Sunday, 19 September 2010

MaltaToday: PN tells Edward Cuschieri to back down on deputy mayor ambitions

NATIONAL Wednesday, September 15, 2010; by Karl Stagno-Navarra

Edward Cuschieri, 82, is being pushed for Sliema deputy mayor by Labour and independent councillors.

Sliema councillor told to back down or expect expulsion from the party should he not toe the party line.

The Nationalist Party administration has reportedly warned Sliema councillor Edward Cuschieri to back down on his ambition to be appointed deputy mayor, and to expect expulsion from the party should he not toe the party line and support Cyrus Engerer for the post.

MaltaToday is informed that an infuriated secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier made it clear with all PN Sliema councillors that "enough is enough" and that the PN will not tolerate any more nonsense.

"Cyrus Engerer has the full support of the PN's administration," a senior PN spokesman told MaltaToday last night, adding that it is unacceptable that Cyrus Engerer is apparently being sidelined because of his sexual orientation.

Edward Cuschieri was not available for comment yesterday.

MaltaToday is informed that Paul Borg Olivier expressed his full support towards Cyrus Engerer, who is expected to be appointed deputy mayor when the council resumes business on September 22.

The warning comes as a calculated risk for the PN, which risks losing its majority in its most important stronghold, with Cuschieri signing a motion of no confidence in Engerer along with three Labour councillors and two independent councillors.

In the case of stalemate, the Sliema council could risk being dissolved by government, and new elections called in a scenario where disillusionment is high among a very demanding electorate.

Three weeks after the ousting of Nikki Dimech as mayor and his expulsion from the PN following his arrest and arraignment over alleged bribery, the PN was stunned by the no-confidence motion against Cyrus Engerer.

Engerer is an outspoken gay activist. His frontline appearance at this year's gay pride, where he was filmed kissing his companion, brought the councillor new attention.

In an interview with MaltaToday, he said he would consider voting for Labour if the party would put full marriage equality in its manifesto, saying gay marriage "makes a big difference to me."

The motion – presented on Monday – piloted by PL minority leader Martin Debono, states that "Cyrus Engerer is still young and doesn't have the experience to be a Deputy Mayor."

All three PL councillors are signatories to the motion, including Nicolai Gauci who is in the employ of former mayor Nikki Dimech.

Other signatories are Nikki Dimech and Sandra Camilleri, who are now independents, and Edward Cuschieri, who is also a member of the PN sectional committee in Sliema.

His signature upsets the PN's plans on Sliema, just a day after Prime Minister and PN leader Lawrence Gonzi spoke at length over the importance of "loyalty" by all councillors and party members.

Contacted yesterday, Martin Debono downplayed his role in the whole affair, stressing that the matter is a "feud between PN councillors."

But Debono declined to comment on why he was supporting the appointment of a PN councillor for the post of deputy mayor, and abstained from voting out Nikki Dimech and appointing Joanna Gonzi as Mayor.

"It is all a storm in a tea cup, as the whole Sliema issue has been blown out of proportion," Debono insisted.

Also contacted, Nikki Dimech stressed that he supports Edward Cuschieri and not Cyrus Engerer as deputy mayor on a "matter of principle."

Dimech accused Engerer of being the prime promoter behind his removal and "manoeuvring" behind his back.

But Dimech strongly denied the homophobic interpretation that is being given to the motive behind the motion. Dimech claimed he did not know the authors of a Facebook group called 'friends of Nikki Gelanz', but that he "appreciated their support."

The group posted pictures of Engerer with his arm on the shoulder of a male friend, lifted from his own Facebook profile, and peppered it with messages of a homophobic nature. "We have nothing against gays but for sure its (sic) dangerous to have you freely do what you want/ you should have respect to the other part of the human civilisation."

[Click on the hyperlink above to view MaltaStar's website.]

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