Thursday, June 21, 2012


Is it time for Gibraltar to have another referendum on its future status? I ask the question because next year the Falkland Islands will do just that with Britain promising to honour whatever outcome is voted on. It has to be said that in both the case of Gibraltar and the Falklands the view of the people would be to remain British so London doesn’t have much to worry about.

A Gibraltar referendum in 2013 would be appropriate because it is also the tri-centenary of the sign of the Treaty of Utrecht. Under the terms of that battered old treaty Spain ceded Gibraltar to the British Crown in perpetuity and not as many in Madrid currently believe to when Franco or the Partido Popular were or are in power.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, raised the referendum at the G20 summit after a diatribe from the Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, demanding talks on the future of the Falklands/Malvinas. He stated that in this post colonial age the rights of the people of the Falklands were paramount and whatever they decided in their referendum should be respected.

Following the announcement by the Falklands Government that it was organising the referendum David Cameron stated that it was “absolutely right” that the islanders made their voices heard over their future. He added: “And Britain will be resolute in supporting their choice.”

Cameron continued: “Next year’s referendum will determine beyond doubt the views of the people of the Falklands. Britain will respect and defend their choice.  We look to all UN members to live up to their responsibilities under the UN charter and accept the islanders’ decision about how they want to live.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague reinforced Cameron’s words stating: “I hope very much that Argentina, and indeed the whole of the international community, joins the UK in listening carefully to what they have to say.”

Gavin Short is the Chairman of the Falkland Islands’ legislative assembly and said they were holding the referendum about their future “to show the world just how certain we are about it”.

“I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom.”

Well the Chairman of the Falkland’s legislature could be echoed word for word by our Chief Minister. Indeed statements this year by both Cameron and Hague suggest they support the wishes of Gibraltarians in the same way as residents of the Falklands to self determine their own future.

So may be 2013 is the year for a double whammy in support of democracy in Gibraltar and the Falklands and with it a devastating blow to the colonial ambitions of Spain and Argentina.

Of course to be meaningful the Gibraltar referendum should give Gibraltarians the option to choose to be ruled by Spain and even offer an Andorra-style future which should gain one vote. What is important is that once Gibraltar and the Falklands have spoken that Britain takes those decisions to the UN and demands they are honoured and respected by all member states and the organization’s own committees.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


As I stood amongst the crowds at Tuesday afternoon’s Queen’s Birthday Parade I noted a constant theme amongst the chitter chatter. Everybody was seemingly very pleased with the Royal visit and the Earl of Wessex had proved a very popular guest indeed.

Given that Prince Edward has taken over the leadership of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards from his aging father this is not the first time he has visited the Rock nor do I suspect will it be in the last in that role. This led me to thinking that given his obvious ease with Gibraltarians and their liking for him why shouldn’t the bond be cemented and he be named as our next Governor?

The Governorship of Gibraltar has always been traditionally military because of the Rock’s strategic importance and as for the early centuries at least it was in the thick of it with sieges from Spain. The Governor is the British monarch’s representative in Gibraltar but now the Rock is a fully fledged democracy with its own government the role of the man in the white hat is more symbolic than hands on.

Over the years it was suggested that Prince Charles in his younger days might be made governor of now fully fledged nations such as Canada and Australia. Hence the assuming of such a role in Gibraltar by a member of the Royal family would not be incompatible: after all what was considered for the elder brother could be assumed by the younger.

So my proposal is this: once the current Governor’s tour of duty ends then Gibraltar should lobby for Prince Edward to take his place. Such a move would firmly cement relations between the Rock and Britain and underscore that nobody is more loyal to the Crown than Gibraltarians.

Of course as a working royal there would be no need for the Earl and Countess of Wessex to be in Gibraltar all the time. They could still fulfil their obligations to the ‘Royal firm’ but as London and Gibraltar are just a two and half hour flight away could come and go as needs demand. After all the Convent has a support staff and in the end event it is the Foreign Office that makes the key decisions affecting the Rock.

Nor would there be any real danger of conflict with Prince Edward as Governor as London has long ceased to dictate to Gibraltar. Relations are now largely carried out on a bilateral basis between the respective governments in London and in Gibraltar. The Governor is the British Monarch’s representative in Gibraltar and should no more interfere in the governance of the Rock than the Queen currently does in Britain. Both countries give allegiance to the monarch of the day but have democratic governments who run the countries.

To make the Earl of Wessex the Governor of Gibraltar would give him a defined role in the British Royal Family whereas currently he is just the Queen’s youngest son. It would not cut across his other duties or his role in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in which young Gibraltarians are enthusiastic participants. I believe it would strengthen the already strong links between Gibraltar and the British Crown. It would also send a signal to Spain that whilst modern Gibraltar is a fully functioning democracy with its own government its monarch is the monarch of Gibraltar and a leading member of that monarchy wears the top sombrero blanco here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


My article today is not political but legal. It begs two questions: should the former Chief Minister Peter Caruana be prosecuted for breaking the 1991 Nature Protection Act? And, why didn’t the Royal Gibraltar Police enforce that law from 1997 until the present GSLP Liberal Government was elected to office last November?
Before 1991 Gibraltar was in a state of catch-up with the environmental legislation in the UK and wider Europe. However that year the GSLP Government presented the Nature Protection Act before the Rock’s parliament. It was then duly passed in to law and has been the law of Gibraltar ever since.
With regards to fishing the law specifically prohibits the use of seine and gill nets in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. Seabed raking and the use of artificial lights for attracting fish are also illegal under the aforementioned Act.  These methods, including drift nets as well as long lines, are used by Spanish fishermen in our waters.
Between 1991 and 1997 the Act was enforced by the Royal Gibraltar Police.  While some fishing occurred, this was without sanction and the Police effected arrests and prosecutions on a number of occasions. It was following such an arrest, a campaign was started by Spanish fishermen to press the Gibraltar Government to allow them to fish.  In 1999, after the fishermen blockaded the Gibraltar frontier, a ‘Joint Understanding’ was accepted by the fishing federations of the border town of La LĂ­nea as well as Algeciras across the bay and the then Chief Minister Peter Caruana. It allowed Spanish fishing vessels to fish in Gibraltar’s waters using methods illegal under the Nature Protection Act 1991.
However this document, if that is what it was, was illegal because it contravened the 1991 Nature Protection Act. It would have been very simply for Caruana to have legalised what he had agreed with the fishermen. As he assures us he had them biting out of his hand all he had to do was to tell them to have patience whilst he took an amendment to the 1991 Nature Protection Act to the then House of Assembly for approval. Once that process had been done the accord would have become part of Gibraltar’s law.
Yet Caruana failed to do that. Either he decided to ignore the House out of shere arrogance or rather than the fishermen eating out of his hand like tame Koi Carp they had held him over a fish barrel. Hence he knew that revealing the terms of the agreement would have caused outrage in Gibraltar and maybe against that scenario he could not count on the support of his GSD team. Who knows? Well Caruana does!
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has made it clear to all who will listen that neither he nor his government have any power over the actions of the RGP. Indeed our Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes, reinforced that stance in a recent interview with me for the London Progressive Journal on the environmental implications of the current situation.
That being the case the Royal Gibraltar Police also have questions to answer. I am fully aware that the front line officers bravely enforced the Act before 1997 and have been so doing again in recent weeks. Yet what of the Commissioner? Why did he decide not to enforce the law of Gibraltar between 1998 and the former Chief Minister Peter Caruana leaving office? Was he ordered not to do so by Caruana who has no control of the force? Or was he ordered not to do so by the Convent in contravention of the law passed by Gibraltar’s parliament. We need to know.
If I park my car illegally in Gibraltar it is towed away and I am fined according to the law. If I walk down Main Street and punch a passerby on the nose I will be arrested by the RGP and brought to trial. If I walk in to a bank and attempt to rob it I will be bundled away in a police car and find myself before a judge: if found guilty I am sent to jail.
So finally to Peter Caruana himself. We are all equal in the eyes of the law so if we break the laws of Gibraltar it is logical we end up in court. As the former Chief Minister seemingly broke the law of Gibraltar by reaching an accord with the Spanish fishermen, which he then imposed over the 1991 Nature Protection Act that was and still is the law of Gibraltar, what sanction will be imposed?
As I said at the start of this article this is not a political matter it is a legal one. In theory as Peter Caruana appears to have broken the law of Gibraltar as well as possibly influencing others not to enforce the law of Gibraltar then this is a matter that should be heard and ruled on in the courts of Gibraltar. Unless of course there is one law for the hoi polloi and another for former Chief Ministers.