Updated 2.40pm with Delia’s comments
Jean Pierre Debono will not be assuming a PN parliamentary seat, following allegations that he was involved in voting list manipulation ahead of the ballot to fill David Stellini’s vacated seat.
In a letter to PN leader Adrian Delia, Mr Debono vehemently denied the accusations levelled at him but said that he would not be taking his parliamentary oath because of the attempt “by the usual people to attack the party”.
“I do not want to be complicit in allowing a transparent and democratic process be used as an excuse to divide the party,” he wrote in his letter.
He slammed “certain people” within the party, without naming them, and accused them of being envious and desperate for power.
Contentious co-option vote
Mr Debono was due to be co-opted into parliament on Monday to take up a seat vacated by David Stellini last week, after winning an internal party ballot to fill the seat last Saturday.
That ballot had split the party down the middle and enraged Gozitan PN members, who felt Mr Stellini’s 13th district seat should be filled by another candidate from the district.
On Sunday evening, the PN’s Gozo regional committee said that it was considering legal action if the PN leadership did not nullify the secret ballot, arguing that Mr Stellini should not have been allowed to vote.
Later that evening, outgoing executive committee president Mark Anthony Sammut accused Mr Debono of having allowed two ineligible voters to take part in the ballot. As the PN’s political coordinator, Mr Debono was the person responsible for compiling voting lists, Mr Sammut alleged.
On Monday morning, two Gozitan voters filed a judicial protest calling on the PN to cancel the co-option process and restart it.
‘Campaign to discredit you’
In his letter, Mr Debono argued that the allegations were aimed at discrediting party leader Adrian Delia.
Mr Debono had in 2017 given up his 7th district seat to allow Dr Delia to become an MP, following his election as PN leader.
“It is clearer than ever before that the same group of people of did not accept your democratic election as party leader are now trying to attack and discredit me personally, because I gave up my parliamentary seat to allow you to be named Opposition leader,” he wrote.
He vehemently denied having struck any sort of secret deal with Dr Delia to ensure he was handed Mr Stellini’s vacated seat, or allegations that he had been financially compensated for having handed Dr Delia his seat.
“Anybody could have contested this co-option,” he said.
Mr Debono pledged loyalty to Dr Delia, saying he was offering his “unconditional” support to the party provided it got rid of toxic elements within it.
‘Nothing to do with voting list’
He also denied having done anything to manipulate voting lists for Saturday’s ballot, reiterating a denial he had first made on Sunday night on social media.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with this election’s processes for obvious reasons, and I took no decision of any sort,” he wrote.
“Until May 30 David Stellini was still an MP and his resignation became effective on the evening of Friday, May 31,” he added.
PN officials, including Mr Sammut and MP Jason Azzopardi, had on Sunday night published a screenshot of a Microsoft Word document which they alleged showed that Mr Debono was the last person to have modified a list of executive committee voters. The last modification to the document happened on the morning on May 30.
Delia seeking legal advice
Speaking on Times Talk, Dr Delia said he had asked for legal advice to propose a way forward for the executive.
He said he had been made aware of the fact that the party statute might actually not have the power to decide from which district the new MP should be co-opted from.
Asked to comment on claims that there was a secret deal between Dr Delia and Mr Debono to be eventually co-opted to parliament, the PN leader replied: “Absolutely not”.
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