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Top Story • March 28 2004

Labour’s choices for President revealed

Kurt Sansone, Matthew Vella and Julian Manduca

Ombudsman Joe Sammut is one of the three people whose names were submitted to government by the Labour Party to be considered for the post of President, MaltaToday can reveal.
Joe Sammut was appointed Ombudsman for two terms with Parliament’s unanimous approval and his position was recently identified, by over 80 per cent of the general public, as the most credible institution. Cabinet has, however, decided to rule out Sammut and stick with former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami.
The other two names proposed by the Labour Opposition were those of Yvonne Micallef Stafrace, wife of former 1970s Labour minister Joe Micallef Stafrace and Joe Curmi, a little known former senior civil servant.
None of the three have been approached by the Labour Party to determine whether they would be interested in the post of President of the Republic. An approach which could have had embarrassing implications had the individuals found favour with Cabinet, but were not ready to accept the post.
Contacted by MaltaToday for their reactions both Joe Sammut and Yvonne Micallef Stafrace said they were surprised by the news, but would not be drawn into commenting on whether they would have accepted the nomination. Joe Curmi a former senior civil servant who also served at Castille could not be contacted.
Labour leader Alfred Sant submitted the three names last Monday. The appointment of the new president was discussed during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and on Thursday, the Prime Minister communicated the decision to opt for Fenech Adami to Labour deputy leader Charles Mangion. Gonzi insisted that the decision was final and non-negotiable, MaltaToday has been told.
Meanwhile, MaltaToday can reveal that Fenech Adami’s appointment does not enjoy the support of all the ministers and Nationalist Party MPs even though they are expected to pull the same rope in tomorrow’s vote.
On Friday, addressing supporters at a mass rally, Alfred Sant ruled out a boycott of the President’s office and insisted the Opposition would tomorrow call a division and vote against Fenech Adami’s appointment when the motion comes up for discussion.
The decision did not go down well with Labour die-hards clamouring for a boycott of the man they so revile. Yesterday, deputy leader Michael Falzon and secretary general Jason Micallef, on Super One radio were painstakingly explaining the party’s decision to forego a boycott after a couple of callers expressed their dismay at the decision.
During Friday’s mass rally, Sant said the Labour Opposition would respect the Office of the President, a post created by the attainment of the Republic in 1974. He also reserved harsh words for Cabinet’s decision to appoint Fenech Adami and insisted it did not bode well for the new way of doing politics championed by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Sant pointed out that a distinction must be made between the post of the President of the Republic, which must always be respected, and the person occupying that post.
He refused to make public Labour’s three suggested names but insisted they were people who enjoyed everybody’s respect and could have acted as a unifying force in the country.




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