Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Self Determination Delusion

We are right in the middle of silly season in politics. Many are on holiday and so political activity and interest is at a minimum. It is, however, a good time to reflect on political issues, especially those that become accepted folklore without further scrutiny, analysis and criticism. With scrutiny, analysis and criticism new roads towards ultimate objectives can open up. One illusion that the GSD is responsible for creating is the belief that the 2006 Constitution together with the referendum was an act of self determination. As I have argued frequently, it was not. It was a welcome step on the road to greater self government but no more. My question is, can we use that advance to accelerate our journey to self determination?

Before I answer that question, I shall briefly explain (again and with apologies to those who have read this before) why the 2006 Constitution was not an achievement of what was intended (and some in the GSD advocate) that it would achieve: self determination. First and importantly the Governor and the UK Government retain substantial powers. They are responsible that laws are made for the "... peace, order and good government ..." of Gibraltar. The Governor with the consent of the FCO MInister has powers to make laws on matters that are within its remit. These are external affairs, defence, internal security and certain appointments to public office. The Governor and/or the FCO Minister may refuse to assent to any law passed in Parliament that is
  • repugnant to or inconsistent with the Constitution (which read with the fundamental rights chapter and the good governance reservation is a wider power than may, at first sight, seem to be the case); or 
  • repugnant to good government; or
  • incompatible with international obligations (i.e. EU Laws and treaty obligations).
Lastly but importantly HMG retains full legislative powers, including the power to amend or revoke the Constitution.

It is also a fact that the Treaty of Utrecht, which is now enshrined in the Despatch to the Constitution, circumscribes the ability to achieve independence. It provides that Gibraltar goes to Spain should it cease to be British. Independence is therefore not an option without Spain's acquiescence, which may be an unpalatable thought but a real one. Irrespective of the Treaty of Utrecht, independence without that consent is impossible. Gibraltar's membership of the EU is by reason of its ties with the UK. For Gibraltar to remain in the EU as an independent state would require Spain's approval. If Gibraltar were to leave the EU in order to achieve independence, the imperative for the frontier to remain open with free movement would disappear. Absent an open frontier Gibraltar's ability to remain an economically viable unit is grossly diminished or, in my view, destroyed.

How, in the bleak scenario that I have painted, can I believe that it is possible to advance on the road to self determination? Simple really, we have to navigate a path of good democratic governance within the constitutional bounds, thus making it difficult or impossible for any UK interference in our affairs. It will also help to reduce Spanish influence and argument. As confidence grows in our ability to maturely govern ourselves well, so will the UK's apprehension reduce and more freedom of government will be achieved. In the meantime changes in Spain and Europe will over time open up new avenues that can be pursued by future generations. The progress to fuller self determination will consequently be enhanced and the panorama will widen.

The main brake to out ability to achieve good democratic governance are the very democratic systemic failings that were, intentionally or unintentionally, built into the 2006 Constitution. A Constitution that, in blatant conflict of interest, our politicians conspired to craft to gather power to themselves, in a manner that concentrated it in the office of the Chief MInister. Two effects of this arrogation of power is that it allows external players, in our case Britain and Spain, to assess and so "manage" one person: the Chief Minister. Another is that it undermines the effectiveness of the exercise of that power because it is known to lack democratic credentials beyond a 4 yearly election based on a purposely stilted electoral system.

An overhaul of the parliamentary and electoral system such as will empower Parliament and make it more representative will ensure the strength of the democratic support for arguments marshaled by our politicians. Arguments with wider democratic credibility are far more difficult for external players to defeat. Any attempt to do so will be viewed as an authoritarian act incapable of justification on democratic arguments. This is not the case if the argument is essentially the argument of one individual who could more easily be accused of acting in contravention of the constitutional requirement of good governance, especially if the Rule of Law is not strictly adhered to. In those circumstances interference from external players is more easily justifiable. Also the "management" or "manipulation" of one individual, the Chief Minister in whom power is presently concentrated,  is also more feasible, whether by argument, incentive, persuasion or coercion.

In brief, my argument is that advances in self determination are more achievable by democratic means, evolution as opposed to revolution and patiently waiting for developments within the EU. It is not achievable by forcing the pace of time within a negotiation involving Britain and Spain. It is unlikely that Spain will change its attitude to advance our quest. Our advantage over Spain is ingrained within international law, namely that sovereignty was ceded by Spain to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht. This treaty is respected and recognised by Spain, albeit reluctantly. Spain seeks a return by negotiated agreement, so faced with Britain's well-known promise to us, it has the difficult, if not impossible, task of changing public opinion in Gibraltar. All in all let us be ourselves, let us put our democratic house in order, let us debate maturely on substance (both in Parliament and out of it), let us leave emotion or hatred out of the equation of politics, and let us convince each other, by rational argument, right and wrong paths to follow. This slow road will achieve progress. It is these arguments that convinced me not to join the SDGG at its first and inaugural meeting, to which I was invited, many years ago. 


  1. I have been an avid follower of your blog and this one is spot on, chapeaux Robert. Perhaps at this time when many of us are considering who to vote for at the next election we'll come to the unfortunate conclusion that none of the parties deserve our vote, since all agreed to the constitution. I voted against it (as beleive you must have also) but alas not the majority of Gibraltarians did. Unfortunatley Realpolitik dictates that unless a few more good and honest men like yourself join in an endeavour to serve Gibraltar in our Parliament we are left only with two options, a blank vote, or a vote of conscience, neither of these options will dent the block vote unless more of us are willing to stand up and fight for real democratic values, accountability to those who have voted you and whose servant you are,not the master of which some purpot to be. We often pretend to be greater than we are and we could be provided the one fundamental cornerstone of any countries true democracy, it's consititution was worth more than just the means to provide those in the executive with more power to perpetutate their own ambitions.

  2. Anonymous at 22:48

    I certainly did vote against the 2006 Constitution. I may well return to the fray and stand for election as an Independent as there is no time to form a coalition for this next election but my chances in that capacity are extremely limited. There is the option of voting for individuals with attributes ignoring the rigours of block voting.

    I agree with your observation about the 2006 Constitution.

  3. Robert hope you can stand for election Gibraltar we need honest mature intelligent Honorable people to fight for Gibraltarians.
    Many people don't have the web facilities to follower you 100% perhaps and extra page withing our local news paper in English and Spanish we help the extra possibly vote you and us will need to make the changes required by law.

    Wow. You definitely can write. Wow. You're so inspiring.


    Wow. You definitely can write. Wow. You're so inspiring.


  4. Sovereignty in its original form perhaps no longer exists in its entirety. Nevertheless Parliament is still supreme in those areas of domestic law which are not touched by the UK’s membership of the European Community and it is true to say that if Parliament so wishes it may enact legislation which withdraws the UK from membership of the EC. Perhaps the best way of putting this is that sovereignty has evolved to meet new and challenging circumstances and it is right that this is so particularly as we try to find our way in the global world and try to afford greater rights to our citizens by empowering those organisations which are well equipped to deliver our constitutional and administrative requirements. Parliament is still supreme but this is a relative concept and the current position is that some of its’ previously held power has been dissolved!

  5. Tyrone Duarte says:

    I'm on a ferry heading to mainland Greece and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece. I happen to agree with your analysis and will encourage support for all those who see our constitutional situation in the same light.

    Thank you for the reality check.

  6. softly, softly, catchee monkey, perhaps?

    But unfortunately UK can play that game too (if they haven't been for years already), and Spain might even cotton on and try it too, and then it will be a case of who catches the monkey first!

  7. L.E.F. says

    I agree with most of your post until we get to evolution or revolution.

    I am not one to advocate revolution,but what option do we have as a colonized people if our masters do not defend us or uphold our rights in the EU, United Nations, Nato etc.

    What do we do wait to evolve into Spanish?

    There will come a point in our evolution when we will have to be clear and true to ourselves of who we are and what we value more? Riches and materialism or our true identity?

    Do we wait to be sold down the river by our owners. Will the whole of Gibraltar be just another land deal when we have no worth to them .

    I agree that time is on our side but the sooner we have a definite solution set in stone, the sooner we will close all the doors to those who are intent on our disappearance as a people.

    Gibraltar Libre

    I also do not agree that our only options are under UK or Spain.

    Is not self determination paramount in international law?

    We definitely have to get our house in good order, not to satisfy international opinion, but because we the electorate,as a people,demand and deserve more from our elected representatives. We owe it to ourselves, to our forefathers,to our children.
    Not the Uk and less so Spain.

  8. L.E.F

    Evolution into Spain no ... I suggest evolution as the EU develops. I do not believe the UK will break its commitment to us. Self determination is as paramount in international law as is territorial reintegration so it is a difficult argument.

  9. L.E.F. says,

    That is exactly my point.

    If the UK does not uphold our rights vigorously in the EU, who can we trust?

    Just look at the mess we find ourselves with our waters already part designated as a Spanish nature reserve under the watchful eyes of our masters.

    What next?

    What happens if UK decides through her own inactions that we are simply not worth it.

    Seeing the waters debacle unfold what further surprises are in store for us.?

    Ultimately self determination is our only true hope to survive as a people.

    Whether we wish to remain British forever is another matter, but not as a colonized people which is what we are at present.

  10. Anon@23:14


    I agree with most of what you have written and in particular:-

    "There will come a point in our evolution when we will have to be clear and true to ourselves of who we are and what we value more? Riches and materialism or our true identity?"

    For many years we have accepted the historic Spanish sovereignty claim as a fact of life. We have even allowed it to sound benign and not as the threat of a cruel imposition of the rule of a foreign power over a people that would find this imposition repugnant, which is what it really is.

    I do not believe, though, that the change to the above situation should be initiated by our elected representatives but by a popular campaign by all Gibraltarians using every means available to us and in particular social networks, Twitter etc.

    Even if we fail we shall still be able to look at our children and our children's children in the eye knowing that we have tried.

  11. Anonymous at 12:21

    I think there is a need fro a reality check on this!

  12. RV@12:43


    Reality check? More a case of grabbing the bull by the horns.

  13. Anonymous at 13:50

    Does it not rather dpend on the size and courage of the bull as measured against the ability (as opposed to the courage, which is a given) of the Matador?

  14. RV@15:17

    I think that you have drawn the wrong analogy. A matador does not grab the bull by the horns.

    By grabbing the bull by the horns I meant confronting a problem head-on and dealing with it openly. The size of the task is massive but as long as we believe, as I do, that the Spanish claim is a cruel injustice I am sure that there are millions of people out there that may be convinced.

    The alternative is to sit back and take it for granted that generation after generation will have to live under the Spanish threat.

  15. Anonymous at 16:08

    Fair point but you are being pedantic ... si te va a cojer el toro lo coje por donde sea! :)

  16. RV@16:28


    To me a pedantic person is characterised by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules. Now I am being truly pedantic!! :)

    I know that on LW se habla de toro un poco but I believe that eso de cuernos hay que quitarselo de la cabeza :) :)

    Now what did you consider a fair point?

  17. Anonymous at 20:03

    That I made a wrong analogy :)

  18. Bueno cuando va sali Picardin en la tele otravez? I miss him and I see he's been pledging those Cast iron guarantees again.

  19. Perhaps its time for Gibraltarians for once to decide to do the honorable thing and stand together on this very important issues, a demonstration prior or after to the Gibraltar day and invite foreign media to take part thus publishing the true facts. let the whole world to know whats happening and not let PRC to talk us away from our rights in Gibraltar thus giving hope to the Spanish government.

    Amigo como siempre

  20. The only person making any sense of whats legally happening is ROBERT VASQUEZ the mass of info getting through to the public is enormous pity our politician don't do likewise prior the elections and show their true intelligence?


  21. Dear Robert,
    Planning permission refused to Mr. Solomon Levy to have Her Majesty the Queen on a placard announcing the Diamond Jubilee next year in 2012 on his property.

    I implore that he will get the support to have OUR Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on a placard: from our democratic government, the majority of people in Gibraltar are more British than the British and we should show our support rather than remain silent and sending the wrong signals to Spain.

    Robert as a honourable person you are I am willing to donate £50 cash sent to whatever address you prefer towards any legal cost and expense Mr, Momy Levy might incur, I would also like to propose that if the refused order is reversed whatever money is left in the kitty is used to make more placards and placed around Gibraltar.

    Anyone in wishing to donate to this very important issue regarding OUR QUENN can if you accept send damnations accordingly.

    Gibraltarians please show your support, should Mr. Robert Vasquez or Mr. Solomon agree to hold the piggy bank. ITS OUR QUEEN. show your support. Amen.


  22. Surely if Momy devised a way that allowed him to put the banner up in the morning and down in the evening, as its not a permanent structure, he wouldn't need planning permission.

  23. having served "Our Queen" for over 12 years... all i can say is that she might be The Queen but not my Queen!!

    Until the day she pays my salary from her pocket and acts in a way that shows her support for Gibraltar she can be somebody else Queen!

    The Monarch is an anachronism, now that i work in the private sector all i have to say is to me my Queen or King is whoever pays me the most! Call is being mercenary but that is the reality of life... a flag will not feed me!

  24. Anon 13.36
    Well said. Why place tributes to the queen, when she hasnt visited the rock in years so as not to upset the Spanish. Same goes for the other Royals.

  25. Anonymous said...
    24 AUGUST 2011 13:36 AND 25 AUGUST 2011 00:02
    I would never have expected such a reply from a Gibraltarian national and have to assume you are not a Gibraltarian; having said that perhaps those who back up the Spanish Andorra situation and belong to the elite party might have but doubt it.

    The following meanings of the words mercenary or venal really suits your write-up 100%, you have no country no queen or king and would sell yourself to the highest master whoever that might be, a very patriotic approach to life.

    1. Open to bribery. 2. Capable of betraying honour. Duty. 3. Open to improper influence. 4 corruptible, dirty. 5 Now Rare capable of being obtained for a price. 6. Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. 7 Working or acting merely for money or other reward venal hired to serve organization, etc. 8 MERCENARY: one that serves merely for wages. 9 Willing to sell one's influence, especially in return for a bribe; open to bribery; mercenary: a venal.

    2. Unfortunately The Queen Does Not Decide Were To Travel, Her Travel Arrangements Are Made By The Government In Power, Foreign Office Etc.


  26. Dear Lawless..

    In what age do you live??? I agree with having pride in one's own homeland/nation, but blind allegiance to a Monarch is just as bad as being mercenary, the only difference is that as a royalist you will be worse off financially! I don't think she is going to invite you to Buckingham Palace for dinner every night so you and your family can be fed!
    For your information i am a llanito, and as I mentioned i have served for over 12 years "the Queens" both locally and in numerous overseas locations.

  27. Anon@12:29

    You carry on with whatever resentment you feel after having served Her Majesty.

    You can not be "llanito" without being British and if you are British you must accept that our Head of State is HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

  28. I consider myself Gibraltarian FIRST and THEN British but I agree with anon 14:19. "You can not be llanito without being British". We are one!

    Personally I am proud to be a British citizen.


  29. I do not have to accept the Monarchy, that is my choice and prerogative, after all this choice comes as a right in living in a free and democratic society. I do not have to give up my Britishness just because I reckon that the monarchy should be abolished. I am a proud British Gibraltarian and I enjoy the rights and privileges that comes with my British nationality plus any added "perks" of being a Gibraltarian.
    As far as I can see, the UK monarchy or any monarchy in a developed, modern democratic country is an anachronism in the 21st Century, just like Utrecht....
    As to accepting the Queen as my Head of State, where the Revolutionaries in France any less French than the Royalists? Or the Nationalists any less Spanish than the Republicans during the Civil War? Is a GSLP supporter any less llanito than a GSD supporter? It's all part of evolution and FREE choice.. and as in previous comments, better evolution than revolution! Who has elected the Queen or the Royals to represent us? NOBODY!!
    A proud British Gibraltarian.
    PS: I do not have any resentment in having served "the Crown"..I consider I was serving all of us rather than HER... they were the best years of my life and enjoyed every minute of it....

  30. Anon@18:00

    OK so you are a British subject who happens to be against the Monarchy.

    You don't need to go on, it's not against the law,calm down, you are not unique.

  31. What's happened to the Vox Poll? Que pasa not convenient to post ?

  32. Thank you. There's seems to be something quite odd about the fact it has not been posted. Then again they could be relishing in the joy of a Potential landslide. Afterall Picardis pledge to introduce ministerial code of conduct with integrity and conflict of interests as key is a testament to the change and advancement of the GSLP which will have the electorate in awe of his wisdom and well intentioned political morals. Then again maybe it's just all bull.

  33. Anonymous at 21:54

    More or less bull than the GSD promise of open and transparent government and parliamentary reform?

  34. Robert please, not even you are that naive.

  35. Anonymous at 22:01

    So insulting :P ... but par for the course mb?

  36. ...;)
    Veremo ve con lo que salen.

  37. Anonymous at 22:05

    BTW I will not believe either until and if something effective is done ...

  38. Wnen in doubt seek historic evidence and for the love of God Robert try putting the Grey hat on and not the black or White one. After all, anyone throwing cast iron guarantees out like there's no tomorrow will surely stumble at some point. you can't make all of the people happy all of the time. I think it's refered to as strong leadership.

  39. Anonymous at 22:12

    More grey than what I say? Central promises cannot be broken with impunity. I do not believe democracy has been well served by any leader in recent history. I have no illusion about either in the future.

  40. Will we get a new speaker in parliament after the next election. Harsh budhrani has been there for a good while. Any suggestions from llanito world users for a replacement.






  42. anon@ 14:24, a woman perhaps?

  43. Now that Mr. Hewitt has brought out into the open the occurances of provocative staring at Morrisons I would like to report two incidents which happened to me. On Friday the 12 August I was looking for a tin of habichuelas verdes when I had the strange sensation that someone was staring at me. I looked around and saw a prominent PDP suporter leering at me. He quickly looked away but I felt awful and forgot what I was looking for and only remembered that I needed the habichuelas after I had left without buying them. On Wednesday the 24 I was buying morcilla from the meats counter when I saw a woman with an ill favoured look staring at me aggressively. I do not know what party she slavishly follows but I am sure that the baleful stare was political. I had to leave the shop in a state of anxiety. I a Gomez Blank Vote / table thumping supporter and think that I am being picked on by the goons in the political parties using provocative staring technniques. I know how Mr. Hewittt must feel. My advice to him and other victims of this disgustiong habit is to ignore it and it will go away.

  44. Anon@10:26

    What an amazing disclosure. The PDP has a supporter?

    On your second visit, I can only deduce that you must have been displaying a "Blank" look whilst trying to buy morcilla at the meat counter. That is a dead giveaway.

  45. oh dear anon @ 10:26 your empathy with Mr Hewitt does you credit.

    I think that such victimisation should not go ignored. At the very least promotion should be considered as a personal reward to the victim, and why not add a Medallion of Honour for good measure, after all the man has suffered enough!

  46. Anon@15:55

    Who is this Mr Hewitt that you mentioned?

    I was more concerned about the PDP supporter leering at you and about the fact that you were trying to buy morcilla at the meat counter.

    As for the Medallion of Honour, let us leave that to the Morrisons' management shall we?

  47. anon @16:36 you'll have to ask anon @ 10:26, he mentioned him.

    Do you not agree then that anon @ 10:26 should be awarded the Medallion of Honour?

    I wouldn't leave that decision to the management at Morrisons though, they might have an agenda of their own and seek to reward those most loyal to their store, whether they deserved it or not.

  48. I have never been more disgusted in my LIFE!!!! I often go commando wearing very short skirts in supermarkets and thought that provocative looks that I get were because of that. Now it appears that people may be looking at me provocatively because of my political views (which by the way are none of your business, I am a very private person). Has Gibraltar really sunk so low that you can not go out looking for morcilla or what have you without being looked at provocatively bacause of your ideals? I totally agree with the Gomez Blank Vote / table thumping supporter.

  49. Anon@17:07

    Apologies. I did get my anons confused. You are quite right if we leave it to Morrisons he might get a Medallion of Beef.

  50. As a Gibraltarian British subject with a degree of Democratic status we have I ask our inhabitants to vote with their hearts we need a change enough is enough do not send a blank vote please vote for those you believe are the best honest candidate irrespective of party and include individuals if any.

    Please Vote

  51. joking apart, Unite seriously needs to decide who its loyalties lie with. Ultimately the losers here can only be the workers.

  52. Anonymous at 20:48

    In a small place like Gibraltar Unite should perhaps remain aloof from political party allegiances and allow its members to support who they wish. This will serve their membership much better

  53. RV@20:48


    When have the leaders of Unite told their members who to support?

  54. anonymous at 21:34

    Never and I have not suggested it has. I was replying to the clear implication in the comment that I was answering ... have i missed something?

  55. Still nothing on the Vox Poll? Can't be good. Or is it sooo good that that they are relishing in the joy if a certain win?

  56. Robert

    Seeing as though the silly season is all but over I couldn't help but notice the wording of the recent press conference held by Mr Picardo and Dr Garcia.

    The opening statement went like this:-

    "On numerous times in Parliament I have called on the current Chief Minister to introduce aspects of the Ministerial Code in Gibraltar, in particular in relation to travel cost....."

    After having considered the opening statement I can only surmise that by singling out "in particular in relation to travel" that this is another bit of mischief comparable to when he urged the Government to carry out a "Forensic Audit" of the OHL contract. They are implying that abuse in the case of "travel" is being alleged and that illegal acts are anticipated in the OHL case.

    He then expressed the party's willingness to bring "real open Government and transparency to Gibraltar".

    If these two gentlemen are genuinely concerned about open Government they should avoid the controversial situation that now exists at Westminster which is that the Code should be administered by a more impartial figure than the Prime Minister. However, the Prime Minister remains the ultimate judge of whether or not a minister has breached the Code.

  57. EO Albert Hewitt' and Juan Carlos Perez' alleged chusmerio at Safeways is not that different from the chusmerio that we see in Parliament that is why I cannot wait for the next general election so that I can submit my BLANK VOTE and give the whole lot of them the two finger salute with all my heart (and Mr Gibraltarian British @2035 don't call me an "inhabitant" that is rude and vulgar).

  58. If it is in the Vox you can garantee that it will give the GSLP a win and a substancial one at that lol !

  59. Anon@01:16

    Be patient. Vox said that the result would be out during the week-end. However, they did not say which one.

  60. well its still the long weekend and its out and the lead is there but not substantial.

    So gentlemen, what will you come up with now?

  61. Anonymous at 20:37

    5.6% is not substantial, well I do not know what is then! ... it gives the GSLP/Liberal Alliance rather a bigger lead then the number of votes that got the GSD into government at the last election ... It is also a lead built without either manifestos or a campaign ... mmm .... an indictment on the GSD ... even with all the goodies handed out lately?