JPO told Cachia Caruana last week his vote would not be personal
PN: Rebel MPs will ‘face political consequences’
Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando last week assured Richard Cachia Caruana he would never vote against him for “personal reasons”.
On Monday he voted with Labour on a motion calling for the resignation of Malta’s Permanent Representative to the EU, a move that left the Prime Minister stunned and the Nationalist Party warning of “consequences”.
But Dr Pullicino Orlando says Lawrence Gonzi should not have been surprised.
“I have been speaking about this till I was blue in the face for four years. I decided not to contest the next election because I have given up,” he said yesterday.
“You cannot have a civil servant targeting, sidelining and attacking valid MPs from the same party. The opposition motion spoke about respect towards Parliament. The people I mentioned are all parliamentarians, past or present.
“Criticising a person politically is one thing but to destroy or discard them simply because they do not bow down to you is unacceptable and anti-democratic.”
Dr Pullicino Orlando repeated his accusation that Mr Cachia Caruana, also a PN strategist, tried to bring him down after using him “manipulatively” during the election campaign.
Dr Pullicino Orlando said he had a courteous meeting with Mr Cachia Caruana at the backbencher’s house last week. “I assured him of one thing: I would never vote for personal reasons. I would never stoop to that level.”
Asked if this left Mr Cachia Caruana believing he was safe, Dr Pullicino Orlando said: “That was up to him.” But while Dr Pullicino Orlando insists his motivations were not personal, the PN believes otherwise.
A spokesman said MPs who vote against party lines would face “political consequences”, which would be discussed internally.
“The real point at issue is not the disciplinary consequences but the evident and manifest personal motivations that (on Monday) spurred MPs voting in favour of the motion,” the spokesman said.
While Dr Pullicino Orlando voted against the government, Nationalist MP Jesmond Mugliett chose to abstain.
Mr Mugliett also denied voting for personal reasons and distanced himself from Dr Pullicino Orlando’s arguments about MPs being sidelined by Mr Cachia Caruana. “I was not trying to make that point,” he said.
He abstained to “underline” that even if there was no legal obligation to discuss Malta’s Partnership for Peace membership in Parliament, this should have been done anyway because there was no electoral mandate.
“Such an important issue should have been brought for discussion to gain consensus. There was no need for this haste,” he said, adding he made a similar point in a debate on EU law.
Asked why Mr Cachia Caruana should be the one to resign for such a shortcoming, Mr Mugliett pointed out Mr Cachia Caruana claimed he heard of Malta’s membership only after the election.
“Well, we have Richard’s word for that but he was very close to the Prime Minister in those days. He was one of the strategists of the election.”
Asked if this meant he did not believe Mr Cachia Caruana, he said: “It raised a lot of questions.”
Mr Mugliett said he considered his vote for days but only took a decision late Monday evening.
Dr Pullicino Orlando yesterday continued to criticise Mr Cachia Caruana’s “closeness” to columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
He said it was unacceptable for high-ranking PN and government officials to “cavort” with her when she “disgustingly” derided Nationalist “icons” like the late President Emeritus Guido de Marco.
“It is precisely because of this situation that I voted like I did yesterday. Otherwise I would have been giving him a stamp of validity to this type of behaviour.”