Ronnie Pellegrini, a Labour Party militant and former chief canvasser of disgraced minister Lorry Sant, has been given a direct appointment by Transport Minister Ian Borg as an adviser to the newly appointed chairman of Transport Malta, Joseph Bugeja.
However, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed that Mr Pellegrini’s appointment – seen as a move by the minister to help him in his aspirations to replace Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – is viewed by some as having backfired, particularly among many young and middle-aged Labour delegates who consider Mr Pellegrini as a relic of Labour’s darkest past.
Contacted by this newspaper, a spokeswoman for Dr Borg confirmed that Mr Pellegrini has been given a role at Transport Malta but denied that this was some top management position at the agency, as speculated by the PN media.
“Mr Pellegrini is being appointed by the authority as an advisor to the chairman’s office, which appointment is on a part-time basis,” she specified, without giving details on what role he will play.
A government source told this newspaper that Mr Pellegrini, a former section secretary at the GWU, will be assisting the new chairman in all matters related to human resources.
The source described his ‘second’ job with the government as an attempt by Dr Borg to engage with Labour grassroots while controlling ‘certain elements’ at the important authority which were considered to be in the ‘camp’ of former chairman James Piscopo – a supporter of MEP Miriam Dalli.
Ronnie is not very well liked by a lot of the delegates as he is seen as part of the old guard which did a lot of harm to Labour in the late 1970s and 1980s
Mr Pellegrini is already employed as a full-time advisor to Justice Minister Owen Bonnici. The nature of the advice Mr Pellegrini gives the Justice Minster is unknown. Mr Pellegrini was given a political appointment by Dr Bonnici only a few weeks after the last Labour deputy leadership contest following the resignation of Louis Grech.
At the time Mr Pellegrini was European Affairs Minister Helena Dalli’s chief of staff. However, following Dr Dalli’s poor result in that contest last year, the relationship between the two turned sour and Mr Pellegrini was asked to leave her ministry. Labour Party delegates who spoke to this newspaper described Dr Borg’s latest move as “a crucial mistake”.
“Minister Borg miscalculated heavily in trying to impress Labour delegates by associating himself with Mr Pellegrini,” a senior delegate told The Sunday Times of Malta.
“Ronnie is not very well liked by a lot of the delegates as he is seen as part of the old guard which did a lot of harm to Labour in the late 1970s and 1980s when our party was in a real pitiful situation.
“Just look at what happened to Helena Dalli who came last in the deputy leadership contest despite being unofficially endorsed by Joseph Muscat. It seems Dr Borg did not learn anything from that experience,” the delegate said.
“So far, Dr Borg has been positioning himself very well in the contest to replace Dr Muscat. He was seen as a better alternative to Chris Fearne and MEP Miriam Dalli,” another young party delegate said.
“He’s young, he delivers and is not really associated with the past of Labour.
“The latest move, of associating himself with Pellegrini, surely did not improve his chances,” the delegate said.
Although Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has not yet indicated when he will make his exit, jockeying among party delegates by those aspiring to replace him is in full swing.
Labour sources indicated that so far three candidates seem to be in pole position.
While Ms Dalli is considered to be Castille’s preferred choice, Mr Borg is considered as a “strong challenge” if he plays his cards well.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Fearne is also in a strong positon but is not considered to be very popular among the present party leadership and top officials at the Office of the Prime Minister.
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