St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg has stunningly accused the Nationalist Party of secretly working with one of Malta’s major business players to undermine his election campaign.
In an article on Times of Malta, Buttigieg said that a long-standing acquaintance of his informed him of a meeting that took place at the beginning of the year between a high-ranking PN official and a ‘fat cat’ at a hotel.
Without naming the two people, the mayor said the businessman has “vast commercial and construction interests in St Julian’s” and that he only found out about it after the election.
The mayor said the businessman specifically asked the PN official to “shut him [Buttigieg] up” and the party official promised to oblige.
As mayor of St Julian’s, Buttigieg has been extremely critical of overdevelopment in his town, speaking out against projects, including the db City Centre, Mercury Towers and the Villa Rosa high-rises.
He linked this meeting to his treatment by the PN during the election campaign.
“I have to disclose my indignation that my candidacy, like that of others, was not given equal opportunities, like most were,” he said.
“Sadly, there was no fair play. The party’s gurus ‘anointed’ a number of candidates at the expense of others.”
“Prior to the election campaign and during the campaign trail, I was never invited, not even once, to address any press conference or take part in any debate or party activity, not even to discuss themes I am qualified and experienced in.”
“The only opportunities were one-off radio or TV short interventions. This contrasts sharply with other candidates who were literally given daily exposure. I can provide a detailed account of this.”
“Given this lack of visibility and fair play, I am on record in underlining this disparity. Twice I offered my resignation and twice it was not accepted.”
The mayor isn’t the first PN candidate to claim that the party intentionally favoured other candidates; last month, Xgħajra councillor Doris Borg resigned from the party in protest at how it showed “blatant favouritism” towards her district rival (and now MP) Bernice Bonello.
Buttigieg raised several questions, including whether there was an agreement to silence him, whether any money passed hands, whether PN leader Bernard Grech was aware of this meeting, and whether this episode will reinforce a perception that the party “is in bed with fat cats”.
The PN doesn’t intend to take proactive action in light of Buttigieg’s claims, only insisting that anyone with information on misconduct by a party official should report it to the PN Ethics, Discipline and Social Media Commission and provide proof.
However, Buttigieg argued that the ball is in the party’s court.
“I asked pertinent questions, now it is up to the party to follow if they think these are worth consideration,” he said. “I will be happy to reply as I have done on several occasions when asked to, only that I will not reveal my source. The ‘give us the proof’ sounds like the Labour Party when faced with accusations.”
Should the PN proactively investigate this claim?