Friday, 13 April 2012

Gibraltar wasn't there: Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, we should be listed as a separate entity.

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

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

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

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derelict buildings increase fear factor

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

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

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

Buildings Left to Deteriorate For Years

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

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

Public Safety Jeopardised!

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

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

People Genuinely Concerned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dangerous and Unsightly Upper Town Buildings

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

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

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

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

Leo Olivero