[WATCH] Adrian Delia's relationship with Simon Busuttil is ‘good but not intensive’

The Nationalist Party leader denied intentionally omitting the party’s spokesperson on good governance from the new committee that will scrutinize government appointments

Adrian Delia (left) with host Saviour Balzan (right)
Adrian Delia (left) with host Saviour Balzan (right)

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has said that his relationship with former leader Simon Busuttil is a good, but “not intensive” with the two men not meeting very often.

Delia was a guest on Xtra, which is hosted by Saviour Balzan, where he was asked whether he had intentionally omitted Busuttil – now the party’s good governance spokesperson – from the Opposition’s representatives on a committee that will be scrutinizing appointments to government agencies.

The Opposition’s nominees are Hermann Schiavone, Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Clyde Puli, all of whom are viewed as being close to the new leader.

Delia however insisted that this was not the case and that the PN’s human assets were spread around various positions in the interest of the party.

On his recent cabinet discussion, and his decision for Busuttil to be the party’s good governance spokesperson, Delia didn’t specify whether it was him or Busuttil that proposed the role. He said the discussion he had had with Busuttil prior to him being given the role was a cordial one, and one of the shortests discussions he had.

Ultimately, stressed the PN leader, all decisions had been taken keeping in mind the competence of the respective MPs, adding that those “working in the interests of the party and the country” would be given more space.

Looking towards the 2022 general election

Delia was asked about the party’s upcoming tests and said that he was looking towards the next general election as his first big test as party leader.

He said that next up were a number of party fundraising marathons, which he said were important because the party’s success in collecting a little from the many meant that more people were putting their faith in the party.

The PN leader stressed that over the next four and a half years the party would be preparing itself for the next general election, adding that it would also be looking to bridge the gap between the PN and the Labour Party.

Asked what he would do if this did not happen, Delia said he would “work even harder than before to reach the party’s goal in four and half years time”.

Surveys don’t show the whole picture

According to MaltaToday’s latest trust barometer, Delia’s trust rating trails Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s by over 30 percentage points. Delia pointed out however that there had been a number of surveys in recent months that showed a swing of about 20,000 over a period of a few weeks, something he said was unrealistic.

“I look at surveys, I analyse them, but I think that as a politician it is important to be aware of what people are feeling,” he said, adding that the results were understandable given that the Prime Minister had just won a second election, while the PN was going to a process of renewal.

Rather than locking himself up his office, Delia said he was making it a point to meet as many people as possible, on a daily basis.

“My barometer is saying that people are feeling comfortable speaking to the PN once again,” he said.  “I am not saying they are giving us their faith but at least they are speaking to us.”

Immigration and issue that can’t be ignored

Throughout the interview, Delia insisted he did not consider himself a politician, despite the fact that he was leader of the Opposition. He said that when speaking to people he understood many of their concerns, including criminality and immigration. “It is a problem and there is no point avoiding it”

Asked about the much talked about agreement between Italy and Malta, that has seen Italy receive all migrants crossing over from Libya to Europe, Delia said he was not aware of the agreement, adding that there was all the more reason to decide on a strategy on immigration given rumours that the arrangement with Italy might come to an end soon.  

He acknowledged that the Maltese economy would be requiring more workers in the coming years, but again insisted there were many questions that needed answering. “We need to see where we are going to put these people, and how this will continue to effect rents.”

He said the Opposition was willing to “sit down with the government” and discuss ways of ensuring that ghettos were not formed, or regulations preventing people from coming over with a family. This, he said, often resulted in situations were migrants to cram themselves into a single apartment, driving up rents.

Tax arrears to be settled soon

Delia was also asked about his tax arrears, again saying that it would be settled in the coming weeks. He pointed out that he had declared his situation himself, despite not being obliged to do so.

Moreover, he said that rather than not pay his taxes, the arrears were due to a difference in interpretation of how much he owed. ”There was an issue related to a computation which we did not agree on, we have now decided on a figure, and I will pay it.”

He said would also be divesting himself of business interests in the coming weeks. He said he had not been obliged to do so, but had chosen to do so anyway.

“I made a decision that at this point in my life I will be offering my services to the country and the party,” said Delia, who also confirmed that his only income was from the sale of his assets and his income as Opposition leader.