Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Times: PN asks councillor to withdraw support for no-confidence motion

Wednesday, 15th September 2010 - 08:15CET

Sliema Nationalist councillor Edward Cuschieri has been asked by his party to withdraw his support for the motion he signed nominating him as deputy mayor instead of fellow PN council member Cyrus Engerer who, by law, is next in line.

The party did not say how it would deal with Mr Cuschieri, 82, if he persists in his support.

Mr Cuschieri has been avoiding the media since he and five other councillors (making up a majority) tabled the motion on Monday.

“You don’t need to call here anymore,” a family member said yesterday when contacted at home. Besides Mr Cuschieri, the motion has the support of the three Labour councillors and two others who recently resigned from the PN: former mayor Nikki Dimech and Sandra Camilleri.

The motion of no confidence in Mr Engerer still needs to be approved by the Director of Local Government and is likely to be rejected because, according to law, Mr Engerer must be appointed and only then can a motion of no-confidence be tabled. This means signatures would have to be sought once more.

When asked if the PN had effectively lost its comfortable majority in a traditional stronghold, a party spokesman said that was “gratuitous”.

“Mr Engerer has the full backing of the PN and, as always, the PN will act according to the spirit of the law,” the party said yesterday as it lambasted the Labour Party for supporting the “undemocratic” motion.

The PN accused the PL of supporting a person who it said solicited a bribe, in a reference to Mr Dimech, who was deposed soon after pleading not guilty in court to charges including bribery.

Mr Engerer, 29, has expressed surprise at seeing Mr Cuschieri’s signature on the motion, saying they always worked well together.

The motion says that Mr Engerer does not have enough maturity or experience for the job, a claim he challenged pointing out there were several mayors and deputy mayors younger than him and that he was also a graduate in politics.

Mr Engerer believes there are “other” reasons behind the motion, although he has not spelled them out. A Facebook group has been set up mocking Mr Engerer for his homosexuality.

When contacted, Mr Engerer said the group highlighted the level of intolerance in Malta, showing the need for more to be done in terms of gay rights.

“Seeing all this, I am proud to belong to a party that accepts diversity and does not discriminate when it comes to its membership and candidacy in elections on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said. He said the motion against him showed Labour to be an “opportunistic” party only paying lip service to issues such as youth involvement and tolerance towards diversity.

The PL said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi should look into what was happening in his party, adding that, due to arrogance and threats, the party had lost its comfortable majority. It added that “GonziPN” was in no position to give lessons on minority rights, especially because of its “disastrous record” on homophobia-related votes at the European Parliament.

When contacted, the PL denied the motion had anything to do with Mr Engerer’s sexual orientation, saying it was shameful for the PN to try to exploit it. It had nothing to do with Mr Engerer’s age either but, rather, the “disrespectful way he treats fellow council members”. The party did not give details.

Mr Engerer wondered why this new reason was not mentioned in the motion and challenged the party to give examples of when this happened, adding he did not recall any such instances.

During last year’s local election, Mr Engerer gained the third largest number of votes from the elected PN candidates and Mr Cuschieri got the least.

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