PN clears Cachia Caruana
Unanimous executive vote
Richard Cachia Caruana was yesterday cleared of all the charges levelled against him by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, after a five-hour executive meeting which heard, among others, the testimony of EU Commissioner John Dalli via teleconference.
The PN executive unanimously approved a motion proposed by MP Francis Zammit Dimech which proclaimed Dr Pullicino Orlando’s allegations as having failed to provide a case worthy of Mr Cachia Caruana’s defence.
In fact, the motion, which also expressed solidarity with Mr Cachia Caruana, was approved by a show of hands before he had his say.
Speaking at a press conference at 10.30 p.m., Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi applauded the democratic process followed by the PN, which met on Dr Pullicino Orlando’s demand to expel Mr Cachia Caruana on claims that he colluded with Labour and fomented unrest within the PN.
“The decision must be respected,” Dr Gonzi said, adding that not a shred of evidence successfully linked Mr Cachia Caruana to any of the charges.
The procedure followed yesterday, where last-minute arrangements were made for Mr Dalli to testify from Brussels, seem to have satisfied Dr Pullicino Orlando, who did not leave the meeting early as he had threatened he would do if the meeting turned into a “farce”. Instead, he left the meeting appearing breathless, telling journalists that he had said more than enough for one evening.
Only two witnesses at PN meeting
The meeting, which began at 5 p.m., saw Dr Pullicino Orlando elaborate on his claims and mentioning the sworn written testimonies of Labour MPs Karmenu Vella and Joe Mizzi, who earlier refused the PN’s invitation to appear before the executive to be cross-examined.
During his press conference, Dr Gonzi lashed out at the Labour MPs for not having the decency to attend, saying this was “typical Labour”. He also attacked Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat for persisting in personal attacks and claiming to have investigated his MPs’ accusations but not saying how he did so or what resulted.
Only two of Dr Pullicino Orlando’s five witnesses testified yesterday and both failed to corroborate his claims.
Dr Gonzi’s spokesman Gordon Pisani denied that Mr Cachia Caruana fomented unrest in the PN and instead turned the tables on Dr Pullicino Orlando, after being nudged by Transport Minister Austin Gatt to recount what happened in the last days of the 2008 election campaign.
Meanwhile, Mr Dalli spoke for almost half an hour focusing mainly on the state of the party but also bringing up the fact that his website had been hacked. Dr Gonzi agreed to meet him privately in the near future to discuss “information” that the EU Commissioner wanted to pass on.
Dr Gonzi said, however, that Mr Dalli did not support any of the claims made by Dr Pullicino Orlando and made no comments of “substance”.
Police Commissioner John Rizzo, who was also asked to testify by Dr Pullicino Orlando, refused to appear.
Sources said the meeting, which included tense exchanges between Dr Gatt and Dr Pullicino Orlando, was interrupted briefly after the latter stopped fellow backbencher Franco Debono from taking photos of him with his mobile phone – a claim Dr Debono denied.
The meeting was attended by former PN leader and President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami who upon entering the headquarters told journalists he had “absolutely no doubts” in Mr Cachia Caruana, who spent years as his right-hand man.
Dr Pullicino Orlando was only last week banned from contesting the next general election on the PN ticket for voting against Mr Cachia Caruana in Parliament, forcing him to resign from his post as Malta’s permanent representative in Brussels.
Asked what the future held for Dr Pullicino Orlando within the PN, Dr Gonzi coldly referred to the decision taken last week, saying it still stood.