GSD Leader Keith Azopardi yesterday moved to reunify the party, announcing the “hard but necessary” readmission of Lawrence Llamas as a GSD member and parliamentarian and the co-option of Damon Bossino as a member of the Executive.
The move swells the ranks of the GSD to six MPs as the party steers its focus on contesting the next general election by presenting a “consolidated, strengthened, real” alternative to government.
The development follows a “full, thorough and comprehensive” debate on these issues at a meeting of the party’s Executive on Tuesday evening.
Speaking at a press conference at party headquarters yesterday, Mr Azopardi acknowledged that the return of Mr Llamas may have been a “hard” decision for some members.
“I understand that it is hard, because things happened that we all agree were regrettable.”
“But, it is important to move on,” he said.
“This is hard but necessary and important and positive,” he insisted.
Mr Llamas stood on a GSD ticket at the 2015 general election.
But he resigned from the party last year in the wake of controversy surrounding his decision to break ranks by voting in favour of the Appropriation Bill while his fellow MPs voted against it.
In doing so he cited “stark differences” and a “loss of trust” with the party’s then leader Daniel Feetham, despite the latter having already indicated to the GSD executive his intention to step down as leader.
“The circumstances surrounding his resignation were regrettable and the mutual desire that Mr Llamas should return to the party demonstrates a resolve to move forward and draw a line under that history,” the GSD stated in a press briefing.
Mr Azopardi, however, insisted that this development should in no way be seen as a marker or development in relation to Mr Feetham’s future with the GSD.
“Danny stood down as the leader of this party for reasons he articulated at the time,” he said.
“He has continued to be a committed member of the party and parliamentarian and continues to do tireless work on behalf of this community and I hope that he will continue to do that.”
“So nothing about today is about Danny’s future,” he added.
Mr Azopardi confirmed the news at a press conference held at the party’s College Lane headquarters yesterday, having refused to comment sooner despite mounting press speculation after GBC broke the story on Tuesday night.
He was joined in making the announcement by the Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips, and party chairman Freddie Ballester.
The conference coincided with a meeting of the Brexit Select Committee which was attended by Mr Feetham and Trevor Hammond.
The return of Mr Llamas to his “natural political home” culminates discussions over recent months in the context of Mr Azopardi’s desire to encourage the renewed participation of members and former members of the party.
Mr Llamas said he would not reflect on the past other than to acknowledge the “challenge” the past 11 months had presented for him and his family.
“The changes I have observed have helped me lead to my conclusion that it is time to reengage with my party,” he said.
“I am confident that this process of change is only just the beginning of the GSD and what will become a party ready to be able to step into government at the next general election because the community deserves it,” he added.
Mr Llamas said he fully supports Mr Azopardi as leader of the GSD, adding that he looked forward to being a “key contributor” in the delivery of his aims and objectives both internally and in the wider political context in the months and years to come.
Mr Llamas said: “It is important that we come together to leverage the talents of our team in pursuit of the greater good.”
“The greater good is served by the return to office of a renewed and reinvigorated GSD undertaking an honest, and forward looking renewal.”
“It is clear that this can be best achieved as a united team.”
“During the last year I have, with support, done a lot of work on a number of areas which, I believe, has moulded me into the politician I am today.”
“I am excited about making a contribution as a GSD MP once again and to work hard for GSD members and constituents.”
“I will also be investing my energy in rebuilding my working relationship with MPs and Executive and other members.”
Mr Bossino, who opted not to contest November’s leadership election despite obtaining all the necessary votes to do so, did not shy away from making his political ambition known.
When asked if he would put his name forward as a candidate for the 2019 general election he indicated that he would offer himself to the Executive as a candidate.
Mr Bossino said: “Mr Azopardi has made clear his ambition that the party unify and re-energise.”
“A lot of work has been done and more needs to be done in preparation for the next general election.”
“We have today seen changes at the parliamentary level with Mr Llamas’ return and we have the forthcoming AGM on 24th May to look forward to.”
“All of this comes in the wake of the appointment of Mr Ballester and Mr El Yabani as the Chairman and Membership Secretary recently.”
“I hope to make a further contribution to the renewal of the party and help in making it a real and attractive option for Government next time round.”
Pics by Johnny Bugeja