Joe Saliba comes bearing the grim news: ‘We won’t win in 2022’

Former PN secretary-general Joe Saliba presents executive committee with analysis of election results

Former PN secretary-general Joe Saliba
Former PN secretary-general Joe Saliba

The Nationalist Party’s executive committee was yesterday treated to an eye-opening exercise by former secretary-general Joe Saliba, whose stark analysis seemed simple enough: the next general elections will not be won by the PN.

Saliba, who tasted the glories of the PN under Eddie Fenech Adami when Malta became an EU member state in 2004, was secretary-general under Lawrence Gonzi up until re-election to power in 2008.

“Saliba said we will not win the next election, basing himself on the size of the electorates and who they voted for in the past four general elections and the European elections,” one source in the PN executive said. All PN MPs are part of the PN executive but just 13 are entitled to vote.

“Saliba said Labour’s core vote is way bigger than the PN’s, and with infighting having split the PN in two, there is no way we will be winning the next general election,” the source said of Saliba’s presentation.

Another source, an MP, said two points stood out from Joe Saliba’s detailed presentation. “That unity on its own will not be enough for the PN – that is, even if we heal all our rifts, we would still lose by 30,000. Secondly, he specifically mentioned David Casa’s re-election as testament to the fact that the PN must reconnect with that section of voters who sent the PN leadership a clear message by voting for Casa.”

Yesterday’s PN executive meeting was important for the approval by acclamation of Xaghra local councillor Kevin Cutajar, who will be co-opted to the House to fill in the seat vacated by Gozo MP David Stellini.

Cutajar’s election was gracefully acknowledged by Jean-Pierre Debono, who in last week’s meeting was elected by 42 votes to 40, yet later withdrew his bid when it transpired that neither Stellini, nor the party’s treasurer, were entitled to vote on the co-option.

Adding to the controversy that erupted was the resignation of PN executive committee president Mark Anthony Sammut – claiming he was assuming his part of the responsibility for the PN’s election drubbing – but later alleged that the election was vitiated by Debono himself.

Yet PN secretary-general Clyde Puli yesterday gave Sammut a stern rebuke, accusing him of having neglected his duties by not verifying the list for eligible voters during last week’s co-option election.

“Puli told Sammut it was his responsibility to see that proceedings in the last executive committee meeting were correct, but he did not do this because he neither checked the list nor verified its contents,” a party source said.

He further accused Sammut of “doing media” throughout the week to speak on the party’s internal affairs, and of having breached data protection rules by publishing on his Facebook profile a list of names from the PN’s executive committee.

“He also accused Sammut of having breached the code of ethics,” another party source said, referring to Puli’s accusations that Sammut was “airing the party’s dirty laundry in the media”.

Some members were said to have insisted that Sammut is reported to the Data Protection Commissioner for having published personal details of the executive committee members on his Facebook profile.

In the heated argument, Sammut denied that this was his responsibility. Sammut had previously claimed that the list was handed to him on the day of the co-option vote, and that as assistant secretary-general, Jean-Pierre Debono had access to the list.

 

Kevin Cutajar (centre) with PN leader Adrian Delia
Kevin Cutajar (centre) with PN leader Adrian Delia

The PN did the right thing – Kevin Cutajar

In comments to the press after being co-opted to Parliament, Cutajar said that the Nationalist Party had “done the right thing” by allowing that Stellini’s seat to be co-opted by a Gozitan.

The party had also sent a strong message that even someone with a disability could make it to that point, he said.

“The PN – a party I always believed in – did the right thing today. As I said, the seat was Gozo’s and should remain Gozo’s,” Cutajar said in a press conference outside the PN headquarters, with PN leader Adrian Delia by his side.

“As a Gozitan, I was very satisfied that there was near unity amongst the Gozitans when it came to this case. I think we should be unified for other causes, in order to make them a success.

“This is a departure point. We’ll now turn the page and look forward to the work I have before me as an MP. I will try to undertake this responsibility using the utmost of my abilities,” Cutajar added.

Asked by MaltaToday – in light of comments he made on Friday’s Xarabank that he would resign if he lost the 2022 general election by a big margin – how large the loss would have to be for him to step down, Delia said that it was premature at this stage to discuss this issue.

He said the PN’s executive committee had had a very fruitful session, and that the party was identifying its weaknesses, restructuring, but also focusing on what its members have in common.

“The executive committee was very strong today, and held a long and serious discussion. We are identifying our weaknesses and looking at what restructuring has to be put in place. But we are also looking at our strengths – what unites us, not divides us, which means of communication can be used better, and how we can recognise society’s needs better,” he said.

On the co-option of Cutajar, Delia said that “the PN won, the Maltese and Gozitan people won, and the concept of just representation won” with the executive committee’s new decisions.

“The lesson is that when a party listens and debates, and recognises its challenges, good can emanate from this,” the Nationalist leader added.

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