Welcome to MaltaToday's live-blog for today's debate on the Opposition motion calling on the Prime Minister to demand the resignation of permanent representative to the EU, Richard Cachia Caruana. REFRESH
BACKGROUND MaltaToday reported back in 2011 during the publication of the leaked US embassy cables by Wikileaks that the reactivation of Partnership for Peace had come about through some skillfull negotiation on the part of Cachia Caruana to argue that Malta never withdrew from PfP back in 1996. A year later, in April 2012, the Opposition filed a motion calling for RCC's resignation, alleging his actions were intended at bypassing the House. It is unclear whether the result of Malta's reactivation was down to Labour's imperfect withdrawal. According to Cachia Caruana, he was unaware the Prime Minister ever intended to reactivate when he did, the PfP participation.
All photos by Ray Attard/MediaToday
21:22 Mugliett abstains. The motion is approved 35 votes in favour, 33 against and one abstantion.
21:20 Jesmond Muglett does not stand up with his fellow government MPs to vote against the motion.
21:18 Pullicino Orlando and the 34 Labour MPs vote for the motion. The motion is approved.
21:16 Vella ends his address. the vote will be taken immediately. The Speaker is reading the question and the doors of the House have been closed.
21:08 Vella says the essence of the Opposition motion is not Malta's membership in the PfP programme but the way Cachia Caruana want about reactivating Malta's membership. He says that the fate of the country should be decided by the people and not by government alone or Cachia Caruana.
21:03 Pullicino Orlando is now talking to Speaker Michael Frendo. Vella says that Cachia Caruana acted upon Washington's guidance and adds that Cachia Caruana was the architect of this motion.
20:59 Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando rushes into the Chamber together with a breathless Jesmond Mugliett. The vote is due to be taken in a few minutes. Pullicino Orlando has a brief chat with ousted home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici who is seated at the very far end of the government's benches.
20:56 While Vella is speaking about the role played by Cachia Caruana in reactivating Malta's PfP membership, Lawrence Gonzi discusses matters with deputy PM Tonio Borg and the Transport minister and PN strategist Austin Gatt.
20:50 Vella says Cachia Caruana is no normal civil servant and claims that contrary to what he testified, Cachia Caruana was the one to give instructions to the Prime Minister.
20:46 Vella who was one of the signatories of the motion, says that government MPs also declared that Cachia Caruana bypassed democratic procedures. He adds that Cachia Caruana is so arrogant that he threatened Labour MPs with taking legal action. Vella says the Opposition had every right to move a motion of censure against Cachia Caruana.
20:42 Vella describes Cachia Caruana as a "sacred cow" and the government is wary of dealing with him.
20:40 Vella says that he is not offended by rumours circulated about him or other Labour MPs but he is offended by the way the country is run. He adds that the Nationalist Party only tackles problems when it is convenient to them.
20:35 Labour MP George Vella commences his address. Vella is the last speaker for tonight.
20:33 Gonzi asks whether it sis right to use Parliamentary procedures to carry out personal attacks against a public official. He says this is not right and reiterates that he will proudly vote against the motion because it is the right thing to do.
20:29 The Prime Minister said the Opposition's motion showed its crass opportunism and said that although the Labour Party made the accusations against Cachia Caruana it did not provide one fraction of evidence to prove its allegations. He says that the motion is a "throwback" to Labour's past.
20:26 Gonzi says the motion is a "frame up" and says that there is noting wrong in Cachia Caruana's militancy within the Nationalist Party. He adds that it was shameful that the Opposition had claimed in its motion that Cachia Caruana sought the interests of other countries more than Malta's.
20:18 Since Pullicino Orlando declared his intention to vote with the Opposition, meaning Cachia Caruana will have to resign from his post, the Opposition MPs seem eager to get over with the debate and cannot wait for the vote to be taken. On the other hand as Gonzi repeats "Politics, bloody politics," government MPs sit silently in apparent surprise.
20:15 Backbencher Charlo Bonnici tweets "Payback time indeed .... "
20:14 Gonzi says the AG burst the Opposition's bubble by confirming that in no instance was Parliament misled or by-passed.
20:08 Gonzi says the Opposition's accusations have been proven to be untrue during the grillings. He adds that the evidence provided in the meetings show that the accusations are false. Gonzi says Cachia Caruana always followed the governemnt's instructions and if anything he should be the one targeted by the Opposition because he was politically responsible for the reactivation of the PfP membership.
20:02 Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi says that Opposition's motion lacks decency and explains that he found no problem in testifying under oath.
19:53 After Pullicino Orlando's surprising claim, the Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat addresses the House. While Muscat was explaining that the Opposition was justified in tabling the motion because Cachia Caruana had acted behind Parliament's back, Franco Debono walks up to Pullicino Orlando and has a friendly chat. The two are joined by another 'rebel' MP Jesmond Mugliett.
19:48 He says he agrees with Malta's PfP membership but says that the re-activation of PfP partnership should have been ratified by Parliament. He says that he will vote for the Opposition's motion.
19:38 The Zebbug MP says that he was the victim of a orchestrated effort to force him to resign from parliament. He says that Cachia Caruana had egged on columnist Caruana Galizia to attack him. He adds that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had asked Cachia Caruana to cease the personal attacks against him. He adds that Cachia Caruana also held talks with the Turkish ambassador and against the sentiments of the Maltese people and the members of the European Popular Party, he had backed EU membership for Malta, a stand then taken by the Maltese government.
19:35 Pullicino Orlando says that he "blindly followed" Cachia Caruana's advise which eventually won the PN the last election. He says that it is "unacceptable" that Cachia Caruana tried to oust him from Parliament because he was popular and because he was not ready to bow down to Cachia Caruana's power.
19:33 Pullicino Orlando say that he reluctantly decided not to contest the next election because the Nationalist Party has been hi-jacked by a small clique. He admits that he was "used" by Cachia Caruana during the last election after being accused of corruption by the Opposition.
19:30 He quotes one of the Prime Minister's adviser Martin Scicluna who said that Cachia Caruana treats people and democracy with "utter disdain." He says that at least 10 Nationalist MPs agree with the Opposition's motion against Cachia Caruana.
19:28 Pullicino Orlando says that these journalist are used by Cachia Caruana to attack his enemies "even in his own party" and cites cases involving Guido de Marco, John Dalli, Jean Pierre Farrugia, Robert Arrigo, Michael Frendo and others.
19:25 He describes the EU perm rep as "one of the most powerful persons in Malta. He says that he bares a huge influence on a number of journalists including Daphne Caruana Galizia, Andrew Borg Cardona, Lou Bondi and Fr Joe Borg. Pullicino Orlando says that he smiled when he heard Cachia Caruana testify as if he was a normal ambassador.
19:23 He asks whether the accusations levelled against Cachia Caruana are true and adds that democratic norms dictate that whatever position one has democratic institutions including Parliament should always be respected. He also says that parliament must ask whether Cachia Caruana has overstepped his role in other occasions.
19:21 On the Cachia Caruana motion, Pullicino Orlando says that contrary to reports in the media there is no bad blood between him and Cachia Caruana. "There are no problems between us two." He adds that MPs behaviour should not be led by any personal relationships.
19:19 Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando takes the floor. He says the Opposition's motion was tabled after a number of Nationalist MPs sounded disagreement with some aspects of government's actions. Franco Debono interrupts Pullicino Orlando and the latter tells the maverick MP to "sit down and listen."
19:12 Brincat says Cachia Caruana boasted about his role in lobbying in favour of Malta's position within Nato with foreign governments. He says it is shameful that Cachia Caruana was lobbying for the reactivation of PfP membership before the cabinet took a decision. "We do not need untouchable persons in government but we need accountable persons." he adds that if Gonzi does not have enough talent within his ranks that is his problem.
19:08 Brincat says Cachia Caruana's claims that he was not aware of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's intention to re-join PfP before the last election are hard to believe since he is also a member of the PN's strategy team.
19:02 Brincat said the government was opposed to having EU commissioner John Dalli to testify before the Foreign and European Affairs committee because Cachia Caruana tried to block Dalli's appointment.
18:57 Brincat says that the government has never tabled information about Cachia Caruana's remuneration despite several requests made in Parliament. Brincat says he is informed that Cachia Caruana's pay packet is disproportionally large as his power is. He says that Cachia Caruana's wages are larger than life, very much in the same was as is his role in Maltese politics.
18:54 Labour MP Leo Brincat takes the floor. He says that Zammit Dimech's address was as partisan as his chairmanship of the Foreign and European Affairs committee was during the grillings.
18:50 PN whip David Aguis and PL whip Joe Mizzi are busy discussing tonight's procedures. The two are responsible for rounding up the troops and make sure all 69 MPs are present when the House votes this evening. The vote is expected to be taken at 9pm.
18:48 He says we are witnessing an old way of doing politics based on opportunism. He describes the AG's testimony as central to the discussion.
18:43 Zammit Dimech says the Opposition should also be judged on its inconsistency on PfP membership.
18:40 "The people must judge the Opposition on how it treats public officials." The MP says that the Opposition expects that public officials refrain from giving advise and taking a proactive role. He says this is dangerous as it sends a very negative message to public officials.
18:37 He adds that the motion was only tabled eight months after the Wikileaks motion was revealed by MaltaToday.
18:36 Zammit Dimech asks why the Opposition did not table a motion in 2008 when Malta reactivated its PfP membership.
18:32 He says Labour's opportunism is leading it table motions which are unfair and incorrect, as proved by the Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Cachia Caruana motions. He says the Opposition is carrying out personal attacks against Cachia Caruana. He quotes former Labour minister Lino Spiteri who wrote that the Opposition's motions are wasting Parliament's time.
18:30 Zammit Dimech says that the Opposition should withdraw its motion because no evidence had been presented to back any alleged wrongdoing by Cachia Caruana.
18:28 Zammit Dimech says that if he had levelled the same accusations being made against Cachia Caruana against an Oppostion MP it would have been libelous.
18:24 Government MP Francis Zammit Dimech has taken the floor, with his immediate statement being that the Opposition's motion "had nothing against Richard Cachia Caruana", asking how the Opposition was in a position to persist in its motion "when it had nothing concrete".
18:20 Almost an hour and a half into the debate and the government's benches are slowly filling up. On the other hand, only nine seats are filled on the Opposition side.
18:13 Bonnici is arguing that the Prime Minister, according to the codes of ethics, has the "ethical duty" to inform parliament of any decisions to be taken. "According to this code, every minister is responsible for any decisions taken and is duty-bound to be accountable and to provide as full information as possible to parliament," Bonnici said. Bonnici is criticising the Prime Minister's decision to "keep his mouth shut" on the reactivation of the PfP after the 2008 general elections.
18:07 Labour leader Joseph Muscat takes a seat on the Opposition benches as MP Owen Bonnici explains that the motion was tabled because the reactivation of PfP had to be ratified since it is an agreement between heads of states.
18:01 Borg says the motion is intrinsically wrong because it attacks a civil servant without scrutinizing politicians. He adds that the motion is wrong because it could lead to have a Civil Service which is scared to carry out its duties.
17:57 The minister insists that the PfP membership reactivation did not require Parliamentary ratification and this was confirmed by the Attorney General.
17:54 Borg argues that if the Opposition's motion was to be believed, how can anyone be accused of treason if the Opposition agrees with PfP partnership. He adds that if any agreement required ratification it would only be taken to parliament once it was signed.
17:51 He adds that the minutes and notes taken on the meeting mentioned in the Wikileaks cable do not show that Cachia Caruana was acting on behalf of or guided by Washington.
17:50 Borg says that the minutes and the cable make no reference to Cachia Caruana's alleged intentions to avoid Parliamentary ratification.
17:46 Tonio Borg, standing next to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, says that the Wikileaks cable was authored by somebody who was not present for the 8 November 2004 meeting on which the Opposition was basing its motion. He adds that luckily the Maltese officials present had kept notes of the meeting.
17:44 "Labour was staunchly opposed to PfP membership and up to some time ago Labour claimed that PfP membership violated Malta's constitution." Bord explains that although Labour had now officially changed its position, its exponents had gone on record saying that Malta should stay out of PfP.
17:42 The foreign affairs minister sheds doubt on the Opposition's credibility because of its contrasting stands on PfP partnerships.
17:40 Borg says that just two months after the 2008 election, in an 18 May interview Labour leader Joseph Muscat declared he was opposed to Malta's PfP membership.
17:37 He notes the Labour Party's historic opposition to PfP membership and says that the Opposition has only changed its position recently.
17:35 Borg says the Opposition's motion has nothing to do with Richard Cachia Caruana but the Opposition is concerned with Malta's PfP membership.
17:34 Deputy Prime Minister and foreign affairs minister Tonio Borg starts his address
17:32 "This motion confirms that the Prime Minister acted behind Parliament's back just as he had done with the honoraria decision." Busuttil adds that the motion has nothing do with Nato and does not shed any doubt on whether Malta should be a member of PfP.
17:26 Busuttil says that when he had asked Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi why the decision to leave the programme in 1996 was described as a "suspension", the Prime Minister could not provide an answer.
17:21 Very few MPs are in the Chamber. Busuttil is currently the only Labour MP in the House although Leo Brincat and George Vella have just exited the main Chamber. Only a handful of government MPs are present.
17:17 Busuttil says the AG's declaration that the reactivation of the PfP programme did not require Parliamentary ratification should be respected but should not be taken as the truth.
17:10 Labour MP Luciano Busuttil addressing the House is presenting the motion, whichs calls on the House to demand that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi calls for Richard Cachia Caruana's resignation. "It's not a motion against Nato," Busuttil starts off. "It's a motion against the bypassing of the House" - referring to the fact that PfP reactivation was not ratified by the House since it was reactivated after the election in 2008, when parliament was in dissolution.