Will rebel MP pull the plug?
Speaker can reconvene Parliament
Nationalist backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has not ruled out resigning from the party ahead of tonight’s meeting with the Prime Minister.
When contacted yesterday Dr Pullicino Orlando insisted he first wanted to discuss matters with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
“It is only correct for me to discuss matters with the Prime Minister before making any public statements. We will definitely not be talking about yachting,” he said.
The MP asked to meet Dr Gonzi soon after the party executive turned down his request for the expulsion of former EU envoy Richard Cachia Caruana.
In a unanimous decision the executive found that Dr Pullicino Orlando’s allegations failed to provide a case worthy of Mr Cachia Caruana’s defence.
On Tuesday morning Dr Pullicino Orlando had said he would resign from the PN if he was faced with a fait accompli. He has not commented on the outcome of that night’s executive meeting and his only reaction has been a statement in relation to what the Prime Minister’s communications coordinator Gordon Pisani said about the Mistra scandal. Incidentally, in yesterday’s press statement Dr Pullicino Orlando signed off with the acronym “M.P.” rather than “M.P. (P.N.)” as he did last week.
If he does resign from the party but retains his parliamentary seat as an independent, the government would lose its one-seat majority. Although it would precipitate a political crisis, the impact is not immediate. Parliament is closed for the summer recess until October 1 and the government’s majority would have to be ascertained by a vote of confidence.
The Speaker can of his own accord or if requested reconvene Parliament earlier but only if he feels the matter is urgent.
In January the Speaker turned down Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat’s request for Parliament to meet earlier during the Christmas recess when PN backbencher Franco Debono said he had withdrawn his support for the government.
But the circumstances could be different this time if Dr Pullicino Orlando officially informs the Speaker he no longer forms part of the PN parliamentary group.
The Labour Party was yesterday noncommittal on whether it would present a no-confidence motion and ask the Speaker to reconvene Parliament early.
“The Labour Party will continue pursuing the country’s best interests but any level-headed person knows that the Prime Minister has solved nothing and that his problems, which are affecting families and businesses, will remain,” a Labour spokesman said.
And in what appeared to be an attempt not to upset the applecart, PN general secretary Paul Borg Olivier yesterday steered clear of saying whether Dr Pullicino Orlando’s position in the party was tenable.
Speaking at a press conference Dr Borg Olivier criticised Labour for “planning and participating” in a frame-up of Mr Cachia Caruana. But when asked whether this meant Dr Pullicino Orlando colluded with Labour, the general secretary said “no”.
“The executive’s decision last week to discipline the three MPs (Dr Pullicino Orlando, Jesmond Mugliett and Franco Debono) was limited to their candidature in the next election,” Dr Borg Olivier said.
He insisted the PN wanted to look ahead, a line repeated by Mr Cachia Caruana when asked for his reaction after Tuesday’s decision.
“I hope this is now a closed chapter and that we can work together 100 per cent focussed on the interests of Malta’s citizens,” Mr Cachia Caruana said.
Whether the matter is a closed chapter or not still has to be seen and the next line in the book may very well be written tonight after Dr Pullicino Orlando meets Dr Gonzi.