Updated - PN reacts as John Bencini gets standing ovation at PL conference
Updated - Adds PN reaction to John Bencini's comments
John Bencini, former president of the Malta Union of Teachers and the Forum group of trade unions, got a standing ovation at an extraordinary general conference of the PL this evening as he recounted how he handed in his PN membership card and was now proud in declaring that he hoped Joseph Muscat would be Prime Minister.
Mr Bencini said he handed in his card to the PN general secretary three years ago, and was shocked when, two days later, he got a letter from the PN which included a copy of a letter asking the commissioner of police to question him (Mr Bencini) on irregularities which he had pointed out.
Three years on, Mr Bencini said, the commissioner had not questioned him, and he understood that the commissioner was now very busy investigating oil procurement.
Nonetheless, he said, the PN's attitude had been shocking. No one had bothered to have a chat with him over what he had been pointing out, and instead they called in the police, and goodbye to data protection.
Mr Bencini also recalled his shock when the prime minister had voted in Parliament for the increased power tariffs.
He was now proud to say, Mr Bencini said, that his place was within the PL, and he thanked those who met him in the street and thanked him for his position.
The conference is meeting to approve the PL electoral programme.
Earlier, deputy leader (party affairs) Toni Abela said the proper name for the Labour manifesto should be 'Consider it done' because Labour was promising to keep its promises.
He said that the party would base its activity on its slogan Malta Taghna lkoll, and that included businesses, because they were important for the Maltese economy. Labour, he said, would fight bureaucracy, corruption and inefficiency as well as poverty, the shameful conditions of sections of St Vincent de Paule Home.
Labour, he said, was the new hope for those people who could not make ends meet. It was telling all honest people, whatever they did that they had nothing to fear. But it did would not tolerate the dishonest and would not award contracts to those who treated the workers badly.
He promised an open, accountable, government and stressed that politicians should resign not only for their wrong actions, but also for their inactions when they were expected to act.
He also said that Gozo would no longer be treated 'like a colony'.
PL deputy leader Louis Grech urged supporters not to be complacent and not to take anything for granted as the electoral campaign entered a critical stage.
He said a Labour government would be careful to spend taxpayers' money according to the country's real priorities, such as hospital services. This, he said, would be a government at the service of the people.
He also said that the present government had lost every shred of credibility.
The conference was characterised by the number of speakers who said they had voted PN in the past but were now voting Labour.
The speakers this evening included lawyer Ramona Frendo, former PN activist Cyrus Engerer, stage director Adrian Buckle, actor Frederick Testa, Albert Gauci Cunningham, university student Mark Micallef, businesswoman Marlene Seychell, Lara Boffa, Keith Mintoff, Prof Charles Grixti and Audrey Harrison.
Another speaker who got a standing ovation was Ian Chircop, son of the late Karl Chircop, who hit out at the PN's record in health services, particularly the waiting lists. The conference was introduced by Karmenu Vella, who was tasked with writing the electoral programme, and the secretary of the PL executive, Lydia Abela.
See full text of the electoral programme at:
In a reaction to Mr Bencini's comments, the Nationalist Party said that in his letter, Mr Bencini had said he was leaving the party which, he had claimed, was 'riddled with corruption'.
The party wrote back to Mr Bencini asking him to explain his allegations. Mr Bencini's letter was also referred to the police.
"Unless such action was taken, the party would have been accused of not acting against allegations of corruption," a party spokesman said.
Mr Bencini subsequently wrote back to the PN, withdrawing his original letter and replacing it with another in which he dropped his allegations.