Updated 7.50 p.m.
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando had left PN headquarters after resigning from the party. He had a 45 minute meeting with the prime minister and handed him his resignation letter. He will stay on as an MP.
In his resignation letter he said:
After much consideration it is with sincere regret that I must tender my resignation from the Nationalist Party, effective immediately. My reason for doing so stems from the fact that I do not feel comfortable militating in a party which has been hijacked by Mr. Richard Cachia Caruana and Dr. Austin Gatt. Without detracting from the attributes both these individuals may have, I do not subscribe to their way of doing politics.
I am aware that this difficult step will mean that I am no longer a member of the PN Parliamentary Group. I will, thus, be informing the Speaker of the House, Hon. Michael Frendo, of my resignation from the PN. I will also be requesting a meeting with him in order to plan a way forward, given the circumstances.
5,100 constituents gave me their first preference vote in the last general elections, which I contested on the PN ticket. I will, out of respect for the clear mandate they honoured me with, continue to collaborate in the implementation of the measures outlined in the PN electoral programme for 2008. Given the circumstances, I expect to be consulted by you should any measure which is not specifically mentioned in the electoral programme require my support in Parliament.
This onerous decision should not, in any way, be interpreted as a reflection of the respect I have for you on a personal level, which remains unaffected."
PM'S REACTION - LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME WILL CONTINUE
In a reaction, the prime minister noted at a press conference that Dr Pullicino Orlando would stay on as MP and collaborate with the government on its electoral programme. He said the government had already prepared and in some cases tabled a number of Bills which were in line with its electoral programme and it intended to go ahead with them in parliament, including the laws on IVF, cohabitation, cultural heritage and the granting of autonomy to Parliament.
The government would also continue its work on the Budget. The government, he said, would remain focused on creating the proper economic environment which protected and created jobs and safeguarded the people's living standards, education and health.
Asked whether a vote of confidence would be held, he said that was up to the Speaker.
He said he did not see a need to consult the President because the situation was clear.
Dr Gonzi also said he had had a 'good' meeting with European Commissioner John Dalli earlier today during which various issues were discussed, including matters raised by Mr Dalli at last Tuesday's meeting of the PN Executive.
MEETING WAS REQUESTED BY PULLICINO ORLANDO
Today's meeting was requested by Dr Pullicino Orlando after the PN executive committee unanimously rejected his call to expel Richard Cachia Caruana on Tuesday.
Dr Pullicino Orlando had warned he would consider his position in the party if the meeting of the Executive turned out to be a fait accompli.
Although it would precipitate a political crisis, the impact of his decision will not immediate. Parliament is in its 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 once Dr Pullicino Orlando officially informs the Speaker he no longer forms part of the PN parliamentary group.
Dr Pullicino Orlando, along with Franco Debono and Jesmond Mugliett, has already been banned from seeking re-election as a PN candidate, but he had already previously said he would not seek re-election.
After his vote in favour of an Opposition motion in parliament leading to Mr Cachia Caruana's resignation from his post as permanent representative to the EU, Dr Pullicino Orlando had said he intended to continue to support the government.
Dr Debono has said he would not support the government on the Budget if Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt was still in the Cabinet.
Dr Pullicino Orlando had been active in the PN since his youth, when he was in the MZPN.
He subsequently successfully contested the 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2008 general elections.
He has held the posts of shadow minister for telecommunications, Head of Delegation of the Maltese parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Vice-President of the Assembly and is currently Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology.
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