Thursday, 20 January 2011

Citizens' Rights and the GSD Government

I have written much about the democratic deficit that exists in Gibraltar.  One question in this election year is, who is going to deliver on this front to the electorate in Gibraltar?  Let us see what the GSD Government promised in their manifesto at the time of the 2007 election.

"The sustained commitment by the GSD Government to ensure that Gibraltar becomes and remains a modern democracy ..."

"We will remain committed to to open, transparent, fair and good government.  This is a cornerstone of the quality of life in Gibraltar.  It is vital that progress made not be lost by a return to how things were done in the past"

"We will further develop our existing policy of advisory councils, consultation processes, annual reports and exhibitions to ensure that public information about and participation in Government decision making is maximised."

"We will reform the way our new Parliament conducts its work to ensure that we have a modern Parliament that meets this community's modern need:"

"We will continue to develop a new model of access to justice and legal aid to ensure fairness, affordability and the curtailment of fees-driven disputes"

"We will remain committed to expanding the opportunities that the citizen has to have complaints against the Government and public administration generally investigated effectively and independently"

It is for a Government to deliver on its manifesto promises, not for any opposition party or for any other party contesting the election.  I will leave it there.  You decide whether the GSD Government have delivered on any of these manifesto promises.  I have given my views in earlier pieces.  I think there is a huge democratic deficit.  I think near nothing has been delivered to redress this deficit but was it promised?  I believe so or else I do not understand any of the above quotes.


  1. Sorry says: I would say that the GSD has most definitely NOT delivered open government. The problem is that I am convinced that Mr.Picardo's GSLP will not do so either. Keith Azopardi was a key member of the GSD and although he now pays lip service to openness his track record is not good.I find Mr. Caruana and many of his ministers arrogant and unpleasant but they have delivered in many other areas and regretfully I will be voting for the GSD or blank or for any independent that wants to stand. All the party politicians on offer at the moment are "cut by the same scissors" but Caruana is the best of a poor lot. sorry, eh?

  2. For hundreds, probably thousands of years, people have trodden the same path to enter the City of Gibraltar. I am disappointed to read in this morning’s Chronicle that “Pedestrians will not be crossing the runway on foot” for very much longer.
    No doubt the Government have had to balance many factors when considering this issue but I do not think that their current position is the right one. The ability to walk into and out of Gibraltar freely and easily is surely so fundamental and basic a matter that it should be maintained even if it is at substantial cost to the public purse. It certainly should not be sacrificed without wide public consultation.
    I truly hope that a final decision has not yet been taken on this issue.

  3. Anonymous at 11:55

    Negative voting as suggested by you will not deliver the change that Gibraltar needs and many want. You have another choice. You can vote for INDIVIDUAL candidates from each party and for independents. This is classed by the parties as a wasted vote. It is not it is a true expression of your democratic voice. If enough people do it the message of dissatisfaction will get through. Alternatively voting for the GSLP as a punishment to the GSD means (in your analysis) that you get someone "cut by the same scissors" but a little worse than the GSD ... so what?

  4. We ARE in a bit of a situation here....

    We defintely need to get the GSD out in order to get things moving again, allow new ideas to flow into our community and rid ourselves of various personalities who are just in it to make a buck or two.

    The GSLP in its current state (forget their past mishaps - its been nearly sixteen years since) does not inspire much confidence and still have some work pending.

    And voting PDP would be like voting a Celebrity get-together into Parliament what with their potantial candidates being made up of amateurs who are known locally for Chairman of this help group, Volunteer for that charity, member of this community issues group etc.

    I think we ave tired the current political system to the point of death and need to look at moderninsing it pronto. Unfortunately this won't happen in time for the next election....and it seems most people will merely vote GSD for lack of options. Many of these are unhappy with the GSD and state they will vote for them for fear of the GSLP past and "Better the devil you know" before stating in the same breath that it would be wrong to vote GSLP merely to get rid of the GSD.

    So what do we do at the next election. If we are all honest, we need change. We have had the same Government for TOO long, regardless of whether they are good or bad. 16 years is way too long especially in a place as small as Gibraltar where passions run high and become near fanatical!

    What do we do come the Election?

  5. Sorry but my point is that although the GSLP and the PDP may as you say be a little worse when it comes to openness they might be much worse and "better the devil you know". In fact I personally think that Fabian's GSLP will be much worse when it comes to openness etc. I said that in my view the GSD have done many good things and I do not believe that either Fabian or Keith can match Caruana in terms of stamina and intellect (although they come close to him in arrogance and lack of general attractiveness).Lo siento de verdad, que quiere que te diga? May be I will vote for any independents who want to throw away their deposits.

  6. Incidentally I voted for my candidate of choice rather than my party of choice at the last elections. I believe block voting defeats the whole purpose of a “democratic” poll system. Though I will acknowledge that there is a need at times for block voting, maybe these coming elections are such a time? To which I will add I will NOT be voting for any GSD candidates this time round. The points listed by Robert in this same blog are just a few of the many reasons why I will not do so. Lack of transparency is the least of my worries to be honest. Once upon a time I had faith in certain GSD ministers but they have let me down (BIG TIME) and have proved to be (at least in my eyes) nothing but a bunch of overpaid puppets and YES men.

    The GSLP on the other hand need to sort out their leadership issues. It is time to give way to the NEW GSLP generation. Out with the old and in with the new I say! People will continue to vote negatively in my opinion as long as Bossano continues to be part of their lineup. A great man but none the less tarnished (beyond repair) by mistakes made predominately by those around him. He should stand down gracefully even if he is indeed re-elected as the party leader. Furthermore if this were to happen I know of many who would stand by the GSLP. I myself would be tempted (not that counts for much lolol), as their ideology is inspirational “BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE”.

    The PDP lacks depth but has a few candidates of note and that I actually voted for last time round. Unfortunately as intellectual as I believe Mr. Azzopardi to be, he seems to lack the charisma to lead. Though I do consider him to be a great asset to any political formation, maybe the PDP need to invest more time in recruiting members? Just a thought.

    What about YOU Robert? Will you be running for office anytime soon?


  7. Anonymous at 13.00

    Great GSD propaganda ... keep it up ... how are the electorate going to achieve change if it does not fight for it?

    We need to start the fight ... NOW!

  8. The opposition parties do not inspire confidence and the opposition leaders (with the possible exception of Dr. Garcia) are all mouth and no trousers. They patronise us like Caruana does but ironically Caruana does it better! With all due respect to Keith and Fabian they seem to be on decades old ego trips which as they enter middle age has become a bit stale. Sadly for Gibraltar they do not have any where the charisma of Moustache Joe or Pete. Que aburrimiento.

  9. Owen

    Several years ago when the new access road to Spain was first announced, Mr Caruana gave an after dinner speech at a banker's association dinner at the old casino.

    The question and answer session was not very lively so I decided to ask a question. My question was simple. I told him that on occasion I WALKED to La Linea for a drink and tapas so would I be able to do that once the tunnel was open? He replied, sometimes the simplest questions are the most difficult to answer but he said yes, pedestrian access across the airport would be permitted.

    A few adys later I went to dinner at the then Commander British Forces. As soon as I arrived I was accosted by a variety of service personnel (not CBF, I hasten to say) labelling me, in jest, the "spoil sport". They said it would not be allowed. Now we know that they were right (and I agree with them on uasage and safety grounds at least) ... but we are not colonials ... hahaha!

  10. If pedestrians are not allowed to cross the runway and have to walk all the way to Eastern Beach and then along Devil's Tower Road, whoever thought this out is out of touch with reality.
    Has anybody in authority actually checked how many thousand of people would be put off from visiting Gib if this is enforced?
    And if they were to put free buses, can you imagine the queues!!
    I bet this arrangement will not last long, why? because the spanish workers will be up in arms when told they have to go the long way round, and govt will capitulate.

  11. Robert Im the Anon at 13hrs.....reading your reply I might not have expressed myself well or you might have misinterpreteed. believe me, the last thing I want to do is aid the GSD in any way!

    I was just commenting that I genuienly belive we have really exhausted the current system, or allowed it to be used to its detriment.

    I will defintely not be voting for any GSD candidates come the Election, but I am not too keen on any other alternatives. That said, I will be contributing to change by NOT voting GSD - and neither will I submit a blank vote. I was just trying to say that many of us, and I really belive a large part of the community, will be votingh whoever we decide to vote for, for the wrong reasons, which doesn't seem right.

    Like I said I won't be voting GSD. Similarly I know many people who will be voting GSD despite being unhappy because they have this fearof the GSLP - which personally I don't feel - the past is the past and I think we have all moved on. That said, the current GSLP doesn't inspire me either, or make me feel keen to get them in for who they are. When I vote it will either be GSLP or PDP , or a combo of cadidates of the two parties, merely to get change going, but not because I feel they deserve to get in - which really is wrong. When we vote it should be because we feel that whoever we vote for has a good chance of improving things.

    That's what I was trying to say. Hope it came across clearer this time LOL. But please, don't think I am trying to post GSD propaganda because nothing could be further away from the truth. I have had many losses and "suffered" a great deal under the current administration, at both a professional and personal level. The last thing I would want to do is prolong all this for myself!

  12. Ghost says:
    Christ I remember that question....and the answer too. I thought it was at JMH not GBA Dinner though.
    You must be very proud..:)
    Quieres que te pege duro con las ultimas pajas mentales - or would you rather have a break this weekend?...;)

  13. Yes RV hates any GSD propaganda. Well done for pulling your pants down anon 13hr and appeasing him. RV will be pleased. But let's not forget he is impartial and does not care either way.

  14. Anonymous at 19:07

    I do not like propaganda from any side. I like real facts and opinions.

    I am not impartial but I express MY opinions.

  15. Whatever you say people will always twist your words!

    The Anon is definitely not making nay GSD prpopaganda in his first post, and clears that up again in his second post - where he is not appeasing anyone but merely explaning what he said initially which was misinterpreted. The anon does make it clear that he is not happy with ANY politicians or parties at present!

    Fanaticism...y depsues hablamos del fantacismo arabe!

  16. Fred says:

    Robert, yo creo que Ghost se la pega el solito :)

    On a serious note, however, I also walk to La Linea to have tapas and get hammered. I hope tha tthe RGP does not feel obliged to move me along when I fall asleep at Eastern Beach!

  17. Ghost says:

    Robert, here goes and after a few canas, tinto's and tapas down me. I'll start by saying that you have hit a roar nerve; I personally have found it interesting and fun to debate with you on the many issues that you have highlighted in the past and which I maintain are edged toward a dislike and criticism of Govt's policies across a wide range of issues, economic, social and other. In this case, you have clearly found a means to an end in your crusade to finally discredit Govt....:) that being the route of the political system that we enjoy........or not as the case may be.

    I say a roar nerve because you make valid points (hard as it is for me to admit); promises have indeed been made and the electorate has a right to hold these to account and ask as you do... have they been met? You think not, and you would not be wrong. What you fail to appreciate is that no other Govt or politician in the past has actually made an effort to tackle and address these reforms. The fact that PRC has highlighted them in past manifestos is in itself an admission that he agrees with you, (that'll be a first) or taht you agree with him (god forbid). Now before you gun me down with the obvious propagandist remark, I ask you, has there, at the very least (in your opinion) been an effort on the part of the GSD to improve our democracy and make it more accountable? Me e puesto nervoiso hasta en la pregunta..:...)

    We have bantered in the past about the powers of the executive and the weakness of the legislature, unlike England, we do not have the Lords or back benchers, nevertheless my argument is whips essentially cancel this out anyway. There is an interesting lecture by Lord Hailsham 1976 on "Elective Dictatorship" , in which he describes the British system for what it is. Imperfect and not as democratic as one might have expected (I need not tell you this) , but it does provide the ELECTED Govt, the ability to lead and take decisions without fear of such openness, all in the name of literal text book democracy and as to be considered impractical.

    I am not going to go into the detail of the quotes that you make, but suffice to say that not all have been met, some have, particularly the first'll be up in arms now no doubt...:)

    I find it extraordinary that you take serious issue with our democratic deficits (rightly or wrongly) and not one post (to date) has actually agreed or taken it on. Clearly the pedestrian crossing at the air field is of greater importance! The little that has been discussed on the substance of your post interestingly shows that your readers believe that neither of the two big parties are interested in changing the system and there is an almost apologetic tone by some who say that they feel no choice buy to vote for the devil you know. Well I make no apology for stating that the GSD may have indeed gotten things wrong, that they may even have overstretched on the quotes that you highlight (which in my opinion are subjective), but a democracy we most certainly are.

    "It is for a Government to deliver on its manifesto promises, not for any opposition party or for any other party contesting the election." Thats great stuff that might also want to suggest that if the opposition were for to example back track on issues relating to the betterment of our democracy, such as the constitution, that we should ignore the democratic failings of an opposition party to create positive checks and balances and be productive, and persecute a Govt that quite obviously wants and has identified matters worthy of address and which you quite clearly are in agreement of, all because they did not quite meet that ticket........that is what you are suggesting is it not?

    Deficits indeed.


  18. Dear Robert

    I am sorry to read about your resignation from the FSC board. The financial sector will be at a loss.

  19. RV

    Your resignation is a grave indictment on democracy.

  20. Offu ya empesamo. Por donde vendran los palos con esto, de No. 6 o de No. 55?

  21. The Democratic Deficit Delusion

    Are you really that deluded?

    Democratic Deficit exists within all of those who criticised the CM for his comments on Andorra. Now all the readers must be thinking “this guy is staunch GSD”. No in fact no more than a concerned student.

    I keep in touch with Gibraltar news as much as, the now reduced online service of the Chronicle, the brief 10 minute Newswatch programs and the somewhat short articles in Panorama allow me to. However, I believe I must have been one of the first individuals to watch the entire CM seminar in Seville, via the webpage of that particular conference.

    A week after I watched the video I was astounded by the amount of criticism the CM had received over a comment made in the last 5 minutes of a 1 hour and a half long seminar. So, I went ahead and re-watched the seminar (now from the Governments website) and was taken aback by how mistaken many people were. Notwithstanding, the bombardment of increasingly absurd arguments continued. Now I felt as if it was possibly I who had misunderstood the statement; so I watched the full seminar for a third time. This was when I noticed that people had no idea of what they were on about. There was speak on what the constitution of Andorra consists of, on who would be the co-princes, on how a leader can suggest such a thing, etc. I was honestly bewildered. Leaving the Andorra issue aside; at some point during that hype of political activity whilst reading through the articles published on the matter, there was a constant reference to “we have had two referenda on the issue of sovereignty and we don’t want a third” or words to that effect. These statements are the ones which I must bring about on the topic of Democratic Deficit. How can someone claim that there is a democratic deficit when the very leader of a ‘state’ clearly announces that any issue on sovereignty would be given to the people of Gibraltar to decide? Furthermore, he says, it will not be “Peter Caruana who decides”. Last I checked referenda are a form of direct democracy!

    People in Gibraltar should really open their eyes and look for evidence and not simply bandwagon on every issue. Like many people do I this blog.

  22. To All

    I will not publish any comments that refer to people by derogatory nicknames.

  23. Anonymous at 16:05

    You start and finish by insulting.

    You obviously do not live here.

    You fill the middle without argument just statements.

    You assume that referendums on sovereignty issues fill any democratic deficit.

    I also have seen the whole video several times and your assessment is correct save when the CM spoke of Andorra. He is the CM he cannot say that as a leader of Gibraltar and then not take responsibility for the effect of his saying it.

    I suggest that you analyse the matter a bit deeper. Superficiality is what gets you where you are. You completely miss all the arguments on democratic deficit.

  24. Im not sure if I understand the meaning of Democratic Deficit. Is it when,

    A member of a Working Group to improve things is asked to resign / relocated to another department / capacity because the view expressed is not shared by the "chairperson" of the board;

    Reporters are asked to submit questons to the CM head of the actual interview, and then, their scripts altered / amended as seen fit?

    Reporters are banned from interviewing the CM because the CM felt uncomfortable with the questions asked?

    Important news that has no "Security / Safety" implications is kept from the Community;

    When Citizens ask for information from various Government organs regarding their status (ie-Housing, health, etc) a Ministry / Agency rep tells you that unfortunately it is out of their hands and they are awaiting a result / decision direct from the CM (why are their highly paid Ministers / heads of depts for each area of responsibility then);

    Career development for some individuals is suddenly brought to a halt because they are demmed "politically unsafe";

    Construction of any project is brought to a halt for a prolonged period of time, costing everyone money, because the CM is deciding on the benfits of a magenta finish instead of fuschia;

    Are these examples of democratic deficit?

  25. Dear Robert

    I was both shocked and horrified after learning of your resignation. Why have you resigned? Is this politically motivated? How can the FSC committee work be compromised by an internet blog where all bloggers exercise their right to free speech?

    Is the right to free speech in our constitution been violated?

    Who is accountable?

  26. Mike says:

    Is political affiliation, and therefore bias by implication, not an issue with any other of the board members of the FSC?
    Could it be that all this has come about because you rarely sing the Pied Pipers tune?
    Vaya cashondeo de pueblo

  27. Maybe the £1 Chronicle will carry an opinion Column regarding RVs FSC situation. I was quite surprised that the Chronicle has actually hited at a possible explanation by printing the line "Mr. V....has log been critical of the governing GSD". Perhaps the highly paid CEO of GBC Mr Allan King will now order a Viewpoint programme around the story and implications for democratic expression, deomocratic deficit and the real news that happens in Gib of which there is no shortage as the CEO claimed when he reduced Newswatch to amere 8-10 minute sketch. That's if Mr King is still about?? It's a bit of a Where's Wally with him. has anybody ever seen him about town???

  28. Mike,

    A lot will be said if no members of the the FSC board react to this.

  29. “You obviously do not live here” Whether I live in Gibraltar or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is what one sees unfolding.

    Provided there is a democratic deficit and that the government promised to close this deficit. Given that they have not met these promises and that the deficit still exists, would you not agree that the mildest suggestion of the deficit being tackled (by means not mentioned in the manifesto) is better than nothing at all?

    Notwithstanding, I believe referenda are a magnificent form of democracy. I used the example of Andorra to illustrate that people are unaware of this fact. Because of Gibraltar’s size it is disadvantaged in many respects, particularly in the size of its parliament. However, its size is an advantage for organising referenda.

    I deny there being a deficit because in comparison to other nation-states Gibraltar is very democratic, in that the citizens are very involved in politics. For example, anyone may go and meet with the CM.

    With this said there are improvements which can be made (as with everything). Direct Democracy!

    “So, what if there should be proposals? Any would be good, provided that they are freely accepted by the people of Gibraltar.” CM Seville speech.

    “He is the CM he cannot say that as a leader of Gibraltar and then not take responsibility for the effect of his saying it.” RV
    He has taken responsibility for suggesting that he would provide the Andorra model to the people of Gibraltar:
    “I cannot understand why anyone should think that it is bad or wrong for any proposal to be put to the people of Gibraltar in referendum for them to freely accept or reject in exercise of our right to self determination.” CM Chronicle.

    He should not take responsibility for ill-informed rumours and accusations of statements he did not make, for in doing so he would accept that he has made those statements.

    Do not be deluded by what may seem as Democratic Deficit, there is clearly none; for a real example of democratic deficit look into the EU.

    Also I mean not to insult anyone.

    Anonymous of 16:05

  30. Anonymous at 16:05 and 17:13

    Thank you but improvement is possible.

    On Andorra a CM cannot make throw away remarks like that and absolve himself of responsibility by hiding behind a referendum. If he supports such a proposal and he said "possibly" he may he has to stand by it and take political responsibility for it.

    I don't want to start the whole Andorra argument again ... flogged to death already!

  31. Anon at say you are a student, and I take it you are young then, unless you are a matue student.

    If you are a young student, you have probably not "worked" in gibraltar other than perhaps the odd Summer / weekend job. When you return to Gib and get into full time employment, no matter if it is with the Private Sector, please come back and tell us if you feel the same way.

    Also, you mention than anyone can visit the CM. True and Yes, positive. But it says a lot when you have to visit the CM for a metter not related to his Office because he has decided HE will be the one deciding despite there already being a highly paid Minister / head of dept. detailed with that specific responsibility.

  32. Anon14:05. I think we have enough with ghost singing that tune don't you? Surely there are no more of you. Or are there, could it really be possible that team GSLP are on yet another delusional road of hype thanks to the one and only Robert V? But only to have others like you spoil their vision thing of absolutely nothing, other change because Caruana has been there too long. Oh and the buses, ah y el constitution, pero eso ta cool ya. Y las puertas del Cumberland, y la economia que apparentemente se a ido al pique, pero todavia no Los hemos enterao. Lo de Los cruise ships, hay mas que en el 96 o no?

  33. Anon at 15:45 para con los misterio leshe! Do you mean "55" in Main Street or 55 Line Wall Road? Robert ha creau mushisimo enemigo a la veje por que dise lo ke piensa y eso no le gusta a los manadamese and the powers to been. Mind I don't agree agree with many things that Robert says but in a DEMOCRACY we all have a right to be wrong. I think the FSC thing is a storm in a tea pot como dise mi prima Rita and that come Monday it will all be hugs and kises and all OK por que Dios los cria y ellos se juntan. Dale duro Robert y amino que todos estamos detras tuya. Viva Vasquez!!!!!!!!....

  34. Robert I am very sorry to hear about your FSC resignation. A courageous move none the less.

    Anon 16:05/17:13

    I believe you to be either very naïve, very stupid or not who you say you are.

    Demasiao “students” and “apoliticals" ay aqui escondiendose detra de cloaks of animosity comiendole el Culo al CM.

    Te cuento el cuento de la Buena pepita?? Pero que se creen que todos los hemos caido de un arbol? Or que pasa? Lolololol Cracks!!!

    I will enlighten you the same way I enlightened Mr. Jamie Trinidad via my rebuttal to his “My Opinion” piece.

    Article 43 (1) of the Andorra constitution states the following:
    “In accordance with the institutional tradition of Andorra, the Co-princes are, jointly and indivisibly, the Cap de l'Estat, and they assume its highest representation.” Please note the words, jointly, indivisibly and highest representation. When put in layman’s terms this means that even though the Sovereignty of Andorra is vested with the people of Andorra the Co-princes will have the final say in all matters. Furthermore the aforementioned article cannot be altered as it is part of the very foundation on which the Andorra constitution was built upon.
    The CM PROPOSED it!! Let us note that there is a BIG difference between responding to such a proposal and making the proposal oneself! The CM cannot retract on what was said (and recorded). You have viewed the video numerous times right (or so you claim)? Then you MUST have also heard him say the following, “una propuesta para Gibraltar, que es un problema para todos en cierta medida, seria un estatus como Andorra”, “Yo incluso no lo veria impossible RECOMENDARSELO al pueblo de Gibraltar”. He should NEVER have said that! He had no right! We DO NOT want to be Spanish, be it 50% or 2 %!! We VOTED we said NO! Why the need to call a referendum have we not been clear enough?
    Read between the lines my misguided friend something is NOT right.
    Additionally even if the Andorra “solution” does not mean joint sovereignty (which it does) don’t you think it somewhat precarious to have a PRINCE from a nation that claims we are “rightly theirs??

    As for democratic deficits it is clear there are many even GSD supporters have admitted this is so. You excuse this with the inexcusable though. You cannot state (in my opinion)that having democratic deficits is fine as long as the CM has “tried” to tackle them. It is this type of apathetic attitude that infuriates me! This is not fine! If he cannot produce the type of results that the PEOPLE want then he should not be in office. It is as plain as simple as that. Should the public (via their taxes) pay a police man who “tries” but does not uphold the law? Or a Fireman who “tries” but does not put out fires?? Or a Computer expert who “tries” but cannot fix computers? You get PAID to do your job. If you can’t do it then you should be fired.


  35. Fred says:

    Robert, I am sorry to hear about your resignation from the FSC. I am sure that you will give your reasons in due course.

    I am certain that others within the FSC have more to worry about as regards political impartiality than you have, and I am not thinking just of allegiances to political parties in Gib.

  36. Llanita from Gibraltar says...

    Robert its sad that you have had to resign from the FSC but I trust some good will come of it, time will tell. Along with many others, I await to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks.

    You write about Citizen's rights, this week we've seen the epidemiological study come out and, we have been told 'not to worry' by both the Chief Minister and Isobel Ellul-Hammond .

    As a citizen, and a female one at that, I hope I am not being misinformed - this is my health after all and I believe I have the right to be told the truth and not fobbed off i.

    Reading the ESG's report, though, I am growing increasingly sceptical and becoming very worried indeed!

  37. Llanita

    I have not looked into the epidemiological study or the ESG's report but I would find it impossible to believe that anyone would misinform about this issue nor is there anything to be gained by this. The study was carried out by a renowned independent organisation. Surely we must believe it and not let rumour and uninformed opinion colour our views on this issue?

  38. Llanita from Gibraltar says...

    Robert I couldn't agree with you more! However, read for yourself what the ESG has to say in both the Chronicle and the Panorama online, the latter going into more detail.

  39. Llanita from Gibraltar says...

    furthermore, Robert, I have an enormous respect for the sterling work Isobel and her charity have done both for sufferers of breast cancer, past, present and future, and for raising awareness in the community. I also have as much respect for Janet Howitt from the ESG, though - so I don't quite know who to turn to at this point in time!

  40. On the subject of whether pedestrians will be permitted to cross the runway or not - This is not only critical to Gibraltar's ability to become a Civil Aviation Authority, thereby allowing for the transfer of control from the RAF but equally it may also be a compelling issue for the UK to allow, should they wish to, the future removal of the RAF presence in Gibraltar, being one of the joint sovereignty Red Lines for the UK. I say keep pedestrians walking across at all costs!

    I am sorry to hear of your resignation from the FSC. It is ironic that only a couple of blogs ago we discussed Code of Conduct for Civil Servants (holding a public seat) and the rules regarding expression of personal views critical of the Government of the day.
    Did you not think this applied to you too?

    Politics here is very divisive, at times even between families. Ultimately it is a reminder to everyone that in a place like Gibraltar there is a cost to pay for speaking one's mind.

  41. Please excuse typo - meant anonymity and not animosity (damn spellcheck lololol)

  42. Ref the epidemiological study - I do not believe Isobel had read the report at the time of the interview, save perhaps for the Executive Summary and this was made obvious during her responses to the interviewers questions.
    Had she read the report she would have realised that for Breast Cancer, Gibraltar is 7th worst in the whole of Europe and that this is only based on 5 years worth of data!
    Had she read the report she would have also been alarmed to know of the presence of 3 major contributing carcinogenic substances which we are breathing into our lungs on a daily basis which are as yet not quantified.

    I would go further and say that her opinion was misinformed as it was based solely on the wishy washy, 'drive a truck through' statement which the CM clutched onto which was that Cancer rates in Gib are within the European norm. The Norm is High!
    The ESG on the otherhand avoided any off the cuff statements and had the report analysed by their experts before they gave a statement, for me it is very clear who to believe.

  43. Isobel Ellul-Hammond23 January 2011 at 15:46

    Llanita, call our charity mobile 58008944, who will give you my mobile number, and call me. I will explain our situation and hope to allay your fears.
    Isobel Ellul-Hammond

  44. Isobel Ellul-Hammond23 January 2011 at 15:48

    And by the way Llanita, if you call me, I promise to keep your pseudonym a secret.

  45. Fussy Fellows

    As a matter of constitutional rights and law, no, the restrictions applicable to public officers and civil servants do not apply to members of the FSC.

  46. Llanita from Gibraltar says...

    Isobel many thanks for the offer but its not a case of you personally allaying my fears, the facts and figures speak for themselves. You have set your position out very clearly, or so you seemed to on GBC the other day. The ESG, on the otherhand don't seem to agree with you - perhaps you need to speak to them, instead of me.
    Once again, I repeat, your charity does sterling work and I am well aware of the help you give breast-cancer sufferers behind the scenes. However, the ESG is just as passionate about their cause as you are about yours so they cannot be dismissed, hacin por la cara!

  47. In which case, I hope that your resignation does not acquiesce their right to question your political independence.

  48. Llanita 15:58

    I believe Isobel to be an exemplary member of our society and an extremely likeable person, yet I concur on all counts!

    The ESG findings should not be taken lightly.


  49. Fussy Fellows

    Things may become clearer soon but not now or in this forum.

  50. PART 1

    The epidemiological study (which I have read Fussy Fellows) was commissioned to establish whether Gibraltar is a high-risk community for cancer and whether there was an increased rate for a certain type of cancer linked to environmental pollutants (plus other related questions).
    On the face of it, the results speak for themselves; we believe the figures are valid and reliable and that the study was conducted by reputable and independent epidemiologists from Aarhus University in Denmark.

    The answers to the above study objectives are basically “no” (please read the study, or at least the conclusion, for these answers as they are too long to quote here). We are relieved that “Gibraltar is not a high-risk community for cancer” and that even though “breast cancer is in the upper centiles among EU countries...elevated compared to the rest of the EU, but still within the normal range”. According to the chart on page 74, this means that breast cancer rates are about 1 in 8/9 women (it is 1 in 9 in the UK), a figure our charity has assumed and worked with these last four years. If the epidemiological report had concluded breast cancer rates in Gibraltar were 1 in 5/6, then we would be concerned and have more questions to ask.

    A point on the breast cancer bar chart on page 74 of the report which shows the EU countries’ average incidence rates: even though Gibraltar may register near the top for breast cancer, cancer data for different European countries are gathered in different ways and may not be methodologically comparable (see page 89 of the report for their view)? Some figures are gathered as incidence data (real time) such as us, UK, Denmark; others are mortality data (at death) such as Greece, Spain (only 20% of breast cancers end in death); other countries gather regional incidence data and average for their country; and other countries have no data (the average from their neighbouring countries is used).

    We understand that questions still remain regarding airborne pollutants and their potential effect on breast cancer, which is why we have sent the report to ‘Breast Cancer Care’ UK for their expert opinion (as I mentioned on GBC). The ESG claim to know otherwise and we would certainly wish to know who the ESG’s breast cancer public health advisors are and the reasons why they are not reassured by the results from the study. Our experts are ‘Breast Cancer Care’, ‘Breakthrough Breast Cancer’, ‘Cancer Research’ and ‘Macmillan Cancer Bacup’ (please refer to their websites and type in “breast cancer risk” for further clarification). We totally agree with the ESG that reassurance comes from knowing “that all cancer levels are low to zero within the EU or global range”, but the reality is that cancer is very real and “the global burden of cancer is increasing, especially in the developed world” (page 5 of report).

    Let me explain breast cancer risk: as far as the abovementioned cancer charities are concerned, there is no reliable, proven correlation between chemicals in our environment and breast cancer incidence. Any high presence of pollutants in the Gibraltar atmosphere would maybe have shown in an increase in respiratory and digestive tract cancers (page 87 of report) but that is not the case according to the report. There are neither high levels of carcinogens nor high levels of these cancers according to the study, so why would the pollutants then increase levels of breast cancer? Let me quote from ‘Breakthrough Breast Cancer’, which is constantly reviewing data and conducting research on breast cancer:

  51. Isobel Ellul-Hammond23 January 2011 at 22:38

    PART 2

    “It is thought to take many years for most breast cancers to develop and it is very difficult to work out what chemicals women with breast cancer have been exposed to over 10, 20 or even 30 years before their breast cancer is detected. It is also hard to isolate the effects of individual chemicals on breast cancer risk when we are exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals during our lifetime. Breast cancer is likely to be caused by many factors and we don’t know how the complex interactions between an individual’s lifestyle, environment and genes contribute to breast cancer development. It may not be possible to unravel the effects of any one particular chemical from the rest of these factors or other chemicals we may be exposed to.” And this I mentioned during my GBC radio interview at the time.

    Also, there is not real link between breast cancer and lifestyle choices either (as the Chief Minister said in his interview to GBC); there are only three ABSOLUTE risk factors (see below):

    ABSOLUTE RISK – being a woman, older age (80% of breast cancers are as a result of exposure to oestrogen for longer, therefore period, menopause, having children, breast feeding, HRT all have effect); 5-10% of breast cancer are due to one of three faulty breast cancer genes (Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity has a higher rate of two of the faulty genes)
    RELATIVE RISK – post-menopausal overweight (oestrogen produced from androgens in fat cells); excess alcohol increases breast cancer recurrence (increases sex hormones)
    DEBATABLE RISK (requires more research) – eating fatty foods; Oral Contraceptive pill; stress; medical radiation; night shift/less sleep (reduces protective hormone melatonin)
    NO RISK – smoking; deodorants; eating dairy; lipsticks; water in plastic bottles; shaving underarms; underwire bras; bruising to the breast

    Nobody is suggesting we do not carefully examine the study, and that the ESG stop the sterling work they do (I am a member and help out for CUTW), but I believe that there is nothing to worry about immediately. It is still important for the ESG to continue to pressure for our right to breath clean air and to raise awareness about pollutants in the environment, such as that caused by local traffic, shipping, generators and Cepsa flaring. We will always welcome research and monitoring of the health of our population, and if this epidemiological study will instigate further study and awareness of cancer (and other respiratory diseases) in Gibraltar, that is positive.

    We, as a cancer charity, have a responsibility to give unambiguous and honest information, as Llanita pointed out, it is our health and we deserve to be told the truth, to the best of our ability. We therefore refer to experts in the UK and give out the scientifically proven facts as they are discovered (see ‘risk’ list above and check charity websites).

    To further investigate breast cancer in Gibraltar, only genetic testing and profiling, and oestrogen level monitoring would give a true picture of patterns of breast cancer incidence in Gibraltar. This would be hugely expensive and prove difficult to conduct. For now, the most important thing is for women to be breast aware, to check themselves regularly to know what is normal for them so they are confident to detect any changes, and to go to their GPs straight away with concerns. Early diagnosis and new treatments successfully treat 80% of breast cancers, so above all, please attend mammography screening when invited as part of Gibraltar’s new Breast Screening Programme.

    Please contact me if you want to meet for a chat or need further information.

  52. Llanita from Gibraltar says...

    Isobel, thanks for all the information above, but as I said in my reply to you before, the facts and figures speak for themselves and your position was already stated very clearly in your GBC interview last week.

    I don't doubt the actual figures at all whatsoever - after all, they are from an independent source. My doubts lie with the advice issued by the government, and also by yourself, that breast-cancer rates in Gibraltar are 'normal' and that we shouldn't worry, especially as the ESG remain unconvinced.

    Perhaps we will have to wait for further clarification until both the ESG's health advisers and, on your part, Breast Cancer Care UK, have had a chance to study the report.

  53. What are 'normal'incidence rates for any disease? What are the acceptable incidence rates for you? That question is difficult to answer by anyone. We all wish our cancer levels were practically zero, however that is not realistic. Cancer levels are rising within the industrialised world due to a combination of genetics, lifestyle, pollutants and hormones; the combinations are highly complex (see Epid Study and Breakthrough website).

    Today's article in 'the Telegraph' on UK breast cancer rates identify alcohol (increases sex hormones), being overweight(oestrogen stored in fat), doing less exercise (exercise reduces oestrogen levels in the body) and more affluence (more women are on HRT) are all related to oestrogen levels which can trigger breast cancer.

    We concur and agree we must not become complacent about our 1 in 8/9 rate and we always advise women to lead healthier lives (when we give them talks): lose weight, do exercise, drink less alcohol, eat less fat and eat more fruit and veg as these will also increase their wellbeing and general health.

    However many high risk women do not get breast cancer and vice versa.

    1 in 9 is the rate for breast cancer in women in the UK, a figure we have always used and is reflected now in this study for Gibraltar. We use the UK as a benchmark (and have done so historically) for all medical treatments, incidence rates and success rates, that is our point of reference.

    Cancer charities and related organisations are researching and studying potential causes, effects and outcomes as we speak. We are certainly living longer and surviving cancer more successfully; it is the increasing of survivability that has and can be a reality, moreso than reducing the risk of contracting it. Better screening, improved treatment and greater awareness are key.

    When Breast Cancer Care comes back to us with their view Llanita, I will revert to you via this medium. However please see end of Telegraph article for cancer charities' expert opinion in reaction to news.