Saturday, 30 April 2011

Gibraltar's muted response to Royal Wedding helps our detractors

Gibraltar's muted celebrations about the Royal Wedding which the rest of the world has been enthusiastically celebrating is already drawing comments beyond our frontiers. It may end up doing us more harm than good.
Gibraltarians' exaggerated embrace of the monarchy, proclaimed loudly in English and Spanish, is part of the ferocity with which they defend their Britishness against 300 years of Spanish claims to sovereignty, says a report in The Guardian.
Celebrations were dampened, however, by both a heavy Atlantic squall washing over the tiny Iberian peninsula and by a glum feeling that Prince Charles no longer loves them.
A recent visit by Charles and Camilla to Spain, Portugal and Morocco – without a stopover on the Rock – left Gibraltarians feeling snubbed.
"A lot of people are upset about that," someone told the paper. "We are sometimes more British than the British here. People don't understand why he visits Spain, but not us. Even the younger generation feel it."
Okay, it was not like the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, when they actually started their honeymoon in the Royal Yacht Britannia. But many feel something could have been done about it to bring out the real feelings this time round as well.
The policy of appeasement that is engulfing the Rock these days is clearly to Spain's benefit. Even those incursions by the Guardia Civil into our long-established british territorial waters make people feel let down.
It all adds to a feeling of those who should look after us not doing anything - and what is worse, letting those who wish to destroy us have a field day.
If we are British we are British and this should be reflected in what we do and don't do. Are spme putting Spain first - and British Gibraltar second? It is a question that needs answering.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Age of Consent: Evangelical Alliance issue strongly-worded statement

Fidel Patron of the Evangelical Alliance has distributed a strongly-worded statement on the question of the Age of Consent.

The statement says that "the Supreme Court judgment in the ‘Age of Consent’ case cannot be classed as anything less than scandalous. We must start by saying how aggrieved we were to see the Attorney General, to all intents and purposes ‘throw in the towel’ in court by not presenting any of the medical evidence at his disposal."

The Evangelical Alliance says it was not allowed to present its own evidence on the medical risks and so the principal issue, which is the well documented body of medical research which attests to the risks of AIDS and HIV which can be fatal and other life limiting conditions such as rectal prolapsed are more likely to occur in young men – precisely those that the Court should have been concerned with than any other age group.

The statement goes on to claim that "the judge has, in effect, followed the flawed judgement of a court in Hong Kong which ruled that the natural can be equated to the un-natural, to whit that vaginal intercourse and anal intercourse are the same, under the guise of ‘being expressions of love’. Needless to say we contest the validity of this judgement on many fronts. We believe that no right thinking person can equate what is a natural act using parts of the body designed for procreation, with an un-natural act using a passage designed for defecation as a means of gratification."  What the Judgment has, in fact done is to place a great number of people at risk, the Evangelical Alliance adds. There is ample medical evidence that anal intercourse is a high risk activity. The fact that those who perform this act are not allowed to be blood donors speaks for itself.

But the Court has gone further, not only has he put a large number of people at risk, it has put at risk those who, by the nature of our society, have no say in the matter. The law classifies those under the age of 18 as “young people” for who special treatment applies. These are those members in our society who are deemed not mature enough to vote, sign contracts, own property, drive cars or indeed even to watch X rated movies.

It goes on to say that the interests of a small lobby who vociferously claim that different acts should be treated with “equality” has taken precedence over the health and safety of our young people. For far too long the church has stood idly by and watched the moral decline of our culture. "We have a responsibility to be the ‘salt of the earth’ to speak out against injustice and we believe an injustice has been done to our children and to our society," it says,and adds:  "Yet here we are faced with a situation where our sovereignty has become subservient to a misunderstanding of European law aided and abetted by the politically correct Foreign Office, a laissez faire Attorney General and a small minority group...We would ask that public opinion make itself heard in this matter before real damage is done to the young people left exposed by this most negative court judgment."

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

16 or 18?

  The question is being asked if the Gibraltar Women's Association read and digested the ruling on the age of consent by the Chief Justice before issuing a press release?
  They seem to be confused in their press release, as if the judge had set about determining that 16 was the age of consent.
  The ruling  by the judge said: I have no hesitation in concluding that the provisions which establish a differential between the ages of consent and criminalise homosexual anal sex involving someone aged between 16 and 18 breaches both sections 7 and 14 of the Constitution.
  He added that "It is however not for this court to take a view as to what the age of consent in Gibraltar should be, that is a matter which can only be for the legislature to determine."
  In other words, it is up to Parliament to set the age at 16 or 18 - or whatever!
  Whether a referendum is now held, as the GWA suggests,
is a perfectly legitimate way forward.
  But it has to be asked if the public is now going to get involved in such a spectacle or is it that our legislators cannot take a decision themselves?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

One attack after another against Gibraltar in Spanish TV channel

View programme

All the customary attacks and insults which are hurled at Gibraltar from Spain featured in a Spanish TV programme, a video of which has been obtained by PANORAMA. It was aired in the intereconomia channel from Madrid. And some well-known anti-Gibraltar people took part, from PP's Jose Ignacio Landaluce to La Linea's mayor Alejandro Sanchez.

Landaluce was insisting that the waters surrounding the Rock are Spanish in every respect. He said the PP was taking initiatives so that the Spanish government backs the Guardia Civil and other Spanish agencies operating in 'Spanish waters'.

He referred to the serious incident in the bay last September.

The programme also showed footage of a boat belonging to the ecologists Verdemar which, it said, had been arrested by Gibraltar police, again in 'Spanish waters.'

Even a parachute exercise by the MOD, 1.8 miles off Europa Point, was in'Spanish waters'.

Viewers in Spain must have got the impression that Gibraltar is forever violating what was repeatedly termed 'Spanish waters'.

This was being shown in a 15-minute introductory report, which was later followed by a lengthy debate.


Monday, 4 April 2011

The constitutional mystery of the Police authority Chairman

Leo Olivero

The government, the governor and that phantom body called the 'specified appointments committee' have between them made what appears to be a charade of selecting the new chairman of the Gibraltar police authority (GPA). The whole matter if not farcical certainly has a more than questionable look about it, particularly in the selection of the new chairman for this important and supposedly 'independent public authority'

A few weeks ago in a government press release the announcement came regarding the appointment of Mr. Richard Garcia as the new chairman of the GPA after the retirement of Mr. Eddie guerrero. Mr. Garcia only last year retired himself from the governments top civil service post of chief secretary. Although during his time as chief/sec Mr. Garcia also served as the Gibraltar government's representative on the GPA board, a position he held since the GPA was created in 2006 and until shortly before his retirement.

At this point - I would like to make one thing clear, I have absolutely nothing against Mr. Garcia and in no way is this article an attack or intended at casting any aspersion on his integrity or credibility, or even of his competence in being able to perform the role of GPA chairman; this is not the point of my argument!.

What I am trying to get across to readers is that the selection of Mr. Garcia is not the correct one; it leaves many reservations and is suspicious to say the least! To have chosen

Mr. Garcia as the new GPA chairman, a person who must carry tons of 'government excess luggage' which he now brings to the chairmanship of the GPA.

The GPA is an important element of the 2006 constitution, its role to 'ensure that policing in Gibraltar is efficient and effective, the authority should also seek to improve policing performance and standards, and to 'ensure the public have a say in how they are policed and importantly hold the commissioner of police to account for the services delivered to the public.' this is why independence of the GPA and its chairman is pivotal and cannot even appear to be influenced particularly from a political perspective!

Police authorities were established with the specific intention of insulating the police from direct governance by elected politicians, and also of guaranteeing a measure of independence for police services in the performance of their duties.

This is the reason why separation of powers between the police and government is considered an important principle of any democracy, this point must be clearly seen to be the case, at least in the eyes of the public!

Must be beyond reproach!

For these reasons alone, the selection of the person who is to head this independent body to oversee local policing must be in every sense of the word beyond reproach! 'even the perception' that the police service in Gibraltar has the potential of being under any political influence is a serious situation that has the potential to weaken local democracy.

Gibraltar in this sense is not the uk; our structures are minute in comparison. In fact we are known to be rather weak on the required social buffers, particularly when it comes to warding-off in-coming influenced-based-projectiles!

As already mentioned when Mr. Garcia retired as chief secretary he was the governments own representative member of the GPA for over 4 years. In this sense it would only be logical to think that as the governments representative on the GPA board until recently, he would be fully in tune and still mentally consistent and aware of the governments own position and views on all aspects regarding policing and how it is to be delivered in Gibraltar!

In the press release the other week the government pointed out that the selection of Mr. Garcia had been made by 'specified appointments commission' who ever they are? This press statement also said that 'Mr. Garcia brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to bring to bear on this new role as chairman of the GPA. True, he does bring wealth and experience, but some may quite rightly say from a government based perspective! It's bound to be, after a 30 year odd successful civil service career coupled with a recent 4 year stint as the government's special envoy on the GPA!

New GPA independent chairman is also a government paid consultant!

This vitally important matter surrounding the independence of the GPA and the new chairman is even in more serious doubt right now! One other important issue emerged last week when Panorama revealed that Mr. Garcia performs consultancy work for the government, be it on an ad-hoc basis! This means to me at least, that the new GPA chairman is still on the 'governments official financial books 'there must be a conflict of interest here somewhere? And also considering that his previous position of chief secretary has not even been filled yet! I can even imagine that Mr. Garcia still users his old office at convent place to perform is consultancy work!

Other important issues?

Although other important issues surrounding the selection of Mr. Garcia as the new GPA chairman makes me even more suspect and critical of the whole selection process, including why, in my view, Mr. Garcia is a totally unsuitable choice for this position!

This of course, if clear cut independency of the GPA is what Gibraltar really wants?

In my opinion the important central issue of independency of the police authority is a major point that requires the holder of the post to be completely free of the slightest possible influence (intended or otherwise) from the government! Even the idea or any suspicion that the GPA or the police could be under "political influence" could seriously undermine democracy and drastically reduce confidence in the police!

Let's look at the selection of Mr. Garcia more closely. The public were informed that the appointment of Mr. Garcia was made by the specified appointments commission (SAC) no one actually knows who is on this completely unknown commission that is put together when one of these constitutionally related positions becomes vacant.

Who are the SAC? A constitutional mystery may be? But there are more mysteries ahead?

Here is how the whole Gibraltar police authority structure is put together:

The SAC under clause 56(1) of the constitution consists of:

Two members appointed by the governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the chief minister following consultation with the governor; and two other  members again appointed by the governor, and again acting after consultation with the chief minister, one of whom shall chair and have a second and casting vote.

So basically it's not complicated, straight forward really, with the governor and chief minister do all the picking and choosing of SAC members!

The police authority consist of the ten members comprising of a chairman appointed by the governor acting on the advice of the specified appointments commission (who as we know is formed by the governor and chief minister) from among persons proposed by (wait for it) the governor or the chief minister; and one member appointed again each by the governor and the chief minister. Than there are other independent members, which you will not be surprised to know, is also appointed by the governor, this time acting on the advice of the public service commission from a list of persons which shall have been approved (yes your right) by the governor and chief minister.

Its clear in all this, that the governor and the chief minister control the whole selection process from start to finish, from the specified appointments commission to that of the GPA chairman including their own two representatives from the convent and convent place, and for good measure, they both have a hand in selecting the seven members that forms the 'independent body known as the Gibraltar police authority'

Wearing two hats and sitting on two chairs?

But there is another matter to point out, at the moment and since the retirement of Mr. Garcia from his full-time position as chief secretary, the governments member on the GPA has not been filled by government, not even on a temporary basis! A position I say again, that use to belong to Mr. Garcia's, who has now been promoted to chairman.

One could be forgiven to thinking 'if Mr. Garcia really ever left his old chair on the GPA board and could now be wearing not only two hats but sitting on two chairs'

The whole issue in my view has turned into a ridiculous and potentially dangerous situation. I mentioned earlier that the integrity of Mr. Garcia is not being questioned here! But his selection is! This coupled with all the other surrounding points I have raised makes the whole selection of a new chairman of the GPA, one, that does not really fill me with any great confidence that independency of the GPA has been taken seriously or is apparent in any great way shape or form!

I was a police officer long enough to know that history provides several examples of attempts to use police as a political apparatus; I think the potential is there for any level of political interference and pressure in policing, a position which could itself reveal or expose serious blind spots in police governance in the future.

Just how independent the corresponding police service will be time will tell!

How the governor and chief minister can ever agree to all this, must be a marvel or a constitutional mystery? Although one, which we shall never know the true nature of such deliberations?

Astonishingly and in actual fact and basically at the end of the day, it is the 'public alone' who the police authority must appear to be a truly independent body, this without all the shroud like happenings that currently surrounds this important public authority!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Public confidence in Policing down

Leo Olivero

GPA gives unbalanced views of public survey result!

It would appear the new chairman of the Gibraltar police authority (GPA)

Richard Garcia may have his work cut out to recapture the public's confidence in local policing, all this so soon after taking office as the new chair of the GPA.

Latest figures collated in the yearly GPA public consultation survey and released by the Gibraltar police authority just a few days ago, clearly gives an unimpressive and a generally downbeat perception of the police service as perceived by a cross section of the general public.

The purpose of the survey is to solicit (at random) input from individuals (citizens) including those who may have had contact with the royal Gibraltar police, or who have issues/concerns regarding public safety in Gibraltar. The survey in fact also provides an opportunity for respondents to express their personal opinion as to whether the police are effectively providing an all round service in conjunction with the policing priorities.

The GPA presented the result of the survey to the public in a graph like format; it was accompanied with a skimpy five paragraph forward, but instead of highlighting those important areas of the survey which any police authority would wanted to draw attention too, the GPA instead highlighted other areas which really the public would have had little interest in!

The GPA instead, and in a blatant fashion pointed out just two results. One - that highlighted that over 50% of respondents are satisfied and have confidence in the overall service of the RGP and two - that 70% of respondents agree with all the priorities set out in the policing plan.

Just what is the GPA playing at; at this stage it is not known if the new chairman had a hand in releasing this report, but if he did, then public confidence in local policing and the GPA's participation of it, will undoubtedly, and in the eye's of the public continue to fall even further, than the 40% of the public who said 'that they do not have confidence in the police' a negative figure that is up 5% from the previous year.

Why the GPA is again attempting to portray a false sense of everything is well, this from a result of a public survey, the analysis of which comes across negatively from a police perspective, and one that will require close scrutiny in order to get matters right!

This kind of public statement from the GPA in an official publication gives a totally unbalanced view to the public concerning one the authorities most important functions as independent assesses of policing in Gibraltar. None of this really does the GPA's reputation any good, particularly as an independent body who is there to inform the public about policing matters 'as it is and nothing more'

The whole matter could be seen as a lack of respect and an insult to the intelligence of the public, particularly those who bothered to take part in the survey and actually read it for themselves!

If this is the nature of the impartiality we can expect from the GPA under the stewardship of its new chairman, than policing in Gibraltar and most importantly public confidence in the police service will continue to dwindle.

Policing in Gibraltar is the last public service that can do without any level of spin!

Survey result

Personal opinions by the public on specific questions:

Q.1. Are you satisfied with the overall services of the police

Yes 53%

No 42%

No Down 4%

Q. 2. Do believe service offered by has improved this last year

Yes 43%

No 47%

Down 8%

Q. 3. Are you satisfied with the police enforce traffic laws

Yes 33%

No 61%

Down 1%

Q.4. Do you have confidence in the police

Yes 53%

No 40%

Down 4%

Respondent's general opinion on specific questions

Q.1 do you believe the public have confidence in the police

Yes 34%

No 32%

Down 3%

Q.2. Do you believe public confidence in the police has

In last 12 months

Yes 24%

No 34% 

Down 6%

Q.3. Do you believe the police have a good relationship with the public

Yes 46%

No 29%

Down 3%

Q.4 do you believe the relationship the police have

With the public has improved in last 12 months

Yes 27%

No 29%

Down 4%

All the 'yes positives' compared to last year are down in each question posed; these were important and specific questions. Although percentages may appear to have gone down in small amounts, they are important for a place the size of Gibraltar. And if only 53% of the public have confidence in the police service, this must be a concern?

The RPG has a lot of work on its hands to get these figures up!

Even though the GPA pointed out that 53% of respondents are satisfied with the overall performance of the police as stated by the GPA, 42% were not, why was this not mentioned as well? It is also true that 70% of respondents agree with the policing priorities, but these are the same public concerns year in and year out.

There was certainly another perspective to the survey that was not told by the GPA, one which again they failed to inform the public about, or did they expect every member of the community to work out for themselves what these results all meant. The GPA should have prepared a balanced summary and presented this, something they failed to do!

The police service is an important element of democracy; in this sense it is vital that the police should constantly strive to improve its relationship with all in the community.

The role of the police authority as the independent body that oversees policing should is critical in providing oversight and scrutiny of every aspect of policing. The authority should also be the independent conduit between the public expectations of their police service and what the police service themselves are able to deliver!