Saturday, April 30, 2005

Shadow of MoD threat looms

Chief Minister’s May Day message

The Chief Minister, Peter Caruana has issued a May Day message ahead of tomorrow’s celebration of Worker’s Day in which he highlights the threat to Gibraltar from the MoD cuts. The messages states:

“On behalf of the Government I wish all workers in Gibraltar, but especially the Government’s employees, a happy May day.

This year, May Day is commemorated in the shadow of the threat to MOD employees posed by its unacceptable privatisation plans.

The Government and TGWU/ACTS and Prospect are working together to avoid as much as possible of the consequences of MOD’s plans. We are working together with friends in the UK, to persuade the MOD to engage the Unions in a negotiation to deliver savings in an agreed manner. This campaign is important both to the workers involved and to the economy of Gibraltar as a whole.

The Government much values, as I hope do the unions, the good and constructive working relations that exist between the Government and the Unions. This does not mean that each side does not fight its corner, or that there are not issues and occasions which lead to dispute, but it does mean that the Government and the Unions are able to work together to deliver many benefits for many workers in Gibraltar.

I am proud of our record of achievement of improvement of workers’ rights in Gibraltar. Very significant steps have been taken and very significant advancements have been achieved.

The Government will certainly continue to work in this direction.

Happy May Day.”

Government maintains stance on Firemen's Pensions

• Union await talks before any next move

The course of the dispute between City Fire Brigade firemen and the Government appeared to rest on the agreement of a date for talks next week in an effort to diffuse tension. But the Government yesterday wanted to make its position clear and said it had noted the statement attributed to a T & G Official that the Government had offered to meet the firemen and that if Government had taken this approach instead of issuing an ultimatum, there would have been more progress.

The Government said it does not want inaccurate statements to create expectations.

As stated in its press release on Wednesday, the Government has indeed written to the Union saying that it is happy to meet to explain the existing offer, why it is generous and why it should be accepted.

The letter also says that the Government will not increase its pensions offer. The letter therefore makes clear that any such meeting would not be to continue negotiations for a higher pensions upgrade than 26.9% for those that take the cash element as well and 30% for those who do not.

The Government’s pension offer is its last offer and must therefore be accepted or rejected. If it is not accepted then it will be withdrawn since it obviously does not constitute a viable way forward.

The Government repeated also its view that there is no valid justification for an increase in the pensions offer and that the offer on the table is very fair, very full and very generous for the service provided in return, namely the manning of the third, stand by emergency ambulance.

“Government urges the firefighters to accept its offer. There is no question of loss of face, nor is it a question of surrendering to any ultimatum. The Government is entitled to have a “bottom line” in negotiations and the natural consequences of failure to reach an agreement do not constitute an ultimatum.”

The Government also said that it does not see its position as an ultimatum.

“If Government wants a third ambulance, and if firefighters do not agree to continue to provide it because they reject the terms available and it does not form part of their normal duties, then Government has no other option but to make alternative arrangements.

To demonstrate its bona fide in this respect, Government is willing to withdraw the pensions offer but not the ambulance whilst firefighters continue to man it.”

Help Sport in Africa

Are you looking for a home for your unwanted football shirts? BBC Radio Five Live’s Football Shirt Amnesty as come to Gibraltar.

The Football Amnesty has been set up to deliver unwanted football shirts to Africa.

This will enable African footballers young and old to have their own Football shirt.

BBC Radio Five Live has teamed up with Sport Relief, DHL, Locker Freight and The Football Association to organise the Amnesty.

Last year over 25,000 shirts were donated.

If you are interested in donating Football shirts just drop them behind the bar at the Trafalgar Bar, Ultra Bowl or The Toon on the Rock or leave them at BFBS radio station in Rooke Barracks.
House of Assembly

The Government’s Chief Secretary is legally empowered to discharge the functions of Competent Authority, the House of Assembly was told yesterday. Chief Minister Peter Caruana responded to a question from Opposition Leader Joe Bossano that had been addressed to the Attorney General.

The absence of the Attorney General from the Chamber of the House was not the reason for Mr Caruana making the reply. He made clear in his response that he did not think it was the Attorney General’s role to provide legal advice to the parliament.

In what descended into a quasi-legal exchange with Fabian Picardo providing a brief to Mr Bossano and even Mr Speaker asking what the Constitutional Law reference point Erskine May might say on the issue. But the upshot was that Mr Caruana warned against setting a precedent that might later have repercussions and asserting that the Attorney General has three roles in Gibraltar - to advise the Government, to advise the Governor and as Director of Public Prosecutions. He advised Mr Bossano against giving the impression that the Governor had any substantial role in the preparation of the legislation although it is formally issued by him.

The question of competent authorities relates to the EU and the way in which authorities through the EU relate to each other. Mr Bossano was asking for a legal, rather than political, advice as to whether the Chief Secretary will be empowered and was doing so ahead of a motion coming before the House that endorses that role. Mr Caruana said that the answer was ‘yes’ and that the Opposition could read the Government’s decision to go ahead as it had done as a confirmation that they are satisfied with the legal position.

Theatre Royal will open, eventually

The curtain lifted on yesterday’s continuing session of Question Time at the House of Assembly with frustrated exchanges.

The questioner was Steven Linares and the Chief Minister Peter Caruana's final word was that the site of the Theatre Royal is safe and that the project will go ahead, but not now.

Answering questions on the theatre and the building site Clive Beltran, Minister for Culture, said that the excavation works there have not created any damage to adjacent buildings nor had there been any problems with the structure of the walls left at the site.

Mr Beltran said that the project remains in Government’s list of projects but the leisure centre and housing projects take priority.

Fabian Picardo insisted that the pinning down near the “crater” suggested actual or potential risk to building on that the west side. Mr Caruana rejected these claims saying all building sites need attention.

Later in the day Mr Picardo said that a member of the public who had been listening to the question and answer session on the radio, and happened to live in the area adjacent to the theatre, had informed him that his home had had to be pinned with wooden reinforcements because of a potential risk. Mr Caruana dismissed this, saying the business of the House could not be conducted on hearsay.

St Paul's School Annexe

The total cost of the St Paul’s School annexe was £1,321,386, Dr Bernard Linares Education Minister has said. He was replying to Steven Linares GSLP/Libs and also said that the Government believes the building is adequate.

MoD Impact Report not to be made public - Yet

The impact report into the effects to the economy of the proposed MoD contractorisation has been completed and will shortly be forwarded to the Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon, Chief Minister Peter Caruana said in the House of Assembly yesterday. However the Government does not intend to make the report public at this stage.

Mr Caruana added that the trade unions will be given a copy of the report because they will be litigating against the MoD and using this report as evidence, and to the Leader of the Opposition personally on a confidential basis.

Single European Sky - No Legal challenge if agreement reached, says Caruana

Chief Minister Peter Caruana has declared that if it does prove possible to arrive at an airport agreement that unlocks Gibraltar’s existing suspensions from EU air travel, there will be no need for any further litigation.

Mr Caruana was responding to questions from Opposition spokesman Joseph Garcia regarding the legal challenge by the Gibraltar Government to the Rock’s exclusion from the EU Single European Sky.

Mr Caruana had stated that no decision to proceed with legal action has been taken yet and further replied that the time limit to initiate proceedings would depend on “the nature of the relief sought.”

Foolhardy to release Finance Centre info, says Chief Minister

It would be foolhardy for the Gibraltar Government to make public information regarding the on-going legal proceedings against the European Commission in relation to the rejection of the local tax reform proposals.

Responding to questions from Opposition spokesman Fabian Picardo asking what product will replace the exempt status company after June 2006, the Chief Minister said the future of the local finance centre will not be based on the existence of a particular product. Mr Caruana said the finance centre would need to provide an attractive environment of fiscal competitiveness for service providers and their international customers, in which to do business.

Further pressed by Mr Picardo as to how this corporate fiscal competitiveness would be retained beyond June 2006, Mr Caruana expressed surprise at the question and declined to answer.

He said the Gibraltar Government was working closely with the committee of the Finance Centre, and further stated that Mr Picardo could obtain the documents of the tax reform proposals through his legal practice at Hassans.

However Mr Picardo said he was asking for this information as a politician and not as a lawyer, to which Mr Caruana responded that he was not willing to brief him in such a capacity at this stage.

Mr Picardo said the proposals had been widely disseminated across the EU – including the Spanish Government – although Mr Caruana declared that it had been seen only by people in the internal EU process involved in the rejection of the proposals under state aid rules.

In reply to further questions, Mr Caruana said the Government will give consideration to the request from the Opposition for copies of the formal pleadings in the legal proceedings against the EU Commission.

Mr Caruana said that this would have to be on the understanding that the Opposition accepted in advance that documents were confidential and that they could make no references in any circumstances to the contents of the documents, a condition that was accepted.

The Chief Minister said it was an unusual request and that it was not normal for a Government to share these documents with the parliamentary opposition and that is why they were taking a long time to make a decision.

As regards the rejected tax reform proposals, Mr Caruana said he had already given an outline in the House of the “main and essential elements of those proposals,” and that he would not publish further details unless and until the Gibraltar Government was in a position to proceed with their implementation.

The first ‘Property Gallery’ opens at Casemates

by Alice Mascarenhas

A Gallery with a difference has opened at Casemates.

The Property Gallery is the latest venture from Brian Francis & Associates.

The gallery features properties on sale in Gibraltar and in Spain, and is the first of its kind locally.

“We have an arts and crafts gallery, and we decided that BFA should open a property gallery as well,” explained director Brian Francis who was keen to point out this was not another office.

It is a visual display of all the properties for sale with online access to the website. Online the new gallery is able to market some 7,000 properties for sale in Spain, apart from the local properties.

“People can come in and have a look, browse through the website, and can look up any property in Gibraltar or in Spain. It is another marketing tool where all the properties are on view – all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In a small way it is also a way of globalising our market,” he added.

Mr Francis agrees there is confidence in the Gibraltar market, and BFA’s latest move is a reflection of this. With so many developments coming on the market, he explained, that what the company wanted to do was put on display everything that there is on offer. Spain is included, he said, because there is an interest locally for first and second time buyers. Mr Francis is of the opinion that there is a demand to buy in Spain because buyers are moving out not because they cannot afford to buy locally, but because they want to improve their lifestyle – a plot of land with a villa and swimming-pool.

Demand for homes in Gibraltar he says will continue locally.

“The homeownership market has grown over 15 years from 6% to over 40%, and we are still some 25% below the European norm, so it will carry on. Those who take that first step on the ladder will never regret that decision, the problem now is being able to take that first step. The option is not there unfortunately,” he emphasises.
“Essentially it comes down to supply and demand,” he adds suggesting, that perhaps the way out may be to offer young Gibraltarians the chance to buy a one bedroom flat at a reduced price allowing them to take that first step knowing their investment will grow.

GFSB in Bulgaria

by Alice Mascarenhas

• Barcelona Conference

Marie Lou Guerrero, in her role as President of the World Association of SME’s (Small & Medium Enterprises) has been in Bulgaria meeting with the Union of Private Bulgarian Entrepreneurs. The Union are members of the World Association and holding a business conference dealing with the forthcoming accession to the European Union.

During the visit Mrs Guerrero and Ken Robinson (vice Chairman of Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses (GFSB) and WASME Governing Body member) were invited to meet Sergei Stanishev - Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, who in current polls is expected to win the next elections in June 2005.

In addition meetings were also held with the present Minister for Labour and Social Policy, Dr Christina Christova. She went into great detail on the policies relating to social and employment strategies.

Mrs Guerrero and Mr Robinson carried out many interviews during their stay in Bulgaria with newspapers, radio and television companies. The main topic related to the EU accession and potential problems for SME’s in Bulgaria.

Mrs Guerrero said the experience obtained within the Gibraltar Federation and the Rock’s European Association, ESBA, as well as local businesses in Gibraltar were well received as examples of what the Bulgarians should expect as from 2007.

“Emphasis on being ready and prepared for the future opportunities and challenges were made and accepted by all the dignitaries and professionals that we met,” she added.

The WASME delegation included another Vice President, Professor Ovidiu Nicolescu, from Romania.

“Jointly we were able to present a report to the conference delegates and field the questions raised. The politicians who will be dealing with the problems and challenges that the new entrants to the EU will sustain were grateful for our comments and raised many questions relating to Gibraltar and its methods of dealing with the bureaucracy that goes hand in hand with EU membership,” said Mrs Guerrero.

In Barcelona

Meanwhile on the return flight from Sofia, Mrs Guerrero took the opportunity to attend an international conference organised by INSME - International Network for SME’s, held under the auspices of the Government of Catalonia.

Mrs Guerrero was one of the main speakers at the conference. Other speakers included Ministers and Officials from the Governments of Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Spain and United States and Directors from United Nations Agencies, OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development), The European Investment Bank and DG Enterprise, European Commission.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Firemen turn back on Caruana

• Talks mooted as Government writes to firemen

Joe Bossano, Opposition leader exchanged greetings with firemen on the way to yesterday’s House of Assembly meeting.

Shortly afterwards Chief Minister Peter Caruana arrived and took a leaflet that firemen had been distributing. They then turned their back on him as part of their protest. After two hours they left at around 11am with a blowing of whistles and banging of drums.

Inside the House Mr Caruana declined to stop proceedings saying that he was not in favour of adjourning since he could not do this every time people try to influence him. The firemen had soon moved on marching noisily down Main Street.

Meanwhile after receiving a letter from the Chief Secretary Ernest Montado saying Government was willing to meet the union, ACTS said it is willing to meet. But they awaited clarification on the Government’s deadline.

One fireman told the Chronicle that if Government had taken this approach, instead of issuing an ultimatum, there would have been more progress.

Government picks up £500,000 Bill for Cammell Laird grit waste disposal

House of Assembly Question Time

The Gibraltar Government has taken on a £500,000 bill to dispose of grit blasting waste produced by Cammell Laird (Gibraltar) that is believed to contain an element of toxic substances.

The company itself recently informed the Chronicle that it has a policy of not talking to the press. That remained the position yesterday.

The issue emerged from a series of questions tabled by Fabian Picardo, GSLP/Liberal Opposition, in relation to the mountain of grit waste that had accumulated in the yard.

It also emerged that the mountain had accumulated since an EU Directive came into force controlling the disposal of this type of material but it was not clear from answers by the Chief Minister Peter Caruana what was happening before the directive came into place.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that at one stage there were plans to burn the substance in situ.

Mr Caruana, who pointed to the fact that Gibraltar has a ship-repairing yard as an industry, told the House that the Government had looked at the company’s books after it had said it could not afford to dispose of the waste itself.

The Government had accepted the situation and was taking on the responsibility of disposing of all waste as it does generally in Gibraltar and this was “not an exception.” He said a similar issue will arise when the waste water treatment plant is in operation and produces fly-ash.

The grit substance at the yard is understood to have been shipped to Romania or Bulgaria by sea. The Government confirmed that the substance had been kept dampened down to avoid it being a danger to people.

Responding to Joe Bossano, Opposition Leader, Mr Caruana confirmed that this was the first time this disposal had taken place since the EU directive.

Mr Picardo said he would write to the Chief Minister for further information on what the content of the waste is that makes it subject to EU Directive controls.

Flat Rate

Repaving the lobby of the House of Assembly cost over £20,000 it emerged in answer to a question from Dr Joseph Garcia

Air Deal

Government has a three year contract with the Environmental Agency to provide the new air monitoring service. It is worth some £411,000 for that period.

MRSA Cases in Gibraltar

There have been 18 patients treated for MRSA acquired within St Bernard’s Hospital since 1996, Ernest Britto Health Minister confirmed yesterday in response to a question tabled by Mari Montegriffo and read in her absence by Charles Bruzon.

Mr Britto said that in one case MRSA was determined to be the cause of death.

During this same period 40 patients returned to Gibraltar with MRSA infections acquired while being treated in health facilities abroad. A further 59 patients were also treated for MRSA infections acquired from elsewhere, he said.

Forbidden Rentals

People in Montagu Gardens have been renting their properties in breach of their leases and the Gibraltar Health Authority is amongst the clients using this facility. That emerged yesterday in the House at Question Time. The Government argued that the GHA rents through estate agents and that it is the lessors duty to see that they comply with their under lease. The GHA have now been made aware of the issue.

Ape Culling ‘not ruled out’

Whilst a scheme to repatriate Barbary Apes from Gibraltar to Morocco – from where scientists this week claimed most had originally come – is still being discussed with Morocco, the Government has warned that culling may yet prove necessary.

The issue arose twice in Question Time yesterday and Mr Caruana made clear that the preferred option was to send them away or explore some form of birth control.

Responding to a question from Dr Joseph Garcia, Mr Caruana said that contact has been made with the Moroccan authorities as part of an EU INTERREG programme and they are considering the proposal.

Mr Caruana explained that there are fewer zoos and that Government had chartered a plane some time ago when it sent apes to Germany.

Fabian Picardo expressed concern at the mess and menace apes have bee in the Calpe Estate area and Mr Caruana confirmed that Government is looking at providing covered bins.

There was also discussion on the need to enforce laws preventing people from feeding apes, a practice which encourages to return to areas.

Government tops up 2004/2005 Budget by £8.5 Million

The Government was yesterday passing a bill to appropriate an extra £8.5 million to meet expenditure over the past year.

The reason given is that £750,000 is to fund additional recurrent spending by Government departments as well as £7.3 million to several statutory bodies.

Extra to this is £2.2 million to fund one-off expenditure that includes £1 million for the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) to pay towards the Clinical Governance Review, £750,000 for the Tercente-nary Trust Fund and £440,000 to settle an historic Royal Gibraltar Police claim.

The first two of these had been provided for in last year’s budget but Government wants to reclassify them to distinguish them from recurrent spending.

£600,000 is to pay for “demand led private sector led legal representation and advice. Of the statutory bodies some are forecasting excess expenditure. £3.1m is for the GHA much of it being attributed to GPMS prescriptions, pharmaceuticals, medical tests and relief cover.

The Gibraltar Electricity Authority requires an additional £2.9m because of slow collections, increased spending and higher fuel costs.

£720,000 is for Social Services salaries and relief cover and £580,000 for the Elderly care Agency to finance the doubling of residential places this year.

Hospital Parking provokes exchange

A question, on what the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) parking policy for the spaces at Europlaza will be, sparked off an exchange that threw back to the 2000 election when the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) accused the GSLP/Liberals of rushing out a promise to build a hospital only after the GSD manifesto had promised one.

The simple answer on parking was that a policy has not been decided on yet and that the Government is speaking to Morrisons to see what can be done about parking now. But Chief Minister Peter Caruana said that the parking problem
as it is at the new St Bernard’s is not as bad as it was at the original hospital and that it was worth the wait for the improvement when parking becomes available in 12 months time.

Mr Caruana rejected claims from Fabian Picardo that there had been a lack of planning. He argued that it had always been envisaged that the parking would take longer than the completion of the hospital but that those who had given Safeways (now Morrisons) the large car park were not well placed to complain about Safeways controls.

This prompted Mr Picardo to argue that there was no need to go back so far because Safeways was where it was when Government decided to build the hospital in office buildings rather than on a greenfield site.

Mr Caruana retorted that Mr Picardo ran the danger of sparking off an old political debate and claimed that the GSLP had never intended to build a new hospital and that if they had won the election the debate would not be taking place at all.

The Opposition had had no intention to build a hospital until they saw the GSD manifesto and had then rushed to the printers to add pages making a similar promise.

Waiting 12 months for parking is a small price to pay for having a splendid hospital, he said adding that the Opposition seemed to have difficulty recognising the quality of the hospital.

To Mr Picardo’s assertion that the Opposition had always intended to build the hospital Mr Caruana pointed to “the circumstantial evidence” and the different paper used to insert that election pledge in the GSLP manifesto.

No Gibraltar Labour discrimination at Cammell Laird, says Caruana

Chief Minister Peter Caruana has declared that the Gibraltar Government is not aware of the existence of evidence to justify any concern on discrimination against local workers in the employment policy at Cammell Laird.

Replying to questions from Opposition spokesman Fabian Picardo, Mr Caruana rejected suggestions that there was a trend by the company, who is in receipt of public monies for the disposal of waste, to favour the employment of cheaper outside labour over Gibraltarians, describing it as “speculation.”

Mr Caruana said that for there to be discrimination, there would have to be Gibraltarians who are “ready, able and willing” to work, and notwithstanding this the company should prefer to go to Bulgaria or Spain to employ someone because it was cheaper. He said Mr Picardo was not entitled to assume that this was the case.

The Chief Minister said that if this were happening, he would try and exercise proper influence with the company to localise recruitment as far as possible.

He also said that the Government would protect the local labour market in circumstances when it was legally possible to do so, and reminded the House that unlike UK, Gibraltar had not extended transitional labour rights to nationals from the new member states. He said there was little that could be done to control the use by companies of workers from other EU countries.

For his part Mr Picardo expressed concern, arguing that Gibraltarian casual workers, (he preferred to use this term rather than the Chief Minister’s ‘resident workers,’) amounted to less than half of those at Cammell Laird and said there was a disparate attitude on this issue between Government and Opposition. He also reiterated that it was his policy to ensure that locals should take up the jobs first.

Mr Picardo also stated that he was free to assume whatever he wanted, whether these assumptions were correct or not, and added that enough freedoms were being trampled already in Gibraltar.

Funicular Exchanges

Chief Minister Peter Caruana yesterday expressed disagreement with remarks from Opposition spokesman Fabian Picardo that Minister for Trade and Industry Joe Holliday should declare that he received a presentation from the funicular developer before he was appointed chairman of the Development and Planning Commission.

Mr Picardo had stated that Minister Holliday should make a declaration that he had received a presentation from the developers, prior to his appointment as chairman of the DPC. He said this should be done in a spirit of openness. The Opposition spokesman added that his words should not be taken to mean that he was suggesting that Mr Holliday had an interest in the project.

For his part Mr Caruana said that the DPC was not a tribunal that was completely independent of public administration. He said that Ministers who have obtained information or knowledge should not then have to declare it.

Mr Caruana added that most development projects that go to the DPC were the culmination of a process that involve presentations to a whole range of Government officers in the various stages of the planning process.

Gibraltar in 3,000 mile Challenge route


The Race for Africa Team
Three men were yesterday putting the finishing touches to their training ahead of a gruelling charity cycling challenge during which they aim to ride 3,000 miles in just 30 days.

The men are aiming to cycle from London to Africa and back in a single month to help raise more than £20,000 for Excellent Development, a charity which works to provide clean water sources in the developing world.

During the epic trek Richard Barnes, from Reading, and brothers Sam Towndrow, from South Shields, and Ben Towndrow, from Tynemouth, will ride through France, over the Pyrenees, across the Basque region of Spain and then on to Gibraltar where they will cross the Strait touching land in Morocco before immediately beginning the return leg.

The trio will set off on the Race for Africa challenge, which will see them riding 100-miles or more each day, at a ceremony at Kew Gardens in London on May 4.

Organisers hope the attempt will raise £20,000 for Excellent Development to enable the building of 20 small-scale dams which will provide a safe, clean water supply during the dry season for up to 25,000 people in Africa.

Women in semi-arid Africa walk up to six miles twice a day to collect water for their families. For an average village without a dam, that’s 3,000 miles of walking in just two days, whilst carrying 20kg of water on their backs.

“The actual ride will be extremely gruelling but the money we raise will make it all worthwhile," said Richard, the team leader.

“We just take water for granted here but 400 Kenyan women walk a total of 3,000 miles every day just to get enough water for their basic needs.

We feel privileged to be able to do something to help alleviate that for hundreds of families."

Executive officer of Excellent Development, Simon Maddrell, said:

“Half of Kenya’s population don’t have access to clean water.

We hope Richard, Ben and Sam’s tremendous endeavours will both raise awareness of this plight and raise money to provide relief for hundreds of families.

We are immensely proud of their generosity and bravery and wish them the best."

To follow the trio’s progress as they tackle the Race for Africa challenge visit the event website at www.RaceforAfrica.com

For more information about the work of Excellent Development visit the charity’s website at www.excellentdevelopment.com or to make a donation visit www.justgiving.com/water

Royal Gibraltar Regiment celebrates Regimental Day

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment was in a festive mood as they celebrated their Regiment Day.

“A day to forget our differences and jointly celebrate what we are about,” Commanding Officer Mark Randall told the members of his Regiment at Devil’s Tower Camp.

“It is a day for each and every one of us to reflect on what we have done, achieved and learned over the past year and how we can move on and make the Regiment a better place.

Today is about the Regiment and the Regiment is about soldiering.

Keep your professional pride and never let your standards drop for you represent the best Regiment in the British Army,” he stressed.

Getting together for a photograph, the CO, said the Regiment had to meet the challenges of the future together and stay in touch with the times and developments.

“We are expanding and spreading ourselves to every area of the British Army and within the Gibraltar Command. We must believe in ourselves and what we are capable of achieving,” he added.

Meanwhile as the celebrations continued yesterday, some officers of the regiment were presented with medals for Long Service and Good Conduct and awards.

The medals were presented to:

Sgt Kenneth Alvarez received the Long service and Good Conduct Medal.
CSgt Bernard Graffione received the Service Medal of the Order of St John.

Commanding Officer Certificates were presented to:

CSgt Ian Martinez, CSgt Raymond Grech, CSgt Francis Mauro, Sgt Kieron Alvarez, Sgt Adam Wink, Cpl Mark Crisp, Cpl Anthony Butron, LCpl Aaron Smith, LCpl Rebecca Moritz, Pte Benjamin Sanguinetti, Drummer Brian Buckley.

Regimental Sports Colours were presented to:

WO2 Stuart Bensadon for Rowing, W02 Kenneth Fortunato for Fishing, Cpl Peter Conroy for Judo, LCpl Ethaniel Mor for Judo and Pte Michael Sanchez for Running.

Freedom Of City

In 1971 HM The Queen approved the granting of the first ever Colours to the Regiment. The Colours were presented on the 25th September 1971 and on that same day the Regiment was also granted the Freedom of the City of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar Defence Force

The Gibraltar Defence Force was an integral part of the Garrison defending the Rock during the Second World War. It saw action against Italian and Vichy French aircraft on numerous occasions, shooting down its first enemy aircraft in August 1940.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ombudsman decries Human Rights violation

Dominique Searle reports

Immigrant on the streets

The plight of an illegal immigrant from Sierra Leone who arrived at Gibraltar five years ago and has been living from day to day washing cars since then, took a new turn yesterday as Immigration Officials made his state of limbo official by declining any form of residency permit.

Everything Matthew Turay Gbassey, 30, does is basically illegal, even walking the streets and not for the first time a foreign national is caught in a web of bureaucracy.

“This case must surely rank among the worst violations of a person’s human rights within Gibraltar,” Ombudsman Mario Hook said yesterday.

He drew similar conclusions last year when, after having investigated the issue formally he approached lawyer Daniel Feetham to take up the case on a pro bono basis. The decision yesterday came as the authorities faced a judicial review of their failure to take a decision.

The move by the Immigration authorities does not alter the fact that Mr Turay, who claims to have escaped prison in war torn Sierra Leone, is not allowed to earn his way whilst he is in Gibraltar, nor is he anticipating being officially deported.

The judicial review would have risked the Immigration Control Ordinance being found to infringe the Constitution.

In November 2001 the Principal Immigration Officer wrote to the Ombudsman on this case and said that even if Mr Turay had obtained formal identification documents (he had none when he arrived) to deport him to Sierra Leone would mean transiting him through Britain and that this “may prove difficult or even impossible.”

Mr Feetham responded to the move by the Immigration authorities yesterday saying that the decision effectively made Gibraltar an open prison for a man who is increasingly destitute.

“What is he expected to do. He cannot be expected to breach international law and smuggle himself to Spain.”

That was the fate of previous persons in similar circumstances including the well known Nacu case.

Mr Hook is concerned that Gibraltar is depriving Mr Turay of any rights and that, unless deported, he should be allowed to make himself useful to the society and earn a living in the meantime. Even in washing cars as he regularly does in the Catholic Community area police have fined him for driving without a licence when owners have left him their keys to move the vehicle.

In a letter last August, seen by the Chronicle, Mr Hook stated:

“ever since Matthew arrived in Gibraltar he has lived a pitiful existence and to this day continues to live in a state of administrative limbo; to put it bluntly, so far as the authorities are concerned he simply does not exist - this must be the only human being living in Gibraltar without any kind of rights whatsoever. He has no access to any service, be it social, medical or of any other kind. On the other hand, if he is deemed to have committed any kind of offence then he does exist and all administrative, enforcement and judicial machinery immediately come into effect.”

The upshot is that Mr Turay is often forced to beg for support. He recently obtained a passport for Sierra Leone and even the previous deputy Governor had conceded that Mr Turay should be “afforded some modicum of human dignity.”

An appeal to the Governor is being prepared.

‘A Reflection of loyalty and commitment to the Royal Gibraltar Police’

by Alice Mascarenhas

Royal Gibraltar Police Medal Awards

As the 175th anniversary of the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) draws nearer, a ceremony celebrating the work and long years of service of 19 of its officers was held yesterday at New Mole House Police Headquarters. 19 serving and retired officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police were presented with Long Service and Good Conduct medals, the Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem medals and Certificates of Commendation, by Governor Sir Francis Richards.

Addressing the officers, their families and guests Sir Francis commented how changes in policing were stretching police resources more than ever, making such ceremonial occasions unusually important.

“You not only have your traditional task of making this community feel safe and be safe but on top of that the new priorities of counter-terrorism, the war against financial crime, and the resources are stretched pretty thin,” he said, emphasising how such an award ceremony was a time to reflect on how much the Force depends on the experience of its long serving members and the policing skills they would have developed over the years.

Sir Francis said he hoped that the young police men and women joining the Force today would show the same dedication and loyalty over the same period of time – “you are certainly a fine example to them all.”

In his own address, and in making reference to the importance of the 175th anniversary, Commissioner of Police, Joe Ullger told the men and women that the day was to celebrate their excellence and impeccable service. A commendable achievement, he said, with the awards being a reflection of the officers loyalty and commitment to the Royal Gibraltar Police throughout the years.

Mr Ullger, said “as Police Officers, you have an important role to play in our community and many tasks to perform. Sometimes it is difficult to draw a balance between robust enforcement and maintaining good public relations. Our purpose is to withhold the law fairly and firmly and reassure the community in Gibraltar. I think the balance is just right and I commend you for performing such difficult tasks.”

Mr Ullger spoke of the association and close links which exists between the RGP and St John. The good working relationship he added which continues to be maintained. Present at the ceremony were members of St John.

Medals and Commendations

Colonial Police Long Service Medal 1st Clasp : PC 39 Michael Duran (Retired) and PC 69 Manuel Martinez.
Colonial Police Long Service Medal: Superintendent Richard Bosano, Inspector Frank Barton, PS 8 James Sawyer, DS 14 Ian Howes, PC 54 Adrian Marsh, PC 114 Stephen Correa, PC 137 David Bonfiglio.
St John Ambulance Service Medal: Chief Inspector James Rodríguez, Inspector Harry Parody, PC 79 Charles Huart (Retired), PC 108 David Punton (Retired), PC 132 Albert Attias, PC 151 Brian Slattery, PC 169 Susan Darlington-Taylor, PC 176 Rose Parody.
Chief Justice Commendation: PC 53 Melvin Brier.
Commissioner of Police Commendation: DC 87 Edgar Lopez.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Commendation: PC 123 Stephen Riley.

Frontier Bomb Scare

An unidentified shopping trolley bag that had been abandoned at the Gibraltar pedestrian exit gate caused a full-scale bomb scare at the frontier yesterday at 6pm.

As a result the frontier was closed for over an hour and no vehicles or pedestrians were allowed through.

The Royal Gibraltar Police had to cordon off a safety area and similar measures were taken by the Spanish authorities on their side. A traffic and pedestrian exclusion zone was in operation until the RAF bomb disposal unit carried out a controlled explosion shortly after 7pm. The area was declared safe twenty minutes later and normality was restored.

The suspicious bag was found to contain a pair of shoes and other items of personal shopping.

Waterport Terraces Contract delay

The Government yesterday confirmed that the advertisement of flats for purchase at Waterport Terraces, the new Government backed housing development, has been “delayed a few days” because it has yet to finalise the deal with the contractor for its construction.

The original plan to make the announcement before the closing date for tenders to Rosia Court has been changed but a Government spokesman said yesterday that the flats will be advertised and priced before Rosia Court tenders are awarded and people will therefore have an opportunity to withdraw from Rosia Court if they decide to go for a house at Waterport Terraces, North Mole instead. The contractor has not been named at this stage.

Tall Ships sail out of conflict

Young sailors from all corners of the globe will benefit from £235,000 worth of funds transferred from Tall Ships International to Tall Ship’s Youth Trust, the UK Charity Commission has announced.

The youth trust brings together young people often from countries in the midst of conflict to train as sailors on a tall ships sailing adventure.

Tall Ships Youth Trust’s voyages have a history of uniting people. Recent journeys have included Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Jews and Palestinians on special voyages of understanding. The Trust’s brigs, Prince William and Stavros S Niarchos, sail around the UK, Europe and the Carribean, encouraging young people from the countries they visit to experience a voyage.

This year young people from Barbados, Azores, Canaries, Greece, Eire and Gibraltar will experience a Tall Ships adventure. The Stavros is due to arrive in Gibraltar in a fortnight.

Chris Law, Chief Executive of the Tall Ships Youth Trust, said:

“Working with young people from all over the world, the Trust is delighted to be responsible for allocating this money. It will be used to provide bursaries for young people through the training vessels. We have seen first hand how working together on tall ships breaks down barriers and develops cultural awareness. There is no better way to make life-long international friends.”

"We are thrilled to help support a charity like this uniting people and promoting understanding between different cultures. It is exciting to see people from war-torn countries come together through a universal activity. We wish Tall Ships Youth Trust every success in the future and hope it continues to run these adventures,” said Andrew Hind, Chief Executive at the Charity Commission.

Tall Ships International sold its concerns to Tall Ships Races Ltd. It was left with assets worth £235,000. The Commission supported a plan that would transfer those funds to the Tall Ships Youth Trust.

Super Liner in Gibraltar Inaugural Call

by Alice Mascarenhas


The Arcadia was in Gibraltar for its inaugural cruise yesterday
P&O’s latest super liner, The Arcadia, was in the Gibraltar Port yesterday for the very first time ever.

The liner, launched by Dame Kelly Holmes, is on her maiden voyage in the Meditarranean and is the largest and latest in a long line of achievements for P&O Cruises. She is the biggest ever cruise ship built for Britain at a cost of £200 million.

At an exchange of plaques ceremony on board in the early morning, with representatives from the Gibraltar Tourist Board (GTB) and the ship’s port agents MH Bland, Captain Steve Burgoine said he was glad to be back in Gibraltar, especially finding himself side by side another P&O vessel the Aurora, also in port yesterday.

“This maiden voyage has been an eventful cruise. We are looking forward to having many more cruises. It is good to see us beside the Aurora, I brought her out new – she was my baby, and it is good to see her back in action again. It is like the old days, when we had a lot of P&O ships in port together, just like here in Gibraltar today. It is good to see.”

The Arcadia is expected to call in at Gibraltar several times throughout the rest of this year.

GTB Principal Secretary Richard Garcia welcomed the Arcadia to Gibraltar saying it was a pleasure to have the vessel in port. He revealed that later this year the Arcadia would be included in a set of stamps depicting cruise ships which call at Gibraltar, and which will be launched at the end of June by the Gibraltar Philatelic Bureau – an initiative well received by her captain.

Also on board was director MH Bland Johnny Gaggero, GTB Chief Executive Peter Canessa, and Gibraltar Port Authority Chief Executive Tony Davis.

Captain Burgoine who has visited Gibraltar on numerous occasions, said Gibraltar was a favourite port of call with all passengers, who were always keen to visit the Rock.

Johnny Gaggero spoke of the long relationship between MH Bland and P&O:

“I like to think of ourselves as being part of the P&O family, and we are delighted to have this ship coming to Gibraltar.”

Mr Gaggero said that although there was confidence in Gibraltar, the agents still had to work hard at getting more cruise ships calling in at Gibraltar.

“It needs a lot of hard work and we need to stay on top of it. It is not something we can take for granted because there is a lot of competition out there – Malaga, Cadiz, Ceuta, Tangiers, and all the ports in the Western Meditteranean – who would dearly love to take business from us. So we have to be on top of our game to keep the ships coming here.”

Mr Gaggero said that cruise lines invest heavily on their ships to provide the quality – “if they feel the quality provided on board is not reciprocated by what the passengers experience ashore they will go elsewhere – so quality ashore is still paramount,” emphasised Mr Gaggero.

The Arcadia is presently carrying 1900 passengers, although she can cater for over 2000 passengers, and has some 900 crew on board. Built to sail to different destinations in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Isles, Baltic, Norwegian Fjords, USA, Caribbean and Central America.

Since the launch the ship has had some famous guests on board: celebrity chef Gary Rhodes who has his own restaurant on board ‘Arcadian Rhodes’ developed exclusively for P&O Cruises, TV garden designer Diarmuid Gavin and sportswoman Sharron Davies. During her visit to Gibraltar one of her guests was Tessa Sanderson, Olympic Javelin Gold medalist.

On the entertainment front, the vessel is linked to Cirque du Soleil with shows featuring the ‘cirque experience’, and entertainer Gerard Kenny who had hits with New York, New York and Fantasy in the 1970s.

The names inside are familiar too – the Palladium theatre, the Globe cinema, and the very latest in exercise – a Kenesis Gym for balance and tension, with a Planetarium, and Canyon Ranch Spa.

The cruise also boasts a “life enrichment" programme called 'New Horizons' developed especially for Arcadia and another new cruise ship Artemis, due to be launched later this year. On board, like most cruises, Arcadia’s passengers can attend daytime activity classes on cuisine, gardening, psychology, reflexology, wine tasting and interior design with special celebrity speakers.

The Arcadia’s Captain Stephen Burgoine is also able to conduct wedding ceremonies at sea, with couples marrying either on deck or in one of the rooms. Arcadia is a child-free ship, featuring an expansive spa with a thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool, three-tier theatre, 3,000 piece multi-million pound modern British art collection, 14 bars and six fine dining options.

Related Links:

Arcadia Webcam

Book a Cruise on Arcadia Online with Lastminute.com

Royal Gibraltar Regiment's 66th Anniversary

Royal Gibraltar Regiment will be celebrating its 66th anniversary today with a medal presentation by Commanding Officer Lt Col Mark Randall, and an all ranks lunch at the Devil’s Tower Camp which is the home of the regiment.

There will also be an inter company football match by serving members of the regiment. The regiment was started in April 28th 1939 as the Gibraltar Defence Force.

Government Finances to dominate House Meeting

Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano is set to task the Government over the state of the economy as Question Time opens a new sitting of the House of Assembly this morning.

He has tabled a wide range of questions which the GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) say are designed to monitor the state of Government finances and of the economy a whole.

The Opposition has tabled a total of 574 questions at the meeting of the House of Assembly which opens today at 10am.

Mr Bossano will ask the Government how much money they have collected in PAYE and Company Tax each month since November 2004. He will also want to know as at the end of March 2005 how many companies had been assessed by the Commissioner of Income Tax without having made a return of taxable profit above £35,000 and below £35,000 for each of the tax years 1998/1999 to 2003/2004. Mr Bossano will want to know what the tax assessed and paid was in each case and for each category and each year and what was the amounts assessed and paid by qualifying companies.

Also on Government finances, Mr Bossano will ask the Government to state whether it has now decided how it proposes to refinance the £50 million Government Bond which matures in May 2005.

The Opposition Leader will also raise issues related to the Ministry of Defence. He will ask if Government have made a decision on whether the relocation costs and direct costs connected with the release of MOD land will be booked to the Improvement and Development Fund or to the Government Property Company. He will also want to know what has been the expenditure to date in the relocation costs connected with the release of MOD land in the last financial year.

MoD

Mr Bossano will also ask Government to state when it expects to have completed its report on the economic impact of the MOD’s contractorisation plans, should these be implemented, and has it now decided to make the report public.

Mr Bossano will also question Government on details of expenditure. He will ask what were the unforeseen Port security arrangements for the Port that have required additional funds of £75,000 beyond the £30,000 approved by the House in the Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year 2004/2005.

He will also want Government to say what was the unforeseen work undertaken by the Clinical Governance Team for the GHA (Gibraltar Health Authority) which have required additional funds of £350,000 and £200,000 beyond the £400,000 approved by the House of Assembly for the financial year 2004/2005.

The Leader of the Opposition will also raise a number of general issues at question-time.

In relation to the East Side project Mr Bossano will ask Government to confirm whether the relocation costs of commercial activities occupying 11,700 sqm of the proposed East Side Development will be met by the developers.

Joe Bossano has also tabled a question which seeks to establish whether Government is now in a position to provide the information of the technical problems and economic cost associated with the possible use of the 0044 international dialling code for calls to Gibraltar.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Arson attack suspected in Westside One blaze

F Oliva reports

• 16 vehicles destroyed or damaged by fire

Shocked residents of Montagu Gardens were forced to evacuate their homes in the early hours of Tuesday after a huge fire broke out in the underground garage.

The serious incident occurred at around 3am and is suspected to be the action of one or more arsonists.

A second smaller fire was also detected in a letterbox in the foyer of one of the blocks.

Sleeping residents were brusquely woken up by sirens in the dead of night as the City Fire Brigade arrived to the estate.

According to eye-witness reports, there was a strong smell of burning in the air as plumes of black smoke were seen billowing out of the underground garage ventilation shafts at various points around the central courtyard.

Much of the estate was engulfed in thick smoke which made breathing difficult. At least two small explosions were heard in the early stages of the fire.

Families with children most of them in their pyjamas, poured out into the courtyard as the Phase Three blocks were evacuated in an orderly and efficient manner. Fire Brigade officers and policemen went knocking door to door to ensure there was no one was left behind in any of the flats.

The smoke was so dense that people had to move out of the estate and assembled by the roadside to get away from the fumes.

After the initial anxious moments people settled down to wait patiently until the City Fire Brigade finished their job and it was declared safe to go back indoors. Although damage to property has been extensive, fortunately no injuries were reported.

Police suspected foul-play from the outset and the RGP’s Scene of Crime team made an early appearance. Scientific inquiries were conducted by police experts and the investigation continues.

It is understood CCTV footage will be made available to the police. An RGP spokesman said:

“At 02.55 hours of Tuesday April 26th 2005, a report was received by police regarding a fire in the foyer of one of the blocks at Montagu Gardens.

As a result of this report the City Fire Brigade were dispatched to the area and while they were on route a further report was received about a second fire in the underground car park in Phase three Montagu Gardens. Due to the fire at the underground car park a coordinated evacuation was carried out by residents of Phase three Montagu Gardens.

The fire at the foyer of one of the blocks was extinguished almost immediately by the City Fire Brigade and the fire at the car park was extinguished in approximately 45 minutes. Once the area was declared safe the evacuated residents were allowed to return to their respective homes.

As a result of the fire in the car park a total of seven motorcycles have been destroyed and one motorcycle has been extensively damaged, a total of eight cars have been damaged to different degrees.

Two letter boxes, a notice board and some artificial plants were damaged by fire in the foyer of the mentioned block.

Both fires are being treated as arson and an investigation is under way.”

Gibraltar Experts in Madrid Communications talks

A delegation of the Gibraltar Government is in Madrid today where it will be holding a meeting in relation to the telecommunication issues, including numbering and mobile roaming.

No 6 said these technical discussions are a continuation of those which took place in March as agreed at the tripartite forum meeting between the Gibraltar, British and Spanish governments which took place in Malaga on February 11.

The Gibraltar delegation comprises of Richard Armstrong, Assistant Chief Secretary; Paul Canessa, Chief Executive Gibraltar Regulatory Authority; John Paul Rodriguez, Regulatory Officer of the Authority and Michael Llamas, Director of the Gibraltar Government’s office in Brussels.

The delegation returns later today.

Garcia probes development projects

Shadow Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism Dr Joseph Garcia has tabled over 130 questions for the Government to answer for the meeting of the House of Assembly this week.

Dr Garcia has tabled a number of questions on development projects. He has asked the Government to list the criteria that was used to reach a valuation of £10 million for a school, park, car park and leisure centre in exchange for the land in relation to the mid-town project.

He also wants to know what steps the Government took to establish whether any other developer would have offered them a better deal for the mid-town project before it was directly allocated.

Dr Garcia will also ask whether planning permission has now been granted in respect of the mid-town project and the funicular development.

He will ask Government why the number of planned hotels for the Eastside Project was reduced from two to one.

The Opposition spokesman will also ask Government on what date the new development plan was first submitted to an Environmental Impact Assessment and on what date the assessment was complete.

In his capacity as Shadow Minister for Trade, Dr Garcia will ask Government whether they have any plans to sell its various interests in the New Harbours industrial park.

He also wants Government to say how and on what date the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses (GFSB) were consulted in its review of bonded stores facilities.

Dr Garcia will also ask what the procedure in place is for Main Street businesses who wish to make duty free sales to clients coming into Gibraltar overland and leaving across the border.

Dr Garcia will also raise a number of issues in relation to the problems being experienced by local anglers and divers from non-resident persons and businesses. He will ask Government whether they have any plans to regulate diving in Gibraltar waters by both businesses and individuals.

Following increased security measures at the Port, Dr Garcia will ask Government to say what documents are required to be produced by non-resident anglers and by Gibraltarian anglers who want to fish from the North Mole.

The Opposition spokesman will also ask Government to list the EU directives which required transposition into Gibraltar law before 31 December 2004 and which were not so transposed before that date.

Dr Garcia has also tabled questions on EU funding and will also ask Government to say whether they have now considered the legal advice they received on the feasibility of mounting a legal challenge to the exclusion of Gibraltar from the EU Single European Sky.

Gibraltar Apes came from North Africa says Scientific Report

Gibraltar's Barbary Macaque's origins confirmed as being in North AfricaGibraltar’s famous Rock Apes are all immigrants according to genetic analysis by Swiss scientists.

The research has shown the Barbary macaques are not an indigenous species but descend from Moroccan and Algerian monkeys that were brought to Europe.

For years scientists speculated that the Gibraltar monkeys were an isolated colony, the last representatives of their kind on the continent but GONHS in Gibraltar were aware of the likely source of monkeys as both Morocco and Algeria, as was in fact presented in the Calpe 2003 Conference on the Barbary Macaque organised by GONHS and the Gibraltar Government.

Fuller details had to await publication in the Journal as protocol dictates, said Dr John Cortes yesterday.

Dr Cortes confirmed that the results published by Lara Modolo in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are the fruit of years of research in Gibraltar by a number of researchers from Zurich University in collaboration with GONHS (The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society) and the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic. Blood samples were facilitated and sent to Zurich by arrangement through GONHS with Gibraltar Customs and analysed in the laboratories there.

“We are sure now that Gibraltar’s macaques are not the remnant of an earlier European population,” said Zurich University anthropologist Lara Modolo.

Results show the British monkeys are clearly related to North African populations.
Macaques - or their ancestors - are believed to have lived in some parts of Europe during the last Ice Age. Some authors have even claimed that they could still be found in Spain in the 1800s.

Working with researchers from Constance University in Germany and Chicago’s Field Museum, Modolo analysed the DNA makeup from 30 per cent of the monkeys and compared it with macaque populations in North Africa.

“We were able to determine the source populations in Morocco and Algeria because they have very distinct genetic markers,” she said. “These populations were clearly isolated a long time ago from each other.”

When the macaques were introduced to Gibraltar is still open to debate. According to Modolo, they arrived sometime in the past 2,000 years but it is difficult to be more precise.

The most likely reason given is that the Moors brought them to Spain as pets when they occupied the southern Iberian peninsula from 711 onwards.

“If we refer to historical records they most probably arrived before the British took over, somewhere between 1,400 and 700 years ago,” added Modolo.

During the Second World War macaque numbers in Gibraltar are believed to have dropped to as low as three because of disease. The then British prime minister, Winston Churchill, demanded stocks be replenished at all costs. This was done in order to comply with a local belief that if the monkeys died off, Britain would lose its grasp on the strategic Rock.

But today’s colony of macaques is not entirely descended from these animals imported from North Africa between 1942 and 1946.

Modolo admits that a few original monkeys survived the war, but their exact number remains shrouded in mystery. The Rock is peppered with caves where animals have no trouble hiding.

“We only know of reports of macaques being imported from Morocco during and after the war,” the anthropologist told. “But we have shown that the current population has ties to Algerian monkeys so we know they are the descendants of a much older group.”

“It is most likely, as a result of our joint work, that the origin of the ‘apes’ has been established, but there are always questions. When exactly were they brought here? And, as only a sample, large though it was, was tested, are there any other different genes still ‘lurking’ in our population. We seem to know with more certainty than ever - but the file is not yet closed,” said Dr Cortes.

The number of Barbary macaques living in Gibraltar today totals around 240, in five groups ranging between 37 and 68 animals according to a 2002 census. They are the last wild primates in Europe.

But if the Rock Ape colony gets too big, Gibraltar’s local government allows culling to avoid pressure on a limited habitat. Population control is considered “an essential part of effective management of the [...] colony” says GONHS.

Once a common sight in North Africa, only isolated groups of monkeys survive today in Morocco and Algeria. Facing stiff competition from humans for living space, their numbers have dropped by half over the past 20 years to reach just 10,000.

The Barbary macaque is listed as a vulnerable species in the World Conservation Union’s Red List.

Related Links:

BBC - Science & Nature - Wildfacts - Barbary ape, Barbary macaque

Shirov confirmed for 2006 Gibraltar Chess Tournament

Alex Shirov will be back in Gibraltar next year to participate in the fourth Gibraltar Chess Tournament.

Shirov ranked within the worlds top ten players, has already agreed to participate in competition which will take place 24 January to 2 February.

“Not only is it unusual for a player of Shirov’s calibre to participate in an open tournament but it is also very unusual for a player to commit to play in a tournament so far in advance,” explained one of the organisers.

“Yet again this event clashes with the prestigious Wijk an Zee Chess Tournament, and to secure a player such as Shirov must surely prove that Gibraltar is now a firm and highly regarded fixture on the chess calendar,” added the organiser.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Drums and whistles protest as Firemen seek withdrawal of No 6 ultimatum

Some 40 uniformed City Fire Brigade fireman many wearing specially made T-shirts lobbying for public support yesterday gave No 6 Convent Place and everyone in its vicinity an ear-bashing as they blew whistles and banged drums for two hours until moving away at 11am.

Despite complaints from some commercial outlets and the Courts, Royal Gibraltar Police decided against moving in on the protest.

The firemen who are seeking an update on pay and conditions for the back-up ambulance service they provide, made clear yesterday that they would lift their action if the Government lifted its “14 day threat.”

Government has warned fire fighters that it may withdraw the ambulance provision arrangement altogether if their last offer is not accepted by Friday April 29.

“This is not acceptable to the ACTS union,” said a statement issued by the union yesterday. It declared that the firemen would not be intimidated and announced selective industrial action. At this stage the latter involves firemen refusing to carry out training and reduction of maintenance to a minimum. However, all emergency callouts are being attended to.

The firemen also accused the Government of attaching little importance to the business of saving lives but promised to continue to provide their service to the public “despite provocations.”

They claim the grievance arose when Fire Control Operators were given better conditions without the fire-fighters knowing, thus changing the pay differential that had previously existed.

“Because of this, in December 2003, we submitted a claim to Government asking for the exact same annual allowance, currently £1,863, to restore pay differentials,” said the firemen adding that Government has accepted the claim “within the parameters of the original agreement of 1999 yet their offer falls short by 5.6%.”

They say they are surprised that after four months of negotiations they had received a take it or leave it ultimatum from Government and say that this “arrogant attitude” will now affect future negotiations submitted by other departments.

In a bid to prove their claims that Government is bullying them the firemen have produced an extract from a letter dated April 15 2005 in which Government warns:

“If the offer is not accepted within 14 days of the date of this letter, the offer as a whole will be withdrawn. The Government will then consider exercising its right to terminate the involvement of the fire fighters in providing cover for the delivery of the ambulance service altogether.”

Despite Government statements to the contrary, the firemen say they have had a role in the past providing such a service.

“Since 1998 City Fire Brigade personnel have been manning the third ambulance, firstly on a voluntary basis and subsequently covering for first and second ambulance in the interim period when St John’s took over from the RGP. This trend continued due to staff shortages in the St John’s Ambulance Service.”

Whilst Government said there were only two callouts a week the firemen produce figures where the average is around 8 weekly callouts.

“The CFB ambulance mobilisation procedure requires the third ambulance to attend all road traffic accidents and rescues in conjunction with St John’s Ambulance,” said the union members adding that this is in addition to the other coverage.

“Call outs are not as rare as Government claims,” said the firemen who go on to set out “what the Government has not mentioned.”

Here they point out that under a 1999 agreement the CFB mechanic section was included as it maintains the entire fleet of eleven vehicles belonging to St John’s. This includes work converting new vehicles, refurbishment, repairs on a 24/7 basis, body work and painting as wells as routine maintenance and servicing. They say that these works currently cost Government nothing and that removing these duties from the mechanics to private contractors would be an enormous cost. They have carried out major works on ambulances from between 50 to 73 times each year since 2001 and accuse Government of failing to mention the work that goes on behind the scenes. This also includes training to the level of first responder as recognised by the GHA.
Two years were spent training the fire fighters and they point out other tasks including restocking of life saving equipment and regular checking. They have had inoculations against possible diseases that could be contracted whilst on ambulance duties and say that few people have expanded their workload as dramatically as a result of the ‘expanding Gibraltar’.

Wives's Support

Meanwhile wives of the firemen told the Chronicle that over the years their husbands had taken on responsibilities such as abseiling, diving, all MOD areas bar the airport, and even crossing the border in support of the Campo all out of a sense of professionalism.

Talks await UK Election Result

Tripartite talks involving Gibraltar, Britain and Spain will not be held until after the UK elections are over, Spanish press reports quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

They confirm that Jose Pons and Dominick Chilcott the British and Spanish diplomats, who have met with Chief Minister Peter Caruana in sessions under the new process UK and Spain, met last Friday on non-Gibraltar issues. They however informed Mr Caruana of their meeting in advance to establish that this was not a Gibraltar meeting.

Meanwhile the Chronicle understands that the parties have for some time been considering when Gibraltar might itself host talks under the process.

Picardo to pursue TEP Plan issue

Shadow Minister for Financial Services Fabian Picardo will once again press the Government on the TEPs issue at the meeting of the House of Assembly which opens on Thursday.

Mr Picardo says he will ask the Government whether it can now state what answers it has provided to the Committee of the TEP Plan Association and/or their solicitors in respect of their request for assistance in pursuit of the claims of these parties and what action the Government is taking or has taken, if any, in pursuance of the said issues.

Also as Financial Services spokesman, Mr Picardo has tabled a number of questions on the Government’s tax reform proposals. He will push the Government to now agree to provide the Opposition with the details of the tax reform proposals it submitted to the EU Commission and which the latter rejected.

He will also want the Government to state how many tax exempt companies are presently awaiting the grant of exempt status dependent on the maximum number allowed under the new arrangements required by the EU Commission as part of its state aid investigation.

Additionally, Mr Picardo will also question the Government on what action it is planning to take to ensure that a product to replace the exempt company status is in place before 30 June 2006, the date by which, under the new arrangements with the EU, it will no longer be possible to provide new exempt status certificates.

In his capacity as Employment spokesman, Mr Picardo will ask Government whether it is satisfied that Gibraltarians are not being discriminated against by Cammell Laird in favour of cheaper labour given the trend that of the number of casual workers employed by Cammell Laird, the number of Gibraltarians usually amounts to less than half.

Also on the subject of Cammell Laird, but this time from an environmental angle, Mr Picardo will ask what course of action the Government is taking to ensure that the grit mountain in the area of Cammell Laird is not causing environmental pollution to residents in the area of the south district.

Mr Picardo will also ask the Government when they will be publishing and circulating information on what procedures citizens should follow in the event of an environmental emergency.

On a number of general matters, Mr Picardo will ask what is the Government’s policy on the use by Ministers’ of “Executive Club” miles accumulated by them when flying on Government business with British Airways.

He has also tabled a question in order to find out whether the Government has made any progress in respect of its consideration of the possibility of implementation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Mr Picardo asks Government to state whether it allows any civil servants to stay in employment over the age of 60.

Related Link:

The Pot with No Rainbow by the TEP plan association

Guv's Daimler is a Wedding Car

Wondered where the Governor’s official car had got to?

The Daimler that drove Mrs Thatcher and former president Bush around the Rock is now being used for weddings in Blackpool, it has emerged.

The news came in a recent edition of the Blackpool local, The Gazette. When Stewart Poole saw the car on a news report he booked a holiday in the hope of catching a glimpse of it. He was allowed a look and when he heard it might be sold he asked if he could have first refusal. To his surprise a few weeks later he received a letter offering him the opportunity. The 15 year old Daimler has only 3,000 miles on the clock. Mr Poole hires it out for weddings.

Local man arrested on drug charges

A local man was arrested on Friday by RGP (Royal Gibraltar Police) Drug Squad officers in the course of Operation Crayfish.

An RGP spokesman said:

“On Friday April 22nd 2005 Drug Squad officers in the execution of Operation Crayfish arrested Ian McLaren 36, of 12 Nassau Court, after he was found in possession of a small amount of cannabis resin.

A search warrant executed at his place of work revealed a further 230 grams of cannabis resin, as well as other drug trafficking paraphernalia in a locker which was under McLaren’s control.

A further search warrant executed at his residence yielded a further 20 grams of cannabis resin as well as documents and over £1200 in banknotes all of which were also seized by police.

McLaren was charged with possession with intent to supply 250 grams of cannabis resin and possession of 253.5 grams of cannabis resin.

He was granted police bail in the sum of £750 and appeared in court yesterday."

Eagle Owl nests successfully

European Eagle OwlGONHS (The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society) has announced final confirmation of the return to Gibraltar as a nesting species, after an absence of at least eighty years, of one of Europe’s most spectacular birds, the Eagle Owl.

It is a species protected by European as well as Gibraltar law.

At an undisclosed location on the Upper Rock a pair, closely monitored over the past year by the GONHS Bird of Prey Unit, has definitely nested and reared three young.

Further details will be released in due course, but one important fact that the observations has revealed is that the owls are feeding largely on yellow-legged gulls, and are so assisting in the gull control effort!

ActionAid in Gibraltar

Libby Lancaster from Action Aid UK is in Gibraltar to give a series of presentations on the work carried out by the charity and to thank the people of Gibraltar for the support it receives throughout the year.

Tomorrow Libby will be joined by Maria Photiou when they will give a talk at an open meeting organised by ActionAid Gibraltar. The meeting which is open to all sponsors and everyone wanting to find out about ActionAid and its work will be held at the John Mackintosh Hall starting at 8.30pm.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Property Developers behind Morrisons move

Dominique Searle reports


Morrisons Supermarkets UK
Morrisons, the supermarket chain that took over Safeways in Britain and Gibraltar, is being enticed by property developers to allow the massive supermarket site at the heart of the Westside reclamation to be sold for development, it has emerged

It is unclear whether the proposition envisages the continuation of the supermarket, although the Chronicle understands that any change would require Government approval.

Morrisons themselves confirmed that they had received a number of unsolicited enquiries from other retailers about the Gibraltar store.

The board have decided to market the store to understand the true nature of this interest, which may lead to the store being sold,” they said on Thursday.

But it also appears that there were no plans by Morrisons to cease trading and that what they are now looking at is a property opportunity.

Property in Gibraltar has for some time been considered a major opportunity for speculators seeking large returns for investment. One suggestion is that the site could keep the supermarket but also house a much larger business and residential complex above and around it.

Gibraltar experts evaluate School Sniffer Dog Scheme

Drug Strategy Co-ordinator John Montegriffo has confirmed that he and RGP (Royal Gibraltar Police) drug enforcement specialists are evaluating a programme in Britain in which sniffer dogs can be used to discourage the circulation of drugs at schools.

Although the idea is still only at an exploratory level and would have to be considered at political level Mr Montegriffo told the Chronicle that the idea had been raised at a conference in Kent and he feels it could be worth considering if it is effective. But its aim is deterrence rather than detection.

Last week the debate became public in Britain when an expert on crime in the community called for all schools to consider using sniffer dogs to stamp out drugs.

The call from Professor Allyson MacVean of the John Grieve Centre for Policing and Community Safety, followed a study of a groundbreaking pilot scheme using sniffer dogs in schools which won backing from staff, parents and pupils.

Prof MacVean said that she hoped to see the initiative taken up in schools across the country following the experiment at six schools in Buckinghamshire. A total of 5,500 pupils from schools in the county, chosen to represent a cross section of single sex, mixed, grammar and secondary modern schools, were exposed to the scheme.
The initiative involved both out of hours searches of the premises by sniffer dogs and visits to the schools by dogs which were able to approach individual pupils.

Thames Valley Police and the local education authority, Buckinghamshire County Council, confirmed that no drugs had been found in any of the schools involved in the pilot scheme, but the use of dogs highlighted potential concerns with a "small number" of pupils who were referred to support services rather than face disciplinary procedures.

A report, edited by Prof MacVean, highlighted problems with the processes used, including the possibility that children could have been using mobile phones to warn their friends when the dogs were on their way.

The organisers, which included the county council, the police and GIS - the firm which provided the dogs hailed the scheme as a success, emphasising that it had been principally about deterrence rather than detection.

The experiment, carried out in the 2003 to 2004 academic year, involved dogs visiting each of the six schools four times: once out of hours, once to allow the pupils a chance to meet the dogs and hear about the scheme and two further visits by the dogs and their handlers for searches.

Organisers chose Labradors, rather than potentially more frightening breeds, for any visits when dogs would approach pupils individually.

The dogs are trained in such a way that pupils would not necessarily know that something had been detected on their person and staff were always available on hand to provide extra support.

The results from Prof MacVean’s study found backing for the scheme from 82% of pupils who returned questionnaires and 89% of parents.

Prof MacVean said:

"I think I would like to see it implemented in all schools, I think it would be part of the PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) and drugs education that they are doing now."

But she added that any attempt to introduce dogs into primary schools would have to be treated with caution.

She also emphasised that the success of the scheme relied on the bond established between the dogs and the pupils.

PC (Tito) Garcia retires

PC Tito Garcia of the Gibraltar Services Police will be retiring this month after 23 years of meritorious service, a spokesman for the MoD said yesterday.

Tito joined the Gibraltar Services Police on the 28th September 1981 after serving in the Gibraltar Defence Force (now 1RGR) and HMS Calpe. He left for UK and joined the Royal Artillery, spending six and a half years and attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. The GSP have wished Tito a long and happy retirement.

The MoD spokesman said:

“Tito was appointed Community Liaison Officer in 1998. He attended a CLO course at the Ministry of Defence Police Headquarters in Wethersfield. Ever popular with the pupils at St. Christopher’s School, he introduced a Cycling Proficiency Programme that ran as part of the summer activities and also gave lectures on Stranger Danger. Of course, these were delivered Tito’s way!

An avid committee member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (Special Olympics), Tito has always worked tremendously hard.

On March 1st 2002, Tito was awarded the Governor’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for contribution to the Community, a medal (amongst many) he proudly displays whenever he has the opportunity to do so.

During his spare time, Tito maintains a great passion for Military Regalia and has an extensive collection of Military memorabilia he has often displayed publicly with the proceeds awarded to local charities.

Tito is probably better known for his role as Community Liaison Officer to the Services Community in Gibraltar. Tito is the archetypal example of a dynamic and energetic individual whose main virtue is his kindness and great sense of humour. He has carried out his job enthusiastically over the years to establish himself as worthy of being called a true friend by everyone who has come into contact with him.”

Apes play host to Sunrise Morris Dance

Apes on the Upper Rock will be in for an early morning treat this May Day when Mersey Morris Men forsake their Liverpool home to conjure up summer at the very top of the Rock of Gibraltar.

“By tradition the first of May sees morris sides all over England dancing as the sun comes up,” says the group’s leader, Andy Siddons. “Our normal venue is a hilltop on the Wirral Peninsula, but this year we’ll start the day in a rather more exotic location – looking out towards Africa.”

The twelve dancers and musicians have been invited to perform at Gibraltar’s annual May Day Rally later in the day, and plan to bring their traditional English morris and sword dances to locals and visitors alike over the holiday weekend.

“Operation Nelson’s Blood”, over a year in the planning, has a special poignancy for one dancer in particular. Jim Jones, from Aigburth, Liverpool, last saw the Rock as a telegraphist on board HMS Woodruffe in 1944. “I’m very excited about seeing Gibraltar again after sixty years, “says the still spry 81 year old, “and this time we only have the Barbary Apes to worry about – not the enemy!”

Mersey Morris Men will be bringing goodwill gifts to the Mayor of Gibraltar from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the Mayor of Wirral.

Their trip is supported by generous sponsorship from ROKBuild North of Ellesmere Port.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

We will not be intimidated by Government, say Fire Fighters

City Fire Brigade industrial dispute continues

As the fire-fighters dispute continues with no immediate solution in sight, the TGWUhas called on the Gibraltar Government to withdraw their “take it or leave it threat” which they say, “is not conducive to reaching an agreement.”

Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday, Branch Officer Charlie Sisarello also rejected the Chief Minister’s assertion earlier this week that the Union claim was unreasonable, and stated that the dispute lay in a difference of interpretation regarding the relativity in earnings that Government had accepted in the fire-fighters argument.

He said the increase they seek should not be seen as a ‘jump’ from zero to 35.6% but one going up from what Government has already approved which is a 30% enhancement.

For its part the TGWU/ACTS say they will take up the official side offer to sit down and negotiate a system that is “fair, reasonable and satisfactory to both sides.” Mr Sisarello said:

“We do not consider our claim as unreasonable or unjustified. The issue at stake is maintaining the relativity that existed with the Fire Control Operators at the time of full mobilisation of the third ambulance agreement in 1999.”

Meanwhile fire-fighters have produced a leaflet under the heading of “The True Facts” where they set out to rectify the “distorted information” on the dispute they believe has been put out “by Convent Place spin doctors”, while vowing not to be intimidated by the Gibraltar Government.

They say that since an agreement breaking parity differentials signed by the Government in 2002, “fire control operators manning phones now earn more than fire-fighters.”

According to the fire-fighters the administration has also threatened them with the withdrawal of the ambulance arrangement altogether, if their offer is not accepted by next Friday April 29.

Sisarello defends Fire Fighters

Mr Sisarello continued:

“At present, fire fighters do not get any enhancement in their pay. What they will get in the future is an increased gratuity and pensions of 26% over their salary. This means that this will only be payable on retirement. A 30 year old fireman will not be getting this incentive until he reaches the age of 55 years. He will have to wait 25 years to get it. As such there is no current expenditure paid to fire fighters.

In the 1999 negotiations, fire fighters had two options, either an annual non-pensionable cash allowance for carrying out this extra duty, or no current remuneration and all the increase for pensionable purposes in their final salary. The fire fighters proposed the second option and Government agreed, and it was established that their final salary would be increased by 26% on retirement for pensionable purposes.

Meanwhile their counterparts in the control room agreed an 18.8% increase in their pay emoluments for pensionable purposes plus a non-pensionable cash allowance. Subsequently this non-pensionable allowance became pensionable. Thus the fire control operators are currently receiving this cash allowance which is reckonable for pensions purposes.

The claim submitted by ACTS on January 17 on behalf of the fire-fighters called for this issue to be addressed. The Government agreed in principle that the fire-fighters had a genuine case and as such addressed this problem by offering an increase in their basic salary for pensionable purposes on retirement. The dispute has arisen from the fact that, for Government, maintaining the relativity that existed between the two grades amounts to increasing their pensionable pay from 26.9 to 30%. For ACTS the amount required for establishing the 1999 differentials, is an increase in the final salary for pensionable purposes of 35%.

It must also be understood that the 1999 agreement was reached because it was costing the Government £10,000 a month to cover this service as it was performed on an overtime basis.”