Our party councillors have spoken over the weekend. An overwhelming 92 per cent of them voted, with two thirds, 67 per cent, returning a ‘yes’ verdict, having myself requested their judgement on whether I should continue leading the Nationalist Party. I am humbled.

I acknowledge, and respect, those who felt that I should step aside. Their verdict is important to me too.

I listened, and now it’s time to act, for Saturday’s vote was about my leadership to a certain extent, but about the Nationalist Party to a greater, more important extent. For weeks, we discussed the best way forward. Decisions must now be taken, and we must move forward together.

Heading the party reform is Louis Galea – a man, a visionary, who commands widespread respect within and beyond the Nationalist Party. I gave Dr Galea free rein to consult with party members and within Malta’s civil society on reforms needed to strengthen the PN. Dr Galea has a one-year mandate to report to me with findings and suggestions. In the meantime, starting from today, there is work to be done from all of us at party leadership level, and all rank and files within the party. This is not business as usual. Never was.

When I was entrusted to lead the Nationalist Party, I knew it would be an uphill battle.

I faced, and continue to face, a multitude of challenges. I was never one to shy away from challenges. That is what leadership is all about. Leadership requires courage, resilience and perseverance. Saturday’s vote motivates me further to bring about the necessary, much awaited changes within the party, namely:

1. The ‘yes’ voters, two thirds of our councillors, told us, in no uncertain terms, that not only should I continue leading but that I must strive further, and better, in my role as party leader to address the challenges at hand and strengthen the Nationalist Party for the good of country and party. 

I am committed to change whatever needs to be changed within the party

2. Make no mistake – I shall not interpret the ‘yes’ vote as a reassurance that all is plain and rosy. To the contrary, I am aware that ‘yes’ voters expect from me, as party leader, to double my efforts to reform, regenerate and make the PN a truly inclusive Opposition party and a credible alternative to the current Labour government.

3. I respect, deeply, the ‘no’ voters who genuinely want a stronger, better organised Opposition party. I welcome our colleagues with open arms and encourage them to help me strengthen the party.

We are at the cross-roads of history. Past generations entrusted us with a party that brought widespread reforms to our country whose benefits continue to be enjoyed by current and future generations. Future generations, on their part, shall hold us accountable for the actions we take today.

Successive wins at the polls had a devastating effect on the current Labour administration. Rather than translating those wins for a better country, we have a government riding roughshod over Maltese and Gozitans. It took months for government, through a lot of pressure from the Nationalist Party, to finally agree (or so we hope) on a public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Reports, as were the Greco Report and the MoneyVal Report released last week, chastise government for its laissez faire approach to the rule of law and good governance. The environment is in a mess – with so-called capital projects badly planned and ruining what remains of Malta’s countryside.

It is up to us – we at the Nationalist Party – to stand up and be counted.

Civil society groups are an effective tool to keep government accountable for its actions but, come next election, it’s a choice between Labour and the Nationalist Party. We remain the only alternative to the present government, and we must give the electorate a credible alternative. That is entirely up to us.

I am committed to change whatever needs to be changed within the party. I am aware that we need a better organisational set up. I admit that we must communicate better our policies, which themselves need to be modernised to reflect today’s Malta.

I know that thousands of traditional PN  supporters, who deserted us in droves since 2013, remain unconvinced.

I understand perfectly well those who argue, and rightly so, that they cannot trust a party with their and their children’s future, which is often in a state of internal turmoil.

That is precisely why I put my name on the ballot sheet last Saturday. That issue is now decided and we must look ahead.

We need all hands on deck now.

I trust that, following Saturday’s vote, the absolute majority of party members, whatever their status, shall respect the councillors’ verdict and come together to make the Nationalist Party re-electable again.

I am determined, as never before, to bring about the much-needed changes that people within and beyond the party expect from us.

Now is the time to look ahead – with determination and the will to succeed.

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