Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Garcia calls for Gib Deconolisation 2005

Liberal Party leader Dr Joseph Garcia has declared that he looks forward to the speedy and satisfactory conclusion of constitutional talks with the British Government “so that this can finally be the year in which Gibraltar is decolonised.”

In his 2005 New Year message Dr Garcia said that there is “no room for Spain” in the new political structure that will be put to the people for their approval, and that the defence of Gibraltar’s legitimate rights “cannot be placed on the back-burner for fear of upsetting Spain.”

Noting the “Spanish pressure” that excluded Gibraltar from the European Borders Agency and Single European Sky, Dr Garcia said that the process of decolonisation “moves forward at the same time as Madrid continues to block Gibraltar at every turn.” Meanwhile Dr Garcia added that Gibraltar should commemorate “the 300th anniversary of the failure of the first Spanish siege to recapture the Rock which falls on April 2005.”

2005 MUST BE THE YEAR OF DECOLONISATION, SAYS GARCIA

The year in which we celebrated 300 years of the capture of Gibraltar from the Spanish Bourbons by the Royal Marines in 1704 has now closed. It was this historical event that happened three centuries ago that gave birth to the modern day Gibraltarian and that has served as a springboard for our political aspirations and our constitutional development ever since. The reality is that 300 years ago Gibraltar ceased to be a part of the Kingdom of Spain, and that now, over 300 years on, the Gibraltarians who have made this Rock their home have no desire for any form of political association with that country. Therefore in the same way as 2004 was a year in which we looked back in commemoration of who we are and where we came from, I am in no doubt that 2005 should be the year in which we look forward to the ending of our colonial status and to the final decolonisation of Gibraltar.

BRITISH EMPIRE

There are sixteen colonies left in the world, the majority of which are British. The days when the sun never set on the British Empire came to an end many years ago, as people all over the world obtained their freedom from colonial rule. Many of these people did so in circumstances which were far more difficult than our own. Some had to fight wars of independence against the colonial powers, mainly France and the United Kingdom, and others who were neither economically nor politically ready for decolonisation were gently nudged, or sometimes firmly pushed, away when the colonial powers no longer had any use for them.

There is no doubt that in the context of sixty years of decolonisation that followed the end of the Second World War, Gibraltar is more advanced politically and economically that many of these former colonies ever were. We are also fortunate to have an agreement locally on how that decolonisation should proceed. These are the proposals of the House of Assembly Select Committee that were drawn up between 1999 and 2002. The proposals point to a new decolonised status for Gibraltar and pave the way for our removal from the United Nations list of colonies under the so-called Fourth Option which allows for a tailor-made solution. There is also no room for Spain, for the Spanish dimension or for the Spanish key in the new political structure will be put to the people for their approval.

DECOLONISATION

As you know, the proposals were unanimously approved by all the Elected Members of the previous and the current House of Assembly and decolonisation negotiations with the British Government opened at the end of last year. I look forward to their speedy and satisfactory conclusion during 2005 so that this can finally be the year in which Gibraltar is decolonised. A 300-year-long wait is long enough.
This process moves forward at the same time as Madrid continues to block Gibraltar at every turn. At the last House of Assembly I questioned the Government on the state of their plans to challenge the exclusion of Gibraltar Airport, under Spanish pressure, from the measures of the Single European Sky. I also asked them whether they would be celebrating the 300th anniversary of the failure of the first Spanish siege to recapture Gibraltar from the British which falls on April 2005.

CELEBRATE OUR HISTORY

It was also Spanish pressure that excluded Gibraltar from the European Borders Agency, and even sunk the application by the Gibraltar Skating Association to join their corresponding international body. The defence of our legitimate rights cannot be placed on the back-burner for fear of upsetting Spain. The decolonisation of Gibraltar cannot be placed on the back-burner for fear of upsetting Spain. The celebration of our history should not be placed on the back-burner for fear of upsetting Spain.

Indeed, the celebration in 2004 of the capture of Gibraltar by Admiral Rooke, and the events planned to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in October this year are both military events which Gibraltar and the United Kingdom have marked and will mark with pride. The 300th anniversary of the failure of the first Spanish siege to recapture the Rock in four months time is also a military event which we should commemorate in some way. It is reasonable to assume that our history would have been very different if that siege had not failed. Most of us would not even be here for a start.

EUROVOTE CHALLENGE

It also emerged at the last meeting of the House of Assembly that Madrid persists in its legal challenge to the manner in which Gibraltar was enfranchised for European elections. This was a action that was commenced by the Partido Popular which was been continued by the present administration. The Gibraltar Government gave the House scant information on how the matter was progressing on the basis that the United Kingdom is defending the action, as the case has important implications for them too in relation to the inclusion of Commonwealth Citizens in the franchise. It would be useful and proper for the people of Gibraltar to know what is happening. Spain has never shirked back from defending her position through legal channels and we should not shirk back from defending ours either. The very fact that we exercised the right to vote in European Parliamentary elections is a tribute to the fact that this course of action can be rewarded with results.

HUMAN RIGHTS

And so, as we look forward to the challenges that 2005 will bring us, we do so firm in the knowledge that we are a distinct people with the right to decide our future and the future of our country in the same way as everybody else. This is what nationalism means in a colonial context. It is the expression of our collective human and political rights as a people. It means an increase in self-government on the part of the colonial people leading to decolonisation through the principle of self-determination. In this day and age there can be no other way and in 2005 Gibraltar’s turn has come at last.

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