Friday, 13 April 2012

Gibraltar wasn't there: Why not?

Yesterday we published a list showing the age of consent in Europe, but Gibraltar was not there. There are other listings about other topics and again Gibraltar is not shown.

It is one thing when fully independent countries are shown in those lists, and in such cases there might be a reason why places like Gibraltar do not feature.

But surely when it comes to areas of government where Gibraltar is independent, we ought to be listed.

For example, the age of consent issue. The UK has its own age of consent and Gibraltar decides which applies here. One has nothing to do with the other, in that respect we are 'independent'.

In fact, in the age of consent listing, the 'UK' is given as England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man.

Their age of consent is 16. Gibraltar is carrying out a consultation process and eventually we will decide what age of consent we have here on a permanent basis. That will be the result of our own independent decision, which has nothing to do with what the UK has decided for itself.

Thus, we should be listed as a separate entity.

The same applies to other topics where Gibraltar's government and Parliament takes decisions which are separate to that of the UK.

There are issues appertaining to the EU and otherwise which should feature Gibraltar separately because, de facto and de jure, we take our own independent and separate decisions as an independent country would.

Should not this matter be taken up with the powers that be?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Spain restates it wants Gibraltar's presence at talks to be demoted to that of a municipality

Spanish officials lose no time to restate that Spain wants to demote Gibraltar's presence at talks to that of a municipality. Effectively they are saying that the  much trumpeted trilateral forum is dead and buried.

There can be two flags or four flags, but not three flags - those of Britain, Spain and Gibraltar.

By two flags they mean those of Britain and Spain. By four flags they mean those of Britain and Spain, plus the flag of Gibraltar at a par with that of La Linea or some other part of the Campo area.

Although the Spanish Government agreed formally that Gibraltar be given equal status to Britain and Spain when the trilateral forum was first constituted, the present PP government in Spain is dead against it.

Spanish foreign minister Sr Margallo was saying in a newspaper interview at the weekend that what they want is a four-sided forum integrated by Spain and the UK, on the one side, and 'the authorities of the Rock and the Campo on the other.'

Nothing could be clearer than that! It means that Spain takes the view that Gibraltar can discuss with the Campo the problems that, they say, affect Spanish workers here, and the like, but important issues are for Britain and Spain only.

Relegating Gibraltar to such lowly levels has always been unacceptable in Gibraltar, even if certain elements in the Foreign Office, forever eager to have a trouble-free time in Spain, like to urge the incumbent at No.6 to adopt what has been seen by chief ministers as an undignified stance.

Those elements in the Foreign Office, who seem to enjoy supporting foreigners and not loyal British people, were exposed at the time of the Falklands war by sending the wrong signals to the claimants of that territory to the extent that they encouraged an invasion by Argentina which must have cost the British exchequer more than keeping the Falklands British! Not to mention the number of people who met their deaths by the conflict.

In the case of Gibraltar, the preamble to the Constitution was not seen as a barrier to engage Spain in formal joint sovereignty negotiations. Gibraltar's position may now have been strengthened by the assurance that no talks will be held with Spain that Gibraltarians are against. But some people ask: what is such an assurance worth?

Derelict buildings increase fear factor

Many people particularly those residing in the upper and old town area have become not only concerned, but increasingly critical with the growing number of abandoned and distressed residential properties, including the threat this poses to public peace, health, and safety, particularly to the people living in the area.

However this issue has progressively become worse and has escalated, creating a certain amount of anxiety amongst residents of the Upper Town Area…A series of fires of late in various derelict buildings, the recent discovery of a dead body in another abandoned property and at least 4 different Arson attacks over the weekend has raised the fear factor amongst many people!

The issue was highlighted at the weekend with the large fire at Road to the Lines which saw over 50 flats that had to be evacuated, two of the flats were completely destroyed. Reports also suggest that a man has already been arrested by the RGP for arson in connection with the weekend’s incidents which appear to be connected.

Buildings Left to Deteriorate For Years

Many people are also questioning the level of management of these unoccupied and derelict buildings. Properties that people feel have been left to deteriorate for years, in some cases, to dangerous levels.

Although it is true to say that this problem has not suddenly appeared overnight, as the state and management of derelict properties especially in the upper town area is an issue that has stirred great debate and public criticism in the past, particularly during the last government’s term in office.

Public Safety Jeopardised!

There are occasions when public safety may become jeopardised by the condition of buildings. By their very nature, abandoned or derelict places are often unsafe, either in structure or environment, which is why sometimes they're best observed from a distance, but this is not always the case for inquisitive, desperate or criminal minds of this world.

Personally I believe it’s a tragedy that many of these old buildings have been neglected for countless years and now lie derelict. They are an eyesore and, in many cases, dangerous, because if structures are not kept up, they also become vulnerable to collapse, and as we know already, they are a serious fire hazard…particularly to neighboring residential buildings.

People Genuinely Concerned

I have spoken to a number of people in the area in question who mostly share the same concern…that ‘anyone of these derelict properties can easily be occupied by a vagrant or homeless person or entered into by anyone else for any other criminal motive in mind. Also that anyone of the many derelict properties scattered around, has the potential to cause some human catastrophe to whole family’s residing in the area, this if a fire or an arson attack is not discovered in time’

I was told that numerous derelict buildings still remain open with easy access to such unwelcomed guest, particularly in the upper town area and this, after people say they have informed the pertinent government department of the dangers.

I took a walk round the Upper Town to see for myself.

I have to say it’s true, that many buildings remain abandoned and derelict which really is no secret. Although what is concerning particularly under the present climate regarding public concern and the current spate of fires, is that I discovered quite a few derelict government properties wide open and others with very easy access.

At the old and abandoned Police Barracks… doors to individual flats were open giving access to numerous properties. Having lived at one time in these barracks for many years, I know how easy it is to gain access to first floor landings without much of an effort, although the state of the building now, makes it less-effortless.

At a block of small flats just below the Old St Bernard’s Maternity Wing… it was even easier - doors were wide open to the building. I walked round this set of flats, no problem. There were clear signs of people having taken up unofficial residence at some point…as photos clearly illustrate.

There also appeared to be easy access to a building at Lower Castle Road… where mail boxes had been ripped open exposing someone’s or the previous owners mail, it looked a similar situation to other places I visited.

Dangerous and Unsightly Upper Town Buildings

As one walks through many parts of Gibraltar one is struck both by the beauty of many of the buildings around the rock and the unsightliness of many others. It now appears to be quite a cliché to say that the Upper and Old Town Area and its environs are ugly and unworthy of Gibraltar’s affluent life style.

A walk down to the Town Area or the Westside area of Gibraltar where there are many new buildings that are elegant, well-maintained and worthy to be proud of. Some are owned by the government and others are in private ownership. This sadly is the striking difference (with the upper town) that should never been allowed to happen!

Frankly buildings left abandoned or derelict are not only ugly to look at, but demeaning of the beauty of place like Gibraltar. They do however as we know; have the potential to pose a threat to people living in the area and to innocent passers-bys.

If I had to suggest anything on this matter before ending, it would have to be that someone comes up with a ‘management of derelict building programme’ before an incident that causes serious injury or innocent loss of life actually occurs.

Leo Olivero

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Queensway seafront becoming a concrete jungle. Why?

What a disgrace that the Queensway seafront is becoming a concrete jungle, instead of an area which can provide recreational facilities by the sea to the public at large. Instead, up goes a skyscraper, and the large open area next to it, is also earmarked for another skyscraper. Are we not destroying Gibraltar?

When the MOD controlled all that seafront many people used to dream that, one day, when the land became available for redevelopment it would be put to the wider use. Instead, it has been given to developers to make a million, restricting its use to those who are able to buy the expensive flats built there.

To add insult to injury the large space, now empty, next to the skyscraper, another skyscraper is due to be built!

For its part, the Government has its plans to build an underground carpark at the Commonwealth Parade plus a green area. All this will cost much money. Not only that but it shows that the Government is eager to develop a large green area there.

Yet, at less cost, there is this large open space right opposite, and with the added attraction of being a seafront area. Surely that could be put to better use for the wider public interest?

Ocean Village is an example where buildings and recreational areas combine. That should be the way forward.

In fact, when it comes to the Queensway site there is already a big enough skyscraper there - cannot the rest be used to meet the wider public interest?

Under what conditions was that huge space handed over? What can the Government do about it?

Land is scarce in Gibraltar and should not be used in a manner that the public is deprived of its wider use.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Government must not support unfair competition in the wider world of broadcasting services

The first thing Gerard Teuma did when named CEO designate of GBC was to ask for more staff and money, at taxpayers' expense of course! That is part of the ingrained mentality that exists at GBC, which the King Report confirmed.
Good management is not necessarily about asking for more money - for other people's money - but rather to make the operation sustainable without more public funds being involved. Anyone can manage if he has at his disposal a bottomless pit! If there is a Santa Claus handing out public funds all the year round!

And what is going to be done, as a matter of urgency, about the serious issues which King uncovered? Should they not be addressed before the Government pours a single penny more into GBC, especially when in the past more money and new systems simply did not work. And what the public inherited was a bigger, more expensive and better resourced operation which ironically has been producing less than before!
 We cannot go down that road again. And again.

Not only that but the monopoly that is GBC now wants to make greater inroads into online services - but again at more public expense! And not only that, but by seeking to engage in unfair competition to already established online service which have been operating for years at no public expense.

But while others have to make ends meet, Mr Teuma thinks the public should pay more for less, which is the story of GBC - never mind if there is a world financial crisis which is forecast to get worse and which is already affecting Gibraltar.
  We are now being told that we should not compare GBC with the likes of Sky and the BBC. But they expect to have parity with the BBC!

Said Mr King in his report: "There are inconsistencies in many areas, and a belief within GBC that salaries should be at a par with those paid in regional BBC stations. The problem is that the roles do not directly relate, so there is no exact template on which parity could be based, even if it were desirable."

He adds that "in the UK, broadcasting is a comparatively well paid industry (particularly the commercial television sector) and we believe GBC employees should be appropriately but not excessively remunerated. The process must be entirely fair to both staff and the Corporation."

And fair also to the rest of the community, presumably!
As if telling Mr Teuma, the King report added: "An incoming Chief Executive would have his or her own ideas, but these should take account of pay scales operating in Gibraltar; UK rates cannot simply be transposed."

There is no doubt that there is talent in GBC, but that talent is not being properly harnessed. There are those who think GBC should carry on as it is; and there are others who think that GBC has come to the end of its useful existence, and there is a case to close it down and to replace it by a new, modern  set-up operating under new conditions, with a redundancy package offered to those who do not want it.

When in Britain and elsewhere there existed only the so-called public service broadcaster, the public derived a no-choice situation and less value-for-money broadcasting. Can anyone imagine the UK with only the BBC - without all the other stations that proliferate there!

For example, let GBC have their radio station, but why should all the available radio frequencies be allocated to them? Why cannot at least one other radio station be put out to tender? It is only by having more that the public will be able to compare with the unacceptable services in both TV and radio which currently have to be endured. Why cannot the public have better? Why cannot the public enjoy the benefits that emerge from competition?

What the Government cannot do is embark on pouring money into GBC before carrying out an in-depth review about broadcasting in Gibraltar in a general sense and not in a narrow GBC sense.

It is fine for the Government to try and save money in many of the services now provided, but this concept must also include broadcasting, if they are to be consistent in what they do.

There is a new world out there with the technological advance that has emerged for the benefit of everyone. Online services and why not new broadcasting services using new technology, but without the threat of unfair competition and 'state aid.'

Gibraltar needs diversity in its media if the quality of its much-trumpeted  democracy  is not going to be questioned. We cannot make a mockery of democracy. We cannot promote monopolistic situations in its media. We cannot keep wasting public money in what is already well-proven of not being capable to deliver the quality and variety of the kind of vibrant programming Gibraltar is calling out for.

The Government must not follow the pattern of the past - and put its foot in it as well.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Complete review of the Care Agency INQUIRY 'VERY SOON' - minister tells Panorama


The Minister for Equality and Social Services Samantha Sacramento has told PANORAMA that there will be a complete and independent review of the workings of the Care Agency, to ensure the provision of proper and adequate care for those who need it.

She went on to say that it was her impression that the previous government was more interested in ‘brushing things under the carpet than tackling issues.’
Clear and specific comments emerged when we posed a series of questions to the Minister - she gives a detailed account on how she found the state the Care Agency, saying that she has spent most of her time in office so far ‘fire-fighting’ different problems in the department that had arisen on almost a daily basis.’
She reiterated that the government will put right whatever is identified and importantly there will an investigation and an audit with an examination on what happened under the last government.
Drug abuse appears to be high on the new minister's agenda, saying that the government would go back to the drawing board with a view of developing an effective drugs policy for Gibraltar as the current one simply does not work.

 What is clear from the minister's comments is that what this newspaper has been saying for years and bringing into the public domain is true and accurate reporting on such delicate and highly important community issues.
Question: During the election campaign and even in the GSLP/Liberal manifesto the government was very critical of the serious failings of social services, although you have only been the minister responsible for a relative short time - what are your first impressions and are things as bad as you thought?
Answer: There is still a lot to be done. Some of the failings are down to resource issues which were not addressed by the previous Government but a lot of these issues have now been identified and we are in the process of doing so. I do not know what the GSD Government did in relation to these issues in nearly 16 years in office. I can say that since I first set foot in the department I have spent my time “fire-fighting” different problems that have arisen on an almost daily basis where a political steer from a Minister is required. I have also seen that there are a number of very good and dedicated staff in my department and I look forward to working with them in order to bring forward the changes that we are committed to see through in our four-year programme of Government.

Question: in the light of the Panorama investigation into the care of vulnerable children which the Alliance as opposition took great interest in, even quoting these incidents in the party manifesto, do you intend to look into this issue any further?
Answer: Absolutely, although the method of how we will go about this has not yet been finalized we are very close to taking a policy decision.

Question: Another serious social problem that this newspaper has heavily criticised the previous administration is ‘Substance Abuse’ what’s your initial views on this serious social problem, bearing in mind that 75% of local crime is drug related?
Answer: It is obvious that Gibraltar has a growing drug culture and it is troubling that this is prevalent among very young people. More needs to be done to address this and we are starting a complete review and overhaul of drugs policy.
Question: The Governments drug strategy ‘A Brighter Future’ was published in 2003 the implementation of the strategy has been frequently criticised by Panorama; the strategy has not been up dated since. The public have hardly been informed how the strategy has progressed or otherwise. Is it government’s intention to review the whole aspect of ‘substance abuse’ in Gibraltar with a view of launching a new and up-dated strategy?
Answer: It is clear that the drug strategy in place at the time that the new Government came into office simply does not work. For example, on the 9th December there were only 2 people admitted to Bruce’s Farm. This is a sign that the residential model of drug rehabilitation is not working as no one would accept that there were only 2 people with an addiction in Gibraltar at that time.

It is also true that drug prevention and rehabilitation in the community is not developed enough and there needs to be serious emphasis on this service if we are to start tackling the problem.

Furthermore, I understand that the Drugs Advisory Council, which is a statutory board set up under the provisions of the Drugs (Misuse) Act has not met in well over a year.
I can confirm that it is this Government’s intention to go back to the drawing board in respect of the drug strategy with a view to developing an effective policy. We have some very good people delivering the rehabilitation programme and there have been some excellent individual results. Our emphasis has to be in making this service more accessible to the community as a whole.

Question: The issues surrounding disabled people concerns many people, none more than those affected. This is an issue covered quite extensively in the Alliances manifesto. What do you think are government priorities in respect of the disabled in Gibraltar?
Answer: The priority must be to enable equal treatment of those with disability to ensure that their needs are met and they have a level playing field. Before taking office I thought that my first step would have to be to identify each individual’s disability so that their needs could be assessed. I have now realized that my task is even more fundamental than that as there is not even a central register of people with disabilities and we are in the process of compiling that.
Question: A new Ministry of Equality comes under your responsibility. There are some high-profile and important issues like the problems experienced by Moroccan workers and the recognition of civil partnerships, which were subjects that were hotly debated before and during the election campaign. Many people were happy to see these issues feature prominently in your election manifesto. Can you give any indication at this stage how you see these matters progressing?
Answer: My focus in the short time that I have been in Government has been to attempt to try and resolve the issues at social services and expedite the completion of the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Unit at RNH. The establishment and development of the Ministry of Equality is at an early stage but I hope to be able to be in a position to make significant headway on this soon.

Question: In the light of the many stories and complaints from service users and others the question of ‘service delivery and quality assurance’ has become an important issue will you be looking at existing mechanisms within the ministry aimed at ensuring that child services or out-of home care are delivered competently and with professional integrity, that should include, supervision of social workers, internal audits, informal reviews, complaint mechanisms and professional regulation? Or even introduce a ‘code of conduct’

Answer: That will form part of the review of social services that is to be undertaken as a whole and of course the ultimate aim is to offer a better service to the end user as well as investing in our own staff to ensure that they are adequately trained to deliver the job that they have to.

 Question: There is a manifesto commitment by the Government to conduct a ‘review of social services’ do you see this as one of your priorities?
Answer: It is an absolute immediate priority and it is what I have dedicated the majority of my time in the past 2 months. We have a manifesto commitment, as you rightly say, to carry out a complete and independent review of the workings of the Care Agency, to ensure the provision of proper and adequate care for those who need it. We have said that we will put right whatever is identified as needing corrective action. This means that there will be two strands to the process. The first will be to investigate what has gone wrong in the past and the second to identify what is needed to prevent this from happening ever again. There were shocking stories under the previous Government. So I can confirm that there will be an inquiry and that there will be an audit. This is a good thing because it will identify where the weaknesses in the system are and what we have to do to change it. We have already established the names of several persons and organizations who will be able to conduct the review and we hope to be in a position to make an announcement very soon.

Question: Do you think we will see a marked difference from the way your predecessor carried out his role?
Answer: Most definitely. I intend to be very hands on the development of this ministry at a policy level. It is a political priority for the new Government to provide a safety net for those people who have been let down by the system or who have difficulty in coping with it. My impression is that the previous administration was more interested in brushing things under the carpet than they were in tackling the issues and finding solutions. It is almost as if the GSD were in denial while the system collapsed around them. A new Government is now in office looking at these issues afresh and with different ideas and policies regarding the way forward for our care and social services. I know that the way forward will not be easy. There will be an audit and there will be an examination of what has happened under the previous Government. However, I am confident that once we have overcome the challenges in front of us and with the assistance of the staff, the care and social services that will emerge will be in a better position to cope with these problems than at any time before.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Hopeful that Spain will drop its claim to our land, says Picardo...but Seruya thinks otherwise

A half-page report under the headline 'The Rock of resistance against Spain' appeared in the Sunday Telegraph; the same report was published in their online edition, but under the headline 'Gibraltar: Between the Rock and an increasingly hard-line place.'

The newly-elected Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo hopes that he will find a peaceful way of protecting the Rock – despite an escalation in the war of words with Madrid, said the report.

"We are always hopeful that Spain will follow us into the 21st Century and drop its claim on our land," said Mr Picardo, in his first interview with a British newspaper since winning the December election.

"The Spanish government are playing to their constituency of support and concentrating more on the theory of their claim, rather than the realities on the ground. And that is a tragedy for people of both sides of the frontier."

If Mr Picardo, 39, was expecting a gentle introduction to the 300-year-old tussle over the sovereignty of Gibraltar, then he has had a brusque awakening. Just as the newly re-elected Cristina Kirchner in Argentina has made a diplomatic push against British "colonisation" of the Falkland Islands a key policy of her government, Spain's ruling Partido Popular (PP) – itself freshly in power, following the November general elections – has been pushing sovereignty over Gibraltar up the agenda.

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, has abandoned the tripartite talks over areas of co-operation between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar. Instead, on Wednesday, Madrid formally asked Britain for bilateral talks over the sovereignty of Gibraltar – much to the fury of the excluded overseas territory's residents.

"They want to turn me into a Spaniard," said Martin Pickford, a small businessman. "No one here wants to be suddenly told they are Spanish."

The report adds that Spain's foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, last month sparked alarm in Gibraltar when he greeted a British MEP friend with the age-old rallying cry: "Gibraltar: Spanish!" and he has further pressed the issue by writing to William Hague to demand clarification on Britain's stance.

Mr Rajoy is set to meet David Cameron in London at the end of this month, but the authorities in Gibraltar are trusting that the British prime minister will defend their interests.

Yet Mr Picardo knows that he must remain on his guard. And inside his office just off Gibraltar's Main Street, the Oxford-educated lawyer told The Sunday Telegraph that he is determined his government will not be intimidated by sabre-rattling from Madrid.

"We are seeing what appears to be a more proactive desire by Spain to raise the sovereignty issue," he said, criticising Madrid's decision to cease tripatrite talks.

"The Spanish government does not best serve the interests of its people, especially those in the local area, by snubbing an international agreement to which it has subscribed in principle.

"And with five million or so people unemployed, it seems to me the Spanish have other more important priorities than historic claims over my people."

Across the border, in the windswept Spanish town of La Linea, residents gaze wistfully at their thriving neighbour.

"Just look at it. It is obviously part of Spain, and it's crazy that it isn't accepted as such," said Pepe, 60, a retired hotelier, who did not want to give his surname. "I think it's absolutely right that Mariano Rajoy speaks to Britain about the issue."

His friend Paco, 65, added: "What hurts me most is that they are laughing at us from across there. During the World Cup they even supported Germany instead of Spain! It's not right."

. Smuggling of cheap Gibraltarian tobacco into Spain is also a problem, the paper adds.

"I am Spanish and I defend Spain, but they insult it," said Inmaculada Floria, 36.

Her husband Tomas Rodriguez, 39, a civil servant, said: "It's true that a lot of Spaniards aren't interested in Gibraltar. But here it affects us directly. For instance, a coffee in La Linea costs the same as in Madrid, and we are pushed out of the property market. It needs to be sorted out."

"Gibraltar and Spain have a symbiotic relationship and we can do a lot more to work together," said Edward Macquisten, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce.

"But if Madrid continues to clamp down, then it won't help anybody."

Is the cannon outside his office pointing in the direction of Spain, the writer asked Picardo.

"It's pointing in the direction of the governor's residence opposite – at the representative of the British Foreign Office!" he laughed. "But that is totally unintentional as in any event it is decorative. We are confident in our position here.

Gibraltar cannot expect Spain to drop its sovereignty claim, says Seruya

But someone who does not agree with Picardo is Solomon Seruya, who years ago said he was retiring from politics but keeps putting his foot in it, writes our Political Correspondent.

In an interview with Spain's most right-wing paper, La Razon, he says Gibraltar cannot pretend that Spain should drop its sovereignty claim.

And why not? because it is a historical and political factor, he says.

What Mr Seruya should understand once and for all is that it is also a historical and political factor that Gibraltar has been British for 300 years, that it was ceded for ever and that it is the homeland of the people of Gibraltar.

He does admit that Spain cannot impose itself after all those 300 years, but reckons that, with time, the Brussels Agreement could be implemented.

The Brussels Agreement is about sovereignty negotiations, about finding a formula to hand over sovereignty to Spain.

At a time when Spain is seemingly again putting on the pressure on Gibraltar,what Gibraltar does not need is to send the wrong signals to Spain, but along comes dear Solomon, proud of being the only Gibraltarian to have been awarded by the Spanish government the 'Gran Cruz del Merito Civil de Espana.'

No surpise that he also tells the Spanish paper: "I am in agreement with Margallo that the tripartite forum should be extended to the Campo de Gibraltar to integrate the Spanish regions. "We need formulae to solve the Gibraltar problem," he said.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

This smell stinks

The main sewer appears to have burst and the problem has surfaced to Line Wall Road, what a traffic mess! It is said that the problem is worse than at first thought and that it has been going on for some time now. Was it spotted before the election and nothing was done? The press release includes this paragraph: It is apparent that the sewer system is in a worse condition than had been previously recognised, and the Government is investigating the current situation, what gives rise to it, and will make a public statement in due course...One result is that the problem is that raw sewage is overflowing into the sea in the area of mid-harbours. This has apparently been going on for some time...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Is this justice, Mr Feetham?

I have commented in the past of what I call the “injustice” system in Gibraltar regarding the difficulties and obstructive tactics a citizen can face when getting embroiled in our legal process against a government body.

We are constantly told how wonderful everything is and I wonder if Mr D Feetham during his time as Minister for Justice, or Injustice as I see it, can honestly feel satisfaction with the way things really have been during his term of office.

Firstly in Gibraltar we seem to have a bad habit of not answering or acknowledging correspondence but from what I see I am in good company judging by the many citizens, opposition members, citizens’ groups etc... who have encountered the same difficulties, a wall of silence.

In our legal system there is a huge gap between those who can and those who cannot afford justice which in effect excludes the majority from getting justice. For example to qualify for legal aid the income taken into account is so risible that only a handful would qualify. Then there is the Small Claims Court that handles claims under £10,000. Therefore if your claim exceeds that amount you will end up in the Supreme Court for a relatively small claim, and you will be hard pressed to find a lawyer who would consider it worthwhile to spend much time over a case where the legal fees will exceed the claim, but there are exceptions.

So if you decide to take legal action, from experience it seems to me that all a defendant needs to do is ignore you and the court.

That a defendant is allowed to take years to produce witness statements is perplexing and that a defendant ignores court orders is also perplexing and that so much leeway is given for this situation to continue. No wonder some cases take forever to finalize and during all this time the legal fees increase whilst a defendant does not react to correspondence or court orders. A ploy for anyone to abandon a claim because the system allows it.

Is there anywhere a citizen can address a complaint about this chain of events? No!

The legal system in Gibraltar seems to be designed to frustrate and deter so that you abandon a claim, rather than enable you to seek justice, with outdated laws and no safety nets or independent bodies for citizens to fall back on.

No one can expect for there to be an ombudsman or body to defend the interests of each and every eventuality a citizen might encounter, but what is annoying is to hear is that we are like the UK and how proud we should be of this and that when it is just not true.

Therefore I am glad to hear that the GSLP/Libs is going to reinstate the ombudsman for the health services - a step in the right direction and no doubt avoid small claims of the nature I am referring to from having to end up in a Supreme Court.

Mr Feetham, that the party you belong to should call itself Gibraltar Social DEMOCRATS???

I beg to differ.

Citizens are being blocked and frustrated at every corner.

Isabella Caruana

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Govt accused of ‘threats and bullying tactics’ over the launch of a book by the heritage trust


Something as simple as the launching of a book by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust has erupted into a major row with accusations flying about of 'threats and bullying tactics' by the Government.

It was 5.15pm last Wednesday when the Minister for Culture Edwin Reyes made a telephone call to the heritage trust, saying he was "very unhappy."

He raised a number of points such as that he felt he had been sidelined for this event, and furthermore, he stated that he felt that "government in general feels under-appreciated by the GHT, particularly in the last six months."

In fact, the minister went on to suggest that he would not be happy to allow the book launch at the Garrison Library with the present arrangements in place.

The GHT could forget about having any say in the running of the Garrison Library in the future.

He also repeatedly suggested that "the GHT's grant might be reviewed by the Chief Minister in a less favourable light in the near future."

The minister also alleged that he is still waiting for an apology over another row.

The current heated differences revolve around the intention of the heritage trust to have the Mayor Julio Alcantara launch the book.

Members of the trust are upset about the minister: "We cannot allow him to constantly threaten us, it is not the first time he has suggested cutting our funding."

Said another: "I don't like the bullying tactics they use constantly and its wearing a bit thin...Does he really want the Trust to stand up in public just before an election and let the electorate know his threats to the Trust?"

It was being suggested that they should forget about the Mayor and to ask the Governor, as Patron, to host the launch at the Convent. They could also launch it in their offices.

The idea of the Governor, as their Patron, launching the book was gaining weight.

It was mid-morning the next day when Mario Mosquera, the chairman of the heritage trust, stepped in and his decision was announced: That the Minister should launch the book from the Garrison Library. The Governor has written the foreword of the book as Patron, and having the Minister launching it "will provide the balance."

It was recalled that the Trust had tried hard over the last couple of years to heal the relationship between the Gibraltar Government and the Museum - and the Trust's chairman felt that "a squabble over the launch of the book is not the direction we want to head in."

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gibraltar election

And so, the election will be on 8 December. Already a surprise, that the ruling GSD have ousted Fabian Vinet from their new list of candidates - yet, he came second in the last general election in 2007. Why replace a popular candidate by unknown quantities? Ask Peter!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Misleading to compare little Gib with large economies

The chief minister has now admitted that the financial crisis is affecting Gibraltar.He reckons that people are finding it harder to get a loan, to get a mortgage etc.

Well, in other parts of the world such developments are seen as serious, and arising from the world economic crisis, but in Gibraltar the Chief Minister tries to put such a negative development on another plane, almost as if it did not matter!

Look around and see all those empty 'luxury' flats, is that not another indicator of the effect of the world crisis on Gibraltar?

Besides, to try and compare little Gib with the large economies of other countries is simply misleading.

There are other small economies that are in a position similar to that of Gibraltar.And, big or small, had Gibraltar depended on industrial output for export, having say a car factory, if demand had reduced because of the crisis, such downturn would also have affected the Gibraltar industries, which would lead to cuts in manpower etc, such as happens in industrialised countries.

That is why it is so misleading, indeed mischievous, to compare a tiny place like Gibraltar with a major economy elsewhere, with different economic parameters.

Even so, in major countries the overall picture may be one of gloom, but there may be parts of that country, the size of Gibraltar or even bigger, which may not have been affected that badly.

To think that Gibraltar is some kind of 'miracle' is not to consider matters properly. We cannot just swallow everything that is thrown at us for spin without analysing what the words being bombarded in our direction really mean.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Child care: Police and Social Services in need of shake up, says ex Police Officer

Letter sent to Panorama for publication

Dear Editor: I was very distressed but sadly not surprised by the story of "Alex" and her experiences within the care of the Social Services.

In my previous career, as a Police Officer, I had a lot of contact with the Social Services in relation to the protection of young children. In my experience I met some extremely good and caring people in the social services but I unfortunately also met very distasteful people.

I must add that the attitude of the Police, especially Senior Police Officers, to these circumstances were also at times appalling. They buried their heads in the sand and passed the problem over to the Social Services even when it was clear those serious breaches of neglect and cruelty to Children was evident, which by the way was and still is a Criminal Offence.

As a fact in point is that this attitude by some in the Police and the Social Services is exemplified by a case another colleague and I investigated. If you would allow me the space I think it important to relate this case over to your readers.

For a number of months, the Police, had been contacted by concerned members of the public of three children seen to be scrounging bins and retrieving food from then which they would consume immediately. These complaints had been attended by the Police and subsequent reports passed on to the Social Services. I became involved when one of my constables brought it to my attention after attending to such a report. He was suitably concerned that a number of months had gone by and that nothing had been done. I subsequently called my contact at the Social Services who asked to meet me away from the Police Station or the Social Services Agency. When we met in the presence of the constable who carried the investigation with me, the Social Worker explained her concerns in this matter stating that the Social Service Agency was not willing to take this matter forward as although they lived locally they were not local (Gibraltarian). At that point the Social Worker and both of us in the Police decided to take steps and get help to these Children. I approached a senior officer in the Police and informed him of the situation and my intention to investigate the matter. I was flatly told to pass the matter over to the Social Services and forget taking this matter further. I did not agree and the order was "unlawful" as no one can stop a Police Officer from investigating the possible incidence of a crime.

I remember having to wait until I was on night duty (bosses are not around). During the day I spent my time consulting with the Social Worker, the hospital (the children would have to be examined once taken into care) and the Attorney General Chambers who advised on the legal side of the investigation and draw up the "Distress warrant" which allows the Police to remove children from their parents in specific circumstances. This reinforced my resolve and I was deeply grateful for the help and advice received from all quarters. This also proves that there are well meaning, caring and professional people in all walks of our society and professions. I mention this because I do not want to portray the image that everybody in the Police, Hospital or Social Services are uncooperative or unprofessional. There are good people in these organisations, very good people.

My next problem to resolve was the fact that the children needed to be interviewed and statements taken from them and I was not experienced or qualified to do this neither did the Police have the proper facilities to do this. A contact in the Gibraltar Services Police quickly introduced me to a member of the Joint Provost Unit who immediately offered their rape/vulnerable victim suite for our use. This is a flat specifically designed to deal with rape victims and vulnerable witnesses and is equipped with equipment to record statements etc in familiar and comfortable surroundings to the victims. It also has a medical examination room. With all these preparations having been completed my colleague and I went to a Justice of a Peace to have the Distress Warrant signed. Both my colleague and I were questioned for more than an hour by the Justice of the Peace and rightly so as he wanted to make sure that there was sufficient cause to remove these children from their parents and that proper preparation had been made for their care. In the end after commending both my colleague and I,for our efforts, he signed the warrant and asked us to give him a call to let him know of the results of the warrant execution no matter the time.

I would like to add at this point that the Social Worker, the Crown Counsel, my colleague and I had been carrying out all this work during our own time and not whilst on duty.

That evening we executed the warrant and removed three children from their parents aged, 4, 6 and eight. It was ten at night and the children were found to be dirty and sleeping in school uniform. Although there was a double bed in the flat this was occupied by the parents. The eight year old was sleeping in a single sized sofa. The six year old was sleeping on the floor, he did not even have a blanket under him, the two year old slept with an Alsatian dog which was flea ridden. The flat was dirty and all sorts of medication and syringes were lying around and exposed to the children. The kitchen was empty of any food. There was a fridge but there was no food just a couple of beers. A number of empty beer and other alcoholic bottles were strewn everywhere around the flat. There was faeces and urine on the floor of the flat. The children all showed signs of neglect. We removed the children and they were taken by the Social Worker to the hospital to be examined and then they were housed with Social Services. The parents were arrested for Cruelty and neglect offences and questioned in the station. Further inquiries revealed that the parents had been convicted in the UK for child endangerment when one of the children had to be hospitalised after ingesting dangerous prescription drugs whilst left alone in a hotel whilst the parents were out nightclubbing. We decided to charge the parents that evening and bailed them out to appear in court the next day. They were charged primarily because we had overwhelming evidence against them and further because once charged it became a matter for the court to decide on how to deal or dispose of the case and Police senior officers could not interfere. Both my colleague and I finished the next morning exhausted but satisfied that we had done the correct thing. I went home at 0700 am by 0830 my phone was ringing and I was ordered by very irate Senior Police officer to come down to the station.What followed was a grilling and telling off by this Senior Police officer for having taken the action we had. As I was the Sergeant in charge, my colleague was fortunately spared the grilling. I just sat through it, said sorry and smiled to myself. I was warned that if the case was lost in court I could say goodbye to any future promotion.

What followed was three months of extensive investigation by my colleague and I. We interviewed nearly 30 witnesses and traced the whole history of the Children in Gibraltar. We uncovered that the children attended a first school and on interviewing the teachers found out that they had been keeping a diary of the state of the children and that they had alerted social services and the police of it. Teachers had of their own accord taken to feeding the children and cleaning their hair to clear them of lice etc. We interviewed previous landlords of the parents and the story repeated itself. Previous neighbours gave statements highlighting how the police and the social services had been contacted and informed. This pattern was repeated for a protracted period of time. The father of the children earned quite a substantial monthly wage so that there was no excuse for the parents to subject their children to those living conditions. In the end the evidence was so overwhelming that the parent's lawyer advised them to plead guilty. They were sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for a specific time. The children were taken into care but were later given to the maternal grandmother who took care of them in the UK.

At the end of it my Inspector, recommended both my colleague and me for a Commissioner's Commendation, unfortunately my colleague was not in the "good books" with a certain senior officer because she had placed a parking ticket on his car whilst illegally parked and the commendation never came and we received a "well done" note on our personal files. In the end the important thing was that the children were safe, healthy and well looked after.

My intentions in bringing this to light are to highlight certain issues that your good paper has had the courage to tackle:

1. Unfortunately the wrong type of people are in charge;

2. Whistleblowing is a dangerous activity in Gibraltar - the whistle blower is targeted by those who should be protecting them and encouraging ethical behaviour instead of covering up unethical conduct;

3. Co-operation between all services is essential because of the need to share resources for the good and safety of all citizens. In this case I refer to the unacceptable circumstance that exist currently between the RGP and GDP;

4. Its about time there is a severe shake up of all these services with the aim at eradicating unethical behaviour, corruption and the "don't care let someone else deal with it" attitude.

Kind Regards,
Richard Wood

Monday, 10 October 2011

Rota’s participation in Shield opens up barrage of questions about Gibraltar

The US/Spain agreement for Rota to become a part of the Shield anti-missile system will heighten the military threat to this area in times of hostilities.

Had Gibraltar increased its military capability, the Spanish would have lost no time in arguing that it posed increased risks to Spain. But neither Gibraltar nor Britain will react against Spain in the way Spaniards would have reacted against Gibraltar. Instead, Foreign Office policy is to urge the MOD to emasculate its military presence at Gibraltar so as not to upset Spain and to make a political deal more plausible.

The Shield system is defensive in nature because it seeks to alert about enemy missiles fired at European targets. "With four Aegis ships at Rota, Nato is significantly boosting combined naval capabilities in the Mediterranean and enhancing our ability to ensure the security of this vital region," said the US defence secretary.

Although the Western argument is that the system - of which Rota is only a part - is not aimed at Russia, Moscow lost no time in reacting angrily against it.

A highly sophisticated early warning system for Turkey announced last month, aimed at countering ballistic missile threats, provoked an angry response from neighouring Iran, warning that the installation would escalate regional tensions.

As regards the Rota move, military experts in Spain say that by increasing its strategic importance, Rota is also increasing its potential as a target for enemies of Nato.

Plans for the defence Shield project were approved by Nato leaders in Lisbon last year. The US ships now announced for Rota form part of an initial deployment of a Nato-designed anti-missile shield and are equipped with radar and Aegis missile-intercept systems.

Although the four US ships will be based at Rota they will come under the Nato/US command in Naples, Italy.


Where does all this leave Gibraltar? Nato has long been urging Britain to increase, and not decrease, its military presence at Gibraltar by improving surface and sub-surface defence of the Strait.

Nato has taken the view that "current defence capabilities deployed by the UK in Gibraltar are inadequate or non-existent and that any further delay in improving defence and choke point control facilities at Gibraltar will prevent Nato from making best use of this strategic position."

Secret documents show that during 1980-84 the aim was to provide for an integrated system which would have included modern early warning radars with capability against low flying aircraft and missiles, point and area defence missiles, surface to surface missiles.

A document marked 'Secret UK Eyes' says that, considered in isolation, the geographical position of Gibraltar provides an excellent base for the employment of technologically advanced weapons and equipments such as remotely controlled minefield, active and passive surveillance equipment operating above, and below, the surface together with their associated weapon systems.

It is an often rehearsed argument that in tension or war, Moscow - if they were involved - might endeavour to control or deny the use of the Strait to Nato by a variety of measures, such as mines.

The depth of water in the Strait would indeed allow both anti-surface ship and anti-submarine mines to be laid. Most Russian warships have the ability to lay mines, which can be remotely operated.

It has been recent American policy to keep the Russians at bay, by providing assurances and elements of cooperation. The Americans see current potential enemies more in the North African littoral. Countries that can develop long-range missiles that can target Europe attract close interest from Washington.

There is a clear interest to keep North African countries near the western entrance to the Mediterranean within the Western fold or at least neutral, in peace and specially in war.

But as Gibraltar's military importance wanes, and that of others in the region increases, the Rock can be demoted in military terms. In 2002, it was the MOD that scuppered the planned joint sovereignty deal because they, and the Americans, wanted Gibraltar to retain the status quo in respect of the military.


And the Spanish view, then and now, centres in gaining a military foothold in Gibraltar.

That remains the political game today. The importance of having or not having control over territorial waters, the ability to deploy ships and aircraft, the usefulness of having a friendly population...these are some factors that come into play.

The role Gibraltar continues to play for Britain, and indeed for Nato in a less visible fashion, keeps the crunch away. But the more important others in the region become, the greater the chances of Gibraltar's special and time-honoured military importance being subsumed.

Joe Garcia

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Foreign Office playing games with Gib’s sovereignty

The Foreign Office appears to be playing games with Gibraltar's sovereignty, following the latest invasion of British Gibraltar territorial waters by a Spanish Navy vessel on the eve of National Day.

At the time, HMS Sabre was alerted to the Spanish naval vessel, Vigia, being in the northern extremity of the Bay.

Vigia then entered Gibraltar waters and headed south with HMS Sabre taking station close to the Spanish ship, as was confirmed to us by the MOD.

The Spanish vessel then followed a direct course towards Europa Point where she stopped in the water and was challenged by Sabre. Vigia then continued around Europa Point until she left Gibraltar waters near La Linea. HMS Sabre remained on station and saw the Spanish naval vessel re-enter British waters, heading for Europa Point. Having rounded Europa Point, Vigia then made a direct passage to Algeciras.

That incident was serious enough for a spokesman at The Convent saying that Britain would be making a protest to the Spanish government.

Subsequently, we asked a Foreign Office spokesman at The Convent if the protest had now been made.

Initially, we were given to understand that the protest was imminent. So, we waited some time before reverting to the same Foreign Office spokesman in The Convent. We asked if the protest had now been made and also at what level.

The tone of the Foreign Office spokesman changed. He said he would get back to us in the afternoon.

On Tuesday afternoon, he said: "The British Government is protesting but do not issue a running commentary for reasons of diplomatic confidentiality."

What a nonsensical cover up! Since we were not asking for any running commentary, as all we had done was to ask if the protest had now been made, as it had previously been intimated to us, we think that the reply was offensive to us and no doubt to many people in Gibraltar who are concerned with what happens in the British sovereign territorial waters of Gibraltar.

And obviously answers are expected concerning factual information, answers to questions as simple and as relevant as if the protest had now taken place as the incursion happened nearly 2 weeks ago!

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Opposition cannot understand why Govt is against a placard being erected to mark Queen's jubilee

The Opposition says it cannot understand why the Government, through its control over the planning process, has refused permission for the display of a temporary placard commemorating the jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.

The Opposition understands that a private citizen applied to the Development and Planning Commission for permission to erect a placard outside a building that he owns in Convent Place. However, the applicant has made public that planning permission has been refused and that he intends to appeal that decision.

They add: "It is important to note that this would be an ideal location for such a banner given that it is opposite both the residence of the Governor of Gibraltar, who represents Her Majesty in Gibraltar, and the seat of the Gibraltar Government in 6 Convent Place.

"It is well known that the Development and Planning Commission (DPC) is a statutory body which is chaired by the Minister with responsibility for Development and Planning Joe Holliday and consists of nine voting members. It includes five persons nominated by the Chief Minister, one person nominated by the Ministry of Defence, one person nominated by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and one person nominated by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society.

"This result is that the views of the Government generally prevail when it comes to deciding on planning applications like the one in question."

The GSLP/Liberals go on to say that it is not clear why the Government would be against the erection of a placard of Her Majesty in Convent Place to commemorate her Jubilee year. She is, after all, the Queen of Gibraltar and our Head of State. Moreover, the banner was presumably intended to be of a temporary nature in the sense that it was only going to be in place during the jubilee year 2012. In addition to this the site was a private building where the consent of the landlord had obviously been obtained.

Commenting on the matter, Shadow Minister for Development and Planning Dr Joseph Garcia said:

“In Government our policy would be to support this application were it to be resubmitted and to allow the placard to go up. If the citizens of Gibraltar want to celebrate the Jubilee of their monarch it is something that we encourage. There is nothing to be embarrassed or apologetic about. There may be those who do not like to be reminded of Gibraltar’s historic link with the British Crown. This is a fact of history and a continuing reality. A GSLP/Liberal Government will support the commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee in this and in other ways.”

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Gibraltarians do not enjoy the same basic human rights as their UK counterparts

If you are a non-Gibraltarian who visits the Rock you will be struck by the thriving, modern society that exists all around you. You would chat with a sophisticated people. You would assume, wrongly, that Gibraltarians enjoy the same basic human rights as their British counterparts, or indeed Spaniards across the border, but you would be wrong.

In many instances Gibraltarians are in a rights limbo. If they were in the UK those rights would be protected by law and they would have redress under a whole series of headings against government, officials and so on. That is not true on the Rock because if a Gibraltarian has a complaint it is addressed, quite rightly to the Gibraltar Government, and not that of Britain. However all too often their own government legally turns a deaf ear because few rights are enshrined in law.

If a Gibraltarian seeks justice he or she can’t go to the UK government either because it does not have jurisdiction here. Therefore the only route is to Europe where, in theory, their case has the right to be heard. Yet even that is fraught with problems because in Brussels the conclusion would more often than not be that as British Citizens the British Government should be held to account to sort it out, which of course, it can’t.

It was put to me recently that the chief minister, Peter Caruana, was far from pleased when Gibraltarians received the Euro vote and hence a voice in the European Parliament. I had never thought about it before because it seemed strange to me that the elected leader of the Gibraltarian people would not want them to enjoy the widest representation. On the other hand it meant they had a right to go directly to Brussels or the European Parliament on issues that the chief minister might consider only he should have control over. For some democratic leaders democracy is a bitter pill to swallow.

Marcus Killick, the chairman of the Financial Services Commission, recently called for an Ombudsman to represent customers in their relations with the financial sector. For non-Gibraltarians it is startling to learn that those who live on the Rock do not enjoy such a vital service that is considered the norm elsewhere in the EU – yet so far there is no indication the government will give a positive answer to Killick’s plea.

Indeed as the general election draws near the rights of Gibraltarians to have free access to these basic rights and open government will reach a crescendo. The problem for the GSD is the party has been in government for four terms and has paid scant regard to the fundamental rights of its people. Hence a cynic might say if Caruana suddenly takes on the guise of St Paul on the road to Damascus on these key issues his conversation will be on a par with the Syrian president’s claim to have discovered democracy – not worth the scroll it is written on.

David Eade

Friday, 12 August 2011

KGV SHAME! Conditions are appalling, shameful and third world

Having had a close family member who suffered from a severe mental illness for the better part of his life, before he died of natural causes in a psychiatric hospital in the united kingdom, I have little difficulty in understanding the plight of people who are either suffering with a mental disorder, or with members of the family who also go through much pain and anguish. Many families in these difficult circumstances go through tremendous stress practically on a daily basis.

So when I was approached by a close relative of a patient at the KGV hospital who asked me if I could listen to a story regarding this relative with a view of making the story public. I was in all honesty surprised, but listening to this person I immediately began to understand what Alex was really asking for (Alex is not this persons real name, but with a family member as a patient at the KGV, Alex did not want the real family surname revealed) Alex in fact was looking for a receptive ear, and also to be listened to and hopefully understood, but also for the truth to be made known to the public. Ultimately what Alex wished was to ‘to improve the living conditions at this important public medical institution’

Alex came across as a genuinely concerned individual, as one would be I expect, when anxious about the welfare of a loved one. Clearly this was evident during our discussion. Alex close relative had been struck down by a mental illness and had taken up residence for treatment at the KGV, this had caused many sleepless nights in this household.

The main issue revolves around the condition and living standards at the hospital, something that Alex repeated many times was far worse than any ‘third world country’ being concerned for the welfare and well-being of a family member who is not only sick but psychologically vulnerable, must be the driving force in anyone’s mind, particularly in attempting to improve and change things for the better; Alex in this sense, was no different than anyone else in the same situation!

As I said Alex’s main complaint is about the conditions at the KGV. As matters were related to me, I also saw photographs taken illustrating what was being pointed out to me, they were shocking! Photos that would make most people cringe with horror and disgust:

‘How can our health services allow this to happen’ and how can this be happening in Gibraltar in the 21 century!

This is the full account of what ‘Alex’ had to say:

The KGV’s all in one ‘acute ward’

The acute ward is situated on the first floor of the KGV hospital; the ground floor is taken up by long term KGV residential patients. However it is the acute ward where members of the community are admitted suffering with psychological problems of different kinds and of varying degrees.

One of the first issues regarding the hospital refers to how all patients admitted end up in the acute ward. All admissions to this ward are made ‘irrespective of the sex, age or the type of mental illness a person is suffering from, be it drug related, psychological or behavioural issues or even depression’. The latter point of people admitted with depression will surprise many people, I know I was!

“I cannot understand”, Alex said “how people with a range of different mental illnesses of varying degrees can be admitted to the KGV, these unfortunate people suddenly find themselves plunged in amongst other patients, all on the same floor”. Just where is the clinical or medical management in that? Mixing patients like this, not withstanding their condition, sex or age group must be unique to Gibraltar’s psychiatric ethos.

Sleeping – and young patients who find it difficult to integrate!

As far as personal sleeping arrangements are concerned, there’s nothing personal about it, although sexes are segregated. There is little or no privacy; patients are allocated sleeping quarters which are normally shared between 2, 4 or 6 patients of the same sex and in one room. I am told that patients of both sexes are wandering all over the ward floor and privacy of any kind is impossible. Also that ‘young men and woman who are sometimes 19 or 20 or over, find it difficult to integrate into this hospital environment’

Recently because of increased female admissions the acute ward staffs have moved round sleeping arrangements to make available additional room to cater for the increase in the female population. This is something I am told that has caused a lot of distress and disruption to the patients themselves, resulting in a further drop in the quality of the living standards in rooms.

Rooms in a dilapidated state, no wardrobes or cabinets for personal belongings

Bedrooms are in a sorry if not dilapidated state; bedrooms are the more private part of the ward, if you can call it that. Paint on walls has flaked off, there are holes and broken partition walls that have not been repaired. The look and feel of the sleeping rooms are cold, dull, shabby and not fit to house any kind of medical patient, never mind one with psychiatric issues.

Another issue that appears to be in line with the state of the sleeping quarters ‘is the total lack in many rooms of wardrobes and cabinets to store personal effects’.

Many patients are not able to properly and safely store their personal belongings, rooms look disorganised, messy and one not fit for a vulnerable people to cohabit, I was told that on many occasions clothes and other personal items have gone missing!

Showers used as store rooms

You would expect that shower areas would have some level of hygienic improvement, the story here is not much better. In fact showers are being used as store rooms, they have been stacked with ‘portable disability walking frames, chairs and other bits of equipment’ towels funnily enough are left (see photo) on the chair that’s on the shower plate itself, just in case the patient is able to remove all the obstructions from inside the shower. Although I’m told hopes are dashed again of having a shower because the water mixer in the shower is broken.

Shower products I was also told are stored in the shower area commune style i.e. Shower cream, shampoo and sponges etc, if a patient eventually gets into the shower he or she would use the shower products available, including I imagine the same shower sponges which somehow does not appear very hygienic to me!

One more thing about the showers and something that can be appreciated in the photos, the shower curtains really looks to have seen better days.

But there is also the ‘important matter of leaving in a psychiatric hospital ‘acute ward’ ‘wired coat hangers lying about’ inside the shower.

This is a potential safety risk, where vulnerable people may do serious injury to themselves or to others or even worse! So much for health and safety.

Donated furniture does not get repaired

Another matter Alex raised was regarding furniture items, furniture according to what I was told is difficult to obtain, as furniture items are donated and more often than not are second hand and not repaired! It is difficult to think what kind of mental care is being delivered in Gibraltar. How can people who are already suffering inside with their own mental ailment be treated in such undignified manner, it truly is appalling!

Medication by envelope

Come medication time at the KGV, Alex has another story to tell, because medication which should normally be handed out to patients in small plastic receptacles to ensure that meds have been taken safely, are frequently distributed to patients inside a normal ‘envelope’ because plastic receptacles are unavailable or have run out.

I will say that Alex had much praise for the staff at the KGV hospitals - who are constantly working, mostly under stress; the conditions of work don’t help. Many of the staff are overseas nationals, who are also over-burden by having to perform extra shifts because of the shortage of staff. It is not uncommon for staff at the KGV to perform overlapping shifts, this cannot be good in anyone books. How are staff members expected to be alert and attentive to the needs of vulnerable patients if they work continuous roll-over shifts!

GHA cannot get it right at KGV

The KGV hospital has been the subject of much criticism over the years, the nursing section themselves have been one of the biggest critics, particularly regarding health and safety standards not being complied with. There have been deaths at the hospital involving patients, fires have broken out, even nursing reviews have been critical of KGV.

The Gibraltar health care development team said in July 2003. That the ‘mental health services continue to be the poor relation of Gibraltar’s health service.’

This team was right, but the KGV are not the poor relation any longer, they are it seems the totally destitute and forgotten relations!

People with psychiatric problems cannot wait for government to build them a new purpose built facility. These are some of the most vulnerable people in society, who not only expect, but deserve the best possible all round care and attention; this is something that takes many forms. Even if a new psychiatric unit is to be built, it is no excuse to allow the standards at KGV to go rock bottom, with dangerous practices in certain areas endangering the health and well-being of patients in general.

Health and safety at the KGV has again been ignored, shower rooms packed with hospital equipment causing danger to patients, dangerous articles left lying around, and medication handed out in a manner which is unethical in any clinical manner, particularly in such a facility. Reports of under staffing and staff themselves stressed out and having to work double shifts or more because of staff shortages are not good!

It is pitiful that government allows such a deterioration of this important medical institution; the KGV hospital is an embarrassment to Gibraltar. Promise of a new hospital is no excuse in allowing standards to drop like this. Inpatients recovery is being compromised by the visible deterioration at the hospital.

The KGV hospital as this article suggests keeps on falling short in health and safety standards and risk management. The appearance of the KGV inside and out is imposing, ominous; it does not look like a place where people would go to get well. It looks like a place where people would go, and stay and remain for a long, long time!

Mental health services in Gibraltar should be just as important as physical health services such as those for cancer and heart disease and many others. But it’s not!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Concern Over Violence at Bayside Comprehensive

The scholastic year ended some weeks ago, with it, some disturbing reports received at Panorama regarding school discipline, perpetuated by acts of violence primarily at Bayside Boys Comprehensive School.

We put questions to the Department of Education and the RGP, and in an extraordinary develolpment, the Education department tried to play it down, while the police provided statistical evidence that confirms the concern over violence and other incidents, including drugs, at Bayside school.

The Department of Education & Training said that they can confirm that the Police have not been called to the Comprehensive Schools during the course of last term to deal with incidents involving violence, aggressive behaviour or disturbances. Any type of violent incident will be of concern to teachers and the Department of Education and Training. The Department of Education and Training, that is in daily communication with schools, does not have evidence to support the notion that there is growing concern about violence in our schools.

However, the RGP said there have been in the past year starting as from April 2010, six incidents of assault at Bayside Comprehensive School that have been reported to police, there has been one incident at Westside School also of assault.

A spokesman added: "We have also dealt with other incidents which do not fall under incidents of Violence, Aggressive Behaviour or Disturbances involving students, these incidents range from minor thefts, setting off the fire alarm and students found in possession of drugs. Due to Data Protection issues I am unable to give you any further details as to the said incidents." We understand that the teaching profession is concerned with the level of aggressive and violent conduct of some students particularly at Bayside school. We are also informed there have been incidents where teachers have been either physically or verbally assaulted, fights amongst students themselves has also increased. The seriousness of the matter has seen the presence of police outside the school gates on a number of occasions in order to prevent any violent behaviour amongst students breaking out!


PANORAMA has been investigating. We have been informed that another concern, apart from the violence factor, relates to matters of drugs, here again we are informed there are similar concerns and where some parents who fear the general drug abuse problem currently affecting Gibraltar has spread to senior schools.

The lack of discipline in some students, again at Bayside, has seen some of them expelled due to their behaviour, although details of these expulsions are not known, but our understanding is that during the course of the year there have been some students sent home for contravening school rules.

Of all the issues connected with the education system, the one that causes most concern for educators and parents alike, and the one over which most doubts exist, is the effectiveness of school discipline, an issue that’s never really surfaced on the rock! Are schools worse off today as regards discipline than they were, say, 20 years ago? Have children become more difficult to handle and teach? Is the school environment peaceful enough to allow teachers to teach and students to learn? What, exactly, does discipline imply? In fact do we really have a problem that needs addressing?

The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines discipline as "the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience". School and classroom discipline is both preventive and remedial and schools make use of their sticks and carrots to create a safe and orderly atmosphere in which students can learn and interact with each other.

In today’s society teachers are finding maintaining order in class hard and exhausting, which makes teaching those who want to learn difficult and those who refuse to learn almost impossible. Teaching today is not an easy task. Not that it has ever been so, but today there are added constraints that make a teacher's life that much more taxing.

Taking a brief look at our society, one can note certain rapid changes, especially over the last two or three decades, which hinder the task of the teacher.


The respect for people in authority has been weakened to the extent that some our children think nothing of challenging and even ignoring all forms of authority in school at home and out in the streets. They think they have a right not only to question all orders and regulations coming from any source, but also to reject what does not appeal to their way of thinking.

The so-called 'youth culture' is changing very rapidly and drastically, to the extent that young people cannot keep up with its demands - on their time - in their style of dress and in the type of music they listen to and in the quality of relationships they engage in.

Some teachers have recognised a lack of disposition and motivation to learn in some students, especially on Fridays when they are gearing up for the weekend and on Mondays when they start unwinding after a hectic weekend. And all this time, the poor teacher is expected to teach his or her subject regardless.

Despite the popular impression that being a teacher is all about pleasantries such as longer holidays and shorter working hours, the reality of their situation tells a different story. Teachers are by no means enviable part-timers. In fact they have one of the most demanding jobs of all - particularly in terms of the mental strain that is part and parcel of their profession.

Of course, not every teacher suffers stress. But there is concrete evidence that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs possible. Many surveys (not in Gib) assessing the stress levels of various jobs constantly indicate that teaching came out top

While policy-makers do their job we all have a social responsibility towards all children. We all have a moral obligation to guard children from the transmission of harmful behavioural patterns, to keep their environment morally healthy, even if it is not easy to clean our surroundings.


Society has changed greatly we constantly hear of rising crime and violence in Gibraltar fueled by drug and alcohol abuse, youngster at 14 years being sent to prison for supplying drugs, others as small as 12 years arrested for burglary and so on. Sadly more and more of these disturbing stories of young people getting involved in crime are being heard, mostly with drug or a drug and alcohol connection.

Many people think, including some teachers, that these negative social issues in society have made there way into the school classroom. There’s no doubt that something effective has to be done to eliminate it or at least get it under control!

Government for their part have reacted to the growing concern of crime and anti-social behaviour stemming from youth behaviour, with a piece of new Criminal Legislation it is proposing, known as an "Anti Social Behaviour Order" more commonly known in the UK as (ASBOs) the new legislation will allow prosecutors to apply for ASBO orders which in the UK can be used against anyone who is 10 years of age or over and has behaved in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to someone or some people who do not live in their own household.

An ASBO stops the young person from going to particular places or doing particular things. If they do not comply with the order, they can be prosecuted. This proposed new legislation is to be included in the New Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, it is yet to be debated and approved by Parliament.


Our understanding is that there are some students who have serious problems, whether at a social or psychological level. These students have to be taught and have to be supported. However, their right to education and their integration in our schools cannot occur at the expense of the safety and well-being of fellow students and teachers.

Let’s hope that proper processes are put in place to improve matters before the next academic year. The sinister signs are there, the evidence has been confirmed - the Government must not try to sweep these serious problems under the carpet because the problem will simply snowball and Gibraltar will be the loser on a bigger scale.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Spanish boos and insults in Gibraltar itself

Many people in Gibraltar are up in arms on having heard that Spanish people attending the Eurodance Show at the Tercentenary Hall booed and insulted Gibraltar and Gibraltarian participants in the event. This comes hot on the heels of the problems faced by young footballers when parading the Gibraltar flag at a football tournament in Costa Blanca - they had the Gibraltar flag taken away from them.


With the Foreign Office and the Opposition having reacted strongly to what happened at the children's football tournament, people are asking where is the Gibraltar Government. Well, the culture minister Edwin Reyes and the mayor Anthony Lombard will be attending at the La Linea fair this evening the twinning of Gibraltar with La Linea, what the Spanish call an act of 'hermanamiento.'

It had been thought that the Chief Minister Peter Caruana was to have attended as well but so far there is no news from the La Linea municipality that he will make an appearance. The municipality says that at the event taking place there this evening the "Gibraltar Sea Scouts, Show Dance group Company and Santos Academy" will be taking part during the twinning ceremony.

Meanwhile, in his popular Facebook page, Bryan Zammit Snr writes: "Some more bad news regarding Spaniards and their attitude towards us. I was told today that in the European Dance championship held in Gib, Spaniards walked out when our national anthem was being played. I was also told that they were also booing when Gibraltarians received prizes. Now that’s in our own country and no one did anything."

Another person said that whenever Gibraltar holds an event or participates in an event there needs to be an agreement signed by each faction. The agreement would stipulate that racism, anti-sporting behaviour such as insulting or degrading another country will equate in that respective team being given a ban from participating.

They can boo and disrespect our wonderful dancers as much as they want, they still did an amazing job, said someone else.

Mr Zammit himself added: "What we are discussing in this post is...How on earth did Spaniards get away with:

1. Getting up and walking out of the stadium while our National Anthem was being played?

2. How did they get away with booing Gibraltarians while they were receiving their prizes?

3. How did they get away by shouting Gibraltar Espanol in our stadium in front of a packed house of Gibraltarians?

4. And finally. How on earth has it managed to keep out of the newspapers and TV? Who gave instructions for it not to come out in the open?"

One person insisted that nothing had happened and it was all an exaggeration.

Another person explained: I spoke to a gentleman who told me that a local child was waving a Gib flag during the Dance Championships and that a Spanish adult spectator had started waving the Spanish flag and made it a point of making contact between the flag pole he was waving and the local kid on two occasions... approached the Spaniard ...Security came and asked the Spaniards to stick to their side of the stands where they were sitting and not interfere with the other spectators. This sort of thing happened all weekend.

Another person said: I was also at the European showdance championships all weekend and did see the intent on the Spanish to try and provoke and also boo Gibraltar whenever possible.

And another comment: With this behaviour no wonder que quien iba a ser el guapo de poner the Spanish flag in The Instituto Cervantes! Respect is not an entitlement you must earn it! With this cynical behaviour towards children all they are doing is widening the gap in good neighbourly relationship with Spain again, instead of doing the contrary!

Joseph L.Caruana adds: "What happened in Benidorm was disgraceful and how the Spanish team in the Show dance competition behaved whilst in Gibraltar shows how mistaken has been GoG's soft policy, the Tripartite Forum, the Air Terminal, the Pensions, the Guardia Civil incursions(s) etc, etc,

And another: The GoG, what are they going to do now?