Jean Pierre Debono won’t become MP to protect Delia from ‘faction that never accepted his election’

The Nationalist Party’s treasurer David Camilleri has also resigned in wake of last Saturday’s controversial vote to elect Jean Pierre Debono to parliament to replace David Stellini

Jean Pierre Debono (left) and David Camilleri (right)
Jean Pierre Debono (left) and David Camilleri (right)

Jean Pierre Debono will not be taking up a seat in parliament, while PN treasurer David Camilleri has resigned from his post, following claims of impropriety regarding an executive committee vote which selected Debono to replace David Stellini in parliament.

The decision was welcomed by Kevin Cutajar, the Gozitan local councillor who, together with Debono, had expressed a desire to take Stellini's seat. "This is the first step for common sense to win, both in the party as well as for Gozo. As I have always said, the seat left by David Stellini is a seat which the Gozitans voted for and I feel, as a Gozitan, that it should remain for the Gozitans," Cutajar was quoted saying. 

On Sunday, 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.

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. Debono won the internal vote, having obtained 42 votes, to Cutajar's 40.

In the aftermath of the vote, Camilleri said he was resigning from his post with immediate effect while pushing back against a number of claims being made about Saturday’s proceedings.  

Similarly, in a letter to PN leader Adrian Delia, which was published by the Nationalist Party on Monday, Debono rejected claims he had attempted to manipulate the vote, saying however that would not be taking his oath as MP.

Debono rejected claims that there was some verbal or written agreement with candidates on the seventh district, for them not to submit themselves for co-option. Any candidate could have put his name forward, Debono said, adding that it was also untrue that he was receiving monetary compensation from the party for him giving up his seat in parliament for Delia.

READ MORE: Debono co-option postponed after former PN president cries foul at vote

“These lies are the fabrication of a person that should know a lot better and that should never have allowed district rivalries lead to such serious and libellous allegations that are completely unfounded,” Debono said.

“It is today clearer than ever before that the same group of people that did not accept the democratic result of your election as leader of the party are today engaged in a ruthless campaign to attack and discredit me personally, because of the fact that I gave up my seat in parliament for you to become leader of the Opposition.” 

He added that he did not want to “allow these people to use the co-option election to continue destroying the party and to continue trying to undermine the party’s and [Delia’s] credibility at such a crucial moment”.

Debono denied claims that he had in any way manipulated the list of eligible voters before Saturday’s vote, insisting that both Kevin Cutajar and himself had full copy of the list and had not objected to it.

Turning to the eligibility of PN treasurer David Camilleri, Debono said that he had been listed as eligible for months and “as far as I know there was never any notification from the president of the executive for his vote to be removed”.

Sammut, he stressed, had called out each member during the vote, with no objections having been raised.

“I played no part in the the electoral process for obvious reasons and I didn’t not take any kind of decision,” Debono wrote.

PN treasurer David Camilleri resigns

In Facebook post uploaded on Monday afternoon, Camilleri said he was resigning from his post as treasurer with immediate effect.

He insisted that rather than there having been attempts to manipulate the vote, it appeared as though nobody had not noticed that Stellini and himself weren’t eligible to vote, “or that those who had realized had intentionally remained silent in order to bring this up now, to detriment of the party”.

Explaining his involvement in the executive committee, Camilleri said he had been elected a representative of the 11th district, a role which gave him a vote in the committee. He said that when he had decided to run for treasurer, he was still a district representative, a position to had chosen not to seek re-election for so that he focus all his time on his role as treasurer.

READ MORE: I will take PN to next general election, Adrian Delia says ruling out confidence vote

He noted that the PN’s statute says that “with the exception of the treasurer, anyone seeking election should be a member of the executive committee; in the eventuality that the treasurer is chosen from outside the executive committee, upon his appointment he will become a member of the executive committee, without a vote”.

“Of the many people who have spoken to me, there were those who have given me the impression that since I was not chosen from outside the executive committee, I still had the right to vote even though I did not remain a district representative,” he said. “I don’t agree with this interpretation and I think that when I left that role I no longer had a right to vote in the executive committee.”

Furthermore, he said that both Debono and Cutajar had called him before to election to ask for his support. Camilleri said that he had addressed the meeting at its start, and said that as a party official he would not be stating who he would be voting for. “None of the 81 people present said I had no right to vote,” he said.

Stellini, he said, had also addressing the committee at the start of the meeting, and had expressed his desire to remain the president of the administrative council. “This was met with acclamation and it appears that the fact that the role was dependent on a seat in parliament didn’t cross anyone’s mind.”

He said he believed the vote should be retaken for the sake of transparency.

He thanked all those who had made donations to the Nationalist Party, its volunteers and workers, as well as deputy leaders Robert Arrigo and David Agius, both of whom he had words of praise for.

Camilleri also thanked chairman Pierre Portelli and Delia, who he said had always shown great determination to improve the party’s situation and who never gives up, despite the difficulties faced.  

Reacting to news of Camilleri's resignation, MP Karl Gouder praised the now former treasurer for his service, insisting that he could personally vouch for his integrity.

The party's deputy leader Robert Arrigo was somewhat less diplomatic, arguing that rather than Camilleri, it was the "devil that should resign".

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