Updated 1.30pm 

Nationalist veteran MP Chris Said has said PN leader Bernard Grech told him he will not appoint him shadow minister because he had formed part of Lawrence Gonzi's cabinet.

Speaking to Times of Malta, Said, who served as Justice Minister from 2012 to 2013, refused to say whether or not he agreed with the decision.

"It is his prerogative and I respect that," he said, adding that he will continue to work tirelessly for the voters who trusted him in the election.

Up until the election Said was shadow minister for Gozo, but the post has now been given to newcomer, 26-year-old Alex Borg, who got a whopping 6,108 first count votes in his first time contesting the election.

Two other veteran PN MPs and members of Gonzi's last cabinet, Mario de Marco and Carm Mifsud Bonnici, were also left out of the shadow cabinet. Attempts to reach them have, so far, proved unsuccessful.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Said was clearer, saying he understands Grech's decision to leave him, de Marco and Mifsud Bonnici out.

"We are the only three persons to have served in the last PN cabinet and to have been elected ever since."

Grech has yet to give an interview to the independent media since last month's electoral defeat.   

A divisive decision

Critics within the Nationalist Party have been widely sceptical of "old faces" in the party's administration, arguing the PN can only gain some ground if it rids itself of the old faces and takes on fresh, new ones.

This was also, to some extent, reflected in the electoral results which saw the Nationalist electorate bring in a myriad of new faces, some of whom secured more first count votes than veteran MPs.

However, others argue it is "irresponsible, insensitive and non-sensical" for the party to lose so many seasoned politicians simply because they are old hands.

One of those is former PN MP Franco Debono, whose reformist zeal caused clashes with Gonzi and his cabinet. 

Although he congratulated Borg on his appointment, saying he checks all the boxes to be a good politician and that the PN needs people like him to rebuild itself, Debono also pointed out that pushing aside Said "is a mistake" because he can still contribute greatly.

"Chris Said was not one of the problems before 2013," he wrote on Facebook.

"Just because he was part of Gonzi's cabinet doesn't mean he should be excluded. Quite the contrary. He was part of the solution in very difficult circumstances, had he only been allowed to work."

Other dissenting voices within the PN, who however declined to be named, said the decision to freeze Said, de Marco and Mifsud Bonnici out just because they served in the Gonzi administration was an insult to the Gonzi government. 

“The PN is doing what Labour should be doing, shunning the Muscat government. But we do not need to shun the Gonzi government, which achieved a lot in very difficult circumstances,” one of the observers said. "We should not even be equating the two."

Another argued that political parties need a blend of youth and experience and drew on PN history to make their point. 

“Imagine Eddie Fenech Adami telling Vincent Tabone in 1987 that he would not be appointing him foreign minister because he had served in Borg Olivier’s government!" 

Another PN dissenter argued that by excluding Gonzi-era ministers, Grech was lending credence to Labour's narrative that the PN of that era was inadequate. 

"During the electoral campaign, Grech repeatedly spoke about Gonzi-era successes. Then the first thing he did was humiliate those who served in that cabinet," they said.

Following last month's electoral defeat, the Nationalist Party’s executive will meet on Thursday to thrash out the details of the process to elect a leader.

According to the PN statute, Grech is obliged to step down having lost a general election, giving party members the opportunity to elect a new candidate should they wish to do so. 

He has already said he will be re-contesting the post. So far, he is the only candidate to have said he intends to run.

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