Kristy Debono is "trying to take the nation for a ride", a former ambassador has charged in a scathing attack after the Nationalist Party's general council president sought a sponsorship from the owner of once-secret company 17 Black.
Ms Debono described as an "error of judgement" her meeting with Yorgen Fenech, which was revealed by The Sunday Times of Malta last weekend. She was accompanied by PN MP Hermann Schiavone.
University lecturer Prof. Vicki Ann Cremona, a former ambassador to France and Tunisia during the Gonzi administration, said in a Talking Point in Times of Malta on Friday that if Ms Debono was naive in her judgement, then there is no place for her at the top rungs of the party.
"If she isn't, then the party needs to see why she initially lied, and take the necessary action."
Last year, in a joint investigation by the Times of Malta and Reuters, Yorgen Fenech was identified as the owner of 17 Black, which had been named in leaked e-mails as one of two companies that would pay $2 million to Panama companies belonging to the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Prof. Cremona said that Ms Debono, more than anyone else in the party, should understand the gravity of asking for an encounter with anyone connected with Mr Fenech, "his money-making resources and his lying cronies, such as Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and the rest of their sorry lot".
"Ms Debono’s inability to evaluate the consequences of asking for money, sponsorship or favours from a company he runs reveals – at the very least – total indifference to those ethical values that some members of her party, as well as those of civil society, are still trying hard to defend against all odds," she said.
Her meeting has not simply dented the party’s anti-corruption credentials - it has gone at them with a sledgehammer.
She asks why with the exception of one MP, nobody in the Nationalist Party had uttered a word about such unacceptable behaviour.
"How sad that we are all holding our breath to see whether there remains, in fact, a real Opposition that goes beyond empty words, meaningless phrases and unimpressive action.
"It seems to have become a national pastime for some prominent politicians to lie publicly. What is worse, they are not held to public account for lying and made to answer for their offence towards the nation."