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‘Important decisions’ to be taken in Thursday PN executive meeting - Gonzi
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi warns of “important decisions” to be taken in Thursday PN Nationalist executive meeting related to its dissenting MPs and parliamentary instability.
8 July 2012, 12:00am
Speaking on Radio 101, Gonzi said the meeting "will be an experience of the party's democratic values that hold everyone accountable, but nevertheless operates within democratic lines and ensures seriousness by expecting everyone to set aside personal agendas and work towards the interest of the country and the party."
He expressed hopes that the executive party meeting and the following meetings would see the emergence of these values.
Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who voted against government on a motion censuring Richard Cachia Caruana, has recently hit out at the PN executive committee for indicating that a letter he submitted to the executive calling for RCC's resignation will be discussed as "mere correspondence."
Additionally, JPO has told MaltaToday that he interprets last Sunday's criticism by Gonzi as preparations for his expulsion from the party. "Call a resignation if you expel me", he has since warned.
Speaking broadly about the parliamentary instability, and the manner in which government MPs broke ranks with the party on two separate confidence votes in parliament, Gonzi reiterated previous statements that everyone should be accountable for their actions, including instances of voting which are not governed by a free vote.
"In the divorce instance, I had given a free vote," Gonzi said, dismissing claims that the confidence votes and the divorce vote were somehow similar. "This means I had given dispensation, as the leader of the party and head of government, to MPs to vote according to their conscience. However, when I had not given such a free vote, these were not given this dispensation."
He also reiterated that the consequences that the dissenting MPs will face will be determined by the party. "Despite this," Gonzi said, "we remain in government, and remain focused on the real priorities of the country," adding that families are more concerned with day to day issues like education and employment.
He added that despite the parliamentary instability, the PN remains the party close to the people, and said that it does not achieve it through populism, but by achieving results that benefit them.
Opening the interview, Gonzi accused the Labour party of fomenting a racist attitude within the country against irregular immigrants, pointing to its support for Italy's approach to immigration which was internationally condemned as in violation of human rights conventions.
Gonzi accused the Labour party of being headed by a populist leader, who insisted on saying what people wanted to hear. Gonzi added that the Labour party is betraying its populism not only through it stand on immigration, but also through its stand on the utility tariffs when it accused government of fixing utility prices, and by opposing various reforms.
Gonzi said that everyone's dignity should be respected, irrespective of skin colour. "This means that not only those entering Malta on a sparkling cruise liner, but also those entering Malta on a dinghy."
He said that just before the programme was recorded, a boat of immigrants was assisted by Maltese forces. Taking the opportunity to praise the work done by the Armed Forces of Malta, Gonzi said that despite how the immigrants did not initially request assistance; the Maltese forces assisted them when it looked like they were in difficulty.
"Who is not populist does not shy away from making such decisions," Gonzi said. "Those who adopt a populist approach insist that we do like the Italians," Gonzi said, adding however that he was in favour of adopting measures that were positive.
He said that racist talk is worrying, as it leads to even worse incidents, adding that recent weeks were "characterised not only by worrying talk, but also xenophobic incidents and attacks on those who have a different sexual orientation."
Gonzi said that Malta is gifted with compassion and is recorded in history and culture as a hospitable country. "We should be proud of this. Let us not allow us to forget this," Gonzi said, again attacking the Labour Party for what he claimed was its "populist stance."
He said that the government is committed to safeguarding and protecting the dignity of human persons. Gonzi pledged that as long as he was PN leader and Prime Minister, he would be unwavering in ensuring complete respect towards the dignity of persons.
He said however that, at the same time, he would also ensure the national interest, arguing that the notion that upholding the dignity of persons and safeguarding the interests of migrants was somehow going against the national interests was false.
"Standing up for the national interest shouldn't mean we should do away with respecting the dignity of persons or human rights," Gonzi said.
Touching briefly upon the recent high-profile illegal immigration case which shocked the nation, where an escaped migrant died while in the custody of Detention Forces, Gonzi said that while he would not go into the merits of the case, in the course of discussions with NGOs and other entities, he said that it is important to continue monitoring the situation and ensuring the protection of rights and dignity of those involved.
He added that the situation also called for an examination in the manner in which the Armed Forces carry out their duties and the policies that govern them and whether these needed to be reformed.
Gonzi also reiterated recent criticism against the Labour Party for its decision to present a number of court writs to strike off voters from the latest electoral register issued in October 2011. Gonzi accused the Labour Party of resorting to "its usual manoeuvres in the face of an approaching election in an attempt to fight tooth and nail to prohibit people from voting."
Gonzi said that Labour has a "long history of trying to win elections with threats and violence", recalling the political tension that pervaded the 1980s, and accused the party of a return to "these tactics of intimidation
Gonzi said that the PN "always made it easier for people to vote", pointing to measures such as allowing elderly or hospitalised people to vote within their residences or hospitals to protect their dignity, as well as initiatives allowing people to fly in from abroad to vote and fly out that same day.
He accused the Labour party of planting "spies" within communities, who would go around asking personal questions about 'targeted' individuals, condemning Labour's court writs.
Throughout the interview, Gonzi also upheld the government's administration across various fronts, such as job creation, fiscal management, education, and other reforms, maintaining that the Nationalist party is not one that succumbs to populism, but operates in accordance to its values.