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This week's news by PANORAMA newsweekly, Gibraltar

11th January 1999

He wants Britain to honour its commitment -

GOVERNOR'S RESIGNATION RIDDLE

Foreign Office and military clash - EXCLUSIVE

The Governor Sir Richard Luce appears poised to resign his post if the British Government continues to do nothing about the Spanish fishing dispute. At the height of the fishing incursions in British territorial waters last year, the Governor said in a formal statement that British ministers had offered him whatever support was required, but a row between the Foreign Office, who want nothing done, and the military, who want to defend British sovereignty, has been at flash point.

The Governor's secret meeting (there was no Press Release about it and the media as a whole was not informed) with Foreign Secretary Robin Cook last week signalled that the crisis had reached new heights, and the Governor had wanted to put his concerns and his intentions personally at the highest level.

Sir Richard, himself a former Foreign Office minister with the Conservatives, resigned in the storm that followed the Falklands' invasion by Argentina.

He is known to have been taking a robust pro-Gibraltar stance over the never-ending fishing row.

Assurance

Nearly a year ago he disclosed the assurances given to him by UK ministers. Last October he said in a TV broadcast that Gibraltar's law enforcement agencies would be showing maximum restraint "during these early few days" to see if things settle down in the wake of the so-called fishing understanding between Mr. Cook and his Spanish counterpart.

But the understanding was a complete misunderstanding from the very start and, if anything, served only to exacerbate an already sensitive situation.

With the Governor's standing and credibility being increasingly undermined by UK inaction, the Chief Minister Peter Caruana said in his New Year message that the "appropriate authorities will soon have to take appropriate steps if the fishermen continue to brazenly defy our law enforcement agencies."

He added that the present situation cannot be allowed to continue any longer. Some weeks ago he said that action would be taken "sooner rather than later."

"Monitor"

But nothing happens as the Police and others continue to "monitor" the situation.

Last week a Gibraltar pilot launch was tangled in the nets of a Spanish fishing boat in Gibraltar waters on the access channels to the port, which has prompted the GSLP/ Liberal joint committee on foreign affairs to highlight that, apart from being totally illegal, "the actions of Spanish fishermen are a hazard to shipping and to the safety of port vessels."

Certainly, they would not be allowed in Spanish port to fish in the manner, and so close, to the entrance of the port waters. But in Gibraltar, as the GSLP/ Liberals put it, "the fishermen have continued to flaunt the law and get away with it."

In London last week face to face with Mr. Cook, and on other occasions too, Governor Luce has made it known that this is a resignation issue. The Governor is demanding that the necessary reinforcements are forthcoming.

It is the kind of report that officialdom like to deny - or at best not confirm - even if they know they are being economical with the truth. It is a highly sensitive matter, no doubt.

Clash

However, it is well known in Gibraltar that the military and the Foreign Office officials here have been clashing over the way forward. The F.O., as usual, are entrenched on appeasement as they were prior to the Falklands war, while the military are fully conscious that an adequate response is necessary to defend repeated incursions of Gibraltar's territorial waters, a view backed by the law enforcement agencies who find they are being deprived of resources to uphold the rule of law in British waters off Gibraltar. - JOE GARCIA

Traders doing badly, finance centre well

PANORAMA Opinion Poll

The trading sector comprised of retailers and wholesalers did more badly in 1998 than the previous year, according to a major survey of businesses in Gibraltar carried out last week by Panorama Opinion Polls. The survey also shows that the Finance Centre did well.

The survey confirms that an overwhelming number of businesses think that the cost of doing business in Gibraltar is high, and should be reduced if Gibraltar is to compete.

The PANORAMA survey also shows that cruise liner passengers are most important to travel-related business and least important to the finance centre, while traders were almost evenly split.

Cross-frontier visitors are most important to traders, while longer-stay tourists are most important to travel related business.

Respondents regarded "Gibraltar residents" as the best spenders followed by non-Spanish frontier visitors. Surprisingly longer-stay tourists are not seen as important.

The survey comprised 157 respondents, nearly half of whom were retailers/ wholesalers. 'Other' accounted for about 25%, the finance centre for 20% and travel-related business for about 5%.

It compares favourably to a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce which attracted a response from only 30-odd members.

On the question of business costs, a respondent remarked that Gibraltar was "very medieval re red tape. Still like Albania."

Bye-elections, by the way...

Bye-elections in Gibraltar are few and far between. The last was in 1991, after Peter Montegriffo had resigned at a time, ironically, when the newly-born GSD was on a clear uptrend.

Under the heading THE PARTY IS OVER FOR MONTEGRIFFO, Joe Garcia wrote at the time: "Peter Montegriffo picked up a PANORAMA on 14 January and saw his dream come true. His GSD party had finally overtaken the AACR in an opinion poll. Armed with a copy of the paper, he met Peter Caruana, his No.2, that same afternoon. It was a day to remember. He was sure to be the next leader of the opposition."

Yet, he was to resign shortly thereafter. That is political history. At first Mr. Caruana had no intention of taking over the party. He later did, and entered the House of Assembly winning the bye-election. He showed courage in taking over a party in its infancy with an uncertain future after the resignation of its leader.

Out of an electorate of 17,538, only 4553 people bothered to vote, that is, 26%.

When Govt almost lost seat

There was far more voting at the bye-election in the mid-1960s when the AACR, then in power, almost lost the seat left vacant by minister of education Mary Chiappe, who had resigned.

This bye-election secured a high turnout by nearly 56%. The late Emilio Alvarez kept the seat for the then governing AACR by beating Bob Peliza by just 145 votes - a bye-election that demonstrated the IWBP to be on the ascendancy. By 1969, they had gained power in an alliance.

Bye-election for Opposition seat

The bye-election on 4 February is for an opposition seat. The Government does not have to contest it as its majority is not threatened in any way whatever the result.

However, if it were to stand and lose - politics being what it is - it would be a negative factor it could do without in the run-up to the far more important General Election next year.

Political parties decide

The GSLP and the Liberals are to announce this week their intentions over the bye-election, with nominations due not later than Thursday.

The AACR has said that they will not fight the election if a candidate acceptable to the opposition as a whole can be found, with Dr. Garcia being singled out.

If a common candidate is found, and no one else stands, the bye-election would not be contested.

Support from Basque party as Socialists shift away from official Spanish attitudes

Spain's main opposition party, the socialist PSOE, has signalled a shift in their policy on Gibraltar, urging that sovereignty be put to one side while progress is made in matters where this is possible.

While not renouncing the formal Spanish claim to Gibraltar, the party's foreign affairs spokesman Rafael Estrella highlights the futility to pursue matters of sovereignty which are better frozen.

The statements he has recently made in Span follow the views he expressed during a visit to Gibraltar last November: "We think we are going nowhere with this escalation of tension… we are trying to design a new relationship for the coming of the century, not as if we were in Franco's time."

Like in Franco's time, the Spanish government has been intimating that it is going to get tough on Gibraltar because proposals for a return of sovereignty to Spain, made by the Spanish foreign minister Abel Matutes a year ago, have made no progress.

A tough policy gets you nowhere, said Estrella, having to back-pedal and return to the previous position.

The PSOE wants dialogue with the UK and the Gibraltar, without the question of sovereignty being the central core of the debate.

When asked by a Spanish paper about Spain's policy to recover the Rock, he made the interesting observation that they shared such an aim with the Government "and with the practical totality of Parliament," which suggests that the general objectives of Spanish policy over Gibraltar is no longer unanimous.

BASQUE SUPPORT

This could be the result of an increasing pro-Gibraltar posture by the main Basque party, the PNV, which has representation in the Madrid parliament where its leaders appear to be poised to adopt positions which do not concur with the thrust of official Spanish policy on Gibraltar.

Ministers' pay increases

Extract from Town Topics by Ronnie Barabich's article

There is not much more than can be said about the increase in salaries which members of the Government have awarded themselves that has not already been said in the debate on the subject that took place at the last meeting of the House of Assembly and in some of the local papers.

It is true that when the present salary structure was established in 1979 or thereabouts, most of the ministers (but not all) did not dedicate the whole of the working day to their ministerial responsibilities. It is also true, however, that when the GSD, who as the party in Government, is responsible for the huge increases, stood for election they knew how much time they would devote to the public affairs, either in Government or Opposition, and how much they expected to get paid for it.

But, as I said at the beginning, this is no new argument which has not already been raised in the House of Assembly debate. Personally I think that astronomical increases have come about because, to people like Peter Caruana and Joe Holliday, whose income before they were elected to the House of Assembly was much, much higher than what they get as members of the House, the increases which they have awarded themselves will probably seem quite modest!

As a matter of interest the occupational pensions of ex-civil servants have this year been increased by all of 1.2%!

QUITE A FEAT

For a Gibraltarian to have reached the heights achievement of being given command of a Royal Navy frigate, as is the case with Bob Sanguinetti, is no mean feat.

Very often one hears how well Gibraltarians do abroad. They all seem to end up being managers of this or that or hold top posts in some organisation or other. To be quite honest, I am sometimes a little sceptical about what I hear, particularly when such boasts usually originate from a close member of the family, but the case of Bob Sanguinetti is obviously a genuine one about which all Gibraltarians should feel proud.

PANORAMA ONLINE - Letters to the Editor

What we are and what we are not

I read your publication weekly, as it were, fresh off the press (on the Internet). Understandably for some months now your pages have been inundated with articles and letters from readers, dealing with that perennial question affecting all (of us) Gibraltarians, "where do we stand with Britain's lack of defined commitment to our people and Spain's relentless claim to what is in essence "our sovereignty".

As pressing as the current political situation seems to be I wish to address a matter more in tune with our history, spanning from the early 1800's to the 1960's. I am referring to the Christian Brothers, to whom my generation and generations before owe a great deal to for their input into our educational system. I for one and I know I speak for many other Gibraltarians, have nothing but praise for the Christian Brothers, men of vision and determination who despite some considerable hurdles at the beginning of their mission to Gibraltar managed to establish themselves, leaving an indelible mark in our social history.

If there is a date in our calendar which commemorates the arrival on our shores, and the fantastic missionary work of the Christian Brothers in our Gibraltar, I would like to see this date prominently announced through our media, if there is no such commemoration, then I hope we can start taking stock of our heritage, what is ours and who we are rather than concentrating so much on what we are not.

Gibraltarian first, foremost and for ever

Manuel Correa, Australia

Quelcutti name

I am English with a Spanish father and I am sure that some of my father’s relatives must be living in the area. If anyone has the surname Quelcutti or Quelcuti I would be interested to hear from them. Thank you.

Derek Quelcutti

What's On

Monday 11th January Gib Photographic Society, Monochrome prints comp. No.2 Architecture, also Beginners' comp. No.2 OPEN.

14th - 17th January Trafalgar Theatre Group presents "Mother Goose" at the Ince's Hall. Ticket available between 5.30pm and 7.15pm at the Ince’s Hall box office, prices range from £5 for Adults, £3 for children and £12 for a family ticket.

Friday 15th January Marina Bay Arts & Crafts market, from 7pm till midnight.

Saturday 16th January Marina Bay Arts & Crafts market, from 12 noon till 6pm.

This information is subject to change without notice

CALENTITA - Gibraltar's National Dish

Extract from the telephone conversations of Cloti & Cynthia

Caramba con el Cook-er, he's had more lovers than Henry VIII. Mind you, eso es lo que dice his wife in a book.

A ver si alguien writes a book about mi querido Juan, porque ya no sabe una de quien fiarse.

Es que el Cocinero steals all the headlines these days. What I don't know is if the letter he has written to el Matutero is a love letter or not, my dear Cloti.

La cosa esta more cloudy que un dia de levanter, aunque it was a clear day cuando el pilot boat se enredo con los nets de un Spanish fishing boat.

My dear, es que hay fishermen who think there is nothing wrong with fishing at the entrance to our port. Why don't they go fishing afuera del port de Tangier, for the example?

Que pastiso. Y el Sir Luce se fue a London en plan secreto to see al Cocinero, como si fuera un private visit.

If you ask my Charlie, eso es chiteria, como no sea que Sir Luce se cree que he can do what he likes.

El Pita One has meanwhile called a bye-election which is el bye, bye to an early general election.

Just as well porque con el frio que hace, y con tanto flu, quien va ir a votar.

Nadie dice nada pero todo el mundo piensa que se presenta alguien de un opposition party. After all, what is vacant es un sillon del opposition.

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