Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando leaving PN headquarters at 11pm. Photo: Ray Attard/Mediatoday
Updated today at 9:10am.
Photo and video Ray Attard/Mediatoday
UPDATE: A meeting will be held with the Prime Minister and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando during which Pullicino Orlando is expected to explain his position vis-a-vis the party. The meeting was called by Pullicino Orlando after yesterday's vote, and the conclusions emerging from the meeting are expected to have a bearing on Gonzi's electoral options.
Friends close to Pullinco Orlando said that the Zebbug MP was "exhausted" after yesterday's session - in which he was criticised by a number of senior MPs - but that he was very clear on the steps that needed to be taken.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said a five-hour meeting on the accusations of collusion against the party's chief strategist Richard Cachia Caruana, had cleared the former permanent representative to the EU.
The unanimous vote was taken by a show of hands at the end of a meeting in which EU Commissioner John Dalli testified by teleconference in a 25-minute speech, answering to questions made by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who requested that Cachia Caruana be expelled from the party.
Gonzi said there was no "shred of evidence" to substantiate the accusations made against Cachia Caruana, which led to a motion approved by the PN executive committee not to forge ahead with any testimony from Cachia Caruana.
In comments given to MaltaToday, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said this was "a time for reflection for [him] after a very tiring evening."
The motion, proposed by MP Francis Zammit Dimech and seconded by minister Jason Azzopardi, resolved in an expression of solidarity towards Cachia Caruana.
"Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando was given the space to make his presentation, and this process was carried out democratically, so the final decision has to be respected.
"Two of the witnesses summoned by Pullicino Orlando - two Labour MPs - chose not to attend this meeting, but their affidavits were still read out, although there was no 'counter-examination' of their claims."
Gonzi said this was "a typical Labour tactic" at making accusations without being held up to scrutiny.
The prime minister also said that the two other witnesses advanced by Pullicino Orlando - John Dalli and Gordon Pisani - presented "no single proof" on his accusations made against Richard Cachia Caruana.
"John Dalli said he had some information to pass on to me, which we decided to discuss in a forthcoming meeting."
Asked about Pullicino Orlando's status within the party, Gonzi said the PN's executive had already taken its decision a week earlier when it banned the MP from running on the PN ticket for the forthcoming general elections.
"Once again we have seen proof of Labour's outdated tactics, and personal attacks," Gonzi said. "I want to know what the investigations Joseph Muscat purported to have had carried out on this incident were. Did he investigate the allegations made by Joe Mizzi or Karmenu Vella, for which they were solely responsible as ministers?"
Pullicino Orlando accused Cachia Caruana of having colluded with high-ranking members of the Labour administration led by Alfred Sant between 1996 and 1998 "in an attempt at furthering his personal interests whilst putting his colleagues in the Nationalist administration led by Dr Eddie Fenech Adami between 1987 and 1996 in a bad light."
Pullicino Orlando also claimed that Cachia Caruana colluded with high ranking officials representing foreign states in a clear attempt at bypassing the Nationalist Party parliamentary group and the Maltese parliament, and that he "fomented the unrest which had led to the difficulties being faced by Dr Gonzi, both within the party and in Parliament."
The MP presented five witnesses to make his case: two Labour MPs said they will not attend, although they have made their accusations public already; the Prime Minister's chief of communications Gordon Pisani has denied Pullicino Orlando's allegations, while former Commissioner of Police George Grech has denied allegations of a botched police investigation made by Labour whip Joe Mizzi.
Also present for the PN's executive committee meeting tonight was former prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami, who expressed his "absolute trust" in Cachia Caruana.
The meeting also saw transport and investments minister Austin Gatt claiming that Pullicino Orlando had told him during the election victory celebrations of 2008 that he had threatened to create problems if he was not offered a Cabinet post.