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Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando: ‘Call an election if you expel me’
The Zebbug MP warns that if the party were to expel him and two of his colleagues, the PM would have no other option but to call an election in the clear absence of a parliamentary majority.
4 July 2012, 12:00am
In comments to MaltaToday, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando reacted to the latest escalation of events following Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's warning last Sunday, that the PN would take further action against its MPs who voted with the opposition in Parliament.
Gonzi's latest stance has been widely considered as an escalation over last month's public condemnation by the PN's executive of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and fellow back-benchers Jesmond Mugliett and Franco Debono, who, over the past two months, helped force the resignation of former Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Malta's Permanent Representative to the EU Richard Cachia Caruana.
"The issue cannot end here," Gonzi said last Sunday, adding that although he tolerated criticism, he however could not accept that MPs from his own side had crossed a red line to vote with the Opposition to undermine the government."
Gonzi said the three MPs could not act as though nothing had happened and the party needed to continue to address the matter seriously in the interests of the truth.
But in replies to MaltaToday, Pullicino Orlando has seemingly understood that the PN is preparing to expel him.
"Judging from what the Prime Minister said last Sunday, and his tone, I think that may very well be the case. This is obviously surprising on a number of levels," he said, adding that should this be the case, "then there is only one possible way forward if I - or any other one of my colleagues - are expelled from the party, then we must go for an early election."
In his comments to MaltaToday, the Zebbug MP said that "this extraordinary over-reaction only came about after the Richard Cachia Caruana motion passed. Compared to what is happening now the reaction to the Carm Mifsud Bonnici motion approval was insignificant. This strengthens the arguments I put forward in reply to those who were trying to portray Cachia Caruana as a mere civil servant with no responsibility whatsoever in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) debacle, which led to his resignation. He is considered by the ruling clique to be even more important than a democratically elected and valid Cabinet minister such as Carm Mifsud Bonnici."
"Secondly, a democratic party has no right whatsoever to censure an MP. exercising his parliamentary duties in any way he deems fit. If the same were to happen in another European country all hell would break loose. Imagine what would happen if Prime Minister Cameron were to act in the same way with Conservative MPs, some of whom regularly vote with the opposition on particular issues," Pullicino Orlando said.
"If the argument brought forward is that the way I voted was determined by personal motivations - which was definitely not the case - the same argument would condemn those who voted against the will of the people last year after the divorce referendum," he said.
Pullicino Orlando stressed that "in a democratic society, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander and that would mean that the 12 government MPs who voted against the divorce bill in Parliament should also be kicked out of the party."
"The motion I presented asking for Cachia Caruana's expulsion from the PN was a direct answer to those in the party - obviously being guided by Cachia Caruana himself - who have decided to make an issue out of the fact that my partner Carmen is openly participating in activities organised by the Labour Party."
Pullicino Orlando added that his partner "never tried to hide her Labour sympathies from anyone (including the Prime Minister and my party - we have an excellent relationship with many party officials) - she has obviously supported me personally during the past 10 years but since I have decided not to re-contest with the PN this time around there is nothing to stop her from exercising her right of freedom of association openly."
He alleged that "this contrasts with the underhanded way in which Cachia Caruana organised encounters with high ranking officials in the Sant administration after the 1996 elections in an attempt at putting his colleagues in the Nationalist administration in a bad light whilst trying to curry favour with Labourite officials. I felt constrained to draw the attention of the PN Executive Committee to this hypocritical attitude."
In conclusion, Pullicino Orlando said that "there is only one possible way forward if I - or any other one of my colleagues - are expelled from the party, then we must go for an early election."
"It is unnecessary, since I pledged my continued allegiance to the Gonzi administration till the end of the legislature before I voted in favour of the Cachia Caruana motion, but it appears that there are those who confuse Cachia Caruana's fortunes with those of the party and the country," he said.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando yesterday accused PN executive president Marthese Portelli of 'doublespeak' over his letter demanding the expulsion of party strategist and outgoing permanent representative to the EU, Richard Cachia Caruana, from the PN.
Reacting to Portelli's comments in The Malta Independent, said: "I am not, in any way, denying that Dr Portelli has every right to chart the best way forward in any way she deems fit, but engaging in 'doublespeak' is incorrect."
Portelli said that the PN's executive committee will be following its usual procedure which places any recieved correspondence as a standard item on the agenda, adding that it will be then up to the executive to determine the way forward.
Speaking to MaltaToday last Sunday, Pullicino Orlando hit out at the PN executive committee president, who has so far indicated that the executive will "only be discussing" the letter he sent asking for Richard Cachia Caruana's expulsion as "mere correspondence" in the forthcoming 12 July meeting.
He said it was amply clear to him that the matter would not be discussed in the forthcoming meeting, but would be merely read out as "correspondence."
Pullicino Orlando reiterated yesterday that he had exchanged correspondence with with Portelli, telling her he required guidance as to the procedure to be adopted since he had to prepare his presentation and call witnesses.
Pullicino Orlando said that "the issue will not be included in the agenda of the meeting to be held on 12 July... I have up to five witnesses who will corroborate what I said with regards to Cachia Caruana."
Asked as to whether he would continue to back government in the wake of speculation about moves within the party to have him expelled together with fellow MPs Franco Debono and Jesmond Mugliett, the Zebbug MP replied: "I have already indicated that I will continue to support the government till the end of the present legislature in my speech in Parliament."
However, Pullicino Orlando hit back as his critics, insisting that it is unheard of for democratic parties to censure their MPs for exercising their democratic rights in Parliament in any way they deem to be correct, even if that may be perceived by some as being against the party line. "Imagine if that were to happen in Britain or in Italy, where politicians in both countries regularly vote with opposing parties on certain issues," he said.