Most members of the Nationalist Party parliamentary group disagree with the way their colleague Franco Debono decided to voice his concern on the public transport saga.

Most Nationalist MPs contacted yesterday said Transport Minister Austin Gatt had their backing and support because he had a track record of delivering.

They said Dr Gatt was the kind of person that public transport provider Arriva needed “to deliver what it promised”.

The MPs, who preferred not to be quoted by name “not to stir more trouble”, said that, rather than resigning, Dr Gatt should continue working hard to put pressure on Arriva to deliver.

Dr Debono threatened to abstain in a forthcoming parliamentary vote on a Labour motion calling for Dr Gatt’s resignation. No date has yet been set for the motion to be debated in Parliament.

Dr Debono said accountability was an essential element of democracy that was “seriously lacking in the country” and that he had long been saying it had to be strengthened.

“If the minister responsible for public transport reform is not going to shoulder political responsibility and do the honourable thing, I will be abstaining in the vote on the motion in Parliament,” he said.

Dr Gatt said everybody was free to act according to their own conscience.

Nationalist parliamentary group members said they were unhappy with the service, as were their constituents, but this did not mean the minister responsible for the reform had to go. “We should all put our heads together to find a solution. Insisting on a resign-ation will not solve anything,” one MP said.

Another said he stood four-square behind Dr Gatt. “I have absolutely no doubt that (Dr Gatt) will assume political responsibility for this. But political responsibility does not mean pack up and leave. If he resigns he will be shying away from his political responsibility.”

He continued: “Franco Debono should just shut up and work in his party ’s interests. If he has any ideas on how to improve the situation, then he should share them. Otherwise, nothing is going to change. I think we are not appreciating the big leap that we made; there were just more teething problems than were expected. Time will tell.”

Another MP said he “absolutely disagreed ” with the way Dr Debono decided to express his frustration on the public transport service. “People are inconven-ienced. I’m not denying that. But the onus is on Arriva and Dr Gatt has the right characteristics to make sure it delivers the service it promised us. Resigning shouldn’t even have come into it in the first place,” he insisted.

While saying that what Dr Debono decided was “his prerogative”, an MP insisted “it is whoever does not want to form part of a team who should resign”.

“If we are playing football and one player decides to run towards my own goal and score then I will be the first one who won’t want him there. You’re either part of the team or else leave,” he said.

MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando insisted on going on the record, saying he would give his input on the public transport reform when the matter was debated in Parliament.

He refused to comment on Dr Debono’s decision to possibly abstain, saying he “will not pass judgment on my colleagues”.

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