Outgoing Nationalist Party assistant general secretary Jean Pierre Debono insists the prospect of facing disciplinary action over the proxy votes controversy had no bearing on his decision to resign from Parliament.
He also denied he was offered a lucrative job as personal assistant to newly-elected PN leader Adrian Delia.
Mr Debono was replying to questions by the Times of Malta in the wake of his sudden change of heart to relinquish his parliamentary seat in a bid to end Dr Delia’s co-option saga.
His decision came as a surprise because throughout the PN leadership campaign he had repeatedly denied reports he had the intention or an agreement to make way for Dr Delia.
Dr Debono had even uploaded a post on his Facebook account last month accusing l-Orizzont of having “lied” about him for the third time, insisting he had no plans to give up the seat he had won from the seventh district.
“If this newspaper wants to start winning credibility, I urge the editor to stop publishing lies about me,” he had said.
A month down the line and Mr Debono was given a hero’s welcome after offering to be the ‘sacrificial lamb’ so that Dr Delia could also become Opposition leader.
His decision also raised eyebrows as it happened on the same day when it transpired that Mr Debono could face disciplinary action over his handling of proxy votes in the September 16 leadership election.
I wanted the seat issue to come to a close
In a confidential report leaked to the media the day before his resignation, the electoral commission overseeing the contest, flagged the case of a PN member who complained that Mr Debono had collected his voting document by proxy. The card-carrying member insisted he had never signed such a document.
Mr Debono strongly denied forging any signatures, though he admitted issuing a number of proxies. He added he had acted in good faith to facilitate the distribution of voting documents to the elderly, regardless of the preferred candidates
In its report, the commission chided him for not informing it of what it described as a “ruse” and for failing to verify the identity of those who made use of the proxy and the authenticity of their signature.
On his penultimate day as leader, Simon Busuttil asked the party’s administrative council to look into the matter, which meant Mr Debono could face disciplinary action.
The report prompted Gozitan MP Chris Said, who lost in a run-off with Dr Delia, to call for an investigation and executive committee member Caroline Galea went as far as saying that the election should be declared null.
Asked by this newspaper on the timing of his resignation, Mr Debono insisted it had nothing to do with the proxy vote controversy or any attempt to shift the focus away from this issue.
“This is not the case,” he said.
As for his decision to resign despite the declarations made last month that he had no such plan, Mr Debono said he had acted in the party’s interest.
“I wanted the seat issue to come to a close. That’s what made me change my mind,” he replied.
Soon after his announcement, speculation was running rife within party circles that Mr Debono would be rewarded for his act by a lucrative job.
Party sources mentioned the possibility of Mr Debono being appointed as Dr Delia’s personal assistant with a monthly salary to the tune of €4,500.
Mr Debono said there was no such deal.
However, he did not rule out the possibility of taking up a different post within the party administration.
“I am always available to serve the PN no matter what the circumstances dictate,” he said.
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