Wednesday, 3 March 2010

GSLP and Freedom of Information

The Hon. Fabian Picardo MP has complained about the non-publication, by the GSD government, of Mr. Allan King's full report into GBC and of the Audience Survey referred to in it. He is right to complain of this but why does he and his party fall short of seeking publication of all information (subject to some defined restrictions) held by the Government and indeed any public authority?

Internationally, in the democratic world, the right of individuals to have access to information held by public authorities is recognised and legislation allows for substantial freedom of access to such information. Certainly this is the case both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The logical conclusion based on Mr. Picardo's arguments is that he should be advocating the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act in Gibraltar. Why does he not make this his and his party's policy? is it that he and his party will want to be selective in what is published if they are elected into government? Many may surmise that this is the reason.


  1. Plato says.....
    You are right in everything you say. It is just the same old rehash again by the opposition. Indeed why not go all the way, give us, the people, access to 'top-secret 007' information. We might then be able to either agree or disagree.
    However once elected, politicians fall foul of amnesia! Gosh, politics is boring and probably better to switch the TV on. I suspect most people do.

  2. Fred says:

    I agree with Plato, switch the TV on, but probably not GBC! Not least because the quality of the information leaves much to be desired.

    If we are going to talk about information we must mention journalism. In Gibraltar this essential aspect to democracy is wholly undernourished.

    GBC is an antiquated private club and The Chronicle, which carries good journalism (see Dominique Searle's excellent comments on barristocracy) is almost on its knees financially because of the panzismo of the printing side of the business.

    My less cynical side would also urge Llanito World to get the opposition to declare their position on FOI before we condemn them. We are going to have to vote for someone, if only to change the current regime. What scary prospects!

  3. Agreed, the journalistic output available is much lacking. An attempt is made here to provoke thought and comment.

    Agreed, the GSLP/Libs should decalre what their position is on Freedom of Information; but if they support law on this subject, will it be implemented in the event of them being elected?

    Agreed, the current regime has overstayed its welcome but is the alternative a good choice? If a void appears sometimes it will result in the unexpected and that might be a good rise to alternatives!

  4. Plato:
    I agree with Fred with respect to the absence of agressive investigative journalism here in Gibraltar (WHY?). It certainly happens in our nearby Spain and our more distant UK! We all agree on the need for a FOI declaration by the Government and if this does not happen, then a committment by the opposition.

    However as LLanito World says what guarantees do we have that the present Opposition if elected would respect electoral promises. I think that they probably would especially if we had a strong media behind the ordinary man in the street. So we go back to Fred's point about the media.

    Llanito world's last comment is one worthwhile of thought. Righteous individuals? Do they exist? I think so. But who are they? Where do you find them? Remember Gibraltar politics is radicalised. Either GSD or GSLP are the heavyweights. What about the PDP? Are they to be the chosen ones? I remember in the last election, one particular independent created a great impression in town and if I remember rightly did get quite a few votes. Independants unfortunately do not stand a chance in this present electoral system. What about a party of non-allied individuals? Perhaps but then all we would have is a new party.

    No easy solution!

  5. Fred says:

    Plato, there are a couple of very good journalists in Gib, and at least one contributes regularly to an international publication. The problem for an investigative journalist in Gibraltar is that no one will go on the record. Maybe we need a "whistle-blower" act along with FOI legislation.

  6. Fred to Llanito World:

    This Llanito is a journalist that may be worth mentioning and/or adding to your list of sites you follow:

  7. Plato says:

    Fred, thank you for your input. You are clearly more knowledgeable than I. It seems to me that you have 'mileage' in the world of politics. Let me say something about myself. I have always been an altruistic individual with no political 'savoir faire'. I am not a descendant of Nicola Machiavelli to say the least and have always conducted myself in this manner.

    Recently (almost a UFO experience (LOL)) I acquired 'awareness'. Awareness of what, you may ask. Well awareness that our political world is not what I think it should be. I add and stress that in the last elections I voted for the GSD, GSL/Lib alliance, PDP and in fact for the above non-party candidate. I voted for the best 'brains' irrespective of personal qualities and for some individuals who I believe had personal integrity.

    I am in favour of a government which I accept is majoritarian and all powerful. Unfortunately our present electoral system is not perfect but then perhaps other systems have other deficiencies. But having said this, I am dismayed at the fact that wrong decisions are taken possibly by a minority of the government and none of the others voice disagreement. This is a fact as I have often discussed decisions with the 'quiet' dissidents and I receive no satisfactory reply. My conclusion is that these individuals do not deserve to be in government. The same applies to the present opposition.

    I am also worried about the present situation with Spain. I refer you to an interesting article written by Joe Garcia last Friday. I wonder and ask you what you think about it. However getting back to my theme, I worry about Gibraltar now and the implications of the present changes to my children and my grandchildren. This is something that we cannot forget. We are now responsible for the future consequences and repercussions to our inheritors.

    My comments on this blog will be truthful and honest and furthemore with no political bias other than disapproval of 'wrongness'. There are a myriad of topics and issues that need discussion, clarification and solving.

    I refer to Llanito world's quotation above and look forward to many interesting discussions with you and any others. Who knows maybe one day we will have a coffee together instead of a blog.

  8. Fred says:

    Plato, I read Mr Garcia's article and have noted your comments on what is happening to our Gibraltarian identity and share your concerns. I fear that the current administration's economic (land) policies and autocratic style of government are eroding the social fabric on which our Gibraltarian identity rests, then again the diaspora in Sotogrande probably do not see Gibraltar as home.

    Setting this issue aside I will pick-up a thread you mentioned and link it to Mr Garcia's article. You asked if there were any righteous persons out there and Mr Garcia talks about the constitution meaning power to the people. Well, at present there is a righteous lawyer representing Gib Gay Rights over the age of consent and has previously represented a same sex couple on housing issues. If the constitution is to mean anything it must be about how we protect our minorities, and this quiet and unassuming lawyer deserves a lot more support and praise than what he is getting.

    We have come a long way as a people, but now we have to go that little bit further and protect those who cannot protect themselves. This would include how we look after our guest workers and how we integrate those young Gibraltarians of Moroccan origin. The brunt in respect of the latter is being carried by a single school and its doughty headmaster - another righteous person.

  9. Fred said:

    Llanito World, check this out:

    Seems that we Gibraltarians all agree: Parliament needs a shake-up, as does the style of politics.

    Perhaps if enough of us get online and start agititating...

  10. Plato:

    Fred, thanks for the input. I will discover who these two individuals are and will get back to you. As to the journalist, good article and good blog blog.

  11. One of the major inadequacies of the 2006 Constitution, which after all is a "fundamental law", is that it did not include greater democratic safeguards. At the time of the referendum too much time was taken up by the debate on the independence of the judiciary, undertaken too vociferously by then Chief Justice. This debate distracted from another essential debate that should have been more vociferous: the requirement that there be a separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. In the absence of such a separation Gibraltar ends up with too much power centralised in the Chief Minister, whoever the incumbent might be from time to time.

    It is this lack of separation that results in what the article in rightly points out, namely stilted, stale, boring and pointless debates in Parliament. The main function of Government in Parliament becomes to spin or obfuscate any criticism by the Opposition in a manner that eliminates or mitigates any adverse effect any point made by the |Opposition might have on the Government's electoral chances. Parliaments role as the legislature is dangerously unfettered because the Government of the day can always pass whatever legislation it wants by deploying its inbuilt majority.

    What possible incentive is there for any government to change this? Certainly it is not in the interests of any Chief Minister to change it. This blogger's advice: no one hold their breath because no suggestions for any radical democratic reforms will come from a Select Committee of Parliament: especially one that is deliberating in secret.

    Have you ever thought what system of Government In Gibraltar suits the United Kingdom best? Is it a democratic and accountable government or an all powerful Chief Minister that provides them with a one- stop shop to protect their one and only overriding interest in Gibraltar: the military base? Unfortunately, in this day and age of military spending cuts, the military base may not be around for too much longer but the legacy of an inadequate constitution will hang around our necks for as long as our elected governments want.

    A Zimbabwe situation will never arise in Gibraltar ... are you sure?

  12. Many of the powers graced upon the office of Chief Minister in the 2006 Constitution should have been delegated by the English Government on trust to Parliament instead and with a 75% majority voting in the House. Without democratic reforms and accountability, the office holder of Chief Minister is destined to be the Cabinet, Government (Executive) and Parliament forevermore.

  13. Can the last poster please clarify what he/she means by "many of the powers graced upon the office of Chief Minister in the 2006 Constitution should have been delegated by the English Government on trust to Parliament instead and with a 75% majority voting in the House".

    Is this individual seriously suggesting that the 2006 Constitution should have granted powers over Gibraltar to the UK Government instead of our own? And if so, what evidence does he/she have to suggest that vesting powers in the UK Government safeguards good governance and better democracy?

    Can we please move away from this concept that in order to safeguard Gibraltarian democracy it must be taken out of Gibraltarian hands?

  14. The Gibraltar Parliament!!!