MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has insisted his witnesses give their testimony by affidavit.
Tensions flared in a meeting held by the Nationalist Party's executive committee on Tuesday night, as Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando refused to have Labour MPs testify in person before the PN's executive and parliamentary group, on accusations he has levelled against Richard Cachia Caruana.
In an aide memoire drafted by the PN's executive, headed by Marthese Portelli, the party called Pullicino Orlando's bluff by challenging the backbencher to present his witnesses - amongst them Labour MPs - against Richard Cachia Caruana so that they can testify 'viva voce' and not by affidavit, as the MP himself had originally suggested.
This request was the focus of a tense meeting yesterday evening, after the executive informed Pullicino Orlando that Cachia Caruana had asked that the date for the internal hearing be postponed. On the other hand, Pullicino Orlando stood his ground in demanding that his witnesses should not be paraded before the government MPs to testify physically on his accusation of collusion.
In a meeting that PN sources said soon turned into a slanging match, deputy prime minister Tonio Borg was later seen exiting the meeting room in protest.
The PN's request to have Pullicino Orlando's witnesses physically present at the PN headquarters to testify before government MPs on the accusations against Cachia Caruana is understood to present a potential setback for Pullicino Orlando, as the witnesses are believed to include high-ranking Labour officials who may reconsider testifying in person before the rival party's executive council.
Richard Cachia Caruana | Opposition motion that made him resign
Either way it will be a bizarre episode in the history of the PN executive, with senior Labour personalities being asked to give evidence to a PN executive that will be acting as judge and jury over one of its own.
It appears that Pullicino Orlando has now accepted to entrust the fate of his allegations against Cachia Caruana to the hands of the same executive that only two weeks ago condemned him for his actions in the House - namely, voting with the Opposition in the motion that forced the resignation of Cachia Caruana from ambassador to the EU over accusations that he bypassed the House of Representatives in seeking a way to reactivate Malta's participation in Natio's Partnership for Peace.
Pullicino Orlando has asked for Cachia Caruana to be expelled from the PN on the grounds that he had 'colluded' with the Labour party during the Sant administration between 1996 and 1998. He has been reported as having five witnesses willing to substantiate his claims.
Pullicino Orlando has been asked by the PN executive to pass on his list of witnesses by this morning. In an aide memoire agreed to by Tonio Borg, Paul Borg Olivier, Marthese Portelli and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando - and seen by MaltaToday - it was agreed that Pullicino Orlando's list of witnesses will be passed on to Richard Cachia Caruana, who will be given the opportunity to cross-examine them.
On his part the former permanent representative to Brussels will be asked to provide his own list of witnesses, also by tomorrow (Thursday 12 July), and this list would also be communicated to Pullicino Orlando.
The aide memoire goes on to describe how the executive committee will decide on Thursday the procedure that will be used to judge this case. A special extraordinary session of the executive was originally expected to be held on 19 July, commencing at 5pm, and going on until a decision is taken regarding the request by Pullicino Orlando.
But MaltaToday is now informed that the date could be brought forward.
According to the notes seen by MaltaToday, the procedure that is being proposed is that Pullicino Orlando presents his case and produces his witnesses, with the possibility of the witnesses being quizzed by the executive and by Richard Cachia Caruana.
The time allocated for this session is 90 minutes.
This will then be followed by Cachia Caruana explaining his case and presenting his list of witnesses in his defence. Again there is the possibility of these witnesses being questioned by the executive and Pullicino Orlando himself.
Finally the executive will discuss the claims, though it is not clear when the final decision will be taken. It was also decided that the hearing would be chaired by the President of the executive and that the witnesses would testify under oath.
The decision by the executive would be final, according to the aide memoire agreed to by the three members of the executive - although not yet carrying the approval of Pullicino Orlando, this newspaper is informed.
MaltaToday is also informed that Cachia Caruana had requested that Pullicino Orlando specify his accusation more clearly, and that he would be given the opportunity to be assisted by a lawyer.