SATURDAY, JULY 16, 2011 By KARL STAGNO-NAVARRA
UPDATED | Sliema deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer has slammedPN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier for having called him yesterday insisting that he resigns from the Sliema council.
Engerer - who yesterday shocked the PN with his resignation and move to Labour in protest at Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's no-vote on the divorce bill - expressed 'disgust' at the way the PN was now trying to pressure him into resigning from the Sliema Council.
Speaking on One Radio this morning, Cyrus Engerer said that he has already declared that he will remain loyal towards Sliema residents that elected him to the council, and although he was elected on the PN ticket, he will stay on as an independent and see to the well-being of all Sliema residents.
"The PN must stop these manoevres where it tries to bully its way into local councils business, and although I knew about it, it only hit me now that I am going through it myself," Engerer told his interviewer.
The outspoken gay-rights activist officially resigned from the PN in the wake of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s vote against the divorce bill last Wednesday, and has publicly called for Gonzi’s resignation.
Engerer’s resignation awards Labour an unprecedented majority on the Sliema nationalist stronghold and comes a shock for the PN that even attempted to dampen the impact by spinning a story in The Times that reported “Cyrus Engerer has no intention of resigning from the Nationalist Party in spite of ruffling feathers with comments he wrote on Facebook following the Prime Minister's "no" vote in the second reading of the divorce debate in Parliament.”
In a statement, the Nationalist Party said it disagreed with Engerer's motivations to resign, adding that the PN always embraced "diverse opinions." However, the PN "accepted" Cyrus Engerer's resignation.
Reacting to the news, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said that "Labour is the new natural home for moderates and progressives who feel part of a movement that goes beyond petty politics."
Muscat said that Gonzi has "lost his moral leadership" and added that his [Gonzi's] obstinate “no” vote was a vote of no-confidence in the better judgement and will of the Maltese people.
"Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi no longer represents the Maltese people” and “has committed political suicide” wrote Engerer on social networking site on Facebook on Wednesday.
Following the outcome of Wednesdays vote during the divorce bill’s second reading in parliament, Engerer took to commenting on Facebook to vent his frustration at how Gonzi defied what many felt a direct expression of the people’s will and vote against the divorce bill.
Engerer referred to statements made by Nationalist MP and Gonzi’s brother Michael Gonzi, who said that he would not be a dictator by voting against the divorce bill when the people had expressly voted in favour of it.
“Even the PM's own brother, MP Michael Gonzi, has stated in parliament that the PM is a dictator when he said that anyone who votes ‘no’, after having consulted the people in a referendum, is a dictator,” Engerer wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.
In his comment, Engerer maintained that despite how he never criticized Gonzi for his anti-divorce stance, “a PM cannot go against the will of the majority following a vote.”
He also pointed out that in Wednesday’ vote during the divorce bill’s second reading in parliament, “the country's executive, cabinet, [went] against the will of the majority too.”
“Has our government lost its democratic credentials?” Engerer questioned.
A member of the PN’s liberal ranks and a pro-divorce lobbyist in the run up to the referendum, Engerer went on to lament how the Nationalist Party had “always boasted of its democratic credentials, after what happened in 1981 and the needed changes it brought to our country after 1987.”
He also said that the PN was the party that, following the 2003 accession EU referendum, attacked the Labour Party and its leader (Alfred Sant) “for going against and voting against in parliament what was decided by the people.”
“Today, I now expect Lawrence Gonzi to tell us that he was mistaken in 2003, and that Alfred Sant was right because he did the exact same thing,” Engerer maintained. “They both [made] undemocratic decisions.”
Engerer argued that under these circumstances, he, like many other PN supporters from various walks of life, “cannot remain silent”.
“Lawrence Gonzi no longer represents the Maltese population, he has committed political suicide and, if he has the country's and the party's interests at heart, he should resign immediately,” Engerer said in no uncertain terms.
Pointing to North African and other Mediterranean countries afflicted by social unrest due to “heads of state or government [who] went against the will of the majority,” Engerer said that while “a different scenario, since we have the likes of a dictatorship only on civil rights…. it is still unacceptable.”
“Unless there are immediate changes, many people's options will only remain to disassociate themselves from government and from the party,” Engerer warned.
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the relevant website.]