[WATCH] Achieving unity most important thing for PN, new MP insists

New PN MP Kevin Cutajar concedes Labour has stronger ideas than the Nationalist Party, but emphasises that if united, the PN can start coming up with new proposals

Newly sworn-in Gozitan MP Kevin Cutajar was a guest on tonight's Xtra on TVM
Newly sworn-in Gozitan MP Kevin Cutajar was a guest on tonight's Xtra on TVM

Unity has to be the priority for the Nationalist Party, since it is only through this that it can start countering Labour and coming up with its own new ideas, Kevin Cutajar said.

The new Nationalist MP acknowledged that Labour was now stronger than the PN both financially and in terms of the generation of ideas, because it was managing to attract the best people to it.

He underlined, however, that the progress which the PN had spearheaded in Malta in the past should serve to show that the party could successfully take the country into the future.

Cutajar, who is Malta’s first visually impaired MP, was a guest on Xtra tonight, where he discussed the PN’s current situation with presenter Saviour Balzan

“Thanks to the work of past Nationalist governments, Malta was completely changed,” Cutajar noted, “In the 1990s there was a silent revolution in Malta, and the PN government was the brains behind this.”

Asked why his party appeared to be on a downward spiral, the Gozitan MP said the PN had failed to read the signs of the times, and had reached a climax when it successfully managed to get Malta into the European Union.

“There are a number of reasons [for the drop in support for the party]. The PN did not read the signs of the times well enough,” he said, “I draw a line when Malta joined the European Union. At this point, the PN climaxed and it achieved a major goal. After that, the party tried to take the country in a certain direction. But I think that the Maltese people were not yet ready to start heading in the direction with the PN.”

“That’s why there was such a drastic switch in 2013,” he underscored.

Added to this were various other factors, Cutajar emphasised. “You cannot simply say that the PN’s present situation is due to one thing. Another factor was that, after 25 years of glory, there was an element of fatigue, and the party didn’t understand how to regenerate itself, attract new members with new ideas and keep appealing to people.”

He said, however, that the PN had a track record of achievements throughout its years in government, and that this should be seen as a starting point for the party to move forward.

“The PN’s past is a guarantee for the future. It is our shortcoming that we don’t explain well enough what the Nationalist Party did - we brought Malta into the EU, despite Labour’s anti-membership campaign,” he said, “Today we are reaping the fruits of being EU members - including the opportunities available to young people - and we have to acknowledge that it was the PN that led us into the Union.”

“We now have a very strong financial services sector, with thousands of young people working in it. This came to be thanks to the vision the PN had in the 1990s. Who brought iGaming to Malta? Who strengthened tourism?” he stressed.

“This has to be the point of departure for the PN. The party’s past is one where a lot of good was done for Malta. Labour is now much stronger than the PN, both financially and in terms of ideas, because it is attracting the best people to it, more than the Nationalist Party is managing to do,” Cutajar insisted.

“But this doesn’t mean that the party cannot be strong enough to compete with Labour. And I must reiterate that unity comes first and foremost. If you have a united, consolidated party, this will be fertile ground for new ideas.”

No bad blood between Cutajar and Jean Pierre Debono

Regarding his co-option saga, Cutajar said that the first thing he did after being approved by the PN’s executive committee the second time round, he had shaken his previous co-contender for a parliamentary seat Jean Pierre Debono’s hand.

“The first thing I did after being approved was that I shook Jean Pierre Debono’s hand. Contrary to the impressions of some, I have known Debono for many years, and the situation surrounding the co-option certainly won’t ruin out friendship.”

The end result - his co-option to Parliament - should be a lesson to show that the party could achieve things if it is united, he said. “There were no winners or losers, but there should be the lesson that the party needs to be united.”

Malta Air will ensure sustainability of Malta's tourism sector - Konrad Mizzi

In the first part of the programme, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi discussed the announcement by Ryanair that it had purchased a local Air Operator Certificate with the intention of setup a Maltese subsidiary.

The new airline, Mizzi said, would ensure the sustainability of the local tourism sector for years to come.

Mizzi said that following negotiations with Ryanair, the government had retained a “golden share”, in the new airline with some associated veto rights.

The new airline, Malta Air, will be operating the 61 routes currently operated by Ryanair to and from Malta. Six of the airline’s aircraft which are stationed in Malta will be transferred to the new airline, with the number increasing to 10 over the next three years.

Around 350 workers who will be paying taxes in Malta as a result of the new deal, Mizzi said.

The minister said that in recent years, the government’s relationship with Ryanair had improved significantly, leading to this latest agreement.

Mizzi said that during a meeting, the Prime Minister had pointed out that despite the increase in routes, Malta was still in a situation where it was heavily dependent on a foreign company.

“I approached Ryanair and told them that we want them to have a greater commitment to Malta,” he said.

Mizzi said that Ryanair had expressed their wish to continue growing, adding that he was happy for them to continue doing so in Malta.

In addition to establishing a local subsidiary, Ryanair will also be transferring 50 of its aircraft to the Maltese aircraft register.

“In addition to that, around 50 planes which by time will grow to an even greater number, and which are registered in France, Germany and Italy will be transferred to Malta Air,” Mizzi said.

On the threat that Malta Air may pose to Air Malta, Mizzi said that the national airline will continue to grow, but it must also change.

“Air Malta must focus on a certain product. We have to see how we will reduce costs in engineering, plane leasing and ticket prices,”

Balzan asked Mizzi whether the introduction of a low-cost airline would impede Air Malta as customers will always prefer a lower price.

Mizzi said that while Malta Air will be a low-cost carrier, Air Malta on the other hand will be focusing on the main airports.

“Air Malta will be focusing on Europe, Middle East, Africa and India,” he said

Mizzi went on to state that as from next year, Air Malta will be operating to Ghana, its first sub-Saharan destination, and Mumbai in the following year.

“You need the business-class product, you need to transport cargo, and these services will not be offered by Malta Air. One is a leisure airline, while the other is a business airline” he said.

Malta, Mizzi said, had the potential to be a regional aviation hub.

Residents' safety must be priority of any construction sector reform

The third and final part of the programme tackled issues related to the latest building collapse, the thrid incident in less than two months.

Balzan looked at what might be the root cause of the problem, with the input of Occupational Health and Safety Authority CEO Mark Gauci  and Parliamentary Secretary for Planning Chris Agius.

The programme also featured comments from Malta Developers Association President Sandro Chetcuti, who said on Thursday that the

MDA would support the government in any action it decides to take to ensure residents' safety.

All stakeholders emphasised on the resident’s safety, and how better regulation could prevent further accidents.