Adrian Vassallo in scathing criticism of 'dictatorial' Joseph Muscat
Labour MP Adrian Vassallo made scathing criticism of Labour leader Joseph Muscat tonight, saying he viewed an attack on him after the divorce vote in parliament as 'dictatorial'.
He also said he no longer attends meetings of the parliamentary group because the group is simply a 'rubber stamp' of what the leader wants, although he admitted that his disenchantment started when then Labour leader Alfred Sant did not appoint him to a party committee discussing the policy against drugs.
Dr Vassallo, who has announced he will not stand for the forthcoming election, said that Dr Muscat has still not spoken to him since he informed him in writing on March 25 that he would not seek re-election.
"He does not even look at me in Parliament," Dr Vassallo told interviewer Lou Bondi on Bondi +
Dr Vassallo said there had been several occasions, even before other elections, when he considered bowing out because he did not consider Parliament conducive of his attitude of plain talking, but people eventually managed to convince him stand.
This time, he said, he was led to decide against seeking re-election because of the divorce issue.
Dr Vassallo sneered at the claim that the PL had no position in favour of divorce and said one only needed to see how the party acted in practice, especially how its station presented the news with Evarist Bartolo (one of the leaders of the Divorce Movement) also the head of news.
He complained of a campaign against him as soon as he declared his opposition to divorce. The only time he was invited to a PL television programme, he said, he was booed by a hall full of Labourites who then applauded Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, in what he viewed as a stage managed event.
He recalled that after the 'Yes' camp won the referendum Dr Muscat had said that MPs could abstain or vote in favour (of divorce). Just before the vote in parliament, Dr Vassallo said, he had asked deputy leader Anglu Farrugia whether they really had a free vote, because he intended to vote against anyway. Dr Farrugia could not give him an answer, but consulted Dr Muscat and came back to tell him he had a free vote.
He had then voted against.
Immediately after that, Dr Muscat, publically in front of the media, declared that that he had to 'face the consequences'.
Dr Vassallo said supporters interpreted this as meaning that he had acted against the party and they, therefore should not vote for him.
He said he had never expected that sort of attack.
"To insult and attack on TV a standing MP who had been comfortably elected, just for having voted against divorce in a situation where he was told he had a free vote does not reflect being a moderate, but it smacks of communism or dictatorship. Maybe it was a spur of the moment thing, but a year has passed and nothing has happened," Dr Vassallo said.
He said he had been very hurt. It was as if there weren't Labourites who were against divorce and expected their views to be defended in parliament as well.
"I never did anything against the party, I always stood by what there was in the electoral programme, and I did not do the sort of things that Franco Debono or Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando are doing (in the PN)" Dr Vassallo said.
He said he was completely sidelined by the party. He was not invited to its TV programmes.
Reacting to a comment by Mr Bondi about Cyrus Engerer having been admitted to the party while he was sidelined, Dr Vassallo said "He (Dr Muscat) attacked me in that way, on a matter of conscience and then he defended Cyrus by saying that his pending court case is something personal."
Dr Vassallo said that two weeks before he wrote to Dr Muscat, he wrote to the secretary of the party executive, telling her of his intentions not to contest. She did not reply. Dr Muscat also did not reply, but two days after the letter was sent, party whip Joe Mizzi called him from Uganda (where he was on parliamentary business) telling him that Dr Muscat had urged him to reconsider.
Dr Vassallo said he told him that Dr Muscat could tell him that himself. But he never spoke to him.
In his interview Dr Vassallo reiterated his opposition to IVF and gay partnerships, among other issues.
When his poor record of attendance in parliament was pointed out to him, Dr Vassallo replied that MPs could enter the chamber for a few seconds and be considered present. He went less often, but then stayed longer when the debates were about subjects which he followed.
He also said that in his view, the way the PL and the PN were acting was not much different from each other.
The PN made itself out to be 'holy' but then allowing the opening of strip clubsand gaming parlours and the number of single parents had soared. For the PL, everyone had the right to do as he liked. These, he said, were not rights, because no one had a right to harm society.
He said the PL had transformed itself into a movement, but its only aim was to bring down the Nationalist government, 'and then we'll see'.
He was interested in the principles of the party, he said, and he was against the way parties offered everything to everyone. They should adopt positions and let the people chose them if they agreed.