[WATCH] Robert Arrigo acknowledges PN has a problem as Toni Bezzina emphasises importance of meeting people

Both deputy leader for party affairs candidates said that Delia would be a worthy rival to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat come next election

PN deputy leader for party affairs candidate Robert Arrigo and Toni Bezzina both appeared on Xtra
PN deputy leader for party affairs candidate Robert Arrigo and Toni Bezzina both appeared on Xtra

Robert Arrigo, a candidate for the post of Nationalist Party deputy leader for party affairs, has said that such a large electoral loss meant the party had a problem which needed solving.

Interviewed during tonight’s edition of Xtra on TVM, on which fellow candidate for the party affairs deputy leadership role Toni Bezzina was also present, Arrigo said that he had been involved in politics since 1993, when he became mayor of Sliema.

He explained that he decided to contest the PN’s deputy leader for party affairs role four months ago, and believes that his experience in management and networking fits well with the roles of the post.

Challenged about allegations which had been levied against him in the past, Bezzina said that in the case of the government workers who were found to be doing maintenance work in the Zurrieq PN club, for which he was president, the court had established that the PL and the media had lied about him.

It had been made clear from the investigation, he maintained, that he had paid for the material used, and the workers had been working outside of their normal working hours.

Moreover, in the case a villa planned to be built on ODZ land, he said that his planning application had been according to MEPA rules. He had decided to withdraw the application only because he did not want it to become an issue which could be used by Labour to gain political mileage.

Asked whether he thought there was a difference in Maltese people from the southern and northern parts of the island, Bezzina said that the south of Malta was more Labour leaning.

Questioned what he thought of PN leader Adrian Delia’s words on Sunday that Malta was not a mafia state and that it was the government which was corrupt, Arrigo said that it was important for those in power in Malta not to criticise the country on an international level.

“Delia is differentiating between the general public, who are not ‘mafia people’, and those who are actually involved in the wrongdoings in the country,” he said, adding that through his touristic sector contacts, he was hearing the concerns of foreigners on whether there was a problem in Malta.

Mirroring Arrigo’s argument, Bezzina said that the government had committed serious mistakes which had caused damage to Malta.

Asked whether there was the need for Delia to extend a hand of friendship to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat when it came to certain issues, Arrigo said that in cases of issues of national importance, then it would be positive if there was less division.

However, when it came to other issues, it was necessary for the opposition to challenge the government when it didn’t agree with it, he maintained.

The Nationalist Party did not criticise the government because it wanted to damage Malta, but because it wanted Malta to be a normal country, he said.

Asked whether any lessons had been learnt by the party following the 2013 electoral loss, considering that it was replicated this year, Bezzina said the PN still had more to learn and needed to keep speaking with the people.

One of the causes behind the second consecutive electoral loss was the buying of votes through the giving of government jobs, he added.

Arrigo, on the other hand, acknowledged that the buying of votes was only part of the reason behind the loss, and the PN had failed because it did not bridge the voter gap between it and the Labour Party.

Moreover, the party media had to be made more attractive, he said, with Bezzina then adding that sometimes debates on the parties’ TV and radio stations should invite people from both parties to the discussion.

When it came to the issue of criticising a party, Arrigo said that criticism should not always be seen as negative, and that the PN should be accepting of constructive criticism.

Once the fact that the party had a problem problem was acknowledged, it could be addressed, and the party now had to find a way of solving the relevant issues.

Asked about the loss of votes for the Nationalists in the southern parts of Malta, Bezzina said that from speaking to people, it was apparent that many persons from the south felt that there was not enough one-to-one contact with politicians.

He emphasised that his political way of doing things was to give a lot of importance to personal contat with people.

Regarding statistics that 10% of paid-up Nationalist party members having voted Labour in the last election, Arrigo said this was a huge wake-up call for the party, and the party had to now consider the reality that people’s needs and way of voting had changed without it having realised.

When questioned on what the PN stood for, Bezzina maintained that the party put the national interest first. Jobs were also very important, as people needed money, and there was now the issue of salaries being inadequate.

Arrigo said that what the party wanted was for its people to be able to live in a normal country.

He maintained that the country did not have any serious internal problems, adding that the party would remain one and would in the future grow, and possibly provide a surprise come next election.

Regarding the matter of the Democratic Party having taken some of the Nationalist Party’s votes, Bezzina said that since the PD appeared on the same electoral list and the PN, this meant no votes were lost. It still had to be decided whether the PN would stand alone in the next election, however.

The Nationalist Party had to engage in a stocktake, Bezzina said, as he again highlighted how important it was to hear people’s needs and wants, as this would give a basis for adapting the party’s politics.

When posed the question of whether a politician had to sometimes take decisions which went against the flow, Arrigo said that in the past decades the party had done this when it was necessary for the country.

It had presented a good product for this year’s election, however it seemed that it had not brought forth the product which the people wanted.

Challenged on how it could have been a good product if it led to such a massive defeat, Arrigo said that the product had to be changed, the electorate had to be understood more, and this would be the role of deputy leader for party affairs.

In conclusion, Bezzina said that, if elected he would prioritise [examining] the state of the party, and focus on its media and its role in society.

In turn, Arrigo said that his priorities would be unity, success, finances, organisation, databasing and networking.