[WATCH] PN has to admit it was wrong on Egrant, says leader Adrian Delia

“The country needs a credible Opposition which is believed when it speaks about corruption… we were wrong on Egrant – and we need to say this.”

PN leader Adrian Delia says that the Nationalist Party was wrong about Egrant
PN leader Adrian Delia says that the Nationalist Party was wrong about Egrant

The Nationalist Party was wrong about Egrant, and it needs to be able to admit this in order to be credible, PN leader Adrian Delia said on Xtra on Thursday.

“The country needs a credible Opposition which is believed when it speaks about corruption… we were wrong on Egrant – and we need to say this. Not that the government is always wrong and that we are all right.”

Keeping former PN leader Simon Busuttil on as shadow minister for good governance would weaken the credibility of the party in its fight against corruption, Delia said.

“We need to accept the magistrate’s conclusions, and we need to move on to other issues. We cannot remain stuck on Egrant, as people will simply not believe it.”

On his decision to remove Busuttil as shadow minister and ask him to resign from the PN parliamentary group, Delia said that he made his position clear. “It is what is best for the party right now, in order to strengthen its fight against corruption. Not to dismantle it, like some are saying, but to improve its credibility.”

But Delia doesn’t think that former Malta Independent director and his current head of communications, Pierre Portelli, should shoulder the same responsibility.

The Egrant inquiry has found that Portelli presented falsified declarations of trust to the magistrate, as experts found that the signatures on them were not genuine.

“He is not a politician, so he does not have to take political responsibility,” Delia said. “Back then, he did exactly what the law required him to do... he had an obligation to pass the documents to the magistrate."

Delia said that he "absolutely" does not think that Portelli should be asked to resign at this point. “So far, I don’t have a shred of doubt that [Portelli] did his job and observed his obligations under law. But if conclusions were to show otherwise… I don’t care who it is, whoever breaks the law should face the consequences and shoulder responsibility."

Delia said that the party should move on to speaking about things which are actually credible and factual. “Egrant does not belong to the prime minister’s wife, but we know who the other two companies belong to. Why don’t they resign?” Delia asked. “The prime minister is saying that he’s clean. But by doing this, he is recognising that the rest aren’t.”

The conclusions of the magisterial inquiry do not answer all the questions, Delia said, as it is still unclear for whom Egrant is being held. “There are still a lot of people who believe that there is rampant corruption,” he said, adding that economic prosperity does not excuse this.

The issue should not center around the reaction of the Opposition but should focus on the government, Delia insisted. “The country deserves clean politicians on both sides,” he said.

Delia denied that the PN is split or that the MPs who are not supportive of his move to remove Busuttil are not on his side. “They are not saying that they are not with me. They are simply saying that perhaps they wouldn’t have done the same thing,” he said. “The doors to discussion are always open within the PN… there is a debate, and some don’t agree. So what? This doesn’t mean that the party is split or that it will come to an end.”

The Opposition leader said that he reacted the way he did because it was a situation which had to be tackled, and because the credibility of the PN to fight against corruption must be protected. “Anything that gets in the way of the party’s credibility should be done away with,” he said.

Delia insisted that he did not agree with the ‘negative campaign’ that the PN ran before the last election. “If there are suspicions [of corruption], it is good for the Opposition to bring them up. But not to take ownership of them,” he said.

When asked about Democratic Party’s Marlene Farrugia, Delia said he is only concerned about the PN. “I don’t see her as a threat,” he responded to the suggestion that members of his parliamentary group could leave to join her. “Whoever wants to go with her, can go.”

“It’s better to have your people looking in the same direction, and with the same perseverance, than members who are there just for the numbers, or for different personal interests...”