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New housing schemes start in the autumn, says Government

The government has released details of its three new housing projects along with what they intend to be an affordable House Ownership Scheme which will provide people on low incomes with the opportunity to purchase less than 50% of the property if their incomes are insufficient for that percentage.

The Chief Minister Peter Caruana told a press conference at No 6 Convent Place that the government has now awarded the contract for the design and project management of the new housing schemes to Pell Frischmann. This company will be responsible for the design of the projects, the selection of the construction company to carry out the work and the supervision of the contracts as they proceed. 

Housing Minister Jaime Netto said Pell Frischmann was a London-based firm which carries out work in the UK and world wide for the British government and the MoD. ‘They were established in 1926 and are one of the leading engineering groups.’ he said.

The government itself is to act as developer, through its wholly-owned company GRP Investment Company Ltd. This will eliminate profits and allow the home ownership dwellings to be sold at cost. The Chief Minister said that this will enable the government to ensure good building standards in accordance with its manifesto commitments.

The three schemes are:

1. 275 flats to be built at North Mole Road, by the coach park. The site is at present used as parking for the export Toyotas, which will be relocated at the site of the old components factory further west.

2. 150 flats purpose-built for senior citizens and for them to rent will be erected at the same site.

3. 150 flats for rental to people on the government housing waiting list will be built on two sites at Devil’s Tower Road, principally on the site of the existing workers’ hostel which will be relocated elsewhere.

The Home Ownership Scheme:

Peter Caruana said: ’Because the developer is a not-for-profit government company the flats for sale will be more affordable. Under the previous scheme purchasers had to buy at least 50%. However,’ he continued, ‘persons on lower incomes may not be able to afford even 50% of the low at-cost price, and so, in order to make home ownership more accessible to such people, the Home Ownership Scheme will be modified as follows: Those purchasers who cannot afford the full purchase price will not be required to buy a minimum of 50% if the cost of that 50% exceeds three times their annual salary or wage. In those cases the purchaser may opt to buy a smaller share in proportion to their earnings, say, for example, 30% or even 25%.’

He said that many mortgage providers were already preparing packages to offer buyers in the new schemes. The usual mortgage is based on three times the annual earnings; where there are joint purchasers the figure used is three times the salary of the higher earner. The government expected that only a small proportion of buyers would fall into the ‘under-50%’ category, but it was there as a safety net for those who did need it.

He added that priority would be given to young couples and to first time buyers of any age and that where a purchase was below 50% the flat would have to be owner occupied.

Invitation to register

Gibraltarians and other established long term residents who think they might be interested in purchasing one of the flats are invited to register their interest, without any binding commitment at this stage. 

Forms to do so may be collected from the Ministry of Housing, City Hall from next Tuesday and should be returned by Wednesday 9th April.

Nobody will be asked to enter into a binding commitment until the design and price are established.

CALL FOR QUEEN TO VISIT GIB

by Our London correspondent

A SENIOR MP has accused the Foreign Office of turning its back on celebrations of the 300th anniversary of British sovereignty over Gibraltar to avoid offending Spain.

Lindsay Hoyle, the chairman of the all-party Commons Gibraltar group, has raised the alarm over a failure to plan official events - with 2004 just nine months away.

And he has accused the Foreign Office of trying to ignore the anniversary, because of Spain's staunch support for Britain's willingness to go to war against Iraq.

Now Mr Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, in Lancashire, has called on the Foreign Office to arrange a visit by the Queen, or another senior royal, next year.

And he has urged people in Britain and Gibraltar to write to the Royal Mail to persuade it to issue a set of commemorative stamps.

Mr Hoyle spoke out after tabling parliamentary questions that revealed the absence of planning at the Foreign Office to mark the 300th anniversary of British sovereignty.

Denis Macshane, the foreign office minister, told Mr Hoyle there had been "no formal discussions" between his department and the Ministry of Defence.

Suspicions had been aroused last month, when Mr Macshane told MPs that Spain was an "ally" and "standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Britain in the great question of Iraq".

Mr Hoyle said: "The relationship with Spain determines everything. And, at the moment, Gibraltar is playing a very prominent role in the build-up to military action in the Gulf.

"But that should not stop discussions at the Foreign Office about what should happen next year because, before we know it, we will be into the anniversary year.

"I would like the Foreign Office to support a visit by the Queen, who has not been to Gibraltar since she came to the throne fifty years ago.

"It would be nice for her to visit her most loyal overseas territories in its 300th anniversary year, or at least for a senior royal to go."

UP TO GIB GOVT, SAYS FOREIGN OFFICE

A Foreign Office spokeswoman insisted the department was working with the Government of Gibraltar, which had set up a committee to plan anniversary events.

She said: "The Government of Gibraltar is taking the lead. We will consider any request made to us to participate in commemorative events, but we have to wait to see what they decide."

Mr Hoyle also revealed he had written to the Royal Mail to suggest a souvenir set of Gibraltar stamps next year, a suggestion that had been rejected.

He said: "They said they had already selected stamps for next year, but I know they have changed their minds if enough people lobby them, so I would urge people to write in."

Jail sentence in launch case

Two men were sentenced to one month imprisonment at the Magistrate Court on Tuesday after the police intercepted a Semi-Rigid launch off Europa Point last month.

Mohamed El Wahabi, from Algeria was charged with the offence of importing a prohibited import, namely a 10 mt Crompton Marine DCC Semi-Rigid vessel with a twin 250cc Yamaha Engines. Spanish national Jose David Sierra Ruiz of Algeciras, was charged with the offence of obstructing police.

Both men were arrested by uniformed officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police on Friday 28 February, when officers of Marine Section intercepted a semi-rigid vessel with the two occupants onboard off Europa Point. The vessel was being pursued by the Guardia Civil launch suspected of unloading bales of cannabis resin near Marbella and had made good its escape when challenged.

On intercepting the semi-rigid, Ruiz was observed to jump into the sea and swim towards the rocks off Europa. El Wahabi was arrested onboard the vessel and was conveyed to the marine base with the semi-rigid vessel being impounded by the Police.

Uniformed officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police immediately instigated a search, and the same day, the second occupant of the vessel, namely Ruiz arrested along Rosia Road.

Mohamed El Wahabi was fined £1,000 or in default, 30 days imprisonment, and David Ruiz was sentenced to 1 month imprisonment. The courts confiscated the semi-rigid vessel.

No talks on sovereignty Garcia tells MPs

The Leader of the Liberal Party Dr Joseph Garcia has said that the sovereignty of Gibraltar should no longer be a part of any discussions with Spain, in the same way as the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is not discussed with Argentina. These comments were made in a long briefing paper sent to Liberal Democrat members of Parliament.

The briefing paper takes off from the discussion of Gibraltar at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Brighton in September last year, where Dr Garcia obtained special permission to address the delegates from the podium. At the time, a motion was overwhelmingly carried in favour of self-determination for Gibraltar as the way forward. This was the first time that Gibraltar was discussed at this level by any of the major United Kingdom parties and the first time that a motion on the subject was adopted.

MASSIVE REJECTION

Dr Garcia has told the MPs that the referendum was a massive rejection of Spain and a massive rejection of having any form of political link with that country. He emphasised the view that there was no problem with discussing friendly neighbourly relations, but added that sovereignty should be firmly off the table once and for all.

The Liberal Leader thanked the Liberal Democrats for their support of Gibraltar in the various stages of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill in the House of Commons. This included supporting the inclusion of the word "Gibraltar" in the name of the constituency, which was voted down by Labour MPs in Committee Stage, as well as widening the consultation process from the Governor and the Chief Minister to include the Opposition as well. Dr Garcia expressed the view that the decision to leave out Gibraltar from the name of the euro-constituency in the Commons discussions was probably done in order to appease Spain. "The argument that Gibraltar is not large enough to figure in the name of the constituency does not hold water. Gibraltar is a distinct and separate jurisdiction to the United Kingdom with different terms of membership of the European Union," Dr Garcia has told the MPs. He added that Gibraltar joined under what was then article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome, and the UK did so under article 227(1). This distinction should be reflected in the name of the constituency that we are attached to, otherwise there is a risk that it will seem we do not exist.

CONSTITUTION

The Liberal Leader pointed to the report of the Constitutional Select Committee of the House of Assembly, which was unanimously approved by the Parliament of Gibraltar in February last year. Negotiations with London have still not opened. The constitution aimed to decolonise Gibraltar through self-determination but retaining our links with the United Kingdom at the same time.

The Liberal Leader said that the Liberal Party had always made it a point to keep British and international contacts informed of what was happening here, which can only serve the wider interests of Gibraltar as a whole.

International standard facilities promised for Victoria Stadium

The GSLP have made a policy com-mitment to replace, when in Government, the surface of the main pitch at Victoria Stadium as well as the athletics

Spokesman Gilbert Licudi said that the surfaces would be of the highest quality and would conform to inter-national standards.

The precise surfaces would be decided in consultation with the sports associations who use these facilities, in particular the Gibraltar Football Association, the Gibraltar Amateur Athletics Association and the Gibraltar Cricket Association..

“This commitment arises following our own assessment of the need for quality facilities in Gibraltar and the numerous concerns which have been expressed to us about the state of the pitch and track”, said Mr Licudi.

The current facilities, which the GSLP in-stalled in 1991 when in Government, are in an-extremely poor state. The pitch is worn and, in some places, severely damaged and the track is well past its sell by date. There are areas of the track where bubbles are created which often burst leaving holes along the running surface. This is not only dangerous in itself but even when repaired there is an uneven surface which can lead to stress injuries.

THREE AREAS

Mr Licudi said that there were primarily three ar-eas of concern. “Firstly, it is a well established fact that poor or worn playing or running sur-faces greatly increase the risk of injury. Secondly, sportsmen and women in Gibraltar de-serve proper facilities in order to fully enjoy their sports and to prepare for international competitions. The current facilities do not allow proper and effective preparation to be made for these competitions. Thirdly, we understand that as a direct result of the state of the surfaces, it is im-possible to attract teams from abroad to compete in Gibraltar. Such competition is crucial for sporting development. In addition, high standard facilities could attract athletes and teams with their coaches to Gibraltar for training. Gibraltar would undoubtedly benefit from such visits”.


The GSLP is aware that representations have been made on various occasions to Government to upgrade these facilities. These representations have so far fallen on deaf ears.

In addition, Opposition Spokesperson for Sport, Mari Montegriffo, has questioned the Minister for Sport, Ernest Britto, in the House of Assembly on this issue on several occasions. Mr Britto has refused to commit the GSD Government to replace the surfaces even though Mari Montegriffo has reminded him not only of their dangerous condition but also of the fact that the lifespan of the surfaces has expired by several years.

Whilst the GSLP welcomes the new facilities which are being built in the Victoria Stadium area, the main pitch and track are used on a daily basis and have deteriorated to an unacceptable level.

“These can not be neglected any longer. We will provide quality playing and running surfaces for the enjoyment of all in Gibraltar and to promote international competitions”, said Mr Licudi.

CANADIAN SHIPS IN THE HARBOUR

Yesterday saw the arrival of, not one Canadian ship, but two. Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Iroquois, a Destroyer and the Frigate HMCS Federiction arrived one after the other, shortly after nine o’clock.

The Iroquois is an Iroquois class destroyer, built by Marine Industries, Sorel, Canada. The keel was laid down in January 1969; she was launched in November 1970 and commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in July 1972.

HMCS Federiction is a Halifax class Frigate built by St Johns Shipbuilders Ltd of New Brunswick Canada. Her keel was laid down in April 1992; she was launched in June 1993 and commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1994. She is currently situated on the South Mole. Both ships are in Gibraltar for routine visits.

ARMED POLICE AT AIRPORT

Gibraltar is stepping up security at the airport as from today - with an armed police presence. But a Government spokesman said that this was "a matter of general security" and not as a result of any specific threat.

The spokesman said: Security at Gibraltar Airport Terminal Building was upgraded recently with the installation of new X-ray baggage search facilities, CCTV surveillance and a general tightening of checks. This is in keeping with enhanced security arrangements introduced at international airports, including those in the United Kingdom. "In order to come fully into line with security measures introduced internationally, the Royal Gibraltar Police will have an armed police presence at the Airport Terminal Building as from tomorrow. MOD, through GSP and MOD personnel, will be providing similar cover on the airfield," said a Government statement.


These additional precautions are taken as a matter of general security. It is not as a result of any specific threat to Gibraltar, said the Government.

GREENPEACE AT ROTA

Meanwhile, Greenpeace used their vessels to follow a United States coastal patrol boat in military waters off the Rota base at Cadiz. The Greenpeace wwre chased by Spanish police launches and a helicopter, the Greenpeace activists being warned to leave military waters or face arrest.

The Spanish aircraft carrier 'Principe de Asturias' and the frigate 'Reina Sofia' are in Algeciras up to Saturday, with the ships being opened to the public.

Chief Minister takes direct control of road works

The Chief Minister is exercising direct control over road works, given the chaotic traffic situation that engulfs Gibraltar.

With mounting criticism about road works, Mr. Caruana has considered it necessary to adopt a 'hands on approach' to try and lessen the chaos -at least to make necessary road works less of a pain to the public.

Informed sources told PANORAMA that any planned road works must be channeled in advance via the highways department for sanction by No.6 Convent Place.

The role of the Police has been reduced to placing and removing signs on the roads.

There has often been criticism that road works in Gibraltar take far too long and that, when awarding tenders, the expeditious completion of works should be a prime consideration.

Complainants have the impression that a lack of workers means that workers sent from one project to another, thus completing works in a piece meal fashion - with the public suffering the consequences.

PLEASED

Information reaching us suggests that Mr. Caruana has latterly experienced the inconvenience caused by the road works and has decided to do something about it.

Many motorists will be pleased if there is an improvement in the situation. as the level of road works has reached what many see as intolerable proportions.

The Technical Services Department has been instructed to issue detailed Press Releases about any road works, so that the public can be fully appraised of what is taking place, and why.

As from this coming weekend, three areas are to be affected by new works.

On Sunday, Fish Market Road will suffer a closure.

No Waiting and No Parking restrictions will be enforced in Europa Road while necessary road markings take place, beginning on Saturday.

PARKING CHANGES

This will lead to permanent changes to parking arrangements, from the junction of South Barracks Road to the Loreto Convent, with parking being shifted to the west side of the road.

Parking and other restrictions will feature at the frontier area also from this coming weekend, to allow for certain works to proceed.

A spokesman said: "We would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the general public for any inconvenience that may result from these works and request the public's cooperation so that such works may be carried out within the shortest possible time period."

Mount Alvernia - Asbestos Contamination

Government has now received the preliminary reports from both specialist UK Asbestos Consultants (one commissioned by the Government, the other by the Building Contractor). Both consultants report significant levels of asbestos contamination due to disturbance of the asbestos pipe lagging material resulting as a consequence of the refurbishment works currently being undertaken.

All requirements, both of law and good practice, have been followed in relation to building procedures and health and safety.

Specialist asbestos removal contractors will now be appointed, as a sub-contractor to the main contractor, to clean the building of asbestos contamination. Such work will include the removal of all pipe-lagging and other asbestos containing material from within the building.

Once the building has been cleaned of asbestos contamination and the areas under construction have been sealed off, it will be possible to move the residents back into the remaining areas of the building. The specialist asbestos contractor will then initiate, following standard procedures for such operations, the asbestos removal process on the unoccupied and sealed off parts of the building. The consultants have advised that resident’s clothing and other personal effects have not been affected by the current contamination.

A spokesman for the Government said: -

“The consultants’ reports vindicates the Government’s decision to evacuate the residents as a precautionary measure. The priority now is to clean the building of the asbestos contamination as quickly as possible so that the safe return of the residents can, in turn, happen at the earliest opportunity. It is envisaged that it will take between four to six weeks before the residents are able to return to the building.”

The great obstacle race!

It's the great obstacle race, driving and walking about in Gibraltar. There are signs everywhere that impede normal behaviour, with many people showing signs of increased exasperation as they cannot go about their daily lives in a normal kind of way.

And there is more to come!

FISH 

Fish Market Road is to be closed on Sunday from 9am to 5pm to remove the long-standing ponding that occurs in front of the refuse cubicle "and includes the laying of a new drain across part of the road," said the Technical Services department.

"Residents only will be allowed vehicular access into Fish Market Road," said a spokesman.

EUROPA 

Meanwhile, traffic lines and other markings are to be painted on the recently resurfaced section of Europa Road, resulting in No Waiting restrictions having to be implemented. Other traffic restrictions will also come into force.

Patchwork and resurfacing is to take place at 'the loop' at the frontier. Cones will be placed to mark work areas.

The section of the road to the north of the guardroom will be closed on Sunday at 2pm.

Remedial works are also to take place within the Customs area leading to the vehicle entrance at the East Gate, starting on Monday.

Other works and restrictions are planned.

Gibraltar Liberals off to Casablanca Conference

The Secretary General of the Liberal Party Steven Linares will be travelling to Casablanca shortly to participate in the Executive Committee meeting of Liberal International. Mr Linares will use the opportunity to brief delegates on the latest political developments in Gibraltar including the referendum and the House of Assembly Select Committee proposals for decolonisation. This is the first Liberal International meeting to take place in Africa.

Liberal International is the global federation of Liberal political parties. It is made up of over eighty political parties from five continents, about a third of which are in Government in their respective countries. The Liberal Party has been participating in Liberal International events since 1996 and were admitted into the organisation as observers at Oxford 1998 and then as full members in Ottawa in 2000.

It will be recalled that the last meeting of the Executive Committee of Liberal International took place in Gibraltar in September last year. The Spanish Government at the time mobilised their embassies all over the world to lobby delegates against coming to Gibraltar. Madrid also urged them to vote against a resolution on decolonisation which had been tabled by the Liberal Party of Gibraltar. The Spanish offensive was completely counterproductive and the resolution supporting self-determination was adopted overwhelmingly.

MEETING

A statement from the Liberal Party says: "The meeting in Casablanca will be the 170th meeting of the Executive Committee of Liberal International. The Executive meets twice a year and is the main body between congresses. The Gibraltar Liberals have two seats on the Executive, one as a Party and another held by Party Leader Dr Joseph Garcia as one of the Vice Presidents of the organisation."

During his time in Casablanca, Steven Linares will also participate in the Human Rights Committee which will meet during the session, and work on the theme resolution for the next Liberal Congress under the working title "Islam and the West: the Liberal view". The question of sustainable development in Africa will also be discussed.

The event will include the presentation of the Liberal prize for freedom to the President of Senegal who is also the leader of the PDS, the Liberal party in that country. Steven Linares said that he looked forward to putting across the Gibraltar point of view to as many delegates as possible, and also to learning more about and contributing to the debate on Africa. This meeting presents an ideal opportunity to speak to Government Ministers, Parliamentarians and politicians from all over the world.

GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE ASHAMED AT LATHBURY BARRACKS DELAY, SAYS ALLIANCE

The news that the Government intends to build an industrial park at Lathbury Barracks will not take anyone by surprise. This is something that has been announced at different points over the last two years. Once again it is another example of the GSD Government stringing out the same project over and over again in order to give an impression of activity when in reality the public are being exposed to a repetition of the same thing, says Opposition trade and industry spokesman Dr Joseph Garcia.

The concept of an industrial park was mentioned as far back as 2001 in the Chief Minister's New Year message. Then Mr Caruana announced that two new industrial parks were being built to provide opportunities for business expansion and new start-ups. Moreover, the issue has been raised in question-time in the House of Assembly several times since then by Dr Garcia.

QUESTIONS 

In November 2001,Dr Garcia asked the Government whether construction on Phase 1 of the industrial park at Lathbury Barracks had commenced. The Government replied that work on the construction had started but added in response to supplementary questions that they had not yet decided what the level of rents would be. The project was expected to be completed in March.

The issue was raised again by the Opposition in February 2002, at which time the Government said that there was a delay from March to June for the completion of the project. This was put down to bad weather and late

submssion of details in the design. Dr Garcia raised the issue again in May of 2002 and asked when the Government expected to be in a position to allocate Phase 1 of the industrial park at Lathbury Barracks. The answer given then was that the tender would go out sometime in the summer. There is no indication that this happened at the time, and all the pointers suggest that the project tender has been delayed until now. Far from being proud at the creation of this industrial park, the Government should be ashamed at the long delay that has ensued.

LACK OF DIRECTION 

"Moreover, there also appears to be a distinct lack of direction in terms of what to do with Lathbury Barracks. This has now been named as the site of a luxury housing project, an industrial park, satellite projects and a prison. It will be recalled that a major information technology project which at one time was earmarked for the area has since collapsed," says an Opposition statement.

It adds: In any case,people will recall that the concept of an industrial park itself is nothing new to Gibraltar nor is it a GSD invention. This was already in place before the GSD came to office in 1996 with the cons-truction of the New Harb-ours and Europa Business Centre industrial parks. It is therefore something that the Opposition supports as a general principle in order to allow existing businesses to expand. However, what the Opposition cannot endorse is the lack of inward investment in terms of attracting businesses from outside Gibraltar to set up here. In fact, the trend that Gibraltar has seen under the GSD is the reverse with large industrial projects like the wine factory closing down.

Change of command at Royal Gibraltar Regiment

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Randall takes over from Lieutenant Colonel Francis Brancato as Commanding Officer of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on Friday. Lieutenant Colonel Brancato has been appointed as Military Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Headquarters KFOR in Prestina, Kosovo.

SANDHURST

Lieutenant Colonel Randall attended The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and in 1984 and was Commissioned to the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. He took up the post of Platoon Commander for the regular platoon, and after being seconded to the Air Defence Troop led the conversion and change of weapons from the SLR to the SA80.

In 1990 he took up the post of Adjutant at the time the Regiment moved to Lathbury Barracks as Resident Battalion. He became the first Operations Officer of the Regiment. In 1992 he was posted to The Royal Anglian Regiment as Second in Command of an Armoured Infantry Company. During this time he saw service in Germany, Northern Ireland, Canada and Bosnia. Following this he was posted to London as a Staff Officer at the World War Two Commemorations Office.

In 1995 he returned to Gibraltar and took over Command of G Company. In 1999 he was posted to Germany as a Staff Officer in Headquarters 102 Logistic Brigade taking part in several exercises in USA and France. In 2001 he assumed the post of Second in Command of the Regiment. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in September 2001 and was posted to NATO Headquarters in Skopje, Macedonia as a Liaison Officer.

TREKKING HIGH

He is married to Michelle and has three children, Craig and Mathew both 15 and Tammy 7. He is a keen skier and dedicated to trekking in high altitudes.

Progress over Eurovote -

Following discussions between Gibraltar and London on the Eurovote, a number of amendments have been tabled in the House of Lords. "Some of the concerns have been addressed in full, but other amendments do not go as far as we had requested," says No. 6 Convent Place.

When the British Government produced the draft European Parliament (Representation) Bill in November 2002, the Gibraltar Government said that it had not been consulted on the text, and that some of the Bill's contents did not reflect the views of the Gibraltar Government, nor the discussions that had taken place upto then between HMG and GOG.

The Gibraltar Government's concerns focused mainly on ensuring that the Bill respected Gibraltar's constitutional status and institutions, especially its legislature and judiciary.

Detailed discussions have continued between GOG and the Lord Chancellor's Department of HMG, culminating in the tabling by HMG this week of various amendments to the Bill which is now passing through the House of Lords.

CONCERNS

Some of GOG's concerns have been addressed in full (for example, the provision in the Bill enabling HMG to decide upon electoral expenditure in Gibraltar that would then be charged on Gibraltar public funds has been deleted, thus respecting the role of the House of Assembly and Gibraltar Government as the sole authorisers of Gibraltar public expenditure).

Amendments have also been introduced by HMG to provisions in the Bill relating to the role of the Gibraltar Legislature and Judiciary. While the amendments represent a considerable improvement, they do not go as far as GOG had requested. "For example, while the amendments make it clear that the legislative powers of the House of Assembly remain in- tact in this area, they still enable the Lord Chancellor to make legislative provision for the Gibraltar part of the Combined Constituency by subsidiary UK legislation. In respect of the judiciary, the UK has agreed that a judge of the Gibraltar Supreme Court be appointed an additional judge of the UK Election Court for the region that includes Gibraltar," said a Government statement.

REFUSE

HMG has refused to eliminate the provision of the Bill whereby the Governor is consulted (as well as CM and parliamentary Opposition) in relation to the UK region with which Gibraltar will be combined. In GOG's view it is "unnecessary and inappropriate for the Governor to be consulted on that issue since it relates to the political and democratic process."

A Government spokesman added: "This legislation has provided a challenge both for Gibraltar and the UK. It is the first time that legislation has needed to make provision for Gibraltar taking part in an activity as part of the UK. Gibraltar is participating the Euro Elections as part of a "combined electoral region" with part of the UK. That combined constituency has to be subject to the same, single body of electoral law and practice and judicial oversight. The challenge has been to achieve that, whilst maximising respect for Gibraltar's own constitutional status and institutions. Whilst we would have liked further amendments in this respect, the amendments that HMG has agreed to introduce represent a considerable improvement for Gibraltar over the original text of the Bill that was recently passed in the House of Commons." 

VOGG letter to UN

The Voice of Gibraltar Group welcomes the UNO Secretary General's latest declaration on decolonisation, particularly his call to 'close this unfinished chapter in history' and most important of all, that the 'choice be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territorial peoples'.

The Group has written to Mr. Kofi Annan (with copy to the new Chairman of the Committee of 24, Mr. Earl Stephen Huntley) calling on him to be true to the letter and spirit of his statement.

In the said letter, he has been reminded that the C24's mandate is to promote the deconolisation of the listed territories, including Gibraltar, and not to arbitrate in a territorial dispute. To embroil both issues, as borne out by the successive annual consensus reports, devalues the credibility of the Committee. The C24 must not be 'fooled', once again, by the standard arguments of the UK and Spanish Representatives before the Committee. A serious analysis of Gibraltar's position, as presented over the years by its elected politicians, is recommended prior to the forthcoming sessions.

As far as the Anglo - Spanish proposed deal is concerned, The Group points out that the negotiations remain on course, irrespective of the result of the referendum. The UK Government is 'selling' the benefits of a deal as a 'carrot' whilst their Spanish counterparts apply the 'stick' unrelentingly. The Administering - Power is obliged to assist its colonial people in their political, economic and social aspirations whilst the Third - Party Claimant must not use coercive measures to hinder them. This is explicit in the UN Charter and both the UK and Spain, by their actions and intent, are in violation. Furthermore, the C24 must not allow the de - listing of Gibraltar until such time as it exercises its right to self - determination in accordance with the UN Charter. To do so on the basis of an Anglo - Spanish agreement without the consent of the People of Gibraltar will be a travesty and an indictment of the C24. 

Various other points have been raised regarding the present situation, specifically the UK's and Spain's attitudes and actions against the People of Gibraltar and its institutions. In this respect and reiterating the many offers by Gibraltar's elected representatives, The Voice of Gibraltar Group has advised the Secretary General to impress upon the Administering - Power the desirability of a C24 visit to the Rock. Only an on - site fact - finding mission will allow its Members to understand the realities of Gibraltar and its People.

A reply has been requested.

Spanish minister refers to police and pollution

The Spanish foreign ministry acted 'promptly' to demand the release of Spanish journalists arrested by Gibraltar police at the time of the Greenpeace incident, said Spanish minister Ana Palacio.

Ms Palacio has written to the Cadiz provincial chief Rafael Roman, following a letter sent to her.

The Spanish foreign ministry insisted that the information from the British authorities was not sufficient.

Ms Palacio says her department has protested at the way the arrests took place by the RGP, thus defending 'the legitimate interests of Spanish citizens.'

The question of oil spills in the bay was also raised by Sr Roman, with the minister saying that she has raised the matter with the British authorities, asking that single-hulled tankers carrying dangerous cargos are banned at Gibraltar. She wants a deal as that concluded with France, Germany and Portugal.

Spanish Government to decide if new La Linea hospital would also be for Gibraltar

The regional government’s councillor for health, Francisco Vallejo, recently visited La Linea in support of the PSOE’s candidate for mayor Maria Luisa Escribano. He also met with various associations representing infirm people plus health service professionals and personnel.

He stated that the regional government was waiting on a pronouncement from the central government in Madrid as to whether the new hospital for La Linea would also have to cater for the people of Gibraltar.

Vallejo assured the people of La Linea that regardless of whether there was an accord on Gibraltar or not the new hospital was coming. However he pointed out that they could not proceed until the central government gave its decision or whether Gibraltar was to be included, as that would add 30,000 new users who would have to be catered for.

The new hospital will cost between 30 and 40 million euros. It will be situated at Los Alamos on land that has already been approved for that use by the town hall. Vallerjo stated that whilst he couldn’t give a start date for the hospital it would be constructed within the next four years.

Minister's handling of aviation "a fiasco"

Tourism Minister Joe Holliday's handling of aviation matters has been a "fiasco" and he has to realise that he needs to do much more than have his photo taken with the Chairman of Monarch Airlines if he is going to deliver on his promise to increase air links to and from Gibraltar airport, says Opposition spokesman for trade and industry Dr Joseph Garcia. When the GSD came into office Gibraltar airport served five destinations, now it serves only two.

The Opposition has long considered that improved air access to Gibraltar is an important component of a comprehensive tourism policy. The Government is spending millions of pounds in marketing Gibraltar in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. It is obvious that the results of those marketing efforts would be enhanced if air access to Gibraltar were available from regional airports in the north of England or Scotland. Indeed, not that long ago the hotel association locally called on the Government to place flights to the north of England "top of the agenda". They also criticised the Government's plans to increase hotel beds in Gibraltar without a new carrier and without regional air access.

TWO YEARS...

It is now nearly two years since the Government announced new flights to Gibraltar from London Stansted and Manchester airports by an airline called Fly Europa. At budget time last year, Mr Holliday told Opposition Tourism spokesman Dr Joseph Garcia that these flights were earmarked to start on 16 July 2002. The Opposition welcomed this at the time, as it is in line with our policy on this issue. It is regrettable that these flights have not materialised despite the considerable time that has elapsed since the announcements were made.

"As so often happens with the GSD Government, they make announcements and then proceed to repeat them at intervals in order to give an impression of activity. Then, when nothing materialises, they just conveniently drop the item from their propaganda campaign," said an Opposition statement.

The Opposition consider that Mr Holliday has been "a dismal failure" when it comes to attracting new airlines and opening new air routes to and from Gibraltar.

In December 1996 there were flights to London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Casablanca and Marrakesh. By the end of 1997, London Luton had replaced Manchester. In 1998, the Heathrow flight was stopped. This resumed for twelve months in 2001, and stopped again in 2002. Indeed, by the end of 1999, Manchester had gone and by the end of 2000 Casablanca as well.

"It is clear that Mr Holliday's track record in this field speaks for itself. Gibraltar airport now finds itself in a position with no flights anywhere outside London. There are therefore no air links at all with Morocco, following the expensive fiasco of the Regional Airlines flights to Casablanca," adds Dr Garcia.

The Opposition goes on to say that it maintains that it is important to open a new catchment area for Gibraltar in the north of England. This would be a great advantage both to residents of Gibraltar and to the development of the tourist industry as a whole.

IWBM welcomes Bossano's statement on integration

The IWBM says it welcomes the statement made by Mr Joe Bossano, Leader of the Opposition and the GSLP concerning Integration at the recent GSLP General Meeting.

In particular his statement that Devolved Integration 'was compatible' with the Select Committees Constitutional Proposals. This Movement is glad to hear that Joe Bossano also says that he is 'the one who truly carries integrationism in his heart'.

Members of the IWBM Committee have met with Mr Bossano, as they have done with the Labour and ILF leadership and are pleased to say that this meeting has been positive and we await the appointment by the GSLP executive of a representative to the 'Devolved Integration Unity Forum'.

The IWBM looks forward to the day when the GSLP adopts the concept of Devolved Integration as their main party policy commitment.

The IWBM has always said, in a spirit of Unity, that the Proposals should go 'hand-in-hand' with the concept of Devolved Integration simply because it is about time the People of Gibraltar stated clearly 'what Political Status' they want for a secure future.

The IWBM is currently corresponding with the Chief Minister.

Party wants to discuss 'deficit of shame' with Chief Minister

The ILF has reiterated its supportive attitude towards non-EU residents in Gibraltar.

They say it follows an article reproduced in Panorama on 5th. & the Chronicle on 6th March). "It is a clear and deserved indictment on Gibraltar, its people, and most definitely, on past and present governments. The total lack of recognition of basic human rights and recognised practices which permitted immigration brings with it, and the adherence by administrations in Gibraltar of antiquated and archaic laws brings shame to our community," says Anthony Balloqui.

A statement adds: "Few politicians, other than the I.L.F. have ever seriously bothered to fight the corner of Non-EU nationals, long resident and making very valuable contributions to our economy and work force. Lip service has frequently been paid to the issue but there has been little real enthusiasm for such a non-vote winner."

PITY

The pity, they add, is that articles such as Ms.Borkum's could probably have been avoided had the present administration bothered to listen to ILF proposals to resolve the problem, without bringing about the fear that exists within the community of having to face it.

In September of last year, following a meeting with the Chief Minister on another matter, the ILF says it was offered the opportunity to discuss this very problem "soon". To date, in spite of a written reminder, the CM has failed to hold any such meeting.

INTEREST

However, "we also note with interest the recent visit to Gibraltar of Don Flynn of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. Following discussions with the Government and Moroccan groups Mr.Flynn formed the view that the current administration is favourably disposed to improving immigrant rights. Apparently the GSD have no objection in principle but are merely concerned with the practicalities.

Well, adds Mr Balloqui, we can help them with these concerns, as we indicated to Peter Caruana last year. In the ILF we have made a close study of the law governing immigration and of possible solutions to this human rights deficit. We have consequently developed practical solutions which could reduce the problem and in the long term, do away with it altogether.

It remains for the Chief Minister to grant us the time to discuss these with him. In the meantime, Gibraltar as a whole must put up with the shame the current unnecessary deficit brings on us all.

Industrial Park at Lathbury Barracks

The Government is inviting tenders for the allocation of 27 units at the Lathbury Barracks Industrial Park for the purposes 

of Warehousing or light industrial use.

Unit size ranges from 367 square feet to 1,235 square feet.

This project is intended to meet the continuing demand for industrial units resulting from business start ups and continuing growth of existing businesses.

In making the announcement the Minister for Trade & Industry, Keith Azopardi, said, "As the Economy continues to grow there is a clear need to provide further industrial infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the business community. This industrial park will go a long way towards that goal and could be utilised for start-up businesses or for established businesses looking to expand. The Government is considering further projects of a similar nature." 

Gold Award outing

This coming weekend, 14th to 16th March, sees a group of 25 participants, currently attempting the GOLD AWARD level, travel to Spain in order to carry out the second of three practice camps for the Expedition Section of their programmes.

This bumper crop of participants, who have now thawed out following their cold January trip, will be travelling to the "PARQUE NATURAL SIERRA DE GRAZALEMA" area located near Ronda. Activities will include camp craft and map reading however the main effort for them will be hiking a minimum distance of 20 kilometres, on Saturday, carrying all their equipment and food. Since the qualifying expedition will require them to hike a minimum of 80 kilometres in 4 days it is necessary for them to hike an average of 20 km per day. As such this weekend will give them an indication of what to expect on the qualifying expedition.

The participants, whose ages range from 17 to 24 will be self sufficient during the venture carrying all their equipment and food requirements. Their hike this weekend will take them through some of the more picturesque areas of the Sierra and which can only be reached on foot.

The youngsters will be supervised by experienced leaders throughout the trip, said a spokesman.

Mortgage Shock

Gibraltar house-buyers are already being affected by the insurance slump, with mortgage benefits in disarray.

Although house-buyers have kept to their repayment plans, the amount they were told they could expect to receive at the end of their mortgage is not now being met.

This means that many people will not be able to pay for their homes, if market situations remain in the state they are in at present or if they get any worse.

This is bound to cause increasing concern to home-buyers who have already taken out a mortgage, and may put off new buyers given the volatile state of the market at present, as it would appear that there is no guarantee of certain benefits being achieved.

Home-buyers who had been told that their policies were on track to repay their target amounts for house purchases are now being told that "there is a high risk that your policy won't pay out enough to cover the target amount."

Earlier projections made by the insurance companies are said to no longer reflect economic and investment conditions.

Suddenly, what you thought you had, you do not have.

SHORTFALLS

Projected shortfalls in excess of £10,000 are being notified.

What can people do to ensure they have enough money to pay their mortgage? As if to add insult to injury, some are being advised to start an additional insurance policy!

Given the loss of credibility, how can anyone believe that any additional insurance taken out will meet what is promised -quite apart from the fact that even if it did, the cost of home-buying would anyway shot up.

"A LOT LESS THAN WE THOUGHT"

Indeed, an insurance company is telling its clients that "the stock market has not performed well over the last three years and this has led to poor returns on the with-profits fund."

And they add, without even a blush: "Projected values have gone down because the actual investment performance was a lot less than we thought."

And that's that.

Events concerning Commonwealth Day

On the occasion of the celebration of this years Commonwealth Day, the following initiatives and events to mark this date are announced by The Royal Commonwealth Society Gibraltar -

After discussions with the Government of Gibraltar it has been agreed to name the old USOC car park as Commonwealth Parade. This designation of an important historic area will help to reinforce Gibraltar’s links with the Commonwealth. The Society is grateful to the Government of Gibraltar for its cooperation and agreement on this matter. It is expected that the formal renaming of the parade will be completed shortly.

The chairman of the Gibraltar Society has written to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Rt Hon Don McKinnon, to appraise him generally of Gibraltar’s current political position. Mr McKinnon has recently been quoted as emphasising the role of the Commonwealth in bringing a “healing touch” to relations between countries. Given the difficulty of establishing normal relations with our neighbour the Society has written to Mr McKinnon to inform him of the external political challenges Gibraltar is facing and to seek his support for Gibraltar’s cause.

As in previous years, the Commonwealth flag will be flown from all relevant public buildings and offices on Commonwealth Day. The Society expresses its gratitude to the authorities for assisting in the coordination of this exercise on the day.

Fire at the MOD Laundry

Emergency services were called to Dutch Magazine to fight a fire at the MOD Laundry on Wednesday night. The cause of the fire is not known and there will be a full investigation. The Command Fire Officer Alec Button, who was on scene at the incident, is heading the investigation.

The initial response to the call, which came shortly before Nine o’clock last night, was from the Gibraltar City Fire Brigade as the Defence Fire Service was needed at the airport to maintain the airfield fire cover required for aircraft movements.

Fire-fighters at the scene described dealing with the fire as "straightforward" and the blaze was quickly extinguished by the City Fire Brigade. The Defence Fire Service took over control of the incident at around half past ten and using thermal imaging equipment monitored the location through the night for any "hot spots" which might have caused the fire to flare up again and need damping down.

The partnership of the Defence Fire Service and the City Fire Brigade is a well-planned and rehearsed feature of the overall fire plan in Gibraltar and illustrates the Forces historical defence link with the community.

The Commander British Forces Commodore Richard Clapp visited the site yesterday morning to inspect the damage. Pausing to praise the effort of all fire-fighters involved he said,

"Having visited the building, it is clear to me that the prompt response by the City Fire Brigade did much to contain the spread of fire and prevented further damage within the building. I am most grateful to the Brigade for there actions throughout the incident. Whilst the cause of the fire is not immediately apparent, I have directed that a full and thorough investigation be carried out."

Alternative sources of laundry services are being sought this morning and the loss of the laundry is not expected to impact on British Forces Gibraltar’s ability to work as a Joint Operating Base ready to contribute to the UK’s defence aims.

Gibraltar’s role in military build-up for the Gulf

Gibraltar is "a key staging post" and is "a logical transit point for naval and other forces en route for the Gulf," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said in the House of Lords. Gibraltar's loyalty and support was recognised in a debate, where a UK minister stated that "Gibraltarians, as always, are staunch and solid allies of the UK."

The debate: IN FULL

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government: What role Gibraltar is playing in the build-up of military forces in the Gulf.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, Gibraltar's role as a key staging post, strategically located at the gateway to the Mediterranean, makes it a logical transit point for naval and other forces en route to the Mediterranean or the Middle East.

LOYALTY

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that, as in the past, the people of Gibraltar are once again showing loyalty to this country? Does he not further agree that loyalty is a two-way traffic?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. The Government fully and completely appreciate the support, including to our military forces, of the people of Gibraltar for many years. Our primary aim is to secure a more stable and prosperous future for the people of Gibraltar. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place on 18th November last: "no deal will be imposed on the people of Gibraltar against their will".

Lord Vivian: My Lords, the Minister agrees that Gibraltar is of vital strategic importance to this country as a forward-operating base. Does he further agree that any military operation in the Mediterranean or Gulf area would be greatly hindered if the United Kingdom did not have sole control over this forward-operating base in the future?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord's comments. We have made our views clear. We intend to retain current arrangements for UK military facilities on Gibraltar.

SUSPENDED?

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, will my noble friend assure the House that in the circumstances he set out negotiations with Spain for sharing sovereignty of the Rock have been suspended?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not agree that they have been suspended. Under the Brussels process, the UK and Spain reached a broad measure of agreement on the principles that should underpin a lasting settlement, although a number of issues remain unresolved. It was equally clear that, for Her Majesty's Government, no deal was better than a bad deal. I repeat that any agreement reached would have to be acceptable to the people of Gibraltar.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, if there is no other way of getting RAF planes to the Gulf, will the Government transport them by ship, using Gibraltar as a staging post on that journey?

Lord Bach: My Lords, there are other ways of getting aircraft to the Gulf; namely, by flying them.

SOVEREIGNTY

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, as it is clear that the people of Gibraltar are not in favour of sharing sovereignty with Spain, why do the Government persist in negotiations towards that end?

Lord Bach: My Lords, we do not ignore the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. We recognise that the referendum result highlighted how the people of Gibraltar feel. What we still believe—I think that the government of which the noble Lord was a distinguished member also believed this at one time—is that we need to look at how to move forward and tackle the real problems that still exist for the people of Gibraltar. The referendum did not answer the basic question of how to secure a more stable and prosperous future for Gibraltar. That is what we need to do. Nor did it address the underlying reality of the dispute with Spain, which can be resolved only through dialogue.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, in the circumstances with which the Question deals—the military build-up in the Gulf—does my noble friend acknowledge that the British Government, the British people, the Spanish Government, the Spanish people and the people of Gibraltar are all fighting on the same side?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. That is absolutely right. Although Gibraltarians, as always, are staunch and solid allies of the United Kingdom, it should be noted—and has been noted by my noble friend—that Spain, too, is on our side in this important matter.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that not all of us seem to think that we are all on the same side? If the Government will not suspend these negotiations, will they consider that in current circumstances, which may well involve important military action, they should be put on ice?

Lord Bach: My Lords, we shall certainly consider what the noble Lord says but we still feel that we need to find a way through this matter. That means dialogue with Spain and Gibraltar. I am sorry if the noble Lord and I are not on the same side. I try to be on the same side as he.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the Spanish Government have their own reasons for not wishing to enter into a shared sovereignty agreement with the United Kingdom Government?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot comment on the motives or reasons that the Spanish Government may have. All I can say is that on the issue that is of the greatest importance to this country at the present time, Spain is a loyal ally.

Another road closure

The Technical Services Department Highway Maintenance Term Contractor will be carrying out resurfacing works at Witham’s Road, from the junction with Rodger’s Road to the junction at the north with St Joseph’s Road.

The works are scheduled to start during the week commencing the 11th March 2003 and have an estimated duration of 3 weeks.

During this period, there will not be vehicular access along this stretch of road, although access will be provided for emergency services.

Vehicular exit from Rodger’s Road will be via St Joseph’s Road. The worls will consist of planning the wearing course and resurfacing.

The limits of the works will be, on the south at the junction with Rodger’s Road and on the north it will be in line with the north façade of St John’s Court. The stretch of road between St John’s Court and Jumper’s Building will be resurfaced at a later stage, once the Utilities have laid their infrastructure.

The infrastructure works are part of a project to lay water mains and ducts from Europa Road to Rosia Road.

The Department says it would like to apologise for any inconvenience these works may cause to residents of the area and would appreciate their cooperation so the works may be completed as soon as possible.

Should any member of the public like any clarification on the proposed works or bring to the Department’s attention any matter in relation with the works, they should contact the Highways Division of Technical Services Department at tel. no. 59800.

Gibraltar boss called in over riddle of Jackal

Plymouth campaigners are appealing to the Chief Minister of Gibraltar to help solve perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of the Second World War. And the ‘disappearance‘ of Westcountry shipmates from the Rock nearly 62 years go this month. City residents‘ are demanding the MoD finally reveals the truth about the fate of Plymothians who ‘disappeared‘ after a mutiny in Plymouth Sound.

Nearly 63-years-ago the Jackal was sunk 200 miles off Alexandria by enemy aircraft in a secret mission code named operation M.G.2. In which she was operating under orders in company with three other destroyers. 

In secret papers released by the MoD the Captain at the time named has (D) said: ‘All secret books and papers were collected before the ship was torpedoed by HMS Jervis in steel chests before she went down‘.

That contradicts statements made to war veterans that logs, lists, and paperwork was lost in the Second World War. By releasing such details it can finally disprove all the rumours about what happened back in 1941. One veteran said before he died recently: “Some of the men left the ship and were never seen again by their shipmates.”. HMS Jackal was ordered into Plymouth in March 1941 by Winston Churchill to give the city artillery cover. When the German Luftwaffe bombed the naval port in one of the most devastating raids of the War.

Men on the Jackal are understood to have closed water tight doors in the face of the Naval Officers in protest. They only relented when they were granted shore leave. 

There are differing first-hand accounts of what happened after the mutiny-with some wild rumours that the men had been shot in Gibraltar.

Kevin Kelway spokesman for the Plymouth Party said: “This month marks the 62nd anniversary of the firebombing of Plymouth. 

And the 62nd anniversary of the uprising against the Queen`s uncle Louis Mountbatten, who was in command of the 5th flotilla which included the Jackal. 

“City residents are calling on the Chief Minister of Gibraltar to help find out if the rumours and speculation are true or not?

The Rock is where the mystery of the Jackal ends-and the time for openness, and transparency by the MOD must surely be now?”

Gib painting for Sir Alex

Not one, but two Rocks of Gibraltar have been recently presented to Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson when a group of Gibraltar fans of the football club flew to meet him: it's an impressive painting of Sir Alex's racing sensation on the background of a majestic rock of Gibraltar, playing on the pun of the horse's name.

Abraham A. Seruya, the talented painter, was commissioned it by his fellow policeman William Lima, an active committee member of Manchester United fan club Gibraltar's branch, with a specific request to highlight in the picture the liaison between our land and the champion horse.

Abraham solved the challenge thanks to a history lesson, remembering that Gibraltar used to have a racing course where the runway lays now, so he travelled on a time machine and imagined a good old day at the races with colt Rock of Gibraltar shooting through the winning line as it wanted to leap out of the bi-dimensional space of the painting.

Abraham A. Seruya isn't new to painting 'stunts' as he made a large painting for his friend Charlton Heston few years ago, representing a gallery of characters he played in his famous movies and then had the picture sent to America in a special metal box.

He is proud of telling PANORAMA that his work is now hanging in Charlton's living room!

Abraham describes himself as 'born with the brush in his hand' and interested in artistic challenges: he went through a 'battle' period which gave him the chance to depict human body's twists and movements and a 'biblical' period where he masters the tricks of lights and divine light.

He had many exhibitions in Gibraltar and even one in Israel in the Seventies. 

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