Policing of waters weakened by government?
|Anyone who follows my Panorama column knows where I stand on this issue, readers would be aware of the amount of times particularly over the last two years, where I have criticised and raised numerous concerns regarding the various aspects relating to the policing of this very delicate and important matter for Gibraltar!.
Of course the persistent incursions by the Spanish authorities which have gone from bad to worse is the real fundamental problem here! But the manner in which locally, we act in response and deal not only politically, but in a policing perspective, is not only vital but critical in establishing and maintaining ‘local competences over territorial waters’
Politics and policing do not mix!
I’ve said countless-times that ‘politics and policing do not mix’, on ‘policing of territorial waters’ I’ve also said the ‘Gibraltar government’ has constantly poked its big nose where it doesn’t belong. Politics certainly has no place in the policing aspect related to this matter, but that hasn’t stopped the constant political meddling of this important operational policing activity!
The situation I believe has created a disjointed and weakened policing approach, this involving the rgp, gdp and the navy’s Gibraltar squadron. Apart from anything else, the political interference has caused great animosity between local enforcement and related agencies, it has also conveniently played into the hands of the ‘not-so-civil - Guardia Civil’
As I have mentioned in previous pieces, I believe I speak from a position of knowledge and personal experience, during the1998/99 fishing dispute with the Spanish fishing fleet and authorities and as RGP operational commander, the police were also subjected to similar political meddling and disruptive intrusion. Although sadly today, the RGP is much more under the government’s thumb and control than 11 or 12 years ago, courtesy of course of the new constitution.
Political interference precipitates wrong policing decisions
I really feel for the police today, who I suspect, have no way of getting the government off their back allowing them to perform these duties as I am sure they would like!
In fact the constant interference by politian’s has precipitated a number of ‘important and difficult judgments calls by the rgp. These are decisions, which in my view and under normal cause of events would not have been the correct one(s). They have been decisions that have met with a great deal of public criticism, take the ‘four Guardia Civil officers who walked free’ after landing in Gibraltar some 18 months ago, than went walk-about around harbour views estate firing their handguns ‘wild west style’. There are also other recent incidents where the police have been criticised, take the incident last summer at rosia bay with the local jet skier and quite a few others.
Although to be fair, the police - politically, have been placed in some very difficult and compromising situations, so I find it hard blame them!
Politics, in my view, has clearly taken priority over vital policing situations and decision taking that should have been made. I also believe it has also removed that vitally important element, which gives the police the ‘independent final judgment’ on how to act in the best way possible to secure and uphold and enforce Gibraltar laws. This is what policing is all about; the police are there to ‘enforce laws and not play politics!
I strongly believe the RGP and policing as such, have been completely exposed by all the political pressure and meddling surrounding this issue, I wrote not long ago that: ‘political philosophies is clearly the dominate force here; it’s where politics makes its own ‘frequent incursion into policing’ and seriously interferes with the vital policing role connected to this important issue!
Size matters when policing territorial waters
Only last week in Panorama I wrote that it was my opinion that the RGP had insufficient assets to properly police this increasing and dangerous policing demand. Again, I believe I talk from experience, when I say that when policing this type of incident(s) which as we all know is a sovereignty dispute, ‘actual and physical presence in the water makes a big difference’. This, a different scenario for instance, when chasing drug smugglers on
High-speed boats, where speed and keeping up and catching these criminal elements lends itself to just one type of marine craft, the high-powered semi-rigid type marine launch.
In my view territorial waters policing has to be much more flexible, this by having different types of marine assets to tackle the different scenarios that presents itself out there to the police! It will always be difficult, or near on impossible, for the RGP to enforce its jurisdictional control over the waters, if they are not fully equipped to effectively and efficiently tackle the various types of incidents that we have all witnessed.
How many different type vessels have we seen from the Spanish authorities?
Yes, chief minister you did say you were going to buy bigger vessels!
On the question of assets, it’s no good the chief minister, who now appears to be trying to shy-away; when he said in parliament that government were intending upgrading the rgp’s assets. I remember him saying a lot more, but the best of Mr. Caruana’s intervention were as follows: ‘government intends to upgrade our investment to make much more senior our assets to uphold Gibraltar’s jurisdictional competence of Gibraltar waters. Not only will this involve the installation of a new vts system, but it will involve the acquisition of vessels of a much more important size and capacity with which to exercise and enforce our jurisdictional competences and statuary obligations’
Why is the chief minister now distancing himself from his own statement, it must be one of these ‘political odd ball games’ that politicians like to throw into the mix, just to confuse people? “but no confusion here chief minister” you said it and you can’t get away from that one mate, your words were recorded for “official political prosperity”
Another area which I also portion some blame on the government because it is linked to this story, is the one regarding the Gibraltar squadron and Gibraltar defence police. Here again, I have said before what I am going to say again, that ‘the policing of this matter has not been by any stretch of the imagination, a ‘coordinated operational or harmonious effort between local agencies’. All this has occurred because the RGP have insisted in exercising without question, their jurisdictional and primacy authority out in the bay, again, a decision that has been politically influenced, this in ‘not allowing other agencies to tackle situations (a free policing reign) without having to call the RGP first’!
This negative, unproductive and politically motivated operational attitude by the RGP has hampered if not ‘weakened’ what should have been a well coordinated and more solid local policing approach to this important issue facing Gibraltar!
The position now looks as if the gib squadron hasn’t got its act together and may be dragging its feet on the matter with their ‘one hour operational call out.’ although I think that in some ways, the mod may also be somewhat fed up with the chief minister /government, because of their unwelcomed finger in the ‘policing pie’ that has caused problems in a policing perspective, a situation which has damaged relations between relevant agencies!
Having said that, there is no doubt in my mind that the British government has to safeguard the integrity of British Gibraltar territorial waters (bgtw); this is their role and no one else’s. However, if anyone is expecting large warships to appear in the bay to drive the bad Spaniards away, they are in for a long wait. Britain has much bigger fish to fry elsewhere in the world, just switch on the news! Although I believe, that with the units the British navy already has stationed in Gibraltar - should be more than enough to tackle this issue. It’s the politicians that have to get their act together on this one!
Some readers may think that I have been over-critical on the chief minister/government and that I have taken what may be considered a political line that does not conform to what the government has been saying lately. My criticism of the government or chief minister on this matter is something I have been consistent with, only now, what i’ve been saying is becoming clearer to others. I say again, that I have no doubt that if political interferences had not got itself involved in the policing aspect to this issue than ‘policing all round would have been 100% more effective’
So in the meantime let’s get our own house in order and organise a properly structured and coordinated local policing response, where all local enforcement and mod agencies are working and operating together to safeguard the sovereignty of bgtw and also to effectively uphold our jurisdictional competency of the waters around the rock.
Where political talk is concerned, well, my view is that any long lasting political agreement is not going to come anytime soon! Because as I see it, things have to be done for the right reasons, what’s the use of coming up with any piecemeal type agreement with Spain, just for sake of sitting round a table to discuss other unconnected matters, when the territorial waters problem is still in the air and getting progressively worse!
This issue is all about respect and the Spaniards must acknowledge the fact that we have sovereignty of these waters. Sovereignty of our waters cannot be put to one side or watered down to facilitate the tripartite talks. Spain is obviously looking out for her own priorities; ‘we should certainly be looking out for ours’