Dr. Jason Azzopardi, a Nationalist Party (PN) insider, has left the party after two turbulent years. His resignation comes just one day after the PN gave him an ultimatum to prove his allegations against the Opposition leader.
A public spat between Azzopardi and Grech erupted over the weekend, sparked by the PN leader’s remark that “every politician has an expiry date,” an apparent reference to the former MP. For the first time since 1998, Azzopardi did not win a seat in parliament in the March election.
With these shots fired across each others’ bows, on Monday evening, Dr Jason Azzopardi presented his resignation to the party’s secretary-general Michael Piccinino. Azzopardi wrote in his resignation letter that he was returning his PN membership “with a sorrowful heart.” Azzopardi’s resignation comes a day after the PN gave him 24 hours to back up assertions he made on social media.
Giving up his membership, according to Azzopardi, was like giving up a piece of himself, as the PN had been his home since he was 17 years old. He claimed that the values and principles that drove him to join the party in 1988 were still alive and well within him. He also stated that he had decided to quit after much thought because he was unwilling to sacrifice his convictions.
All of this came after Azzopardi claimed in a Facebook post on Saturday that he had blocked a contribution to the party from someone requesting a pardon for a relative, most likely referring to Yorgen Fenech, a murder suspect. Fenech, a business tycoon, had repeated pardon requests denied by the government in 2019. Fenech is accused of being involved in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Dr Grech flatly denied the party had received any such contributions on Sunday, urging Azzopardi to back up his assertions with the party’s ethics commission.
Dr. Azzopardi said in a social media post on Monday evening, following his resignation, that Dr Grech got a gift in December 2021 from relatives of a murder suspect, whom Azzopardi did not name, at a dinner that also included a contractor and a “major appliances entrepreneur.” He stated that the Tumas relatives are not a part of the Tumas corporate empire. Azzopardi believes that the two relatives approached Grech before the meal and pressured him to lobby for the indicted individual to be granted a presidential pardon. “I’m told that if he were prime minister, the PN leader would be likely to recommend such a pardon,” Azzopardi added.
Dr. Grech has previously stated that if there was no other way to discover the truth in the death of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, he would consider pardoning Yorgen Fenech. When asked if Grech supports a pardon for Fenech, a PN spokeswoman informed ‘The Times of Malta’ that “Dr Grech was and will always be in favour of the complete truth coming out,” and that Bernard Grech “never discussed Yorgen Fenech, a clemency agreement, or a pardon with anyone.”