Debono dismisses Gonzi’s solution
I will not support reforms ‘by Carm Mifsud Bonnici’
Nationalist MP Franco Debono has dismissed the Prime Minister’s plan to solve the “constitutional” crisis through a party executive meeting.
“This is a farce. The party core is obviously going to support its leader... But that won’t change anything.
“This is not a party issue. The President must decide,” he said, stressing that he would disregard the party’s decision, not least because political parties remain unregulated.
“Since we don’t have a party financing law I cannot even know what financial interests are at play behind the scenes,” Dr Debono, who drafted a Bill to regulate political parties, told The Times.
Dr Debono added that he had left the PN months ago, even though his resignation had not been formally accepted, so the party’s decision did not really affect him.
However, he said he still considered himself a Nationalist and was acting with a heavy heart because all he wanted to see was the strengthening of democracy in Malta. “I’m not doing this because of ambition. I was a rising star in the party. What I am doing is a sacrifice,” he said, acknowledging that he has now come to a point of no return.
On Friday, shortly after a Cabinet reshuffle was announced, Dr Debono declared he had lost confidence in the government. He insisted he would serve under anyone else but Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, plunging the government into its deepest political crisis yet and drastically increasing the likelihood of an early election.
Questioned about the motive for his reaction to the reshuffle, Dr Debono denied that it all boiled down to him not being given a ministry, saying instead that he was annoyed that certain ministers who were not delivering had been retained.
“I have been telling Dr Gonzi since July that I will not support any reforms on justice or home affairs by Carm Mifsud Bonnici because I feel he has the wrong attitude.”
Dr Gonzi removed the justice portfolio from Dr Mifsud Bonnici, satisfying Dr Debono’s demand to split the ministry. However, Dr Mifsud Bonnici retained home affairs, something which irked Dr Debono who remained sitting on the backbench.
Now, Dr Debono insisted, Dr Gonzi only had two options, to resign or call an election – something Dr Gonzi has said he wants to postpone till the end of the legislature. “How can he govern without the support of an MP?” Dr Debono asked, referring to the government’s one-seat majority.
The MP also said he would ignore a petition calling for his resignation from the fifth electoral district being pushed by mayor Pietru Pawl Busuttil (a PN hero who was framed for the murder of Raymond Caruana). “No, I will not resign. I have a lot of support from Nationalists in my district who are thanking me for defending their causes.”
He asked whether Mr Busuttil had presented petitions on the botched transport reform or the government’s plans to use heavy fuel oil in the new power station.
“And after what he went through I would have thought he would have started a petition to call for the resignation of the minister who postponed enacting the law giving access to a lawyer for suspects under interrogation.”
Asked if he had committed political suicide, Dr Debono said he did not see it that way.
Asked if he was prepared to remain an independent MP if the party executive decided to accept his resignation, Dr Debono said he would remain in Parliament.
Dr Debono stressed he would not contest the next election with the Labour Party or independently and will either focus on his legal office or emigrate if things came to a head.
He also dismissed people who questioned his state of mental health, and said he did not regret showing his report card to PBS news. “Dr Gonzi said I was being childish. I wanted to show that even as a child I took things seriously and I was a brilliant student.”
His disagreements with Dr Gonzi had long been coming and he was particularly annoyed at the Prime Minister’s decision to vote against divorce in Parliament despite the referendum and the way ministerial pay raises were awarded.
When challenged about the fact that he had only produced this criticism now (after the reshuffle), Dr Debono said he had made his positions clear internally.