Friday, November 30, 2012


All the chatter in legal and media circles is over the decision of the deputy leader of the GSD, Daniel Feetham, to threaten legal proceedings against the New People edited by Juan Carlos Perez. Of course for the rest of Gibraltar more important matters such as the price of fish and whether Rafa Benitez was a good choice as manager for Chelsea holds sway.

I have not read the article that has Feetham up in arms but I gather the gist of it. However I have seen the letter from Hassans threatening fire and brimstone unless Perez and the New People recant. For those who might be interested the article revolves around allegations of corruption in that Feetham’s car is alleged to have undergone repairs in the government repair shop and whether a bill was paid or not.

Curiously the letter from Hassans (which is an irony in itself) is fairly sterile and refers to “our client”: indeed as far as I can recall there was a signature but no name just the corporate Hassans sign off.

Of course this belies the fact that the said Daniel Feetham is a partner of Hassans as is his brother Nigel. So did Daniel write his own letter? I do not believe either Daniel or indeed Nigel are libel lawyers so did he get somebody else to pen it for him? As I am reliably informed the Feethams have been in the habit of passing work to the former Supreme Leader Peter Caruana, perhaps he wrote it. It would be interesting to know.

I am not a lawyer but a mere hack but I would have though the purpose of sending such a letter could severe one of two purposes: perhaps both. Whether innocent or guilty the sender might hope to put the fear of God in to the recipient and have him or her back down. Well Perez, a former government minister, MP and political heavyweight in the truest sense of the word, is not going to be intimidated: so if that was the intention then the ploy is doomed to failure. The other purpose would be if the recipient did not meet the letter’s terms, or opt to negotiate, then to go to court to seek justice presumably in the belief you’ll win. It remains to be seen how this battle plays out in the coming weeks.

However Feetham points out in his/Hassans letter that political corruption is a criminal offence. Indeed it is. So what if in this skirmish Perez should win the battle with Feetham – will the deputy GSD leader and former Justice Minister be prosecuted? Just asking!

Daniel Feetham was a member of the last GSD government. So if corruption is detected in the awarding of say the airport contracts or as being the cause of the original cost overrunning by such a huge amount then one presumes he will support the prosecution of those involved.

If the GSD government is found to have acted corruptly in the awarding of other contracts or breaking EU contract laws then no doubt Daniel Feetham supports the prosecution of the minister or ministers involved.

If there is found to be corruption in the affairs of the GSD government then I am sure Daniel Feetham will want to see his former colleague or colleagues brought to book too. Indeed the Attorney General has stated that the caretaker GSD administration did act illegally over the promise of a pay increase to a government owned company during the election period. As Feetham was the Minister of Justice when then this illegal act took place should he be prosecuted? Just asking, just asking!

Whilst we are on the law: the former Supreme Leader broke Gibraltar’s Nature Protection Act by allowing Spanish fishermen to illegally fish in our waters. The decision to break that law was taken whilst Feetham still had hopes of one day leading the GSLP. However he was Justice Minister during the period when the former Supreme Leader continued to flout that law. So does he support the prosecution of his political boss for breaking the law?

May be he does: may be he doesn’t – or may be is it one law for the GSD and another for the rest of us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I have never been an advocate of gunboat diplomacy and believe that tensions in the bay and our waters should be lessened and not heightened.

This seems also to be the policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who seemed happy enough that incursions in to British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by the Guardia Civil or other Spanish Government agencies be met by RGP or the Royal Navy launches.

I suspect the view in London was these were essentially police, customs, coast guard or environmental vessels and hence to send a fully armed warship out to meet them would be disproportionate. I suspect they were right except of course what the FCO also needed to do but failed was to send strong messages to Madrid that even these illegal incursions were not acceptable. Inviting the ambassador or foreign ministry officials around for a cup of tea and handing them a letter of protest, which would be filed as soon as they returned to their office, was not what was required but was Whitehall’s way of doing things.

Of course the game has now changed. It changed when rather stupidly not reading the runes Madrid sent a warship on two consecutive Tuesdays in to our waters: on the second occasion provocatively displaying a war flag. I receive a regular supply of emails from No 6 but never before have I received a steady stream from The Convent jumping up and down about the Spanish actions. As I said in a recent article: the tide has changed.

The tide has changed because the British Government’s stance on Gibraltar is very much linked to the Falklands. I have stated here before the welcome strong words from the British Prime Minister David Cameron, his Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Europe Minister David Lidington on our sovereignty and right to self determination were very much provoked because of the need to remain strong over the Falklands. It was no good being weak on Gibraltar because that would give a sign to Buenos Aires that pressure on London would pay off over the Malvinas.

Whether Spain wanted to impress the Latin American heads of state and prime ministers gathered in Cádiz last week for the bicentenary of La Pepa Constitution of 1812 – the Spanish Magna Carta and that of many of these countries – by acting tough over Gibraltar is anybody’s guess. It was either that or a massive miscalculation by Margallo.

The fact is Britain could allow the police, customs, coast guard or environmental agencies to mess around in our waters because quite simply none of them would have ventured out to the Falklands. However a warship is a different kettle of fish as has been displayed by The Convent’s and the Foreign Office’s angry response.

The RGP will shortly have larger patrol boats to meet the Guardia Civil and others but there is no warship on standby to fly the White Ensign in the face of the Armada. I think that should change. British MP Andrew Rosindell has stated the same in the House of Commons and he was right to do so.

I appreciate that the Royal Navy is short of warships but I am sure one could be stationed in Gibraltar even if it had to leave port to undertake missions elsewhere. The point is it should be in our port or at any time a short distance away so that any incursion by the Spanish navy will never be sure whether it will be met by a RN launch or one warship with a very large gun or missile.

Sending a gun boat need not necessarily increase tensions. After all it can carry out NATO tasks in the Straits and the Med. The Ministry of Defence often sends warships to the Falklands insisting it is not an act of provocation but just part of a vessel’s tour of duty. What is good for the Falklands is equally good for Gibraltar and the Rock would welcome being host and home to Royal Navy vessels on a permanent basis.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I have been catching up with my reading. I have come across an article on remarks made by Carmen Crespo who is the delegate of the Andalucía government. She was speaking after the first incursion of the Spanish warship, Vencedora, on Tuesday of last week. The report was from Europa Press which in turn featured an interview she had given to Canal Sur Radio where she spoke of our government’s persistent “reluctance” to accept the waters around the Rock are Spanish.

Although Crespo spoke of the Vencedora she was also taking the Andalucía angle of expressing her concern about the banning of Spanish fishermen to operate in our waters. Here she spoke of our “reticencias” to accept the right of the fishermen of the “Bahía de Algeciras” to “pesca totalmente legal y sin ningún tipo de cortapisa” in our waters because “no asumen que son aguas jurisdiccionales españolas”.

Crespo was saying nothing new but what she did was enunciate very clearly the true state of the stand-off between all the parties on these issues. On the British – Gibraltarian side we have the belief, backed by international treaty, that Gibraltar has three miles of British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters surrounding the Rock. From Spain’s perspective the waters around Gibraltar are Spanish and the basis for that is the fact the Treaty of Utrecht did not grant any rights over the waters. Hence Spain, be it the Armada or a fishing boat from La Línea, believes that when its vessels enters our waters it is in fact in Spanish waters. Nothing new there but at least the dispute is clear.

Of course this situation is not new and existed in 1999 when the local Spanish fishermen held the former Supreme Leader over a fish barrel and persuaded him to break the law of Gibraltar by allowing them to fish illegally in our waters in contravention of the 1991 Nature Protection Act. Not only did the Supreme Leader break that law and continued to do so till he was ousted from office last December but his former Minister of Justice, who is desperate for his job as leader of the opposition, endorses to this day this illegal act. Nothing new there either.

What may be new is the reaction of the Convent being the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in disguise. In the past incursions, be they from the Guardia Civil, other Spanish agencies or the Armada, have evoked angry statements from No.6 but a hushed response from the neighbours across the street. Not this time: indeed I think the Convent’s statement spitting diplomatic fire arrived in my inbox well before our government’s own response.

It could be that the Guardia Civil, the coast guard or environmental patrols have not been of a sufficient high profile to waken the Governor or the F&CO from its let sleeping dogs lie stance. However an armed warship is another kettle of fish especially twice in a week. Such incursions cannot be tolerated by London because if Nelson’s blind eye is turned here it would send the wrong signals to Argentina. I have written here before on the linkage between the UK’s tough words on sovereignty and the right to self determination for both Gibraltar and the Falklands. So just imagine the furore in Whitehall if an Argentine warship appeared in the waters of the Falkland’s on two consecutive Tuesdays.

Crespo has crisply set out the dispute: now it is for London to take the issue to Madrid and if need be the wider international forums such as the UN or courts of law. Gibraltar’s right to its own international waters are set out in the Geneva Convention. That right has to be upheld or the Falkland’s right goes down the drain too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I had a little chuckle to myself when our government issued the press release announcing that not only was Joe Bossano going on a mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands to monitor their elections: he was also the head of mission and would be responsible for writing the report on whether they were fair and free.

One of the benefits of having written my weekly Gibraltar Viewpoint column for nearly 20 years is that I can remember back to times when there were rumours that the British Government wanted Joe out as Chief Minister and to impose direct rule. Nothing was ever officially said or communicated to Gibraltar but the UK press were duly briefed even about a meeting Bossano had not attended with then Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. Needless to say the GSD of those days made much millage out of those claims.

Now you do not get to lead a Commonwealth mission to anywhere if in official circles you are still viewed as the bad boy on the block. So it is interesting that Joe Bossano is not only a revered figure in our politics but is receiving international recognition too. I hope he is collecting his Air Miles because in recent weeks he has been to China, Brazil, India and now the Turks and Caicos largely on his reputation not only as Gibraltar’s elder statesman but also a man of sound knowledge.

I have been fortunate in having sat down and talked to a number of Gibraltar’s bright young politicians and I include in that number Daniel Feetham in his rebels days with the GSLP and as leader of the Labour Party. All were certainly younger than me: all were and still are bright but Joe Bossano is one of the most impressive politicians that I have ever met – and over the years I have met a few.

I appreciate there are those in Gibraltar who either love or loath Joe and of the older generation it is unlikely they will switch camps. However whichever camp you are in you should respect Joe because his achievements and knowledge demand and deserve that.

Not only has Joe acquired a massive knowledge over the years but if you are willing to take the time he is fully prepared to share it with you. When I have interviewed politicians I have usually been prepared for 20 minutes at the max. If you want to engage with Joe he will discuss things with you for as long as he can before he is dragged away to meet somebody else. The key thing is what he tells you is sound fact and reasoning: he will challenge your own preconceived ideas and anybody who believes he no longer has a role to play in our politics is gaga and not him.

There is no politician actively involved in our parliament who can look back over four decades and even beyond that as a Labour Party member and union activist in the UK. Bossano was a street politician: a breed that in this age of social media we will never see again but this old dog has learned the new tricks and is as happy doing a pod cast as he was on his soap box. He is a national treasure in a way Caruana never could be or even comprehend. An international salute to Joe is a salute to Gibraltar and of that we should all indeed be proud.