached provisions of Malta's Constitution which seeks to ensure that an MP who resigns is replaced by someone who champions the same interests and concerns, the Gozo committee said.

The Committee said it was considering Debono's co-option as invalid because Stellini, having resigned his seat in Parliament, should not have been allowed to vote during the executive committee which decided to co-opt Debono instead of Xaghra local councillor Kevin Cutajar.