MaltaToday, 16 April 2008 | Abela approved early 1998 election, George Vella claims


NEWS | Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Abela approved early 1998 election, George Vella claims

Julia Farrugia

Former Labour foreign minister George Vella yesterday revealed that back in July 1998, George Abela had voted in favour of a motion calling for early general elections in September of that year – contradicting Abela’s own claims that he had always opposed the idea of going to the polls after just 22 months.
“On that day in the national executive, when we were asked who was in favour of this motion, the vote was unanimous,” the former deputy leader claimed in comments to MaltaToday. “When we were asked if there were any abstentions or any votes against, no one raised his hand: not even George Abela.”
So far, the general perception has always been that Abela – also a former MLP deputy leader, and now a contender in the leadership battle – was fully against the idea of steering the MLP towards an early general election, after Prime Minister Alfred Sant lost a vote of confidence thanks to a backbench revolt by Dom Mintoff.
Vella also slammed revelations by Abela that Labour had planned a U-turn on EU membership in 1997. Abela claimed a select group of Labour ministers had held internal discussions “as we believed it was high time to remove the EU freeze. I’ll never forget that,” he told this week’s Sunday Times in an interview.
But George Vella, who was foreign minister at the time, argues otherwise. “This is not true. I don’t know of any position paper, and never participated in any discussion to change the Labour Party’s policy in relation with the European Union,” Vella insisted. “I was never involved in any meetings to change our policy. I hardly believe these meetings were even held, unless they were not to talk about the convergence concept. If this was the case, then this never and in no way implied any changes in the MLP’s position,” Vella insisted.
Vella is not the only Labour official to contradict Abela’s version of events.
Emanuel Cuschieri – then MLP vice president – also poured cold water on Abela’s claims to have opposed early elections. “My memory is still there, and I perfectly recall that the administration at that time agreed unanimously to recommend the motion to the national executive of the MLP,” Cuschieri said. “The vote was unanimous, and there was no one who said ‘no, I don’t agree’.”
On the other hand, most party officials preferred to remain tight-lipped about the matter. Mario Vella – the ex-president of the Labour Party who chaired the historical July 1998 MLP executive meeting – refused to comment, as did party whip Joe Mizzi.
For his part Jimmy Magro, then secretary-general, snapped back: “I don’t want to say what happened under my administration.”
Evarist Bartolo was also present for the executive meeting, but he preferred not to comment, as he is himself a contender for the post of party leader. Michael Falzon, another contender, expressed an identical reply.
Confronted with these claims, George Abela stood firm with his previous declarations. “When the issue was discussed at administration level the discussion was whether there should be an election in summer or after the summer Parliament recess. At that time I insisted that we should not go for an early election,” he said.
As regards George Vella and Manuel Cuschieri’s claims about the National Executive vote of July 1998, Abela had this to say: “Yes, in the National Executive I agreed with the wording of the motion. I agreed to go to a general conference with that motion. But I never agreed that the Labour Government goes for an election.”
But a senior Labour MP, who preferred not to go on record, said that Abela “is simply playing with words.”
“If George Abela was that adamant against a general election, he should have voted against that motion. In that way, his firm position would have been recorded in the minutes of the executive meeting.”

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.




MaltaToday News
16 April 2008

Nuns take ‘vow of silence’ on Lourdes Home abuse

Back from the wilderness

Labour leadership

MaltaToday in Ombudsman’s 2007 selected case-list

Maltese man charged with human trafficking freed

Bishops call for prayer to defend unborn at Council of Europe

MLP accuses government of being ‘anti-national’

Increase in Maltese travellers in February

New law introduces civil liability for environmental damage

MIDI borehole seeping mud into the sea

Charles Thake sustains minor injuries on ‘Agora’ set

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email