The Malta Independent 16 November 2018, Friday

Delia-Busuttil pact start of wider process; some were instigating escalation – Zammit Dimech

Rachel Attard Sunday, 5 August 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

Nationalist MEP FRANCIS ZAMMIT DIMECH says that the PN MPs and the party should not gauge loyalty by how much is shown when a situation suits them, but even when it does not. In an interview with Rachel Attard, Zammit Dimech speaks about the challenges that he, together with the other two mediators overcame over the past days to make a pact between the party’s present and former leaders Adrian Delia and Simon Busuttil. He also speaks about what the long-term process that needs to start within the party will entail

Last Monday the PN issued a statement saying that the crisis was resolved. However, no one believed it. Don’t you think Delia showed weakness in his leadership skills?

This was not a show of weakness but a brave act of leadership because he realised what the best way forward was and was humble enough to revise a decision for the benefit of the party and the country. His action showed that he wanted to lead a party in a united manner and this was immediately acknowledged by Simon Busuttil. 

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Has the issue within the Nationalist Party been resolved? It is the beginning of a wider process which will hopefully see the present leader and the former leader interact with each other. However, it is up to the present leader to define the priorities and the way forward for the party. There is also an agreement that the fight against corruption will not stop.

The PN lost the biggest historical majority in the last general election because it focused mainly on corruption. Do you agree with this statement?

I totally agree. We need to relate far more and address people’s issues more. However, I do not think that the PN should stop its fight against corruption as it would be a complete mistake to focus only on that.

 

In your role as one of the mediators, what was the biggest challenge?

To convince both sides that this is a moment where we need to rise above those elements within the party that were instigating further escalation. The appeal to both Delia and Busuttil was to detach themselves from any other influence or person who tried to stir the pot. The main message was to look at the party’s interest and move ahead. The underlying tension was quite high and this is what made the job for Lawrence Gonzi, Tonio Borg and me one of the toughest we had to do.

Simon Busuttil did not leave the party when he lost the election. He was also directly involved in the leadership race and told Delia to withdraw his nomination. It is also evident that Busuttil never accepted Delia as his leader. On the other hand, Delia stripped Busuttil of his good governance portfolio and invited him to suspend himself from the parliamentary group. In these circumstances what are the hopes that the PN will ever be united?

I have the privilege of serving under the fifth Nationalist leader – from George Borg Olivier to Adrian Delia. When there is a change of leadership everybody, and this include the former leader, needs to accept the fact that now there is a new leader who is at the helm and we all need to follow his direction. Every Nationalist leader had his own vision and way of leading the party and that is how it should be and will continue to be.

The last PN leadership election had delegates voting for the new leader after a change in the statute which Busuttil himself had encouraged. However, quite frankly, the result would not have been different had the decision been taken by the party general council because Delia was leading in the general council vote. Now the decision has been made and we are duty bound to whoever is chosen as leader of the party to show him our loyalty.

 

But will the PN ever be united after what happened in the past days?

I think the decision that was adopted on Monday will help but there is the need of much more communication and of more people putting their heads together, which is why I consider the Monday process a beginning rather than an end. We need to have more meetings, define matters together. However, everybody needs to understand that some matters pertain to whoever is leader and it is his prerogative.

The new leader certainly deserves to be allowed to try his new methods which include a very challenging outreach programme. We also need to allow Delia to focus on where he is brilliant, which is his warmth, communication skills and great charisma.

 

You are always seen as the person who was always loyal to the party. Seeing what happened in the past days, don’t you think you are wasting your time and energy?

I remain resilient and will carry on. You give loyalty because you believe in the party and what the party stands for. You also give loyalty when it is not necessarily convenient for you or when you are in agreement. To me this is the ultimate test of loyalty.

Let me give you two examples in this regard with two former leaders. With Lawrence Gonzi, my test of loyalty was after the election of 2008 when a number of other ministers received an SMS that we would no longer form part of Cabinet. That same message also said that we could go and speak to the Prime Minister at Girgenti. I was one of the few who took up that invitation and went to Girgenti not to protest but to tell Gonzi that this was the moment of truth for me and show my loyalty to him and to the party.

Another test of loyalty that I had to face was when Simon Busuttil was leader and the last general election was round the corner, he asked me to give up a rather substantial part of my professional portfolio as a lawyer. This was harder because it left an impact on a personal basis. Even here and irrespective of whether I was in agreement with the strategic line being followed, because I had a different point of view, I said this is another test of loyalty. I accepted and told Simon that I would do what he had asked me to do.

So my message to the MPs and the party is not to gauge loyalty by how much is shown when the situation suits us but even when it does not.

 

It is a known fact that one third of the PN MPs do not accept Delia as the party leader. What do you think should be done? Should Delia resign, or should they resign?

I hope it will not reach that stage where anyone resigns. My advice to Delia is not to give up and keep meeting those who question his judgement. My advice to party activists is to keep in contact with the leader and discuss issues with him.

When you have a disagreement with the party or about an issue, you should never speak about it on social media. You should not and must not use social media. Instead, you should speak out within the party structures.

 

It looks like the PN is going through the same situation between Alfred Sant and Dom Mintoff which the PL went through in 1998. Do you think Busuttil should have left the party after the last general election?

Simon has to take that decision but he obviously needs to act like anyone else, with utmost loyalty to the new leader. However, Simon has a lot to offer to the parliamentary group and the party. 

Rumours are that a number of MPs are waiting for the MEP election results and if the PN fails to improve its results, they will call for another leadership race. Do you see this happening in the party?

Irrespective of what happens in the MEP elections, I do not agree that there should be a change in leadership.

A phrase in the PN anthem says, “Ejjew Nazzjonalisti, ejjew bl-eluf minn taghkom, ejjew ha nirbhu zgur. Today are you still able to sing these words?

In the foyer at Dar Centrali, one finds the Nationalist Party anthem in mosaic, which was inaugurated by Busuttil himself and just below the anthem there are three words, Unite (Ninghaqdu), Strive (Nistinkaw) and Win (Nirbhu).

This is my appeal to my colleagues.

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