Pullicino Orlando names witnesses
Dalli surprised by inclusion as witness in Pullicino Orlando’s list
EU Health Commissioner John Dalli, a former Nationalist minister, was yesterday named as one of five witnesses picked by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando to “corroborate” his claims against Richard Cachia Caruana.
The other witnesses, expected to testify in person on July 17, are Police Commissioner John Rizzo, the Prime Minister’s spokesman Gordon Pisani, and former Labour ministers Joe Mizzi and Karmenu Vella.
Contacted yesterday for his reaction, Mr Dalli said: “This is news to me. I don’t know what comment I could make.”
Asked if he had been approached by Dr Pullicino Orlando, Mr Dalli said: “Listen, this is... as I said... I don’t know.”
Mr Dalli, a former leadership rival of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, resigned from his post as Foreign Minister in 2004 following a series of corruption allegations that were never substantiated. He was later rehabilitated and appointed a consultant to the government after the claims proved false.
Mr Pisani issued a statement in the evening declaring he knew of no facts and had no information that could back any of Dr Pullicino Orlando’s allegations against Mr Cachia Caruana. The accusations were totally unfounded, he said, and he was prepared to repeat this statement before the PN executive.
Dr Pullicino Orlando has called for the party executive to expel Mr Cachia Caruana on several grounds, including for “fomenting the unrest” in the Nationalist Party.
However, his main allegation has been that of collusion with high ranking members of Alfred Sant’s Labour Administration of 1996-1998 to further his personal interests and put his colleagues of the Eddie Fenech Adami administration in a bad light.
This would explain the presence of two former Labour ministers including Mr Vella, who was Tourism Minister between 1996 and 1998. Mr Cachia Caruana was a director on Air Malta’s main board between 1992 and 1997.
Less than an hour after Dr Pullicino Orlando sent an e-mail to the press naming his witnesses, Mr Vella released a statement to say that he met Dr Pullicino Orlando recently and mentioned a discussion he had with Mr Cachia Caruana when he was still Tourism Minister.
According to Mr Vella, Mr Cachia Caruana referred to decisions taken by the Air Malta board to buy a fleet of Avro RJ70s and set up a company called Azzurra Air. The RJs were ordered in 1992 and Azzurra Air was established in 1995.
“He came to inform me that as a director he had not been in favour of the board’s decisions,” Mr Vella said. He added that Mr Cachia Caruana had not registered his lack of agreement and was trying to shirk his responsibility and place all the burden on the other directors.
“When I saw him trying to escape collective responsibility I felt there was no point continuing the discussion... I am willing to declare all of this by affidavit.”
In response, Mr Cachia Caruana said: “Mr Vella can take as many affidavits as he likes but that will not turn a fabrication into the truth. The minutes of the Air Malta board meetings show the decision to purchase the RJs was taken unanimously and I supported the decision completely.
“Far from trying not to associate myself with the board’s decisions, the minutes show clearly that the majority of board members and I shared the same position both before and after the change in government. Mr Vella is either lying or has mixed me up with someone else.”
Dr Pullicino Orlando sent his list of witnesses to the media after 6 p.m. But even though he addressed the letter to the president of the PN executive Marthese Portelli, he did not copy her or any other PN official in his e-mail.
When contacted at 7 p.m., Dr Portelli confirmed she had not received the e-mail and expressed her surprise since there had been an agreement for Dr Pullicino Orlando to send his list to the party.
In his e-mail, Dr Pullicino Orlando also pointed out that Mr Cachia Caruana had been “careless enough” to speak about his Labour Party contacts in a recent interview with The Sunday Times.
“I am sure his ‘Labour Party contacts’ would not do so without expecting something in return. His reference is, in itself, an admission of collusion with high-ranking members of the Labour Party.”
Dr Pullicino Orlando concluded his e-mail by saying he was “looking forward” to the next PN executive committee meeting which will be held today.
The meeting is expected to discuss ways of disciplining Dr Pullicino Orlando, as well as fellow backbenchers Jesmond Mugliett and Franco Debono, for disobeying the party whip in recent weeks.
However, the executive is also expected to approve the procedure which will be used for a meeting next Tuesday which Dr Pullicino Orlando says would be when the witnesses testify.