The Malta Independent 20 July 2019, Saturday

Indepth: Franco Debono does not rule out return to politics, including as an independent candidate

INDEPTH online Friday, 8 February 2019, 08:48 Last update: about 6 months ago

Law Commissioner and former Nationalist MP Franco Debono is not ruling out a return to politics, including the possibility of running as an independent candidate.

Debono was interviewed on Indepth yesterday.

Asked by The Malta Independent Editor-in-Chief Rachel Attard whether he considered returning to the political scene, Debono said this was not something that was on his agenda for the time being, but said many people, including Nationalists who had attacked him in the past, were egging him to contest.

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Debono disagreed with the statement that he was an important ingredient that led to the Nationalist Party’s downfall, or that he had helped Joseph Muscat become Prime Minister. “I have been away from the party for six years now, and it is still losing. That has nothing to do with me.”

He insisted that his criticism of the PN before the 2013 general election was not intended to elect Labour but rather to push forward necessary reforms. “I wanted to see my party, which was heading straight into a wall, to change direction. But the party did not want to listen.”

“Many nationalists want me back. They tell me I was right back then, even if they might not agree with the way in which I did things.”

The former MP said Lawrence Gonzi’s biggest mistake came in 2008, when he promised to introduce new faces but ended up going for a smaller cabinet.

“My declarations were that the PN was not doing well. The people showed that they agreed with me in both the 2013 and 2017 elections.”

“In 2013 the PN was making fun of one Form 2C student but failed to realise that another student from that class was making himself a Prime Minister.”

While he did not answer directly when asked whether he would consider contesting the next election with the PN, Debono pointed to the support he has been shown, including in a survey he had commissioned last year. He also said he has a good relationship with Adrian Delia.

Asked if he would go back into politics he said he did not know but pointed out that a quarter of the population did not support Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia.

Asked if he would consider running as an independent candidate, Debono said he was more focused on his legal career but was also listening to what people were saying. “The nominations are not open yet but ....”

Debono was also asked about his recent attack on Joseph Muscat, whom he called Malta’s “most corrupt politician.” It later emerged that he had attacked the PM because he had previously announced that he (Debono) would lead the Constitutional Convention but it now seems that the role has been given to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

He asked whether Muscat was offering the role to Coleiro Preca to “keep her quiet because she wanted to run for MEP.”

Debono said he had not gone to the Prime Minister or Justice Minister to complain about the issue, saying that he was someone who said things publicly. “I have no obligation to report or complain with the PM and the minister. I cannot tell them what to do. They haven’t spoken to me about the convention since the election.”

Debono asked whether the appointment of Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca to lead the constitutional convention was “meritocratic.”

The fact that Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca was to lead the convention when her term expires in April “shows that she has been pushing for this,” he argued.

Debono insisted that the constitutional reform was all about accountability. “Let’s not forget the Paqpaqli incident, in which people were seriously injured. Should responsibility have been shouldered by the President? In view of what happened, is the President the ideal person to lead the convention? I will not answer that question myself. What happened to meritocracy?”

He also questioned whether the constitutional convention was still necessary seeing that several reforms had been implemented.

Debono was also asked about a recent blog he wrote, in which he said Egrant belongs either to the Prime Minister or to someone close to him. Asked about this, Debono insisted that he was making an argument, and not a factual declaration. “Brian Tonna had said Egrant belonged to him. He is close to the Prime Minister, so this all falls within the argument that I am making.”

He insisted that his argument was different to the factual declaration made by the late Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had claimed that Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat without having proof to back up her argument.

“I don’t know who it belongs to. I did not say it belongs to Joseph Muscat. I said it belongs to him or someone close to him. The ‘or’ makes all the difference.”

Debono insisted that he had made those arguments in his personal capacity, and not as the Law Commissioner. Had that been the case he would have issued a statement, he said.

While he expressed confidence in Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who led the inquiry, he said that the Egrant inquiry had limited terms of reference. The magistrate had not been tasked with finding out who Egrant belonged to – he had only been asked to investigate claims that the Panamanian company belonged to Joseph and Michelle Muscat.

He pointed out that some countries, such as Dubai, had not cooperated with the inquiry and more information could come out in the future.


 

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