Not a case of giving change a chance, says GSD committee member
|Interview by Brian McCann with Pepe Olivero, GSD executive committee member
first published in Panorama's printed edition.
You've just joined the GSD Executive Committee. For how long have you been a member of the party?
I had initially been a supporter of the GSD, and later decided to become a member in 1995; and have continuously supported the party to this day.
Had you any political allegiances before joining the GSD?
I was a supporter of the AACR for many years until Sir Joshua called it a day. By this time the GSLP had emerged as a powerful political force, having taken all the Opposition seats in the 1984 election. I was invited to joithe Independent Democratic Party (IDP) led by the retired Administrative Secretary, Joe Pitaluga.
We contested the election in order to provide the electorate with an
additional choice at a time of political insecurity. We did rather well as a new party, topping 12% of the votes cast.
What is the procedure for joining the GSD Executive - are you invited, or
appointed, or elected, for instance?
The procedure for election to the GSD Executive is both democratic and
transparent. Any member is free to apply to fill the vacant seat or seats
after obtaining a certain number of recommendations from the membership.
Each member is then provided with a ballot form with the name or names of
all the candidates.
Every member can vote, and voting is by secret ballot. A team of counting
agents and checkers are nominated to determine the successful candidates.
What in your personal view are the GSD's best achievements in its 11 years
The GSD in government has had to meet some of the most difficult challenges
in our homeland's history; and dealing with those challenges intelligently
and effectively has been our greatest achievement. I think history will show
On a domestic front, the greatest challenge was to clear the lawlessness
that existed in 1996 and restoring the good name and dignity to Gibraltar as
a whole by giving the people fresh hope and a new vision for the future for
our children and us.
On an international front, we faced an unprecedented challenge with both the
UK and Spain pushing for a joint sovereignty agreement which the Chief
Minister met head on with an intelligent campaign culminating in the 2002
An even greater achievement has been to turn that situation around from the
UK and Spain wanting to do a deal over and above our heads to the creation
of the Tripartite Forum, which gives Gibraltar its own voice and a right of
veto. Remember that this happened in the space of only three or four years
after the joint sovereignty proposals.
The Tripartite Forum has now culminated in the Cordoba Accord with all the
benefits that it has brought for everyone through fluidity at the frontier;
the upgrading of pensions for our senior citizens; flights to and from
Spain; recognition of our 00350 prefix, and roaming of mobile phones in
This has brought normality to Gibraltar when many thought (and still think)
we should live in an abnormal situation in perpetuity.
One of the greatest achievements has also been the New Constitution, which
provides for a modern and non-colonial relationship between Gibraltar and
the United Kingdom, which for the first time declares and acknowledges the
existence of our right to self-determination without diminishing in any way
British Sovereignty of Gibraltar and the Sovereignty preamble which remains
in the New Constitution exactly the same as before.
Are you dismayed by the poll results that suggest the GSLP will win the next
Not at all, as in my view it is highly unlikely that the GSLP will win an
election with its present leadership that has already lost three consecutive
elections. This is not a case of giving change a chance. The GSLP are asking
us to go back to what the people rejected in 1996. The recent declaration by Juan Carlos Perez that he will stand for election will give the GSLP line-up a familiar look to it. In any case, the issue for Gibraltar is not this or any other poll but what
happens at election time.
Would you consider standing at the next general election if asked to do so?
I am always willing and ready to assist the party in whatever way I can. If
asked I would consider it, but it is also early days for talk about election
line-ups; and, secondly, the party is well equipped to contest an election
with a full team of 10, which I hope includes Daniel Feetham because since
he joined us, together with his colleagues from the Labour Party, he has
done sterling work helping organise the party.
If the GSD is re-elected, what would you like the government to treat as a
priority - or priorities?
I think the party should continue with the vision it has presented to the
people. That vision is one of a prosperous, secure and stable Gibraltar that
is fair to everyone. I think we should continue to reach agreements under
the Tripartite Forum which are beneficial to Gibraltar and do not impact on
On the domestic front we should continue improving the situation of ordinary
working people. Remember that for pensioners we are to increase pensions by
65% as from April; we have abolished tax on their government pensions;
anyone who is over 60 (55 if you're a fireman) and is working pays no social
insurance contributions; there is a free bus service for the elderly; and a
minimum income guarantee (itself a GSD creation) to ensure our elderly do
not face economic hardship. In addition, of course, Community Care
These are solid achievements, not promises at election time; and I hope the
government continues to show that social conscience.
Do you have any particular fears on matters of GSLP policy if they were
I am concerned, yes. Their policy has been one of continuous unconstructive
criticism of anything and everything the government does. Despite the
government spending more money than ever on social services and capital
projects, they say the government has no money.
We have a magnificent bus service - they say the buses are too big. We have
more cruises coming to Gibraltar than ever, and they say 'not enough'. We
have a magnificent hospital and they say the doors do not work.
We have the Cordoba Agreement and they want to dismantle it, but disguise
that by saying they want to 'enhance' Cordoba. Anyone with any sense can see
you cannot unilaterally change the agreement without causing its collapse.
Spain has already said so.
I also perceive a lot of hatred. I saw the Viewpoint programme a couple of
weeks ago and the personalisation and aggression from Juan Carlos Perez was
It brought back to me what it was like to live in Gibraltar prior to 1996,
when people were afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal from the
government of the day.