[WATCH] Politicians should not form part of Planning Board, Delia says

Adrian Delia voices a desire for change in previous PN policy where the party had introduced the Planning Board's current system, a system then opposed by former Labour leader Alfred Sant

Opposition leader Adrian Delia
Opposition leader Adrian Delia

Politicians should no longer form part of the Planning Board or other supposedly independent boards or commitees, Opposition leader Adrian Delia said, in what is a shift in policy for the Nationalist Party. 

Following Nationalist Party MP Marthese Portelli's assertions after she resigned from the Planning Board, Delia said that the government had a track record of appointing yes-men to independent boards to appease the will of the few with the result that the environment and other sectors of Maltese society had taken a blow. 

"It's clear that the Planning Board, which grants development permits, should not have parliamentary members on it. The problem is that yes-men are often posted to these boards. There has never been so many abuses, never such a wide environmental destruction," Delia said, speaking on TVM's current affairs programme Xtra.

In the past, it was the PN that had introduced the current system in the Planning Authority, and had wanted to extend it to other boards although this was opposed by then Labour leader Alfred Sant who made the same arguments Delia is making today.

Last month, Portelli and PN MP Ryan Callus resigned from the Planning Board and the Board of Governors of the Lands Authority respectively. Asked why such minority voices who could make a difference chose to resign, Delia said that he would not allow the PN's parliamentary group members to be used as pawns by the government.

"Marthese Portelli's resignation comes in the context of the government launching phony boards where the Opposition is used as a smokescreen so that the government can say that the Opposition is a part of the board and is a part of the process that allows so many unsavoury decisions to be taken.

"The Opposition will not play these games and will not allow its parliamentary group members to be used for the government's convenience. We will still be able to criticise the government's decisions in public, in parliament and in the media and we will do so," Delia said. 

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, George Hyzler, had previously written in a report that "persons of trust and members of boards, commitees, and other officially appointed bodies should be disqualified from serving as MPs." Delia said that Hyzler's report had touched upon the government's technique of shifting heads from one board to another and from one authority to another as it saw fit.

He claimed that the reason Callus resigned from the Board of Governors on the Lands Authority was because the government had decided to give more power to the Lands Authority CEO, James Piscopo, handpicked especially for the role to weaken the board.

Keith Schembri cannot keep occupying public office

Delia said that following Keith Schembri's dropping of a libel case on former PN leader Simon Busuttil to stave off testifying ensured that his position was untenable and he could no longer occupy public office.

"The Prime Minister's chief of staff did have a choice, yes, and he could perform these court maneuvers to avoid admitting criminal responsibility... but the Prime Minister is not an idiot. He knows that there's a difference between criminal responsibility and political responsibility. The moment Schembri dropped the defamation case is the moment he can no longer occupy public office because it now means that he is free from scrutiny," he said. 

Delia claimed that all the components of the PN were in ageement on this and that even Labourites had had enough with scandals not being followed by resignations. 

"Keith Schembri should not be above the law. The Prime Minister had no problem removing Emmanuel Mallia or Michael Falzon but he doesn't use the same measures with Keith Schembri."

PN is not divided

Delia argued that the apparent rift in the PN was not a rift and that there was more that connected the various components of the party than there was that divided them.

"I don't mind criticism. Yes, there are critical voices within the PN but we can use that criticism," Delia said.

When Jason Azzopardi, Karol Aquilina and Simon Busuttil were invoked in conversation, Delia claimed that he had a good, working relationship with them and that whenever he asked for their help, they were always generous with their time.

"The difference between the Opposition and the government is that the government silences anyone who tries to oppose it. My personality is different. I welcome criticism and contend that rationality should reign. I am working with Karol Aquilina on our critique of the IIP scheme in our attempt to stop it as soon as possible.

"With Jason Azzopardi I worked hand in hand with regard to the climate change emergency motion and has always helped me when I asked for his advice. And there's no questioning Simon Busuttil's integrity. He is one of the people in the PN who can most attack the corruption of this government. 

Do we need a clean country? Yes, and none of the people mentioned would say no. There is more connecting us than there is dividing us," Delia said.

More in Xtra