Gonzi: Government intends to serve its term; Claims against RCC have all the ingredients of a frame-up
Updated: Debono says the PM should call on the President
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said this morning that the government intended to serve out its term and any MP who decided otherwise would be acting in an undemocratic manner since the government was elected by the people for five years.
Dr Gonzi also said he was disgusted about how Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando's claims against Richard Cachia Caruana were unfolding, and said he could see all the ingredients of a frame-up.
Speaking in a recorded Radio 101 interview, Dr Gonzi said that the most important development in last Thursday's meeting of the PN Executive was not the election ban on three Nationalist MPs, but the approval of the first list of 60 PN election candidates.
"We have to look to the future," Dr Gonzi said.
This was the first list and more candidates from all walks of life would be added to it in the coming weeks and months, bringing in fresh people with new ideas to the PN.
These people, he said, would fly the PN flag, not their own flag. They were all required to pull at the PN rope. The PN, however, always sought the national interest in contrast to Opposition leader Joseph Muscat, who was being increasingly populist, trying to please whoever his listeners were.
PARTY 'WAS ALWAYS OPEN'
Dr Gonzi stressed that candidates and MPs elected on its list should use the party system if they had criticism or suggestions. The PN always gave space for everyone to use the party structures, or to speak to him personally or the General Secretary.
"Our doors were always wide open and we never closed our doors," Dr Gonzi said. A prime example was how the PN tackled the divorce issue.
"However we can never accept a situation where somebody, after being given ever chance to speak, opts not to follow the party line decided by the majority."
The three MPs had not followed this line despite not having been granted a free vote. They had voted against the party whip.
Dr Gonzi said he had repeatedly warned that everyone had to shoulder responsibility for his actions, and the Executive had now decided that these three MPs would not be allowed to seek re-election.
The party acted according to its statute and its decisions were unanimous, Dr Gonzi observed.
He hoped that this experience would enable the party to be strong and to look to the future.
PN NOT DICTATORIAL
Dr Gonzi said it was unfair to claim that the PN had acted in a dictatorial manner. What was dictatorial was how somebody went to Parliament and took actions without telling anybody about them beforehand, or misled the people about his intentions, Dr Gonzi said in an obvious reference to Dr Pullicino Orlando.
In a party system, those elected after having been presented as its candidates should go to the party first and the party was always open for them. Democracy did not mean that a member of the party could act on his own and ignore the majority in the party.
The PN was being democratic and would continue to act democratically.
Dr Gonzi said that what had happened did not mean that the government had lost its majority. Everyone had to shoulder his responsibilities and the national interest should come first.
The PN was elected to govern for five years and despite everything, had done well for the country.
The three MPs would now be judged by the way they acted in the coming months. The government would seek to govern up to the end of its term and if somebody decided otherwise he would have to shoulder his responsibilities. The government was elected for five years and those who decided otherwise would thus be going against democracy.
CACHIA CARUANA 'FRAME-UP'
Dr Gonzi also said he was disgusted with the way how matters were developing with regard to Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando's claims against Richard Cachia Caruana.
It was unfair that claims were being made without sufficient detail being given for Mr Cachia Caruana to defend himself. On Thursday the Executive decided, in Dr Pullicino Orlando's presence, about the procedure to be followed, in order to ensure that there was justice for Mr Cachia Caruana. The least that he had expected was that Dr Pullicino Orlando would respect this procedure, but the opposite was happened, and it appeared that this was being done on purpose, Dr Gonzi said.
He still did not know precisely what Mr Cachia Caruana was being accused of, and what he was seeing were all the ingredients of frame-up, with false charges being made solely to undermine the character and integrity of Mr Cachia Caruana.
Dr Gonzi said he was also shocked by the declarations by former Labour ministers Karmenu Vella and Joe Mizzi. The former was speaking about something which he claimed to have taken place in 1996 regarding Air Malta, yet at the time when he was minister he did not reveal the reports he was meant to reveal. He was participating in the frame-up against Mr Cachia Caruana.
Mr Mizzi was also claiming that when he was minister without portfolio but responsible for the police, he allegedly learnt that a drug party was being held on a yacht and he informed the police commissioner. Then according to Mr Mizzi, the commissioner instead of sending the inspector to the proper yacht, sent him to another yacht, apparently on purpose. Once Mr Mizzi was minister at the time, what had he done about it, if this was done on purpose? Dr Gonzi asked.
Dr Gonzi said that Dr Muscat was also being irresponsible in all this. He was surrounded by people with skeletons in their closets with whom he was associating. He hoped the people would realise in good time what was happening because what was happening was scandalous in all respects, Dr Gonzi said.
FRANCO DEBONO REACTS - GO TO THE PRESIDENT
In a statement in reaction, Nationalist MP Franco Debono said that Dr Gonzi 'should stop' harming the country and its people. He said Dr Gonzi should stop clinging to power at all costs in order to inagurate the City Gate project and should instead go to the President and inform him about whether he still had a majority in Parliament.
Dr Debono said it was Dr Gonzi who had precipitated the current situation by his 'dictatorial and totalitarian behaviour' and it should be resolved as quickly as possible because everyone was fed up of him, as polls showed.
MPs, he said, in their oath of office proimised to serve the people and respect the constitution. The oath of office said nothing about political parties.
The way how the PN was dealing with dissent was undemocratic and if the prime minister thought otherwise, this was a very grave misjudgement and showed detachment from reality.
He insisted that the prime minister should have shown a strong pair of hands and demanded the shouldering of responsibility and disciplined those who failed, such as Austin Gatt and Carm Mifsud Bonnici not the small fry like the backbenchers. "He is strong with the weak but weak with the strong, why is Dr Gatt still in the Cabinet after his failures?" Dr Debono asked. How legitimate was a government which saw a minister and a senior ambassador lose votes of confidence, while another minister only just managed to hang on?