Puli rebuke on co-option: all Gozo candidates entitled to know they could bid for seat

PN secretary-general Clyde Puli tells Gozo candidate he was not encouraging him to run against Kevin Cutajar but that all six candidates were entitled to know they were eligible to nominate themselves

PN secretary-general Clyde Puli
PN secretary-general Clyde Puli

The Nationalist Party’s secretary-general has denied having requested candidates from the Gozo district to contest an election for the co-option of the seat vacated by Gozo MP David Stellini.

Clyde Puli pushed back against suggestions he was scouting for candidates to join the election in the PN’s executive committee, against the wishes to have Xaghra local councillor Kevin Cutajar take the seat.

In a stern letter to PN candidate Joe Ellis, the secretary-general denied having attempted to encourage him to contest the election in a bid to scupper Cutajar’s nomination, which has the backing of a PN faction inimical to party leader Adrian Delia.

“I did not say that, it was not my intention to be thus understood, and neither is it fair that I be misrepresented. Indeed Censu Galea denied as much with Newsbook, and so did Maria Portelli clarify this positon,” Puli said in a reply to Ellis on Friday at 5pm, which MaltaToday has seen.

In the letter Puli says he called Ellis to inform him that the party leadership would be proposing that the Stellini seat be filled by a 13th district candidate. “I asked you to inform me if, given this new development, you would be changing your position by way of expressing interest in the election. I called all six candidates in this regard.”

“It was right that every potential candidate is told that the criteria for the co-option had changed. Secondly, two of these six candidates are eligible to vote in the executive committee and only they could have known, officially, the agenda. Thirdly, others have not excluded contesting this election, and lastly, because should any candidate express their wish to contest, the logistical preparations for an internal election have to take place.”

Ellis, in a letter to Puli which was publicised, gave the impression he had turned down an offer to bid for the seat, by saying that it should be Xaghra local councillor Kevin Cutajar to take the seat.

Cutajar threw in his nomination for the co-option but lost out in the vote taken by the executive committee by 42 votes to 40, which instead selected PN leader Adrian Delia’s chief political advisor, Jean Pierre Debono.

The nomination was a source of conflict inside the executive committee, with opposing factions still reeling from the drubbing at the European and local elections, backing either candidate in a proxy war with Delia at its heart.

The last executive committee meeting becoming a source of great controversy and division. First its president Mark Anthony Sammut resigned, calling on the leadership to take political responsibility for the electoral loss. Then he declared that neither Stellini, nor party treasurer David Camilleri were entitled to vote.

Debono later announced he would not take up the co-option, in a bid to shore up support for the embattled Adrian Delia, who was faced with letters of protest from the PN’s organs, who insisted Gozo MP David Stellini’s seat should be given to a Gozitan.

More in National