The European and Foreign Affairs committee meeting was suspended on Tuesday evening pending a ruling from the Speaker regarding a vote on procedure. The Speaker will be giving his ruling this evening in parliament. In an argumentative and heated debate, the government and the opposition could not agree on the order of business for the start of the hearing of witnesses in the motion presented by the Labour Party, calling for the resignation of Malta’s Permanent representative to the EU, Richard Cachia Caruana.
The motion presented by the Labour Party, calls for Cachia Caruana’s resignation following the Wikileaks documentation regarding his role in Malta’s participation in the Partnership for Peace Programme in 2008, for which no parliamentary discussion was held. The Committee is chaired by Francis Zammit Dimech and includes four members from the government and four Labour MPs. The government denies this charge and claims that the opposition misinterpreted the documents.
In moving its defense of Cachia Caruana, the government presented a list of 21 witnesses. These included the Prime Minister, other government officials, NATO and EU officials, former US Ambassadors to Malta, ex NATO Secetary General Javier Solana as well as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker.
A heated debate about the order of witnesses ended in complete disagreement. Dr. Tonio Borg, who again seemed to overpower all government members on the committee, insisted that the Prime Minister should be heard first. He even explained what the Prime Minister would be saying in front of the committee, pre-empting the questions that the committee could ask the Prime Minister. The Labour Party strongly opposed this and insisted that Cachia Caruana should answer questions first, in his own defense. Dr. Vella said that since it was his resignation that was being requested, his evidence should be the first to be heard.
In fact, it was the Government side, after discussing the issue in the PN Parliamentary group, that had proposed to the opposition that Cachia Caruana should be invited to the European and Foreign Affairs committee to answer any questions that the Labour Party might want to ask. This is very different to the actions and reactions of Dr. Tonio Borg and his colleagues. Cachia Caruana was to be ‘grilled’ by the committee not by his colleagues.
The debate on the procedure for the ‘grilling’ of Richard Cachia Caruana escalated and there was no solution in sight since the government side simply refused to move away from their pre-arranged schedule. Dr. Zammit Dimech proposed the taking of a vote to decide the matter. The Labour side agreed provided that such a vote would be taken in the plenary session. Once again, there was no agreement on this procedure. The Government side insisted on the vote being taken by the committee and the Labour Party arguing that the committee did not have the right to take such a vote. The Labour Party Whip Joe Mizzi intervened and requested a ruling from the Speaker.
The Speaker decided to suspend the meeting to tomorrow, Wednesday, when he would give a ruling on this issue.
Earlier: This evening at 6.30pm the European and Foreign Affairs Committee meets in Parliament to start discussing the Richard Cachia Caruana resignation motion before it is discussed in plenary in Parliament, He will appear before the Committee to answer questions.
On Sunday afternoon at around 5.00pm the chairman of the Parliamentary European and Foreign Affairs Committee Francis Zammit Dimech was seen leaving the Westin Hotel in St Julians' where Malta’s Permanent Representative at the European Union Richard Cachia Caruana was also staying at the same time. Both Francis Zammit Dimech and Richard Cachia Caruana have denied that they met.
On Sunday afternoon maltastar.com carried the report that the two met at the hotel in St Julian's to co-ordinate the work of the committee as it starts meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Labour motion calling for the resignation of Richard Cachia Caruana. On Monday Zammit Dimech said :"Your allegations in my regard are totally unfounded. In fact they amount to a blatant lie." In the evening Zammit Dimech raised a breach of privilege in parliament denying the meeting.
On Friday 20 April 2012 the Labour Opposition tabled a motion in parliament calling on the Prime Minister to sack Cachia Caruana from his post of Malta’s Permanent Representative at the EU because of the total disregard he has for parliamentary accountability and scrutiny of government foreign policy.
The Opposition motion signed by MPs Dr George Vella and Dr Luciano Busuttil demands the resignation of Richard Cachia Caruana from his post of Malta’s Permanent Representative at the European Union after he bypassed parliament and discussed with other countries how to make Malta take important foreign police decisions without parliamentary accountability and scrutiny.
Vella and Busuttil’s motion deplores how sensitive foreign policy decisions were taken by Cachia Caruana without and public debate and without any electoral mandate.
Addressing the media on Friday 20 April 2012 Vella referred to US embassy cables by Wikileaks in 2011, where Cachia Caruana is mentioned a lobbying the United States eight years ago to reactivate Malta's participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace. Parliament was bypassed and the PN had no electoral mandate to do so, said Dr Vella.
The week before Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando criticized the government's support for Turkish membership into the EU – without the PN having an electoral mandate to do so and without discussing the issue in parliament. Turkey had opposed Malta's participation in NATO-EU security meetings, because the island was not a NATO member.
Last year MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando testified in Court that he does not exclude that Richard Cachia Caruana was behind some stories planted against him in the media.
The Nationalist backbencher said that there were instances when he did not agree with the Cabinet’s or government’s position on various issues, thus stories were planted to pay him back.
“Just like it happened with Franco Debono, Robert Arrigo, Jean Pierre Farrugia and Jesmond Mugliett” he said. Pullicino Orlando said that in private RCC criticised him on a number of occasions for his positions against government policy.