Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Big Brother is watching YOU!

It has finally been recognised by the government that there is a serious problem in Gibraltar with anti-social behaviour - something that has long been highlighted in this paper, only to fall on deaf ears.

Now, the crisis is considered such that CCTV cameras are to be installed in the city centre and outlying areas. And this is only the beginning of CCTV cameras spreading all over, which will raise questions about the invasion of privacy.

Gibraltar is a small place - surely there are other ways of countering the spread of anti-social behaviour? Or are the relevant authorities telling us that they have failed and that the only recourse they can think of is to start installing CCTV cameras?

In much bigger communities, where CCTV has been installed, the problems for their need have not been fully resolved. Will the same happen in Gibraltar?

The point being made elsewhere is that, while CCTV technology is becoming more sophisticated, regulation and safeguards have not kept apace.


Innovations include cameras that are combined with databases using 'facial recognition technology' to scan and automatically identify people's faces in crowds and cameras with microphones attached to pick up the conversations, as well as the images, of those being watched.

CCTV images can be a valuable tool in crime detection and they have been used effectively in a number of high profile cases over the past few decades. CCTV is however not a silver bullet, says Liberty Human Rights organisation in the UK. Often CCTV images are not sufficiently good quality to be used in criminal courts and it is relatively easy for someone to evade CCTV if they want to. Some police forces admit that they will not use CCTV footage because of the time and costs involved.

Similarly, its effectiveness as a crime deterrent is far from proven. Britain's crime rates are comparable with countries with very few cameras and Home Office funded research has concluded that the impact of CCTV on crime prevention is not significant.

Questions are being asked why the money being spent on CCTV could not be spent on other crime prevention and detection measures.


The main concern being expressed in Britain is that CCTV is dangerously unregulated. There is no binding legislation governing where CCTV cameras can be placed or who can operate them. And data protection legislation governing how long the images can be kept and accessed, has failed to keep up with technological changes. Without detailed legislative regulation there is even greater potential for CCTV to be misused and abused and potential for unjustified intrusions into privacy.

The large-scale expansion of CCTV in recent years also poses a threat to our way of life. We are however unlikely to wake up one morning with the feeling that we are suddenly under much more surveillance than the day before. This is because surveillance apparatus is assembled in a piecemeal way and often under the radar. Too much surveillance can fundamentally alter the relationship between the individual and the State and the experience of widespread visual surveillance may well have a chilling effect on free speech and activity.

In Gibraltar we are being told that care has been taken to ensure that private dwelling houses have been blanked from the scope of any cameras in order to ensure there is no invasion of privacy. But misuse can happen, as happened in Merseyside were a woman in her bathroom was spied upon even though the camera was not meant to film inside her home.

The use of cameras, the storage of films, are matters which can lead to abuse.

The government is aware of the important civil rights issues that arise with the use of CCTV.

This is not a matter that can be rushed through. The government cannot speak of 'the benefits that the introduction of CCTV brings to bear on the detection of crime and as a deterrence of criminal conduct' - because such matters are not tried and tested in this community.

Besides, once cameras spread all over the place, in public places, will there not be a desire by those concerned to increase their numbers?

As we said at the beginning, this paper has long published concern about anti-social behaviour, yet nothing was done about it in a manner that could bring greater results. The authorities concerned have been denying the undeniable. Now, when the problem has escalated to new heights they can only think of introducing CCTV - what could be a threat to civil liberties and an intrusion to privacy.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Names named adds fuel to who might stand for election with the Alliance

An inkling of who are supporting and who might stand for election with the GSLP/Liberal alliance emerged last night during a GSLP party political broadcast.

Leader Fabian Picardo, whose broadcast it was, said: "You will see that I am joined in this broadcast by members of the party who are committed to work to see a GSLP/Liberal administration elected."

Then, 9 supporters came on screen and each had a brief say.

One of them was Dr Norbert Borge who said: "I cannot believe in politicians who would endorse or tolerate an Andorra type situation for Gibraltar. My choice for the future is the GSLP."

Another was trade unionist and retired head teacher Joe Cortes who said: "I really do believe that with the GSLP we will be in safe hands."

In recent days there have been rumours spreading fast naming Dr Borge and Mr Cortes as possible candidates in the alliance line-up for the general election due later this year.

Others who made an apperance in the broadcast included Marilou Guerrero, former chairperson of the Federation of Small Business who said that 'a strong team of committed individuals led by Fabian can deliver the change that Gibraltar needs.'

Others who also chose to come out in public supporting the alliance were retired teacher Clifford Santos, student Julian Benyunes, former manager Gibraltar airport and taxi driver Albert Garcia, retired teacher Lionel Perez, banker Albert Borrell and retired Gibraltar regiment officer Wilfred Jurado.

Said Picardo: "That is the strength of the GSLP: our committed and growing membership from all sectors of our society and all walks of life who believe, like I do, that the future of our community is best assured by a GSLP Liberal government."

Those named above cannot all be candidates even if they wanted to, as it would appear that the alliance has three vacancies!


As far as is known, all the present elected members will be standing again for election.

The GSLP have the following 4 elected members: Fabian Picardo, Joe Bossano, Gilbert Licudi and Charles Bruzon.

The Liberals have 3 elected members: Joseph Garcia, Steven Linares and Neil Costa.

The seven make up the present opposition.

At an election, each voter has up to 10 votes, so the alliance would need another 3 candidates to make the ten who would stand.

But the naming of the above supporters in last night's broadcast is the clearest hint yet as to who their additional candidates might be.


Meanwhile, there have been reports in the past about the likely changes at the GSD. A report in PANORAMA some time ago quoted GSD circles suggesting that up to 5 changes were possible in the governing party.

Some names have been mentioned since then, but nothing more concrete has developed.

At one point it was felt that Peter Caruana would call it a day, and indeed he so indicated to the Financial Times, but such thinking is no longer the case.

Caruana is on record as saying that, if he left politics, he would want to make as sure as prcatically possible that he would leave a team behind that could take on from him and win an election.

There have been question marks for some time now if the current deputy Joe Holliday will continue, the same thinking applying of late to Danny Feetham.

As regards the PDP, they have been taking the line that they have a full slate to contest the next election.

Robert Vasquez, who had wanted to put together a Coalition for Reform, suddemnly decided he would not be standing, as first reported by us.


GBC becoming a King-size broadcasting monopoly: Does he believe in monopolies?

The PDP, which is a long established party, is complaining about what they see as the unfairness of GBC. It is now their turn, others in different walks of life have had reason to be critical of this highly subsidised station.

The problem with GBC stems from the fact that it is a broadcasting monopoly, thus they are inclined to do as they please because they are not subject to local competition.

Monopolies are not a good thing, and freedom-loving people everywhere will fight for their removal.

If the GBC monopoly was done away with, it would not be difficult to discern the freshness that would emerge.

Over the years, the station has become something like a government department. They lack commercial flair, that 'extra' that makes them more acceptable to all.

A government department is a government department, and a broadcasting station should be a broadcasting station.

It is surprising that someone who had a job at Sky, which broke so many conventions and which fought for freedom and diversity, should have become another GBC clone.

Allan King, now the GBC 'chief executive officer', is supportive of the old GBC line. Yet, he himself was super-critical of GBC before he was given the job he now occupies.

So, who does one believe, the Allan King of today or the Allan King of yesterday?

And what does he mean when he says: "GBC's news coverage is based - and will continue to be based - on news value. When an election is called, which is not the case to date, every party will be given fair and impartial coverage."

Is he saying that every party will be given fair and impartial coverage when an election is called.

What happens before and after an election - is he sayng that every party will not be given fair and impartial coverage?

Ask the PDP.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

GBC accused of ‘unfairness’ in not giving all parties an even playing field

GBC has refused a request from the PDP that it should give PDP Leader Keith Azopardi the same opportunity it gave the GSLP Leader, Fabian Picardo, to explain the party's plans ahead of this year's general election, says PDP spokesperson Gigi Sene.

A couple of weeks ago, GBC screened a special one hour Viewpoint programme with Mr Picardo on which he was allowed to appear unchallenged and explain the GSLP's ideas for the next election. This was in addition to the already extensive coverage of the change of leadership in the GSLP both as a news item and with an extended interview to the new leader. The PDP add that they have no problem with Mr Picardo getting all this air time as long as all parties are given an equal opportunity to explain their views in this clearly intensive pre-eleotoral period.

The party insists that this Viewpoint with Fabian Picardo gave him a unique opportunity to put across his ideas and answer questions both from the interviewer and the callers in a way that has never been afforded to the PDP leader even on the launch of the party in 2006. "Equal coverage after the election is called will never repair the inequality of coverage in these few months just ahead of an election," they insist.

GBC has now decided that it will not give the PDP leader a similar opportunity.

The PDP says it is disappointed by this decision by GBC which is after all a public broadcaster and is supposed to act fairly. It organised an unprecedented exclusive programme with Mr Picardo which had nothing to do with the coverage of the leadership change which was over and above it. This means that in effect GBC is preventing the PDP from explaining its views to the people of Gibraltar.

It calls for GBC to reconsider its decision. If it does not then the whole of Gibraltar should be aware that GBC have decided that only the GSLP should be given this exclusive coverage in the run-up to the election. "The unfairness of such a decision is obvious," says the party.

Concern in Gib that ‘hostile and aggressive’ PP likely to win Spanish general election

The overall victory for the Partido Popular (PP) in Sunday’s municipal elections in Spain, in number of votes, number of seats won and in percentage terms suggests that the party is poised to become the next Spanish Government whenever the general election takes place.

This has created considerable concern locally given that the PP has traditionally displayed a markedly hostile and aggressive stance towards Gibraltar and its people, says the GSLP/Liberal Opposition.

The results are interesting at a local and at a national level. The PP won with 38% of the vote (8.47 million) compared to 28% (6.27 million) obtained by the ruling PSOE. There was an outright victory in Algeciras for Jose Ignacio Landaluce, while the Mayor of La Linea Alejandro Sanchez received the most votes but fell just short of an overall majority.

The Opposition adds: "It is obvious that neither Mr Landaluce nor Mr Sanchez have proved to be friends of Gibraltar. The former has not wasted any time in raising anti-Gibraltar issues in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid during his time there as an MP. There can be little doubt that his wave of constant attacks on almost every conceivable issue will continue now that he has moved to a different job just across the Bay.

"It is not known at this stage what the municipal elections will mean for Mr Sanchez. It will be recalled that on taking office he declared that he wanted good relations with Gibraltar and came here to shake the Chief Minister’s hand. This spirit of friendship did not last very long. He will be best remembered as the Mayor who formulated plans to place a toll in the vicinity of the frontier with Gibraltar and even as the person who held office when a storm drain emitting sewage was diverted from a marina on the Spanish side into the Western Beach basin.

"At a national level, the Partido Popular have made it very clear that they intend to cherry-pick different parts of the Cordoba agreement that are not in line with their policy on Gibraltar. They have never felt bound by anything that was signed by the PSOE to which they were not a party. Indeed, PP spokesmen have also expressed reservations in the past at the very structure of the trilateral forum itself. The fact that they could form the next Government of Spain in a few months time, if the local election results are anything to go by, is something that will make many people extremely nervous given their past pronouncements on Gibraltar."

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Evangelical Alliance against mediums

The Evangelical Alliance of Gibraltar says it would like to express its concern at the news that a psychic medium will once again be visiting Gibraltar.

"We live in a society which, for very good reasons, demands strict regulation from those who make their living out of dealing with vulnerable people. There would however appear to be a flagrant gap in the protection that our society offers. It would seem that any ‘self styled’ medium can set up shop, backed only by a ‘selling of themselves’ and their celebrity status. The people who will be attracted to this type of event are often in a situation of vulnerability, as they try to come to grips with bereavement and grief, and, in many cases, are unable to face the reality of their loss. That these mediums can appear, for a not unsubstantial amount of money, to make contact with departed loved ones is insensitive, misleading and false," they say.

And add: "While not everyone believes in the Bible, it contains many simple truths that give purpose and meaning to life. The Bible tells us to avoid certain behaviours and attitudes that are dangerous to our physical, mental or spiritual wellbeing. One issue the Bible deals with repeatedly concerns any attempt to contact the dead. It clearly tells us that no good comes of these attempts and it will always be, in some measure, harmful. On a practical level, it is a fact that counselling a vulnerable person can lead to greater hurt, however caring and well meaning the practitioner may be. This is borne out by the fact that anyone involved in the counselling profession is required to have ‘indemnity insurance’ in place."

The Evangelical Alliance go on to say that they would like to know if mediums are required to have any such insurance in place to safeguard against the damage they can cause. "While never accepting that being a medium is a legitimate way of earning money, the authorities should be concerned that earnings are declared and be subject to Gibraltar Taxation. The vulnerable in our society deserve and have every right to expect protection at every level. We hope that the Government will see fit to put in place some kind of control of this nefarious activity," ends their press release.

Monday, 23 May 2011

What hope for Gib if Sanchez goes and Landaluce comes in?

Is the PP mayor of La Linea in or out? That is the question being asked in Gibraltar following the Spanish municipal elections, as the man has earned the wrath of many by his policies, poised to wreck good neighbourly relations.

Alejandro Sanchez managed to top the poll but with 11 seats it is not enough to gain an absolute majority. His fortunes may be down, but will he be out?

He needs to have at least 13 seats to secure his mayorship for another term. That means striking a pact with either the leftwing IU or the nationalist PA, neither of whom appear too keen to strike a deal with Sanchez.

If that is the case, the last days of Sanchez as mayor have arrived.

Political observers reckon that the PSOE, with 10 seats, will do a deal with both the IU and the PA - and if that is concluded, a socialist will be the new mayor of La Linea.

Such a move would bring about better relations between Gibraltar and La Linea.

Even if that happens, what about developments in Algeciras across the bay?

In Algeciras, another PP candidate regarded as anti-Gibraltar, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, is now to become the mayor of Algeciras, his party having obtained 16 seats - with the nearest rival, the PSOE, with only 6.

So, it might be a case of Sanchez ceasing to be a headache, and Landaluce replacing him!

What hope for Gib?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Road names mismatch

With due respect to whoever renamed those roads, I must say that I don't agree. Do you? Read on!

Devil's Tower Road is to be renamed as North Front Avenue, but why not Bishop Devlin Avenue. After all, Bishop Devlin was associated with St Theresa's Church on that very road.

What doesn't make sense is that Cannon Lane is instead to be renamed Bishop Devlin Road.

Since Cannon Lane rans behind the Cathedral, and since Bishop Caruana was associated with the Cathedral, why not name Cannon Lane as Bishop Caruana Lane?

After all, the other lane nearby is named after Bishop Rapallo.

The mismatch continues. Because an unnamed new road in the new MidHarbours Estate is to be named Bishop Caruana Road!

Extract from the Armando La Grande column

Monday, 16 May 2011

Is there room in the House for back benchers?

  It's crazy but great fun. The smaller you are the bigger you want to be, like this notion of having backbenchers in our mini Parliament.
  I remember our Parliament had 15-seats, I think. Now, we have 17. And they want to make it bigger. Where would they put the backbenchers, down in the Piazza?
  And how big is big in these days of grandeur. I suppose we could squeeze a couple behind the government and another couple behind the opposition, but is there more space in the House?
  Another point is whether having backbenchers would work in Gibraltar, which is the place where people are afraid to criticise the government in public. Would they criticise the Government from a back bench? If they did so, how long would they last before they were promoted to be a I-see nothing-I hear nothing minister?
  It must also be considered that the more fronts and backs we have, the more the number of candidates we would need to vote for. It's bad enough having to remember who are the 10 you have to vote for at present.
  It is UK practice that there be more back benchers than ministers. If we follow that practice would be have over 17 backbenchers. Where do we draw the line?

Friday, 6 May 2011

From incursions to invasion of Gibraltar's territorial waters

The Spanish foreign minister Trinidad Jimenez is again calling on Britain to stop the incidents taking place at sea, when in fact it should be the other way about: It is Britain who should be telling Spain to stop incursions and invasions of Gibraltar's waters.

Further, they are trying to play down the latest incident with the Spanish Navy warship, at first even saying that they knew nothing about it, as if Spanish naval ships took the law into their own hands without proper instructions being given.

Certainly, the Spanish Navy warship incident takes matters one step up the ladder because it represents an invasion of other's territory.

That is why the Spanish government delegate in Andalucia, Luis Garrido, has come out saying that there was no invasion of the waters that surround Gibraltar.

How can they make such incredibly absurd statements? Everyone knows that the Spanish warship was asking merchant vessels to lift anchor and leave Spanish waters - and that this prompted a response from the Rock, not just warnings from the MOD but clarification from the Gibraltar port authority to the merchant vessels affected that the waters were British and they could stay there.

On the question of the waters there are two areas of responsibility: The MOD whose role is to defend Gibraltar's territorial waters; and the RGP whose role it is to take policing action.

If neither or both are not properly equipped to discharge their responsibilities, for one reason or another, appropriate action must be taken to ensure that we do not make fools of ourselves.

Not only that, but we expose our law enforcement agencies and also MOD personnel to dangerous situations.

The incidents have now been going on long enough for proper action to have been taken to ensure that those whose role it is to defend Gibraltar's territorial waters have the assets to undertake their duties properly and effectively.