Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Caruana calls on MoD to honour Rock’s loyalty

Gibraltar Day in London * From Alice Mascarenhas in London

As the Ministry of Defence prepares to negotiate the possible contractorisation of some of its core functions in Gibraltar, Chief Minister Peter Caruana, warned of the importance of reciprocating the relationship that Gibraltar had delivered over the years, and that the base remained a good responsible employer.

The Guildhall - City of London
Delivering his main speech to over 1000 guests at the Guildhall Art Gallery, Print Room and Old Library, at the main celebration of Gibraltar Day in London on Monday night, where Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, outgoing Conservative leader Michael Howard, top Military personnel, and for the first time ever a present serving Governor of Gibraltar (Sir Francis Richards) along with former Governors, Mr Caruana declared jobs should be for the loyal residents of Gibraltar who welcomed and supported the presence of the base and should not through contractorisation be allowed to drift for the benefit of cross-frontier workers from the neighbouring country who opposed the presence of the base, do not want it there and complain every time a nuclear submarine comes to visit.

But Mr Caruana, choosing his words carefully, stated Gibraltar’s dispute with the MoD would continue to be treated as a dispute between friends. The MoD, he declared, would continue to be a valued part of the Gibraltar community and economy.

On the issue of visits to Gibraltar by nuclear submarines, the Chief Minister said his government rejected the complaints by other neighbouring countries of the use of Gibraltar as a base for British nuclear submarines recreational and operational visits. He reassured:

“We welcome that through our contribution to the British defence effort we too can contribute to the global collective effort of what we regard as the greater British family of which we are a part of.

As far as we are concerned they are hugely welcomed and should regard themselves as their home from home.”

The Ministry of Defence he insisted remained economically important to Gibraltar which continued to make huge economic, social, and political progress, despite being small, facing threat and challenges on an international scale.

“Gibraltar is a British success story in the Mediterranean,” he reiterated.

In a message to Spain in reference to the current ongoing bilateral talks he said:

“Everybody knows that Gibraltar values hugely and wishes to retain its exclusive British sovereignty. It is a matter of affinity, mutual regard, and respect for that most fundamental and democratic political rights, which is the right of the people of Gibraltar to freely and democratically decide its own future.

This does not mean that we turn out backs on our neighbours Spain and do not seek with them, the best, most cordial, most cross-border co-operative relations that we have.”

To demonstrate this Mr Caruana spoke of the new trilateral process of dialogue which he reassured was not a negotiation about sovereignty but one of open agenda and where the government of Gibraltar was present on an equal basis with the other two participants, Britain and Spain.

For the second time he announced that an early fruit of this process will be agreements that will allow more extensive useful and international air services connections with the Gibraltar Airport.

During his speech Mr Caruana reflected on the long-lasting effects of what had happen as a result of the Battle of Trafalgar.

“Britain would not have established unquestioned dominance of the global seas and nor would it have been saved from the risk of invasion.

We in Gibraltar have no doubt that if Nelson had not triumphed at Trafalgar Gibraltar would not have endured with British Sovereignty for the next 200, from which the Rock has also gained.

We understand the historical links such as Trafalgar which for so many people is simply history, for us in Gibraltar it is something which enables us to be what we subsequently became and all that we have also enjoyed.

Britain’s dominance post Trafalgar of the world enabled expansion and consolidation of global trade and empire, it allowed the global reach of some of the things of value which we in the Anglo-Saxon world hold dear still to this day. Without Trafalgar British values, institutions, language, the system of Justice and administration, political and democratic process, which we all take for granted, in the most remote corners of the globe would not have endured to establish the consensus right way to do things in so many countries all over the world.”

As a result of their commitment to Exercise Jebel Sahara just a handful of soldiers from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment were present at the event but the military and navy presence was felt throughout in this Bicentenary year of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The gathering was welcomed by Sheriff Alderman, John Stuttard, of the City of London. Music was provided by the Band of the Royal Artillery which also undertook the Sunset Ceremony, with a parade from the Fort Cumberland Guard. An old naval tradition from the Nelson era was re-enacted during the ceremony when soldiers and marines dressed in period dress entered the Guildhall carrying a Baron of Beef and presented it to the Chief Minister just like it would have happened on board ship. Back then the Captain would reply to the question “is it your wish that this should now be served” before the meat was cooked – on this occasion it was Mr Caruana who gave the go ahead.

The guests this year also included all the Chief Ministers of the Overseas Territories, in London for an annual consultation meeting with the FCO, in which Mr Caruana will also participate later today.

Governor Sir Francis Richards, the first serving Governor to be invited to participate in Gibraltar Day, said he was glad to be a part of the event. Speaking in support of event, Sir Francis said he happened to be in London for a meeting, and had been invited by the Chief Minister to attend. He said:

“This is about the ties that make Gibraltar British.

If you are a place like Gibraltar you have to make sure you are visible. You are a bit like a small yacht loose in shipping lanes with vast super tankers and vast aircraft carries around, and if you do not make a bit of noise, make sure people can see you and that your friends know you are there, I think you risk getting forgotten. Gibraltar Day is certainly part of government strategy for making sure that does not happen, and I can see the force of that.”

Meanwhile the Chief of Defence Staff, Sir Michael Walker, confirmed there was no truth in the rumour that he was being tipped as the next Governor of Gibraltar.

“It certainly has not been on my radar screen at all,” he said.

On the contractorisation issue the Major General commented how there were at present contractorisation arrangements across all of the armed services in the UK.
Contractorisation is the way forward, he said.

“As you know the in-house bid is being prepared and there is an opportunity for that to be part of competition.”

From a union perspective, Prospect General Secretary Paul Noon, said the union was profoundly concerned about the issue although he felt things were moving in the right direction.

“I feel we are at present where we should have been nine months ago. If the government had done it properly we would not have had the necessity for a legal challenge but I think things may be back on track even though we have to iron out the details."

Meanwhile today Chief Minister Peter Caruana takes a break and joins members of the Manchester United Gibraltar Supporters Club, of which he is Patron, in Manchester to see the match against Lille. Tomorrow evening he travels to Oxford where he will be addressing the Law Society at Oxford University on Gibraltar’s Financial Centre and its legal/ political situation as a small territory in Europe.

Related Articles and Links:

15 October 2005 - Chief Minister departs for Gibraltar Day in the City of London


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