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A heartfelt call to reason - Alex Perici-Calascione

The recent events which unfolded in such quick succession following the publication of the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry, conducted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, have indeed left myriad mixed reactions behind.

This is not merely on the conclusions themselves but also on the stand taken and the messages sent to the supporters by the leaders of the main political parties.

From those parts of the inquiry which have been published so far, it emerges that no evidence was found to successfully support the allegation that either the Prime Minister or his wife were the ultimate beneficial owners of this company.

At the same time it is not clear whether from the voluminous documentation examined, the inquiring magistrate was able to conclude who was this mysterious owner, whose name was so important to protect that it could not be written in an e-mail but had to be disclosed on Skype.

Many, even among the Nationalist supporter base, will feel that the reaction of the Prime Minister was, as far as the allegations on him and his family are concerned, understandable. Many, however, also feel that the reaction of the Nationalist Party is, at least in part, less so.

I have publicly expressed my sincere disappointment and hurt at the decision of the PN’s Administrative Council, the one where it asked Simon Busuttil to effectively resign from the Parliamentary Group of the party he stepped in to lead in the most difficult of political, administrative and financial situations. The Prime Minister had, just a few hours previously, made an identical public call for Busuttil’s resignation, citing the shouldering of political responsibility.

The Egrant inquiry report has not in the least conferred any credibility on this government’s notion of shouldering political responsibility. While Muscat undoubtedly has many qualities, the track record on the shouldering of political responsibility does not rank high on that list.

Are we now to expel people from the party, a former leader to boot, for unsuccessful political strategies?

It is therefore less and less understandable why, while on the one hand the party’s administration and indeed even the leader of the Opposition himself, in an aptly strongly worded letter to the Attorney General, rightly insisted on the publication of the entire report as a matter of national interest in regard to Busuttil, this was set aside and the call for his resignation, echoing as it did in awkward resemblance the call that Muscat made a few hours earlier, was made regardless.

I have been contacted and been spoken to by a large number of bone fide, non-agenda party supporters and members over these past few days, and among practically all of them there is a marked incredulity both as to the call itself and as to the reason given to justify it.

Are we now to expel people from the party, a former leader to boot, for unsuccessful political strategies? Simon Busuttil did not wait for any Egrant report to shoulder political responsibility for this, he did so immediately after the last general election. This issue is not, as far as I am concerned, about Adrian Delia’s position as party leader. This is undisputed. Delia emerged as the chosen candidate after a wide process which, for what I believe was the first time in local political history, saw party members participate directly in the process. This is about the somewhat inexplicable and disturbing echoing of Joseph Muscat’s call for Busuttil’s expulsion from the party.

The immediate reaction across the board, from among the Parliamentary group, executive members, councillors, candidates and grassroots members was and still is probably stronger than anyone would have imagined.

The inherent risk is thus clear for all to see. Mine is therefore a heartfelt call to reason addressed to all sides of this internal debate, which is unavoidably spilling over onto the national scenario. I say this because it is clear to many who have reached out to me in the past days, that this decision dangerously risks taking a direction which gravely undermines the unity of a party, that same party which ever since its formation has been in the forefront, in vision and policy, to shape the successful independent nation that Malta and Gozo together are today.

If this happens, then indeed today will mark a dark page in the development and ongoing guarantee of democracy in our country, and tomorrow, the inexorable judgement of history upon all of us will be severe and will not be subject to appeal or revision.

The opportunity is still there. It is beyond any doubt that together we stand stronger.

Together does not mean, as it has never meant in the past, blind and unquestioned following. Together means mutual acceptance and clear loyalty to a leadership which in turn places the values and principles we believe in into practice. Together means the ability to balance and maximise the myriad qualities, experiences and opinions and channel them towards putting these same values and principles into the practice of political vision and thought.

This is the way to best channel political activism towards where it should always be directed – the pursuit of justice, the full development of the individual, the support to those most in need and the overall betterment of the quality of life of all.

Alex Perici-Calascione is former treasurer and executive member of the Nationalist Party.

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