Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Is it Right for GBC to Broadcast Ministerial Statements?

Today I learn, from Panorama, that the Board of GBC has decided that "...having particular regard to Section 111(3)(i) of the Governor in Council's Directions to GBC dealing with political broadcasts and Section (3)(5) dealing with Fair Balance, the Board has decided, in its discretion, to grant the Opposition the broadcast requested ."

I cannot say that I am surprised. I wrote about this topic, before the decision was made, in the piece "Does the GSLP/Lib Alliance have the Will to Win?" (21 October). In that piece I questioned the fact that the GSLP/Lib alliance had not objected to the very concept of allowing Ministerial Statements. I said further that if these were permitted under the Directions then undoubtedly a right of reply by the Opposition must also exist or be the fair and democratic way for GBC to behave.

The basis and grounds upon which the broadcast of the Ministerial Statement was permitted still remain unknown. Is it permitted by the Directions? I should add quickly, before I am accused of crusading against the Chief Minister, that this is not a criticism of the Chief Minister or the GSD Government, such broadcasts have been permitted of other governments in the past. It would be of benefit if at least the basis of that decision, who took it and in what circumstances it was taken were to be made public.

What I am aware of is that the initial refusal to allow the Opposition a reply was premised on the grounds that they should do so in one of their allocated Party Political Broadcasts. If that were to have been how it should have been done, why was the same rule not applied to the Government? I can only speculate that the reason was that the contents of the Ministerial Statement were considered to be non-party partisan but rather a statement by the Government (as opposed to the governing party).

I do not necessarily accept that this logic and argument is the correct applicable criteria but applying the same logic and argument, Her Majesty's Opposition for Gibraltar should have been given an equal, fair and contemporaneous opportunity to reply. Instead we get the Board taking a decision. Did the Board authorise the broadcast of the Ministerial Statement or was it the executive of GBC?

The basis of their decision is said to be the Direction applying to "... political broadcast ..." one assumes this refers to party political broadcast, in which case why was the Opposition told to use a party political broadcast to reply? Logic dictates that it must have been because the Government equally used one of theirs. If it did not then these Directions are not applicable to either. What are the true facts of what happened? In addition, the Board say that it is the exercise of a "discretion" by them. Was it them who exercised a discretion to allow the Ministerial Statement to be broadcast? This is unknown also. It all seems a very odd carry on.

One of the unwelcome and irreparable effects of these events is delay. The Ministerial Statement was made some two weeks ago. The Panorama says that the date of the reply is yet to be announced. Any reply ceases to have some relevance because it is no longer contemporaneous and events have moved on in the time that has elapsed. The news media and especially GBC are essential elements of democracy in Gibraltar. These types of events undermine the effectiveness of the check and balance that should be provided by an independent news media in a democracy. There are few enough checks and balances in Gibraltar already so the diminution of one is a serious matter.

Lessons should be learnt from these events and steps taken to avoid a repetition in the same or similar circumstances. One major advance would be if the Governor in Councils' Directions were to be made public. At least in that way transparency would be achieved on how an independent corporation such as GBC takes decisions that have a political element to them. This will help safeguard GBC also from the criticism that it is not as independent from Government as it should be, a criticism that is often levied against GBC.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tripartite Process: Is it about Cooperation or Sovereignty?

Recent pronouncements by the Chief Minister on sovereignty, the Trilateral Process and Gibraltar's relationship with the MOD have left me confused and concerned.

In his Ministerial Statement of the 14 October he said that Spanish incursions into Gibraltar's British territorial waters impacted on " ... the viability of cooperation in matters relating to waters". He was very careful throughout this statement to limit any consequence of these incursions on the Trilateral Process to " ... cooperation in matters relating to waters ..." whilst giving the impression that the consequences were far more serious than that by the mere effect of the whole context of the statement and making his pronouncement in a rarely used "Ministerial Statement" on GBC.

No wonder that Spain was so sure that the Tripartite Process would continue without even a pause, which was what Moratino said the very next day. He must have been sure of his ground, especially as in his statement the Chief Minister states unequivocally that " The Trilateral Forum of Dialogue, which ... is in everyone's interest, is a political achievement of which I am especially proud " whilst covering the other angle by saying that he is " ... more firmly committed to the robust and resolute defence of our Sovereignty".

In this same Ministerial Statement he acknowledges the UK's Constitutional role and obligation to defend Gibraltar's British territorial waters and admits that Gibraltar does not have the resources to do so itself. Then he goes on to suggest, in my view incautiously, a military escalation by writing to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs seeking that he consider " ... the systemic deployment and intervention of the Royal Navy in support and protection of the RGP ..." Thankfully the F & CO put matters in perspective, rightly in my opinion, by resorting to diplomatic protests.

Promptly thereafter, the Chief Minister contradicts himself. In his speech at the Guildhall in London on the 19 October he announces that the MOD are guests in Gibraltar by using the word "host". He said "... for Gibraltar the ability to host Britain's military installations is our way of being able to invest something back into the Great British family ...". Why, where and when would guests (which I do not agree is what the MOD are in Gibraltar, as they are here as of right, otherwise British sovereignty becomes an irrelevance both on land and sea) be obliged to defend their hosts?

Now let us recap again. My understanding is that the GSD spin (and probably honest take and belief) on the Trilateral Process is that it is about cooperation and not sovereignty but that there is nothing to prevent Spain raising the issue of sovereignty. If they do so Spain would receive a gentle or not so gentle rebuff from Gibraltar. I was surprised, therefore, to read in the Chronic (22 October) that the Ministerial meeting within the Trilateral process was proceeding on the 3 November, that the waters' issue would be discussed at that level and that technical talks on every other aspect, except those touching directly or indirectly on territorial waters, would continue in the meantime.

Well, pray how can this be? The whole dispute over territorial waters ONLY concerns sovereignty. There are two diametrically opposed stances. The UK/Gibraltar position that the waters surrounding Gibraltar are British territorial waters traversed by Spain's position that no territorial waters have ever been ceded to Britain. Consequently, how is the issue of the waters surrounding Gibraltar going to be the subject matter of the next round of the Trilateral Process at Ministerial level, with the Chief Minister participating, without those discussions necessarily including a discussion on sovereignty of the waters and thus not being just about cooperation?

My view is that one mission and aim for the Trilateral Process has been partly accomplished by others, as predicted in this blog in past pieces. That mission has been to get the affected parties to talk about the real problem: sovereignty. Has Gibraltar been checkmated? Time alone will tell. The Chief Minister's belief (22 October Chronic) is "what we have achieved in the last four days in discussions with Spain and London is their agreement on the matrix of meetings that we wanted". I wonder why Spain and London have agreed to Gibraltar's matrix for these talks?

One consequent issue that Gibraltar's leaders will have to wrestle with in the future, if my analysis that the Trilateral Process will become a forum to discus sovereignty is correct, is how will Gibraltar be able to extricate itself from the Trilateral Process without causing a major diplomatic rupture? Maybe, in time, younger Gibraltarian will not want to, who knows.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Does the GSLP/Lib Alliance have the Will to Win?

Complacency is one of the enemies of any political party. Go no further than the last UK election in which at one time it looked as if the Conservatives would win and Labour would lose, yet a Conservative/Liberal Coalition was the result. Recent opinions polls point to a GSD loss and a GSLP/Lib win. I have commented in my last blog that it is the electorate that has the final say, whilst the GSD may be losing, for them to lose another party has to win and want to win. If no other party goes for a win then the expected loser,the GSD, can and will win.

How? Very simple the disaffected GSD voter either does not change his allegiance and reluctantly votes GSD again or shifts it to the PDP. This type of result was a constant theme during the AACR era. Over and over again they formed government without receiving 50% or more of the vote. At the last election the GSD got just below 50% of the votes. It was enough to form Government because they got all their candidates elected.

I have been pulled up for saying that the GSLP/Lib Alliance needs to sort out their leadership, slate of candidates and act together in order to win the next election and should not just rely complacently on thier belief that the GSD will lose. I stand by that opinion. I am castigated on the basis that the leadership and slate does not need to be in place until the eve of the election:wrong. An Opposition Party must be a government in waiting. It has to show the electorate that it is capable of forming government, otherwise the electorate will not change its Government.

The leader of a party is a crucial decider for electors. Certainly the GSLP is to be commended for having leadership elections. It is for the GSLP at those elections to make its choice. The situation is that Joe Bossano has said he will step down this coming year, opening up the way for a new leader. Is this wise? The time lapse between the party leadership election and the possible date of a general election is very short. Will it give the electorate time to rally behind a new leader? Of course, GSLP Party rules dictate that a leadership election has to take place but Joe can and should contest that election. If he does he will likely win them. Is he the best person to lead the GSLP into the next election? It is not for me to say but, certainly, the recent opinion polls that favour a GSLP/Libs win have all been held whilst he has been leader. Certainty in its leadership will help the GSLP/Libs win the next election.

The early announcemet of the slate is equally important. It is one method by which an opposition party can show that it is a government in waiting. Each and every potential candidate must show the electorate ability and capability to be a Minister. Gibraltar wants a Government not government by one person. The GSLP/Libs have a golden opportunity to take advantage of this desire and show that they are a team that can govern in cabinet with collective responsibility, not because its leader dictates, but becuase all candidates have participated in the process to come to a policy decision.

Why do I say that the GSLP/Libs have to get their act together? Well, quite simply because it may have the best policies and the best manifesto. It may issue wonderful and lengthy press releases. It may ask hundreds of questions at meetings of Parliament. Electoral politics is not just about that. It is about getting the message across to the electorate. How many people really read such lengthy and complicated press releases? How many people actually get to know about the questions and answers in Parliament? How many people do more than glance at a manifesto? I am sure that I do not have to answer any of these questions. Getting the message across is about short and sharp soundbytes on topics and issues that affect and interest the electorate.

I can hear all the voices at once saying, the incumbent Government has all the advantanges, just look at GBC, they publicise the Government and even allow them Ministerial broadcasts whilst denying the Opposition a right of reply. What do the Opposition do? Bleat about GBC not giving them the right and ask GBC for it: wrong. The Opposition were handed a public relations win/win. It has not used it to best effect.

The issue is not that the opposition has not been given a right of reply, that is only half the issue. The other half, that they should but have not exploited, is the very fact that the GSD were given air time to make a Ministerial Statement at all. On what legal or democratic basis was that permitted by GBC? If it is permissable under the law or rules governing GBC, then it should, surely, only be on the basis that an opposition party has a right of reply. The relevant provision should be changed, if it exists at all. A perfect soundbyte opportunity lost by the GSLP/Libs.

Instead the Opposition decides to shoot itself in the foot. It votes against the new tax legislation proposed by Government and recognized to be the way forward economically for Gibraltar and its finance centre. One justification for this "NO" vote is that the tax law enforcement provisions are too onerous. Well tell that to the GSLP/Lib alliance core voters who are in the main PAYE payers. Do they care? I doubt it, what they want is all self employed and businesses to pay their dues. The GSD Government have got that one right and guess what they have gained from the event, courtesy of the Opposition.

I could go on but I believe I have made my point. What I will finish off on is some self indulgent statistics. This blog, on the basis of word of mouth only and without access to any Gibraltar news media, gets on average 10,000-12,000 hits a month. The Facebook page for this blog has 1600 individual adherents (the GSLP's page just over 800 for the purposes of comparison). Surely there is a lessen to be learnt by all political parties from these statistics? The lesson, simple, the electorate is thirsty for REAL politics. Go on, be brave give it to them ... otherwise democracy in Gibraltar is but a figment of the mind of politicians. A lack of proper party politics and proper choice in Gibraltar defeats the whole democratic process. Go on GSLP/Libs have some courage and give Gibraltar's democracy what it deserves: a credible government in waiting.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Surprise, Surprise ... UK Restrained over Bay Incursions.

On the 7th October I wrote, "Gibraltar does not have enough power ... in the military sense to defend against any aggressive act from Spain ... My thoughts ... turn to the incursions by Spain into Gibraltar's territorial waters ... It seems to me that there is little that Gibraltar can do about these ... without full assistance in every regard from the UK." (see blog "The Bay, the Secretary of State at the FCO, the Governor and the Government"). Events in the last couple of days give full credence to this statement. It also highlight the limitations on what will be done and the extent of the role that will be played by the Royal Navy.

Credence because in his Ministerial Statement of the 14th October the announcement was made that a letter had gone from the Gibraltar Government to the Secretary of State, William Hague, asking for the UK's support and the deployment and intervention of the Royal Navy. Limitations because the reply from a Foreign Office spokesman has been "The Royal Navy is already present and their role is well defined already". How that role is defined is unknown to me. It seems, rightly and understandably, that aggressively defensive action is not on the cards.

"Rightly and understandably" because Gibraltar is no longer facing a Spain controlled by a fascist dictator. The UK and Gibraltar are dealing with a European democracy, a fellow member of the European Union and a NATO ally. There is absolutely no question that the UK can or should take any steps that could be interpreted as the UK adopting an aggressive stance against Spain. Deploying the Royal Navy, as requested by our Government, probably an irresponsibly move, is such an act. Issues between fellow members of the European Union and Nato are resolved through diplomatic channels and by mature discussion. The UK's stance is measured and correct and rebuffs the Gibraltar Government's request, which, if it had been heeded could have had unnecessary and detrimental repercussions on Gibraltar.

What this incident and its aftermath emphasizes is that the central issue for determination is the issue of sovereignty. The suspension of technical talks due within the trilateral process is of no great significance, although it is symbolic. What is of significance is that the thrust of the Trilateral process is not aimed at resolving the central issue of sovereignty. Talking about peripherals whilst that issue is ignored has little point. Talking about sovereignty is not within the realms of possibility simply because Gibraltar does not wants any change on that front.

What should be done? Well, there are some immutable facts. Spain, in direct conflict with the wishes of Gibraltar, maintains its claim to sovereignty. Neither Spain nor Gibraltar will shift on their respective positions in the foreseeable future. The position of both is so entrenched that there is absolutely no room for compromise. In this situation there is only one option for Gibraltar. Gibraltar must stoically and in a dignified manner defend its stated desire to remain British. The responsibility of Gibraltar's politicians is to continually monitor, analyze and assess this policy and ensure that it remains a policy that is in the best interests of Gibraltar. If this were to change or if it has changed it would be or is their responsibility to honestly tell the electorate and support their position with strong and persuasive argument. This is what leadership is about.

To defend itself stoically and in a dignified manner, Gibraltar must continue to act authoritatively, in the same manner as it has always acted, to exert its control over its British territorial waters. The relevant government agencies must continue to exert their authority over these waters. In the event that Spain engages in provocative acts, these must be dealt with in a controlled and sensible manner. Each incident will be different and each incident will need to be managed with care, which will place a huge responsibility on the individual on the ground. These individuals must be briefed fully on how to react. They must avoid acts that will lead to an escalation of any incident, no good will come of any heightening of tensions. We must be "British" about this.

Gibraltar will gain the high moral ground if it maintains its position in a peaceful and dignified manner. Maintaining the high moral ground will improve Gibraltar's diplomatic case. Maintaining the high moral ground will not undermine the fact and reality that the waters surrounding Gibraltar are British territorial waters. Spain's acts do not enhance their case one iota. Gibraltar's reaction to those acts may well do so in so much as attention is drawn to a non-issue (Spain's assertion). Non-issues have a habit of gaining a momentum of their own if they are exacerbated. Third party countries can become involved. We should remember that Gibraltar is important and big for us but to most third party countries we are but a nuisance, however unfair that opinion might be.

It also borders on the incautious to submit our case to an international court of law as has been suggested by the Government. Diplomatic problems between States should not be handed over to judges for resolution. However strong Gibraltar's case might be (and there is no doubt that Gibraltar's case is as strong as the Chief Minister says that it is), there are enough conflicting and competing principles in international law to enable judges to justify any conclusion they wish to. An international court has to take many factors into account. It may well come to a wrong conclusion. If it were to do so, Gibraltar would find that it is not in a good place.

International disputes are resolved by diplomacy and negotiation, if they are capable of resolution at all. If there is no solution, then each one to his own. After all, life in Gibraltar is not so bad, nor are local cross-border relations bad. Thankfully, no one's life is at risk. Let diplomats resolve those disputes that, if resolved, save lives. Gibraltar will remain a good place to live in whether or not Spain continues to pursue its claim and provoke incidents in the Bay. We should take comfort in knowing how frustrated Spain must feel at making absolutely no progress over its claim. We should all get on with our lives like we do now and did during the closed border era. If Spain places inconveniences in our way, they can never be as bad as those that we faced when the frontier blockade was in full swing.

Did the issue really require a Ministerial Statement? I am not sure. If it did not, what was the motivation for it? Certainly electors in Gibraltar seem to have taken it in their stride. I certainly have.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Drink Laws Reform Signals Political Change?

The recent announcement from Justice Minister, Daniel Feetham, accompanied by Family Minister, Jaime Netto, is a very welcome development. Welcome, not just because it tackles a serious and growing social problem but importantly because it is a ministerial initiative, which if allowed to flourish will improve the democratic process in Gibraltar.

Drinking amongst youngsters has been a problem that has been getting worse year on year. It is a grave social problem with grave consequences that greatly contributes to the commission of crimes of violence and disorder. It uses up police resources unnecessarily at great expense and distracts those police resources from being deployed to more important and essential law enforcement duties.

The increase of the legal age of drinking from 16 to 18 is consonant with the laws of many other countries. The permissive aspect that allows supervised drinking of certain alcoholic beverages at the ages of 16 and 18 is enlightened. It empowers parents to decide what is best for their own children but, probably more importantly, it provides a legal mechanism by which 16 and 17 year olds can be shown how to drink responsibly. Importantly this system is based on empowering parents, which avoids the criticism that a "nanny State" is being implemented. Too much interference by the State into parental and, indeed, citizens' rights and obligations is to be avoided at all cost. The State's responsibility is to the community as a whole not to substitute individual parental controls or the duties and obligations of citizens.

Even now, whilst the legal age for drinking is 16, there has been widespread abuse, purposeful or possibly inadvertent, which has resulted in alcoholic drinks being sold to youngsters below the age of 16. 16 is in itself too young an age for the law to permit the drinking of alcohol. The sale of alcohol to underaged persons has gone relatively unchecked for some time. The fault has not been down to lack of effort on the part of the police. It has been more to do with the low penalties that could be imposed. The new law cures this deficiency also. It introduces penalties that are a deterrent in themselves. More importantly, the new penalties will help to further incentivise the police to enforce the law strictly. They will see the deterrent effect of the sentences work to prevent future breaches of the law.

But does this recent announcement signal a deeper political and hierarchical shift within the GSD? We see Daniel Feetham taking another lead on an important and fundamental change to the law accompanied by another minister Jaime Netto. Daniel Feetham seems to be taking more and more initiatives in matters that are essential to good governance at a local level. His initiatives in the field of law reform is the central plank that any Gibraltar Government should be concentrating on. It is the very reason why governments are elected. The international and other more glamourous aspects of government are undoubtedly of enormous importance but those should not be dealt with to the exclusion or detriment of the legislative process that is not led by compulsion from the EU.

Leadership initiative within the GSD shown by the likes of Peter Montegriffo and Keith Azopardi has been stifled in the past. Both left frontline politics within the GSD to the detriment of Gibraltar. This is not an effect that is unique to the GSD. Historically in Gibraltar parties of every hue have lost talent unnecessarily. Let us hope that this does not happen again. Let us hope that Daniel Feetham's enterprise, ambition and dynamism is encouraged and allowed to flourish. Democracy in Gibraltar will be enhanced if it were to be permitted.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Bay, the Secretary of State at the FCO, the Governor and the Government

The recent incident in the Bay started me thinking about what is the constitutional position of each arm of government, namely the Secretary of State, the Governor and the Government, under the 2006 Constitution. The answer is one of strict legal analysis but it also requires and analysis of of what the practical position is, in reality.

Under the 2006 Constitution the Governor is "... Her Majesty's representative in Gibraltar" (Section 19). The Governor is charged with external affairs, defence, internal security which subject to the oversight of the Police Authority, includes the police (Section 47) and certain public appointments.

Importantly section 47 includes in brackets the words "subject to this Constitution and any other law". I is important to analyse what restrictions these words place on the Governor's powers. The restriction is twofold the first is those imposed by the 2006 Constitution. The second those imposed by any law, which on the basis that the Constitution is an Order in Council surely means laws of equal standing, as Gibraltar's Parliament cannot arrogate unto itself powers to change the fundamental law contained in the 2006 Constitution.

What are the restrictions on the Governor's powers under the 2006 Constitution? Well, it seems to me, that they stem from the power and authority given by the 2006 Constitution to both Gibraltar's legislature and the executive.

Executive authority is vested in Her Majesty, who is represented by the Governor, but that executive power is exercised by the Government of Gibraltar (Section 44). Does this means that the Governor is restricted to act in accordance with the executive authority of the Government of Gibraltar even on matters that are supposed to be in his discretion? It seems difficult to interpret section 47 (Governor,s Special Responsibilities, see below) in manner that would result in a negative answer to this question. Enormous executive powers can be exercised by the Government of Gibraltar, in my opinion, even on those matters that one understood were to be the special responsibility of the Governor under the 2006 Constitution because of and by the use of the legislative authority vested in Gibraltar's Parliament. The principle of the "Rule of Law" would require that the Government of Gibraltar only act on those matters under powers given to it by an Act of Parliament.

The legislature of Gibraltar consists of Her Majesty and Parliament (Section 25). The legislature is empowered to " ... make laws for the peace, good order and good government of Gibraltar", with the restriction being that it must do so subject to the 2006 Constitution (Section 32). One restriction is certainly the requirement to comply with the human rights provisions included in Part 1 of the 2006 Constitution.

Another restriction is the requirement that the Governor needs to assent to any Act of Parliament or that he refers the same to Her Majesty but this power is limited under the 2006 Constitution. The limitations are that he can only reserve to Her Majesty those bills that are repugnant to the 2006 Constitution, which are those that either breach human rights or are not for the "... peace, good order and good government of Gibraltar". The governor may only withhold his assent if he considers an Act to be repugnant to good government or incompatible with international obligations. In short there is not much scope to withhold assent to any law passed by Parliament, inclusive seemingly, of those matters that are defined as reserved to the Governor in section 47 (see above) because of the very carve out that makes those powers subject to the 2006 Constitution. This must mean that the exercise by the Governor of these powers are subject to the legislative powers of Gibraltar's Parliament.

So does the Governor have any safeguards that he can deploy to counteract the power of Gibraltar's Parliament? Well essentially, it seems to me, that the power the Governor has is the power to introduce direct rule. The Governor can do this in one of two ways. Either by using his legislative powers (section 34), which allows him, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to legislate on matters that under section 47 (see above) are within his remit but first having given the Chief Minister the opportunity to legislate on the issue in Gibraltar's Parliament.

The alternative is the nuclear option. The exercise of the power by Her Majesty contained in paragraph 8 of Annex 2 to the 2006 Constitution. In full this says:

"There is retained by Her Majesty full power to make laws from time to time for the peace, order and good government of Gibraltar (including, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, laws amending or revoking this Constitution "

So everything that is given on the one hand can be taken away by the other at a stroke of Her Majesty's pen, not forgetting that she is represented in Gibraltar by the Governor. I accept that Her Majesty must mean Her Majesty acting on the advice of the Privy Council (through the Secretary of State who is a Privy Councillor) but still, this power can be deployed or its use threatened.

The reality, I would have thought, is that in practice the Governor and the Government (read Chief Minister) must find a working relationship in the sense that the latter needs to tread a path that will not cause the Governor (meaning the UK through Her Majesty) to exercise or even consider exercising his constitutional powers. It is also clear that the extreme remedies provided to the Governor/Her Majesty in the 2006 Constitution militate toward empowering the Government in every area of government. This makes the lack of checks and balances in the system of government and the undemocratic electoral system even more worrying and the need to progress that debate even more important.

There is also another reality. Gibraltar does not have enough power (in my mind essentially none) in the military sense to defend against any aggressive act from Spain. The chances of an outright invasion are of course negligible, as the international reaction to an event like that would be overwhelmingly detrimental to Spain. My thoughts in this regard, however, turn to the incursions by Spain into Gibraltar's territorial waters and the recent pronouncements by Spain's Foreign Minister that Gibraltar has none. It seems to me that there is little that Gibraltar can do about these, beyond complaining about and condemning such acts, without full assistance in every regard from the UK.

The moral of the story is that Gibraltar's friendship and relationship with the UK must transcend the letter of the law as contained in the 2006 Constitution. There are pragmatic considerations that need to be taken into account and Gibraltar's relationship with the UK, at a practical and real level, should be carefully nurtured. Doesn't the UK do it with the USA and the EU and every sovereign nation with other sovereign nations? The quest and campaign for self determination needs to bring this consideration into account, especially if Spain is not onside. It is clear that from its actions Spain continues to have only one objective in its sights: the recovery of the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The "Leader" Says All is Good, so do not Worry.

As someone who has voted GSD (and is happy to say so) in every election at which the GSD with Peter Caruana as its head has been elected into government, I fully recognise that the GSD and Peter Caruana have done much for the betterment of Gibraltar. It is right that he should boast about this in his speech to the Casino Calpe, which unfortunately I missed. Unfortunately because I would have liked to have been there, both as a courtesy, because I am a past President and Life President, but more importantly because I would have heard his talk first hand. As it is I was unable to be there because I am on my annual holidays. I write this piece (some will say because I need my head examined) looking over the Grand Canal in Venice. Consequently, I rely (with thanks and attribution) on the Chronic report.

As a democrat, I am concerned that Peter Caruana should so openly criticise the GSLP opposition party on the basis that it has a "leadership" crisis. I am concerned that he should criticise its leader, Joe Bossano, on the grounds that having lost 4 elections, he is not worthy to be its leader. I do not agree. It may be a ground upon which the electorate might decide not to vote for the GSLP but it is not an issue upon which an election should be fought by the GSD. It is not for Peter Caruana to decide who should or should not be the leader of the party that opposes him. That is a decision for the members of that party alone. If it means that an election is lost on that ground, so be it but, at the very least the democratic process will have taken its course.

I am sure that it has not gone unnoticed that the other side of the coin of that selfsame argument is that, according to Peter Caruana, the electorate has no choice but to vote for the GSD and so install Peter Caruana as Chief Minister again. Implicit in his argument is the concept that he alone is worthy of that position of responsibility. Why? Because Joe Bossano has lost four elections so is not worthy of your vote and Fabian Picardo might do "crazy" things. This, together with the mantra that ... "Gibraltar is too astute to change good for bad ..." is a perfect argument to do away with democracy altogether. Peter, it is not you that decides what is good or bad, it is the electorate.

Perhaps he feels that Gibraltar should implement a dynastic system like that of North Korea? Should one not ask at this stage, who is in line to take over from Peter Caruana as leader of the GSD? There are many rumours about that ... and guess what ... is there anyone on the cards? I do not know but it seems to me that if the GSLP have a leadership problem, don't the GSD have the same problem? Maybe not but will Peter Caruana enlighten the electorate on that issue? Perhaps Peter Montegriffo is better equipped to answer that question.

let us make a quick analysis of the way Gibraltar has developed economically. If my memory serves me right the GSLP government were faced with a period of major transition in Gibraltar's economy from an economy virtually entirely dependent on UK Defence expenditure (and an ailing privatised dockyard) to one based on the private sector. Who laid the foundations for the changeover? If my memory serves me right, it was Mr Bossano's GSLP government. In addition to developing the pillars of the economy, finance centre, tourism, and the the port, it attracted the biggest ever (still today) foreign investment to Gibraltar in the guise of the Danish investment in Europort, which has been put to use by the GSD government, in part, as a hospital.

What has the GSD government actually innovated? Very little other than to build on the economic foundations laid down by the GSLP administration. Well, there is the Cordoba Agreement giving rise to the tripartite forum. Is this a success? Each reader can judge this for himself, but flights to Madrid, a failure, queues, well, are they much better? And now, clashes in the bay, which in another era would have possibly led to more serious consequences and which has led to even Peter Caruana questioning the effectiveness of the Trilateral forum. This statement could be considered the beginnings of an admission by him of the failure of this policy of engaging with Spain without tackling the fundamental issue of sovereignty. Oh yes, sorry, there is the joint use air terminal, but where is Spain's bit? And yes, the Instituto Cervantes, well we all know where it will be located but when will it be up and running? And without a shadow of doubt the GSD has, as promised, eradicated the tobacco trade. Has it? Still the GSD government can deliver the capital expenditure projects that it is delivering. What is paying for these in part? Could it be tax revenues from tobacco sale? All that The GSD have delivered is a more sanitised version of this trade. Let us not forget what it was the tobacco trade that resulted in the defeat of the GSLP government in 1996.

And then the excuse to end all excuses. There are no additional flights to Gibraltar because Peter Caruana says that he does not allow Joe Holliday to increase air services until the new air terminal is ready. Sorry! My understanding is that most airports and air terminals are not expanded until existing facilities are stretched. Perhaps Mr Caruana either knows different or has expert consultants who have advised him different. To boot do Ministers have any power when Mr Caruana can "... not allow ..." one of them to effectively undertake and succeed in their own ministry, or is it just an excuse for the failure?

In the end it is all about democracy, something that the GSD promised in 1996, with less centralised government nt controlled by NO 6 and greater transparency, you can judge whether the GSD has delivered on this promise. I am a fervent believer and adherent to democracy and the right to freedom of speech. If in the UK two brothers can fight over the leadership of the Labour party and still love each other, there is no reason why speaking ones mind should poison relationships. In this regard each of Joe Bossano, Daniel Feetham and Fabian Picardo have been magnanimous, they have each been critised in Llanito World and each of them have seen fit to discuss these criticisms with me, that is real democracy and free speech at work.