In better days: Norman Vella (centre) at a PN mass meeting
Internal warfare has struck the Nationalist Party again, with well-known TV presenter Norman Vella now accusing the leadership of breaching the party’s statute to keep him out of power.
The rift revolves around the PN’s Executive Committee – the party’s decision-making body composed of 18 elected representatives from councillors, along with MPs, representatives of party branches and sectional committees, as well as former party leaders.
Vella, a vocal critic of PN leader Adrian Delia, contested the last Executive Council election last November but narrowly failed to get elected in a vote amongst PN councillors. Yet he assumed that one of the 18 seats was up for grabs after businessman Ivan Bartolo repeatedly failed to attend Executive Council meetings and publicly announced his retirement from politics.
According to the PN’s statue, any Executive Committee member who fails to attend three consecutive meetings without providing justification must automatically be kicked out of the Committee and replaced by the candidate who obtained the next highest number of votes— which in this case would be Vella.
Ivan Bartolo contested last year’s elections but has since resigned from politics
In an email to councillors, Vella said he had flagged Bartolo’s continued absence to the PN leadership but that this fell on deaf ears.
“There are people within the PN who feel they are superior to the party’s statute and who have given themselves the power to decide to breach the statue,” he wrote. “Consequently, I will be left out of the Executive Committee and the seat that should be mine will remain empty – still occupied on paper by a person who has never attended the meetings and who has publicly quit politics.”
“Those who abuse the statue and who act as though they own the party but be held responsible.”
Contacted by Lovin Malta, PN Executive Committee President Mark Anthony Sammut vehemently denied breaching the party’s statute – noting that the statute doesn’t define what constitutes a “justifiable absence”.
“It’s true that [Ivan Bartolo] hasn’t attended a single monthly meeting since November, but he always provided reasons for his absence – just as because he was working or abroad,” Sammut said. “I have referred Bartolo’s case to the Administrative Committee and they have assured me that his reasons for absence were justified.”
PN Executive Committee President Mark Anthony Sammut
After speaking to Bartolo, Sammut said he is convinced the former 6pm CEO has no intention of resigning from the Executive Committee.
“Just because he’s no longer involved in politics doesn’t mean he has to leave the executive,” he said. “You don’t need to be a politician to get elected to the Executive Committee.”
He added that he cannot recall a single case whereby someone was ever kicked out of the Executive Committee for failing to turn up to three consecutive meetings without justification.
In a harshly-worded letter to councillors, Sammut accused Vella of lacking prudence and basic decency.
“His allegations are based on a complete misinterpretation of the statute,” he wrote. “While I understand Mr Vella’s eagerness to serve on the Committee, I am surprised by the way he accused the PN’s Executive and Administrative Committees of breaching the statute before he even received an official notice of this decision [to keep Mr Bartolo on board]. This displays a serious lack of prudence and basic decency.”
Bartolo later confirmed that he is still interested in the PN’s Executive Committee, arguing that he still communicates with the PN and actively assists whenever and wherever he can.
“I didn’t attend the recent meeting because I had private work to take care of in the UK,” he said. “In line with the party’s statute, I have always offered justification why I could not attend meetings and it has always been accepted by the party Administration.”