10 JULY 2002

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Cutajar flirts with MLP but denies wanting to contest election

The mystery of Mario Cutajar’s resignation from the General Workers’ Union deepened last Sunday when Mr Cutajar was seen in the audience gathered at the Labour Party club in Ghaxaq during the customary Sunday morning speech delivered by Labour leader Alfred Sant.

Mr Cutajar’s presence at the Labour Party meeting came soon after he had denied that he was interested in contesting the next general election with the Labour Party. In fact, that very same Sunday, our sister newspaper MaltaToday reproduced Mr Cutajar’s comments in which he denied having such an intention.

When approached by journalists on Sunday, Mr Cutajar maintained his silence and would not comment on the motives for the resignation.

Both Tony Zarb and Mario Cutajar had given MaltaToday a plain ‘no comment’ reply when asked the reason for the deputy secretary general’s sudden break with union ranks.

The former deputy secretary general was known to be very close to Labour leader Alfred Sant, something, which did not put him in Tony Zarb’s good books. And Mr Cutajar’s presence at an MLP activity so soon after his resignation from the union has strengthened the perceived close link between Mario Cutajar and Alfred Sant.

Union insiders commented that despite being the ‘brains’ behind the union, Mario Cutajar was a difficult person to work with and it is understood that he clashed on a number of occasions with Tony Zarb.

Mr Cutajar was also tipped as the next GWU secretary general, something, that did not please the section secretaries too much.

Sources said that with Mario Cutajar at the helm, the powers of the section secretaries would have been curtailed given his style of leadership. However, union officials have publicly denied that Mr Cutajar was forced to resign by his own colleagues.

Mario Cutajar was elected deputy secretary general in October 1998 after a keen contest with the shipyards section secretary Tony Coleiro.

Contacted by our sister newspaper Tony Coleiro did not exclude the possibility that he might contest the post vacated by Mr Cutajar.

"If the GWU decides to issue a vacancy for such a post I will decide on the day whether to contest. At the moment I can't say that I shall contest or shall not contest, I have to see the circumstances on the day," Mr Coleiro said.

The militant trade unionist insisted that it was the union’s prerogative whether to issue a vacancy for the post. The union has two deputy secretary generals, Michael Parnis, who is responsible for foreign operations and the other, Mario Cutajar who was responsible for all the sections.

Mr Coleiro insisted that there was no grudge between Mario Cutajar and himself. "I respected Mario and he respected me," Mr Coleiro insisted saying that what was published in the newspapers last week was "all a lie."

However, Tony Coleiro would not be drawn into commenting on the personal clashes between Tony Zarb and Mario Cutajar. "If you want to know something just ask Mr Zarb or Mr Cutajar, I always worked for the good of the GWU and not for the good of individuals," Mr Coleiro remarked.

In just over a year the GWU has lost three officials. First it was section secretary and militant trade unionist Ronnie Pellegrini, who walked out. Then came GWU president James Pearsall, who did not re-contest the post of president and took up a job at the newly opened Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.

Mario Cutajar’s departure from the union has led to mixed reactions in the organisation. Most union officials do not know what happened and are confused with the rapidity with which events occurred. The silence that has accompanied the resignation is doing nothing to put heads at rest and with Mr Cutajar’s public flirting with the Labour Party it may only be a matter of time before union officials see their former colleague join hands with the party.

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Editor: Saviour Balzan
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