Is he a hero or traitor?
Residents of Jeffery Pullicino Orlando’s hometown of Żebbuġ are torn.
The minute you step into a bar or a club and utter the MP’s name, people’s faces either light up or shut down. “He’s a traitor,” some spit with disgust. “He is a hero,” others cheer.
It is a village divided: for the Nationalist supporters, his resignation from the Nationalist Party is “unforgivable”. For Labour supporters, his actions stem from his “honesty”.
At the PN club, the mention of Dr Pullicino Orlando is met with a dead silence: glasses of whisky are slammed on tables. “We don’t mention that name in here,” one barks.
Finally, a man from the far back table speaks out: “He’s a traitor. That’s what he is.” There are nods all round. The mood is sombre.
A pensioner downs his beer. He asks to see our press cards and then says: “I can’t believe I voted for him at the last election. When I saw him on television, with tears streaming down his face, I felt really sorry for him. It takes a lot for a man to sob like that.”
He now feels betrayed by the man he voted for, his fellow Żebbuġi.
“He forgot all about those tears now, it seems. He forgot all about the 5,000 people who voted for him. How can we forgive him?”
Outside, on a bench in the village square, a group of pensioners’ immediate reaction is: “Don’t mention his name here.”
Ninu Baldacchino, 66, a former canvasser of his in the electoral campaign of 2003, says: “I completely don’t see eye-to-eye with him now.”
He prefers to talk about Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi: “We have a Prime Minister who doesn’t give up easily, a real leader, who keeps taking the best decisions for the country.” He believes that an election should only be held at the end of a mandate.
His friend, Carmelo Agius, 62, says he is hopeful that Dr Pullicino Orlando will keep his word. “I would like to believe that, from now on, he will vote with the government,” he says.
In another band club, a group of six pensioners are sitting round a table discussing the political issue.
“To me he is a traitor,” Gejtu Bugeja, 65, declares, “because of all the stuff that he brought up.”
Across the table, George Attard, 65, loudly disagrees: “To me he is one of the best gladiators this country has ever had. He had the courage to take the Nationalist Party by the horns. He is the most honest politician there is.”
Mr Bugeja, snorts: “I’ve still got to come across one... from either side.”
The debate becomes more animated, there is a lot of slamming on the table and colourful expletives are bandied about.
But, in the end, they all good-naturedly agree to disagree and order another round of drinks. Dr Pullicino Orlando is just a good excuse for a lively debate.