Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Crime fears grow

Many people were shocked over the weekend as news spread regarding the assault on the GSLP leader Fabian Picardo, Mr. Picardo who was with a friend in the marina bay area when they were assaulted requiring them to receive hospital treatment. Without knowing the full circumstances of the incident peoples mind have automatically turned to another high-profile political figure Daniel Feetham the justice minister who only late last year was also attacked and repeatedly stabbed in the street causing him very serious injury.

What is happening in Gibraltar? This is a question I have asked many times particularly regarding soaring crime - particularly those statistics of a violent nature, including many other instances where crime more often than not has raised its ugly head in society.

Public shocked and horrified

We all know thanks to Panorama that over 75% of all crime is fueled by either drugs or alcohol probably both, these are undisputed figures that we published 18 months ago. We are convinced however that the situation is much worse and that our 75% estimation figure suggests, it is probably much higher, as this point is continuously confirmed by the never ending incidents of crime, particularly those relating to violence!

Over the last 72 hours there has been a deluge of comments coming from concerned members of the public. People have been 'horrified and shocked' to hear of the latest crime of violence involving Mr. Picardo. Although incidents of this type in the ocean village, marina bay area are not isolated cases, many people have pointed out and complained that similar incidents are frequent particularly at weekends, which has led some to say 'they cannot understand why nothing is done about it'

Many are also complaining at the lack of police presence in the area in question down there in the marina, it's true that the police cannot be in every street corner and that is a fact, but they do have to target hot spots and areas where there is a probability that trouble will erupt. Which brings me to a point I raised last week when officers were removed from crime work' removing officers from front line crime related work is not an effective manner to tackle crime, there are many concerns regarding various crime issues that are continuously repeated in public surveys, reducing police manpower resources can only weaken the police response in dealing with these concerns effectively'

This point is where I fear and strongly suspect that policing now a days involves many political connotations that I believe hampers and obstructs the way in which the police go about tackling crime and its main causes effectively, which I have said on numerous occasions is drug and alcohol related!

If you consider that this last weekend alone their were 11 criminal assaults on people with 8 people arrested by the police, this must send out a dangerous signal, it is a mere reflection of the disturbing scale of this problem which I believe is rapidly getting out of control!

Many people are now starting to realise just how serious crime has become, a point we have been highlighting in Panorama for years. Some people have asked me 'why all this increase in criminality? One of the main causes I have highlighted has to be drugs and the fact that drugs including alcohol abuse have been pathetically handled by this government! Other people on the other hand have asked 'what is the police force doing to combat crime and to create a deterrent? I'd rather the police speak for themselves on this one and they should, they should be open and honest with the public and hopefully not come out with things like 'crime is not as bad as the uk, Spain or even baghdad'. From a Gibraltar perspective no one should be interested what is happening anywhere else on the planet, we are an eye drop of a nation, practically incomparable in my view with the vast majority of places when it comes to crime and the manner we should be tackling this serious social problem!

When you get so many members of the public who have said in the last few days alone that the police are not even being seen on the streets and querying where are police officers being deployed, than someone has to stop and listen? This is not leo olivero complaining or criticising, it is the public who are genuinely concerned, who want to know what is happening, not me, because I know! Many have asked 'what has become of policemen on the beat'? To be fair I see plenty of officers out patrolling, although I fear not enough of them to meet today's hungry demands for police presence!

Gibraltar has failed in its fight on drugs

I have said countless times and will never tire of saying that Gibraltar has failed regarding its fight on drugs. Drug abuse is problem directly linked to many other serious social issues like anti-social behaviour, under age drinking, burglaries, theft and violence. Unless the demand for drugs is effectively attacked, supplies will always be found, sadly the drugs market has much more young people than ever falling into the trap of

Drug-taking and alcohol abuse, this is a fact!

Another measure of the seriousness of local crime at the moment is the fact that 75% of the new prison is occupied with inmates, I know it was built for that reason but it is a clear statement on how criminals are filling up this recently opened custodial institution .

Another disturbing note is the amount of under 16's caught up in crime; these are the young children of the rock, youngsters that have been arrested for a wide range of offences. Many of these young juveniles have been charged for serious offences like burglaries, arson, drugs and even driving motor vehicles whilst obviously under

Age. These kids are our future! 'are we really looking after them? I mean society, not just the police, because the police can never do it on their own!

Fear of crime explained

I was asked only yesterday to define the 'fear of crime' I told this lady who asked that this was something that was difficult to define, basically because it can refer to a range of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs regarding an individual's vulnerability and those of her loved ones and the wider community. The fear of crime can also refer to people's concerns about general crime levels, also their beliefs regarding their risk of being a victim of any crime and the risk of that of their loved ones. I also think the fear of crime is an emotional response that a person associates with crime itself!

Who is to blame?

Many people like to think that it is the government or even the police who are to blame for the rise in crime and crime itself, although the government do have a major part to play and as I have said many times have been hopeless in tackling one of the main causes of crime 'drugs' but in my view it's not entirely their fault or the police!

The government has a function and even knowing they have never been 100% effective far from it, they do play their part so do the police. Ask yourself 'what or who gives power to the government? The people of course! So think about crime and ask who is responsible, the best answer I could come up with is everyone! Have you ever known anyone that stole something for fun? Who broke someone else property but it wasn't a big deal? Those are crimes that are very minor but wrong-is-wrong, but it happens most days!

Our society in many aspects has adopted a state of mind where minor things are ok. Speeding, bad driving, anti-social behaviour fueled by drugs or alcohol appear to be acceptable to many, even nicking your coworkers pen is ok, no big deal. I believe people who get used to behaving with complete disregard to others rights and property are criminals at some level or other.

We have all made mistakes and learned from them, became more respectful of others property and life. Sadly, not everyone learns and tries to change the wrong things they've done. However it gets worse when the get hooked on abusive substances recreational or otherwise and continue to do the same things or worse because it's not a big deal. Society does not appear to care or hasn't cared much in the past, now people are taking note! But the minds of these people mostly young, grows up based on those negative experiences, yet all time society is watching with others with their heads deep into the sand!

Apply all this to someone young, kids who haven't had the right guidance from parents, and have grown up with all these negative social norms in their lives. These are the young people of Gibraltar who are going to be our future. Disturbingly many young people may have had their futures determined by all the negative social experiences whilst growing up and in the kind of home environment I have been describing.

The foundation of each person is acquired during their early years. What they see, hear, get away with and so on, this is the foundation that will determine who they become in the future, more importantly it also translates into what kind of society we will also have in the future, which at the moment is a rather a frightening thought!

Fear of crime has an incredibly corrosive effect on individuals and an even entire community, reducing the fear of crime has always been an important police objective and I'm sure it still is! It is not too difficult to find where the fear comes from. In a place like Gibraltar it's not so difficult to determine the causes of crime either, which itself triggers in people that fear of crime, by tackling the causes you eliminate the problem.

One advice I would like to give the police; over the past few years but particularly over the last few days I have spoken with numerous people in person, by phone and over the internet, I suggest to the police that they reconnect with the public and sound out for themselves the concerns on this issue, they may learn one or two things like I did?

Leo Olivero

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Policing Priorities Out of Touch with Public Concerns!

At a time when a young man was stabbed in the town area in broad daylight and where a 14 year old boy was incarcerated for possession of a large amount of drugs with intent to supply, add the growing trends of violent crime which continues unabated, together with the never ending list of drug related crime reported to the police, we hear that the RGP have dismantled  two of their main ‘Crime Departments’ leaving only a skeleton crew to set up ‘Tobacco Patrols’ all in an attempt to stifle the exportation of tobacco.

Numerous people are astonished that the police who only a week ago mounted another manpower draining operation, on that occasion on money changing in premises who were  allegedly unlicensed, should now turn their attention and focus away again from the many crime related issues that many believe, should be top of the lists of policing priorities! 


Members of the public are quite rightly questioning why are the police now concentrating and focusing all their efforts and resources on certain issues, and at the same time arresting and charging people for offences that are much more in the domain of the Customs Department?  Questions are also being asked like ' why are the police drastically and dangerously reducing their daily manpower crime capabilities, when incidents of crime have never been any higher and more concerning to the public.’

It is also the belief of many that the RGP have lost touch with the concerns of the public. Even the result of the last public survey issued some months back by the Police Authority was very explicit; the public again repeated those similar policing concerns as in previous years; these were in order of priority:

•    Supply & misuse of drugs

•    Under-age drinking

•    Vandalism 

•    Burglaries

•    Environmental offences

•    Careless and indiscriminate driving

The above are only the first five or six of the list of public concerns included in the Police authority’s public survey this year. Concerns about tobacco didn’t even come into the first ten issues of public concerns; something that many think is entirely the competence of the Gibraltar Customs Department.

What is the use of bothering to seek the views of the public to establish the things that worries them in relation to crime and other issues, when the police then appear to ignore what the public have repeatedly told them, and then go off at a tangent to focus on other issues which possibly are not essentially police matters.

Many people also feel that the Police Authority and the Police promise much in their yearly policing documents, but than on the ground and in reality, do something else!

In the last annual policing plan the main crime objectives stated that:

The response to any criminal activity in Gibraltar must continue to promote confidence in   the RGP and reduce the fear of crime.   The RGP should continue to utilise an intelligence led and problem solving style of policing which enables the Force to proactively target offenders and problem areas. The Authority endorses that the RGP intends to focus on reducing crime by adopting two strategies, as appropriate: Prevent and deter and catch and convict. The RGP will be asked to continue to develop a range of approaches which will be deployed with a mix of focusing as appropriate on the offender, the victim  and/or the location depending on the particular crime or lawlessness’

The public would be well within their rights to question current policing activities and for that matter the supervision of the present policing plan by the Police Authority, who after all, issues the plan itself. Observers find it difficult to understand that with constant rising trends of violent crime particularly with a weapon (stabbings) and many other drug related issues involving crime - underage drinking and other high public concerns like environmental issues - litter and dog fouling and others that the police focus their attention and all available manpower on matters that many think, are best dealt with by the competent authority as in the case Gibraltar Customs Dept.

Do you see over the frontier in Spain the National Police or the Municipal Police getting themselves involved in customs related operations at the frontier, or anywhere else, particularly on issues like tobacco? Something that is clearly the jurisdiction of the Guardia Civil!

Man About Town

Friday, 17 June 2011

Standing or seating, is Caruana ‘queen’?

The Armando LaGrande Column says:

Stanging or seating, or even standing on your head, is the chief minister of Gibraltar 'queen'? That is the question being asked after people were formally asked to stand up when Peter Caruana arrived at the parade for the Queen's Birthday.

In theory it has nothing to do with Caruana, in fact the same would apply to any other chief minister.

That cleared, the question that needs clearing is whether the Chief Minister is the head of state of Gibraltar, the representative of the Queen?

If the Governor is no longer the representative of the Queen, the Foreign Office should issue a formal statement announcing that henceforth the Chief Minister represents the Queen.

If that's not the case, they should also issue a formal statement saying that the Chief Minister is the Chief Minister.

The invitation people received stated that it was "a parade to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

The official programme said it was "a parade to celebrate the 85th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen."

But there in the official programme, in black upon white, it ordered that when the Chief Minister arrives "please stand until the Chief Minister has taken his seat."

That's a funny thing to order the public to do, because at the equivalent parade in London those invited were not instructed to stand up and stay standing until the Prime Minister took his seat.

That is the point, and one would imagine that a Prime Minister is of greater importance than a Chief Minister in the protocol list.

So, who gave instructions for those attending the parade to be instructed to stand and when not to stand as regards the Chief Minister?

This is the same Chief Minister who said the other day that the decolonisation of Gibraltar "has already occurred."

If that is so, will there be a Royal proclamation announcing it?

In the meantime, is the Governor still the representative of the Queen or is it now the Chief Minister, whoever may be occupying that post at any time?

Those are the questions. Where are the answers...?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Health and safety must be robust and proactive

Over the year's local workplace safety standards have largely been undermined by poor health and safety investigation policies, this includes enforcement procedures as a result of an acute lack of manpower and resources. In fact the latter reasons have mostly been responsible for criticisms and concerns from politicians, unions, courts and the public!

Recently since the tank explosion at the port, health and safety has had the proverbial spot-light over it. This incident as most of us know resulted in the injury of two men, who it seems were doing some welding on the tank that blew up, one of these workers received serious and life threatening injuries. Also 12 passengers aboard the royal caribbean's independence of the seas in port at the time also received injuries.

Significantly however the health and safety aspect of this serious matter did not stop with the two workmen and the injured passengers on the cruise ship. As the whole of Gibraltar I'm sure, are grateful that this serious incident was contained. Some excellent and combined work from our two local fire brigades saw too this. Firemen were able to contain the fire, not withstanding the fact however that they were grossly unresourced, this an issue which by all intends and purposes, is another subject of debate!

Hot work may have caused explosion

Coordinated investigations continue into the cause of the explosion at the sullage plant. Numerous public statements (away from the investigation) have already attributed the cause of the incident to the wielding or hotwork activity on the tanks.

As may well have been expected, a lot of public comment and experts, have questioned the important health and safety implications connected to the main possible cause theory, including the likelihood of some health and safety infringements. If all this is true: 'How could health and safety procedures have been so indiscriminately ignored?

When talking about health and safety I think of those important guiding principles or ideals and rules that always top this agenda. For instance, the argument that the 'government or any top-down organisation or any boss should lead the workforce by example' these must be important principles! The government for instance, will never succeed to implement something effectively if it does not prove that it actually believes in what it is preaching. To make matters worse, the local culture does not help to improve the situation: prevention is not always better than cure in certain aspects of local life. Just take the situation with 'underage drinking, alcohol, drugs and tobacco abuse'

Just consider for a moment the amount of construction sites and buildings that have sprouted up all over the place in the past 10 or 12 years, one has to ask questions like 'how many companies, employers including the government have actually appeared in court on health and safety related offences' judging by the many views expressed on this matter 'not that many'. Remarkable really, when you consider Gibraltar's construction revolution over recent years, it is where one would have expected a much more pro-active and robust approach to health and safety, but this has not been the case!

It's not as if we have not had any serious fatal incidents, we have! Workman have been killed! And yet health and safety cases in court have mainly been initiated as a result of a bad accident or death in a workplace, mostly caused by h&s infringements. Of course, none of this helped by very poor health and safety inspection policies on those many construction sites. Even though it's not my intention to generalise, but its part of reality that there are managers, or rather, employers in Gibraltar who unfortunately still consider health and safety as a cost. And if protective equipment or procedures is a requirement in law, they will go for the cheapest or take dodgy shortcuts. I'm sure many members of the public have seen examples of this, particular if they have gone round some of the construction sites with an observant eye.

Court urged government to strengthen its health and safety inspectorate

It wasn't that long ago jurors at an inquest into a fatal accident during the construction of waterport terraces spoke out, this when a worker suffered a fatal accident when he fell from a partly finished second floor balcony after a makeshift guardrail made from recycled timber gave way. Jurors than urged the government to strengthen its health and safety inspectorate. The recommendation followed evidence from the government's principal factories inspector, who told the inquest that his department lacked adequate resources. The inquest in fact heard that there were only two inspectors to enforce health and safety regulations in all workplaces in Gibraltar; however my information is that the situation is not any better!

But health and safety in the community is not all about work and construction sites, it covers a much larger and similarly important area than just the working environment! Health & safety in the community includes many areas; we unfortunately don't see much evidence that health and safety extends to the everyday life of everyone in society!

Take the environment, emission, smells noise and traffic congestion, a situation in which as a community, we are all daily affected by all these toxic and environmentally dangerous and unhealthy risks that affects all of us, everyday of our lives. These are serious 'quality of life issues'

Noise a real pollutant

As a resident, employee or visitor to Gibraltar you are expected to tolerate most noises, within reason and without much complaint. Noise becomes unreasonable however when it invades your space to the exclusion of everything else. We do get them, here are some examples: excessive noise from leisure establishments, especially during the night; noise generated by the never-ending construction activity; excessive noise discharged by the souped-up car or m/cycle exhausts, underlined by the bass from the super wattage system; the neighbours uncontrollable urge to share his phobic noise rage; and seasonal noise, especially in the summer months. I am sure that most of us at one time or another found that noise was unbearable but had to be tolerated due to lack of unified redress!

One of the biggest culprits of noise pollution is the generating station on waterport rd way, people living in this area are treated 24/7 to some horrendous sounds emanating from this government controlled installation, I know because I live in the area! We are told nothing can be done; basically no one listens, not because they are deaf as a result of all the noise from these machines, but because they just don't care!

Gibraltar lacks cohesive legislation and regulatory framework on noise

Gibraltar lacks a cohesive legislation and regulatory framework governing noise, there's very few laws that came's down on all those many everyday noise nuisances.

In fact we are way behind most of europe in this respect, not surprising really, when you consider that one of the biggest round the clock noise offenders is the government itself!

Gibraltar in this respect needs a drastic change of mindset. Noise is not just a nuisance; those exposed to excessive noise will suffer from hearing impairment, the gravity of which depends on the noise intensity. This analogues to the hazard of smoking 20 years ago, when smokers believed that tobacco was the safest habit and all else was hogwash!

Although if our health and safety-come-environmental authority is the official body for the investigation and abatement of noise, and if as we are told, they are short on staff and resources (a similar story to the factory inspectors) restricting them of enforcing anything; than what chance is there for peace and quite in Gibraltar!

Smells, emissions and traffic fumes

In so far as smells and emissions are concerned, well, these environmental issues and many others have been comprehensively covered by the ESG who have done great work for years in making the public aware regarding all these important environmental issues.

Although at the same time the ESG has also kept up pressure on the government to gets its finger out to remedy many of the problems affecting the community's quality of life.

By any indicator you choose, health and safety enforcement has for some time been in decline in Gibraltar. Many think it has never really been effectively implemented.

Think about it, if employers are aware that health and safety laws have fallen into disrepute, like in not being respected and there being no credible threat of it actually being enforced, why would they respect it themselves? And why would they take seriously the demands of workers and safety reps to follow it anyway, it's a win-win situation for them and a dangerous situation for employees and ultimately society.

Accidents will always happen. It only takes a blink of an eye, a slip of a finger or a misplaced step. However the chances of something happening are much greater if ineffective and inefficient procedures/policies are in place. The failure to enforce pertinent health and safety legislation greatly increases the chances of accidents and incidents occurring, as we saw in the port the other week.

Weak and ineffective health and safety practices make workplaces vulnerable, that's a fact! Although in many other ways, it will also have a direct influence on community life in Gibraltar, which in turn threatens our quality of life, now, and in the future!

Leo Olivero

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Gibraltar's British territorial waters - What the Govt says it will not permit is already happening!

The Opposition say they note that the General Court of the European Court has ruled inadmissible on procedural grounds the cases filed by the Gibraltar and the United Kingdom Governments following the designation by Spain of Gibraltar’s waters as if they were Spanish. This rejection on procedural grounds appears to be based on the fact that the Gibraltar Government asked only for part of the Spanish designation to be struck off instead of all of it.

The Opposition has not been a party to the case and has not been briefed in any way. Therefore our comments are based exclusively on the information which has already been put into the public domain by others.

It will be recalled that in 2006, on a proposal from the United Kingdom, two Sites of Community Importance (SIC) in Gibraltar were designated by the EU for the purposes of environmental directives. One of these, called “Southern Waters of Gibraltar”, was within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. In 2008, on a Spanish proposal, the EU designated a new Site of Community Importance (SCI) called “Estrecho Oriental”. This new site overlapped with and included the one already designated by the United Kingdom as well as including international waters and Spanish waters.

The Gibraltar Government filed a court case which sought to remove British Gibraltar Territorial waters from the Spanish designation, with the intention that this would remain in place as amended. This procedure has not been allowed by the Court. It is logical to assume, although this is not clear, that the Government were advised to proceed in this manner as opposed to seeking that the entire Spanish designation should be struck off.

However, at the time when the case was filed, a second precautionary action was also initiated in the Supreme Court of Gibraltar. The Government said at the time that “This second action is precautionary in a procedural sense. We fully expect our direct action in the EU Court of First Instance to prosper procedurally.”

The Opposition adds: It is regrettable that the case has not prospered procedurally and that now an appeal needs to be filed.

The Opposition goes on to say that they agree with the Government that British Gibraltar Territorial Waters should be subject to the exclusive application of Gibraltar law. However, the point is that ever since the designation, the Spanish authorities have effectively behaved more aggressively as if the waters in question belonged to them and have been seeking to apply Spanish law in an area of territorial sea which is not Spanish.

There have been a whole series of serious incidents which have taken place as Spain has tried to enforce its purported jurisdiction in Gibraltar waters. The fisheries protection vessel, the Corvette “Tarifa” started this new phase when it lowered a RHIB which proceeded to inspect fishing boats in British waters. It refused to leave when asked to do so by the Royal Navy. There have been numerous recorded incidents of the Guardia Civil stopping pleasure boats and asking owners for their documentation, sometimes within meters of our shoreline. They removed a suspect from RGP custody in the Bay and prevented the arrest of others in the area of the lighthouse a few weeks ago. The Spanish Navy recently ordered a vessel at anchor on the east side to leave those waters because they were Spanish.

Therefore when the Gibraltar Government says that it will not “permit British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to be treated, administered or governed for EU or any other purposes other than as waters of exclusive British Sovereignty,” they have to bear in mind that, in this context, what they have said they will not permit has been happening already. This is why the Opposition has always taken the view that the additional resources for the RGP and other agencies, which the Government itself identified were needed in 2009, should have been made available a long time ago.

Spanish accuse Caruana of being ‘an environmental terrorist’

A Spanish political party has gone as far as accusing the chief minister Peter Caruana of being 'an environmental terrorist,' which goes to show to what extent there are those on the other side prepared to attack Gibraltar's leaders.

In this case, it is the 'Partido Andalucista' which has made the accusation, because in their view Caruana goes about behaving in the 'Bay of Algeciras' without adhering to EU directives in matters of bunkering, of shipping and of maritime security.

The PA party has in fact raised a formal complaint before their courts against Caruana for allegedly putting at risk his own people and the whole of the bay by refusing help over the explosion and fire in the port of Gibraltar last week.

After Caruana made a statement about resources to handle such a fire, others in Spain have quickly highlighted that Gibraltar is admitting that it does not have the resources to handle incidents like the one that happened in the port.

Among other things, Caruana said that there is no prospect of the sullage plant being allowed to restart operations.

He also said: "We indicated to Spain almost immediately once the incident happened that we would call on their resources as soon as they were required. That is exactly what we did."

What next? That is the question being asked. It is one thing to have good relations and it is something else to fall into the trap of converting cooperation into Gibraltar losing control in its own operations.

Certainly, if we want to be a leading port we must ensure that we have the necessary equipment, materials and resources to handle any eventuality that may arise.

ESG calls on Chief Minister to make necessary move to remove waste plant

The ESG very much welcomes the Chief Minister’s comments last week on Radio Gibraltar and GBC on the viability of the waste oil treatment plant in Gibraltar. This follows our belief that the oil industry is incompatible with the tourism industry in Gibraltar due to our very small size and our inability to have these located at safe distances away from residential areas/schools/hospital/ships/aircraft/etc

The ESG adds: Gibraltar is physically too small to safely locate oil processing plants or oil storage tanks or other oil related industries at a safe distance from residential areas as shown by the plant explosion where we were very lucky with wind direction and the fact that only one of the tanks caught fire. The explosive and flammable nature of the products handled by this industry is incompatible with residential areas and they cannot be physically situated far enough from these to guarantee safety in the event of an accident.

The consequences of an accident in these industries are far reaching and long lasting with regards to oil pollution and their effects on marine ecosystems and human populations as well as tourism and other leisure industries. The effects of this incident are being felt in Gibraltar as well as the entire bay and the Spanish coastline even though the actual fire was luckily contained within the installation.

The general public should also be aware that even when operating normally this oil processing plant creates huge problems for local residents. We were informed by the Environmental Agency approximately a week before the explosion that the waste treatment plant was in fact the source of the noxious fumes that had recently and regularly been affecting many residents in Gibraltar - dependent on wind conditions. Evidently fumes have not been detected or reported to the ESG since the explosion which confirms our conviction that the quality of life for Gibraltar residents was being adversely affected even by the normal operation of this installation.

Given the very real risks to lives and to our environment and to our quality of life in Gibraltar we totally agree with the Chief Minister's statement that serious consideration has to be given to operate waste collection as is done in other ports: that is purely collection and storage as per EU directives and then shipment on to treatment elsewhere where it can be safely processed. We trust that he will make the necessary moves to allow the decommissioning and dismantling of the waste treatment plant and the clean up of its site as soon as possible, their statement ends.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Opposition calls for 'full independent investigation' by an external agency

The Opposition considers that while it is important that lessons are learnt from the fire at the Port earlier this week there must also be a full investigation carried out by an external agency into its causes and the consequences that flow from it.

In a statement, Shadow port minister Dr Joseph Garcia says that the emergency services did a very good job in handling the incident. "However, there are a number of questions which have not been answered and which need to be looked into in order to assess not only why it happened and how it was dealt with but whether it should have happened in the first place. The policies of the Government in relation to the Port and the resources and equipment made available to it and to the emergency services should also be assessed."


The GSLP/Liberal statement adds: The obvious point in terms of resources is the lack of heavy duty fire-fighting capacity from the sea through a specialist vessel. There was a time when Gibraltar would lend assistance to nearby towns in Spain when there were incidents of this nature. The situation now is the reverse and the causes for this need to be examined in some detail. There have been a number of serious maritime/port accidents in our territorial waters in the past and it has taken too long to enforce the recommendations made by the experts who examined the incidents reported on them.

"In addition to this," the statement adds,"there have now been comments made by experts in the field of emergency preparedness and response coordination which have been critical of the emergency management plan. There have also been suggestions made that the City Fire Brigade had very limited resources in order to be able to handle this kind of incident. Experts have said that the Fire Brigade does not have large volume pumping capacity, portable remotely controlled ground water/foam monitors or the ability to use aerial ladders as water towers to mount a substantial foam attack on the top of the tank.


The Opposition goes on to say that the impression has been given that the kind of foam which was used to tackle the fire was not widely stocked in Gibraltar and it has been confirmed that this had to be rushed through the frontier after the fire had already broken out. This alone is clearly not acceptable from a safety point of view and the lack of stock of this foam does raise serious questions. Indeed, people are rightly wondering what is the point of all these committees and all these plans if then something as basic as foam is then found to be missing from the equation.

Shadow Minister with responsibility for the Port Dr Garcia commented: “Our first thoughts are with the worker who was seriously injured in these horrific events and with his family. In the aftermath of this incident, there are many serious questions which need an answer. The emergency services, the fire brigade, the police and the port staff made us all proud on the day. However, it is obvious that issues of resources need to be examined and questions of Government policy need to be assessed. This is best done through an external totally independent inquiry. Any possible under-resourcing of the emergency services has the potential to put at risk their own lives and those of the community as a whole.”

Gibraltar blamed in Spain for oil spill

Gibraltar is being blamed in Spain for an oil spill affecting the beaches of Algeciras. They say that the spill is from the tanks that went up in flames in Gibraltar port and that 6 kilometres of beach are already affected.

The Junta, the Andalusian regional government, say they are consider claiming damages from the Gibraltar government, while a claim is also being sent to the company that owns the sullage plant.

While nothing was being said in Gibraltar, the Spanish were saying that their foreign ministry was asking Britain if the appropriate measures were taken in Gibraltar to combat any damage to the environment.The Algeciras municipality said that they had put in a claim in the courts against Shell as they may be the owners of the tanks.

Meanwhile, fishermen in Algeciras say they are being affected by the oil spill.

The Gibraltar port has said that 4 or 5 tonnes of residues escaped to the sea.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Investigation must be made public

The very serious incident on Tuesday where a sullage tank exploded at the end of the port area causing concern not only in the port itself, but all over Gibraltar, will be an incident that will not be easily forgotten by many people.

First of all we must all be grateful that the incident did not develop into something much more serious where innocent lives could have been lost and with cases of serious injury. In this respect I also trust the workmen who were injured have a speedy recovery.

Congratulations are certainly in order for the tremendous work carried by the essential services in what was a difficult and hazardous operation, this including the brave act of valour we are told by a young RGP officer who deserves all the recognition pertaining to his act of bravery.

Everyone wants to know exactly what happened. And rightly so. This is only natural, especially after the area is made safe and agencies have been stood down. This is where we are now after Tuesday's tank explosion. The fact that the RGP are now leading an official investigation into the possible causes of this incident has heightened the public’s desire to know every aspect concerning this accident.


People will obviously ask questions, make their own assumptions and probably hazard a guess as to why, what and how the whole of Gibraltar was put on full alert, even small children had that worried and silent look on their innocent faces, this alone was a measure of the depth of community anxiety that most of us experienced.

For this reason any investigation conducted into the causes of this major incident must be made public. And if for whatever reason the authorities are not comfortable or do not think that the on-going Police Investigation is the appropriate instrument to share with the general public, then there should also be running in parallel with the police inquiry a comprehensive Health and Safety Investigation. **b** Any Health and Safety Investigation should be able to determine:

• What happened.

• How it happened?

• Should it have happened?

• And what important health and safety standards were violated if any?

Even the design, operation and maintenance of these tanks would come under their competency including the emergency response to this incident.

It would be insane to think that the public who could easily have been put in some catastrophic and immediate danger because of the close proximity of thousands of homes to where the incident occurred would not want to know every aspect leading to the incident itself.

It is not about finding scapegoats, faults or totting up political brownie points, it’s what every democratic society expects, the truth to be told in a clear, open, unambiguous and unbiased manner. Too often this government in particular treats official information as their property, rather than something which they hold and maintain on behalf of the public.

As someone said: ‘Information is the oxygen of democracy. If people do not know what is happening in their society, if the actions of those who rule them are hidden, then they cannot take a meaningful part in the affairs of that society. But information is not just a necessity for people – it is an essential part of good government. Bad government needs secrecy to survive'.

One the basis that the public has “a right to know” and that it is in the public interest for information to be made available, surely the public has to be assured that the area where they live and bring up their children is a safe place to live.

That is why an investigation must be made public.

‘Territorial waters’ case thrown out by European Court

The General Court of the European Court has ruled both the Gibraltar Government’s and the UK Government’s “waters cases” inadmissible on procedural grounds, and without an oral hearing or a consideration of the merits of the cases.

The Gibraltar Government’s European legal team have advised the Government that the ruling is highly appellable and the Government have therefore authorised them to draw up and submit an appeal to the European Court of Justice.

Chief Minister, Peter Caruana said: “Our case sought to protect Gibraltar from the adverse consequences to British Sovereignty and exclusive Gibraltar jurisdiction of the British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

"For that reason, the Gibraltar Government considers it necessary and desirable to appeal the ruling that the Gibraltar Government’s case is inadmissible, and hopes that the UK will do the same in respect of its case."

With the spectre of Spain gaining a foothold on Gibraltar's British territorial waters, the Government has found it necesary to warn that it will defend the waters as British.

Mr Caruana said: "There are absolutely no circumstances in which the Gibraltar Government will permit British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to be treated, administered or governed for EU or any other purposes other than as waters of exclusive British Sovereignty, under the exclusive jurisdiction and control of the Gibraltar Government and Gibraltar Authorities and subject to the exclusive application of Gibraltar laws”.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Talking Point: Do we want to carry on being leaders, or will we continue to go downhill?

 Talking Point:  

  In Gibraltar we tend to think we are the best in the world in a number of areas, but when an incident takes place, like the explosion and fire in the port, it must make us wonder if it is all an illusion.
How amateurish is our port?
  It has long been argued that Spaniards and other non-residents can have easy access to the port, but if you are a local resident the barriers go up and security rules.
  If you are a local and arrive with a fishing rod you can be turned away; but if you are a non-local and claim entry to undertake some work or other you are allowed in. That is what people say - is it the case?
  Whether it is or not, what about the defensive line that because we are a small community of 30,000 we cannot be better equipped. But we have always been a community of 30,000, and in the past we have been able to meet all eventualities without problem. Why not now?
  Why must we now become increasingly more dependent on the goodwill of our neighbours, the ones who want to swallow us up? In the past they would rely on Gibraltar to provide a helping hand. Are we going backwards and not forward?
  It can be argued that the MOD were a bigger slice of our economy years ago, and hence their facilities in Gibraltar were greater.
  But what kind of an excuse is that? If we want 'devolution', and we get it, surely it is our duty to get ourselves prepared to fend more by ourselves.
  If we want our port not to lose its reputation, is it not our obligation to equip it in a manner that we can continue to provide first class services?
  Did we have a water tug of adequate size in the days of the MOD? I don't know, but if we did, why don't we invest in having tugs that will allow us meet our obligations, such as when there is an accident like the one on Tuesday? Instead, we allow millions to go down the drain, such as in the Theatre Royal and the new air terminal!
  This raises the question if we do have our priorities right. The sooner we realise this, and adopt corrective measures, the sooner that Gibraltar can begin to be what it used to be in yesteryears.
  The alternative is that we will continue to go downhill, that we will lose our standing in the world, that our hard-earned reputation will continue to erode - and that we will become not the leaders in this part of the world, but the opposite.
  Is that the way we want to go?