Thursday, 22 September 2011

Foreign Office playing games with Gib’s sovereignty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 1 September 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Eade