The Nationalist Party will not negotiate with hackers threatening to publish stolen documents belonging to the party, Bernard Grech said on Sunday.  

In an interview, Grech said the PN does not negotiate with hackers and would not be paying any money to stop its information from being leaked.  

Hackers last week threatened to leak internal PN documents unless the party agreed to "communicate and cooperate" with them in 10 days. The deadline expires on Thursday. 

The operators of 'Avaddon ransomware' have already published a selection of documents, including employee details, passport pictures and a studio rota on the dark web.  

Speaking to veteran TV journalist Peppi Azzopardi, Grech said the PN was cooperating fully with the local authorities.

A magisterial inquiry is underway along with investigations by the police and the Data Protection Commissioner.  

While he would not speculate whether there were any local parties involved in the hack, Grech stressed that the PN was the victim in this situation.  

In a post on the dark web claiming responsibility for the attack last Monday, the hackers said they would give the PN 240 hours to “communicate and cooperate with us”.

“If this does not happen before the time counter expires, we will leak valuable company documents,” it says.

“We have company financial data, salary payments, employees’ personal documents, banking, private client data, payment documents and much more.”

Toe the line or get the boot

Meanwhile, during Sunday’s interview, Grech weighed in on his plan to weed out those within the PN who do not toe the party line.  

He said he would not exclude that there could be some PN MPs who would not be allowed to contest the next general election with the party if they persisted in acting outside the party rank and file.  

Grech said the electorate was showing the PN that it needed an attitude change and if some within the PN did not understand this, then he would take the necessary steps to ensure they did not harm the PN’s chances at the polls. 

Asked whether the party’s campaigning on government corruption was failing to resonate with voters, Grech said he was confident the public understood the scale of the damage being done to the country by corrupt government officials.  

While  what had been done under former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s watch was “terrifying”, Abela was not doing enough to weed out the far stretching roots of government corruption.  

Instead, Opposition MP Toni Bezzina was being dragged through the mud for an alleged abuse of power that occurred a decade ago, he said.  

Bezzina was interrogated by police earlier this month over alleged corruption in maintenance works done at a PN club in his home district using government workers.  

Grech also drew on a recent report by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, which found Minister Carmelo Abela had run political ads "intended to boost his image" using public funds.  

While it was true that past PN administrations had been guilty of similar indiscretions, the electorate had shown the PN the door in 2013 and now expected higher standards, Grech said.
On the thorny issue of cannabis reform, Grech said the PN was doing “real consultation”, and had recently held meetings with drug users, families of users, rehabilitation workers and agencies, as well as pro-legislation activists. 

It was his view, Grech said, that while the possibility of legal reforms was on the table, authorities could not give the impression that cannabis does not cause harm. 

In an hour-long back and forth with Azzopardi, the PN leader touched upon a number of other subjects from the need to balance development with green spaces, to giving MPs the choice of whether to become full-time representatives or not.  

Grech also gave a sneak peak of a plan the party is drafting to address mental health issues.  

Saying he does not want to reveal what the party has planned, he said, the problem of mental health would not be solved simply be renovating Mount Carmel Hospital.  

Grech recalled how he himself had passed through a tough patch after he was involved in a traffic collision and said a shift was needed in the way this issue was viewed.  

He said the PN wanted to see mental health introduced as an educational subject for children and for them to be taught that life is not just about winning, but also about losing and handling loss.  

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