‘Arrigo’s like my second dad. Maybe that’s why I’m finding obstacles in the party’
Sliema’s Nationalist councillor Nikki Dimech revealed all in a candid interview for sister newspaper Illum – to be published this Sunday – over his dissatisfaction at his mentor Robert Arrigo being left out of the Cabinet after being elected from two districts in 2008.
Dimech, who is seeking re-election on the Sliema council, is the treasurer of Sliema Wanderers FC, of which Arrigo was formerly president.
Dimech however confides that his bid for re-election – possibly eyeing the mayorship left vacant by Marina Arrigo, Robert’s wife – has not been easy.
“I can see it from the manoeuvres being orchestrated against me. I was only invited to a Net TV programme recently, after a four-week boycott,” Dimech said.
“I was one of the last candidates to be invited on to the party media. They just asked me a senseless question such as: ‘Is Sliema a one-stop shop?’ It was something we never discussed in the electoral programme. I froze. I’m not saying anything about the party media, but these things hurt me.”
Expressing deep admiration for his mentor Robert Arrigo, Dimech says many in Sliema still remain baffled at the prime minister’s decision to leave Arrigo out of the Cabinet.
“I don’t know why he was never made a minister. It’s something many people ask to this day. Certainly there must be someone who wanted to eliminate him… Some people wanted to depict Arrigo as being against Lawrence Gonzi, but it’s untrue.”
Dimech said Arrigo had been crucial for the PN to retain the elusive Sliema vote in the last general election, and that the MP was hurt at having been left out of the new Cabinet.
“I never saw him cry as much as he did that day,” referring to the day Gonzi chose his new Cabinet. “And he had all reason to, since he was elected on two districts. Labourites actually voted for him out of respect for what he did for Sliema Wanderers.”
Calling him his “second father”, Dimech said that – “like Arrigo” – he put the party before anything else.
“In 2006 the Prime Minister told me to make way for Marina, Robert’s wife, who was contesting the Sliema council elections. I moved out of the way, for the party. Today the Prime Minister is seeing it differently – maybe he has recognised my qualities. I appreciate this.”
Dimech also took umbrage at the leak to Labour organ KullHadd of a confidential email he sent to a member of the Sliema sectional committee, of which he is president, apparently bragging that Gonzi had “recognised his capabilities” at an event he organised for the PM.
As things stand, the committee is evenly divided between two factions supporting Dimech, for his allegiance to Arrigo; and newcomer Cyrus Engerer, who enjoys the support of the party machinery.
“I am still stunned at how Labour got to know of this email. I get serious doubts whether the party wants me or not. Maybe the Prime Minister does not know of these things.”
Dimech said he will only contest the next general elections if Arrigo decides to back out of the running. “I am loyal towards Robert – he guided me, he’s always been honest with me and I want to be honest in everything with him. We’re united. If he doesn’t contest the next election, I will contest.”