[WATCH] PN lost its vision and its support with EU membership, Bernard Grech says

PN leadership hopeful Bernard Grech interviewed on TVM’s Xtra Sajf

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

The Nationalist Party stopped having a vision and lost its point of reference when Malta joined the EU, leadership contender Bernard Grech reiterated.

After achieving EU membership, the PN started losing votes because it rested on its laurels, he said on TVM’s Xtra Sajf.

“There was a moment when the PN stopped having a vision in the long term and for the far future. From the moment we entered the EU, it was like we reached our aim, and then from that day forward we lost our point of reference,” he said.

Grech is contesting the PN leadership in a two-horse race against incumbent Adrian Delia.

The relative newcomer said the PN had to focus on putting people at the centre of its politics.

He argued that while factors such as the country’s needs and international image are important, politicians had to keep the needs of the people in mind. 

“If we abandon and forget the people, then we will be doing a disservice not a service to Maltese politics,” Grech said.

He said the PN had to be different from the Labour Party, which he accused of putting money before everything else.

“The individual should be front and centre; people come first, and all decisions taken need to put the individual at the centre of politics,” he stressed, adding a political party should simply be a means to an end.

“You have a political idea, and you use the party as a means to accomplishing it. You should not, on the contrary, use political ideas to get to where you want to get, and make millions for you and your friends,” he said.

Dropping the siege mentality

Grech, a family lawyer by profession, said that he had never harboured any intentions of seeking the PN leadership, despite having his name mentioned in connection to this role for many years.

“I recognise that this is a huge challenge, but in my life, I have never shied away from tough challenges. I always look at them with humility, but I have also always said that if I can do something, I will try to do it,” he said.

Probed by programme host Saviour Balzan on what would be his first actions as party leader, should he emerge victorious, Grech said that the first emphasis must be on unity.

“The party first needs unity… unless there’s unity, we cannot move forward,” he said.

The leadership candidate also acknowledged that there must be a shift in the attitude and mentality within the party, insisting that the current “siege mentality” must be dropped. He said the party’s doors must be flung open to welcome old and new members.

Christian but not absolutist in faith

Questioned about the bearing that his Catholic faith has upon him, the lawyer said that he is proud to say that he is a Christian, but that he is not an absolutist in his faith, and is always ready to question and seek other peoples’ opinions.

Grech said he is against the introduction of abortion, but this does not mean that opposing voices should be ignored.

“When we speak on abortion I am clear. I, Bernard Grech, am against abortion. However, we cannot stop there, because that would mean that we do not want to pay attention to what it means to those people who are passing through this trauma. I am ready to listen to these people, because if we do not listen to the people who are passing through these circumstances, we cannot improve their lives, and we cannot truly defend life,” he said.

Grech said that rather than merely speaking against abortion, he wishes to see what can be done to help people going through this trauma, and improve supporting services. 

Immigration

Asked about immigration, Grech said that just as he champions life with regard to abortion, so too does he rule out the possibility of letting people drown.

“We can’t be hypocrites… we either believe in life or we don’t,” he said.

However, the leadership candidate said that people’s fears and worries with regard to migration cannot be dismissed either, insisting that one must find a balance between the principle, and people’s concerns.

“But the solution isn’t to kill people, or throw people away… People are people, be they black or white. Let us not let their skin colour be a barrier. Everyone is human, and everyone has a right to their dignity,” he insisted.

However, Grech disagreed with the sentiment that many migrants are doing work that Maltese people do not want to do, claiming that the problem lies with the wages and work conditions, rather than the type of work itself. 

“I am aware that there are jobs that the Maltese people don’t want to do, but it is not because of the types of jobs alone, but also because of the conditions of those jobs, and the fact that the wages offered today are pitiful,” he argued.

Grech questioned whether bringing workers from abroad and paying them less is truly a realistic solution, insisting that the government should dedicate more effort to improving the level of dignity and working conditions of many occupations.

“Do you think that there aren’t Maltese people who wish to be, for instance, carers and nurses? But if their wages and their conditions are going to continue degenerating, it is obvious that you will have fewer individuals who want to do these jobs.”

Donations from business

On the PN’s dire financial situation, Grech said that with an increase in enthusiasm, there will also be an increase in the number of people flocking to the party, which will help it face its financial challenges.

The leadership candidate also indicated his support for business donations.

“There is no reason for there to be a stigma against businesses. If it is done in an honest and straightforward manner, then yes, there is also room for support from businesses,” he said.

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