The Malta Independent 8 May 2021, Saturday

‘People with the wrong attitude are not welcome in the PN’ – Bernard Grech

Albert Galea Sunday, 18 April 2021, 13:06 Last update: about 19 days ago

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has warned that people who harbour the “wrong attitude” be them party members, members of internal party structures, or even MPs are not welcome within the PN.

Grech was interviewed by The Malta Independent editor-in-chief Neil Camilleri on Sunday, where he was asked a raft of questions, including on a The Malta Independent on Sunday report which said that the PN is looking to regenerate by pushing new faces over those who have served the party in parliament for a number of years.

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Asked about this, Grech said that the electorate is telling the party that it needs to regenerate, and that it wants to see these new faces in parliament, not just in press conferences – which is why, he said, space is being given to new people to work and show their worth.

The party, however, he said, also needs an attitude change.

“Those with the wrong attitude are not welcome within the PN”, he warned.

“We need people with a sincere and humble attitude.  We do not want people with an attitude that they know everyone, that they prejudice everyone, that they are in some form of ivory tower looking down upon everyone, that they think that only they have a divine right to govern”, he said.

He said that the party understands that it has made mistakes, and said that it needs to show the electorate that it has changed and that it is ready to regenerate on all fronts.

Negative reactions to welcoming people like Franco Debono back to the party were a symptom of the aforementioned attitude, Grech said.  He said that he had used the word “to rehabilitate” when speaking about bringing people back to the party – the rehabilitation, he said, is not on those people, but on the party.

“I felt that the PN had become exclusive – that’s why I want to change this”, he said.

Grech clarified that he doesn’t want to “throw anyone away”, when asked about the fate of current MPs who may not be re-elected.

Asked whether he will find backing from these same MPs, he said that he believes that there are people who are understanding the need to regenerate, and also understand that the party’s members had voted for someone outside of politics twice in a row to lead the party – not someone within.  That is a message within itself, he said.

On whether the PN can realistically win the next general election, Grech reminded that he had taken a party with a vote gap in the surveys of 57,000 votes and brought that down to 26,000.  The party has made big advances in the past six months, but change needs to be done so that the party can go into the right direction, he said.

Proposals: Reduced VAT for restaurants and bars

Grech was asked about what further proposals he and his party had in mind after the publication of ideas on the energy sector.

The PN leader said that he won’t be showing his full hand yet, but noted that in the coming days, the party will publish certain ideas on the rejuvenation of the tourism sector.

He said that under this plan, the tourism industry should recover to pre-pandemic levels within two years, and he said that the plan will see to support all those who can contribute to the sector, including Airbnb and farmhouse owners.

He said that the PN was looking at favourable VAT rates for restaurants and bars, and also looking into new niches such as camping, where he said that there are certain areas – which are not virgin land – which they have identified as having potential for campsites, and caravanning, where he said that controlled areas with all the services required should be created for those with caravans to enjoy without making the environment elsewhere ugly.

Grech also pledged that the whole of the Grand Harbour would be regenerated, saying that one cannot have part which is thriving with business and another – referring specifically to the area near Marsa – which is left in abandon.

Asked about their ideas in relation to the recently announced cannabis white paper, Grech said that the party is still analysing and discussing the document.  He said that he agreed with decriminalisation, but noted that the party doesn’t want to send the message that cannabis has no effect on a person.

The pandemic: testing centres for tourists

Speaking about the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects, Grech noted an episode on Saturday where people were seen crowded along the balustrades at the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta to watch the special gun salute to Prince Philip after his passing.

He said that restaurant owners and frustrated because they feel like they are being kept closed while others are not being enforced.

“The good are suffering because of the bad – that’s becoming the government’s trademark”, Grech said. This is the case for restaurants, bars, and even financial service providers, Grech said.

Speaking about the pandemic, Grech said that Malta has to be a safe country first and foremost in order to attract tourism.  He said that there have to be mechanisms – a word he used with tongue-in-cheek, in reference to former Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli – which do actually work.

He said that the PN is proposing three testing centres – two in Malta and one in Gozo – specifically reserved for tourists.

On mass events which are being planned in the country, Grech said that he understands that these are being marketed now, because there has to be a certain element of foresight when planning such things, and said that he had no problem in them happening if health authorities give the go-ahead.

However, he said that the government is being disingenuous in saying that they do not have their blessing when government entities are sponsoring certain events.

Institutions: Small fish being punished, big fish aren’t

On the institutions and their working, Grech said that institutions do exist but they are not as effective as they should be, which is what determines whether they are truly working or not.

He named the Ombudsman’s office and the Standards Commissioner’s office as two such examples where more work needs to be done to make these institutions work correctly.

Speaking about recent court proceedings which saw Nexia BT officials and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri charged, Grech said that they were only charged because the magistrate ordered as such, and not because police investigated.

“The institutions need to work autonomously, not because somebody has forced them to work”, he said.

He said that even in money laundering cases, the country is punishing the small fish but letting the big fish go free.

Even in the police sector, he said that those with overtime breaches were, rightly, hauled to court, but others such as Ian Abdilla, former Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, and Silvio Valletta, where still free.

 

 

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