[WATCH] Grech on PN’s massive debt: ‘We have to be ready to sell our każini’

Xtra on TVM Plus | Bernard Grech says the PN’s debt mountain threatens the party’s existence, insists attitudes have to change

PN leader Bernard Grech is seeking a second term as leader
PN leader Bernard Grech is seeking a second term as leader

A Nationalist Party saddled with €32 million in debt has to ditch nostalgia and be ready to sell some of its clubs, Bernard Grech said.

The PN leader reiterated that solving the party’s financial problems was crucial if it wanted to survive. “We either tackle the problems or the party dies; it dies.”

Interviewed on TVM News Plus’ Xtra on Monday night, Grech did not mince his words: “We have to be ready to sell our każini, commercialise them… with the help of experts we will carry out a study on how to make best use of our available assets to stop the haemorrhage and cut debt.”

He added that it is only when the debt burden reduces that the party and the leader can start to function well, calling on councillors to give him a “strong” mandate.

And Grech once again displayed brutal honesty in his replies, admitting that every decision he has had to take over the past year-and-a-half about “form and sometimes politics” was conditioned by what the party could afford.

Grech’s revelation on Sunday that the PN had €32 million in debt was the first time the figure was confirmed publicly by a high-ranking party official. He also confirmed the party media was losing tens of thousands of euros every month.

Grech also admitted the PN did not have the liquidity to run an election campaign for the European Parliament and local council elections in two years’ time.

“I was clear so that everyone understands the full picture because while some are writing on Facebook throwing mud… they will also realise that their words and actions are endangering the jobs of the people who work for us,” Grech said on Monday.

He said the party could not continue raking up debt and insisted that it had to cut costs. Grech insisted he was willing to take the decisions to address this. “We either die a slow death or do something today not to die out.”

Brutal honesty: Grech has confirmed the PN has €32 million in debt and is making tens of thousands in losses per month
Brutal honesty: Grech has confirmed the PN has €32 million in debt and is making tens of thousands in losses per month

Grech will be contesting the PN leadership again in what is very likely to be a one-horse race. Nominations opened yesterday during the PN general council that laid out the timeline for the leadership contest that has to take place because the party lost last month’s election.

The PN leader insisted that anyone who wants to contest him has six more days to file their nomination. “If anybody contests and wins I pledge my full support and backing both privately and publicly because that is my duty,” Grech said.

During the TV interview, Grech emphasised the need for decisions taken collectively to be respected by all.

“We cannot have individuals, a group or a faction who says it’s either their way or the highway… discussions take place within the executive and other organs but when a decision is taken nobody should undermine the party or the leader,” Grech said.

He emphasised the need for people within the party to pull on the same side of the rope.

“Hierarchy is not just a few words on paper. Hierarchy is necessary to have structure and direction and not to have anarchy,” Grech said.

Asked about his decision to leave out veteran MPs Mario de Marco, Chris Said and Carm Mifsud Bonnici from his shadow cabinet line-up, Grech said this was in the best interest of the party.

Said went public on Facebook, noting that the three MPs were left out because they formed part of the Gonzi cabinet in the last PN government.

But Grech shot down the argument that his decision to leave the trio out was in itself cause for fragmentation. 

“I am the leader and I did what I genuinely believe is in the party’s best interest. Fragmentation starts the moment my decision is not accepted. If it is accepted, not only will there be no fragmentation but the party would be strengthened, the authority of the person who leads is strengthened and fewer people will decide they have the right to fragment the party,” he said.

Asked about the reaction of some PN functionaries, who describe those who used to support PN but now vote Labour as being unprincipled, Grech said this was the result of arrogance.

“Such behaviour is arrogant and coming from people who feel entitled, where everything starts and ends with them… the antidote to this is that nobody has all the solutions. We need to be humble because the moment I call you ignorant, it says more about me than about you. We need to change this mentality and I am trying to achieve this with a change in the parliamentary group and at all levels of the party,” he replied.
Grech noted the large number of new MPs elected on the PN ticket, insisting this was needed to bring in fresh ideas.

Asked about the relationship with Prime Minister Robert Abela in view of the election loss, Grech said that despite the gap between the two major parties, as Opposition leader he still had the duty to represent the more than 120,000 voters who voted for the PN.

“We need to appreciate that I have a moral duty to represent these people and criticise government where necessary… the margin of victory puts more responsibility on Robert Abela to act humbly and with respect. If he tries to crush the Opposition it will be bad for the country,” Grech said.