Dr Simon Busuttil was elected as the new PN leader in the second round of the leadership contest held yesterday in which he was the only candidate. Dr Busuttil obtained 802 votes out of a total of 863 valid votes cast (or 93 percent), well in excess of the required two-thirds prescribed under the party’s statute. Dr Busuttil, who becomes Leader of the Opposition for the next five years, is the seventh PN leader in the party’s 133-year history.
The occasion also served as an occasion for the councillors to farewell his predecessor Lawrence Gonzi, who had already hinted that he would now resign from parliament to ensure that Dr Busuttil will have a free hand in the running of the party.
An official tribute to Dr Gonzi then followed, through a short feature highlighting his political achievements throughout his nine-year leadership, during which he was prime minister. PN councillors then formally thanked the former PN leader for his service through a unanimous vote which was taken by show of hands.
New leader’s first address
In his first address, Dr Busuttil said that it is with great honour that he was addressing them as their leader. He said that he joined the party for its European vision. He said that he is bound to accept this challenge, saying that he never expected his life to take such a twist. He added that he feels ready to shoulder the responsibilities of the leadership, vowing to dedicate himself totally for the party’s cause. He thanked his parents and two children Gregory and Zachary.
Dr Busuttil thanked his predecessor, Dr Gonzi, as well as Dr Eddie Fenech Adami. He also thanked the other three contestants in the leadership race saying that he needs them by his side to overcome the challenges ahead as well as outgoing secretary general Paul Borg Olivier.
The new PN leader said that the first priority is for the party to unite and open its doors. “I will strive to see the party united. The doors of the party are wide open for those of good will” he said. However, he said that the party has to take the initiative first and thus he will be the first one to go and knock on people’s doors and urged MPs to follow his example.
“We need to become a people’s party once again. We cannot take Nationalists for granted, but at the same time have to win over those who left or never formed party of this party”. Dr Busuttil said that as from today he will start working to make the party closer to the people and build a strong team. He said he will address the parliamentary group later today to outline his plans.
Dr Busuttil said that he will be putting forward a number of proposals to lift the party out of its financial crisis. He then reiterated his plans to set up various commission to look at the financial aspect, commission to revise the party statute, the selection of candidates and set up a college of candidates and former MPs.
Borrowing a phrase from the PN hymn, the new PN leader urged people to come forward and contribute to make the PN the people’s party.
Gonzi’s final address as party leader
In his final address as party leader Dr Gonzi recounted the early years of his leadership when Malta joined the EU. He said that in his first address in 2004 he had pledged to make best use of Malta’s membership while contributing also to enrich European values. Dr Gonzi said that the PN’s track record and achievements have to be defended. In a rather passionate speech he said that PN councillors have to be proud about the party’s track record in government.
Dr Gonzi expressed his conviction that the party has a rosy future ahead, with Dr Busuttil at the helm. He concluded his speech laying emphasis on loyalty and unity within the party. Dr Gonzi remarked that politicians are there to serve the people and not vice versa, whilst questioning the approach taken by the Labour government “for whom there seems to be no code of ethics”. He thanked his family for their support throughout the difficult years of his career and pledged his unconditional loyalty to Dr Busuttil, with PN councilors giving him a standing ovation.[Source: www.independent.com.mt]