The Hon. Col.
 Sir Robert Peliza

 27th November 1998


The case in support of the decolonization of the people of Gibraltar is simple and convincing. It is hereby projected as much as possible with statements from former Chief Ministers and the current Chief Minister, extracted from their speeches at the United Nations.

In this article the concept of decolonisation is interrelated with some everyday happenings so that the reader can get under the skin of the Gibraltarians. In this way it will be better appreciated that for the man in the street in Gibraltar decolonisation is not just an academic exercise but an issue on which he is made to feel passionately because of Spain’s hostile policy and Britain’s insufficient support, if not appeasement to Spain.

The United Nations Charter became operative on 24 October 1945. It was created by the victors of World War ll, …"to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,… affirm faith in fundamental human rights and in the rights of nations big and small,…and for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours."

Not surprisingly, the good neighbourly bit escaped the notice of General Franco, the defunct Spanish Head of State, judging by his savage attitude towards the British people Gibraltar soon after Spain was accepted as a member state of the United Nations Organization in 1955. Worse still, it is shocking that since 1964, succeeding British Administrations, as Gibraltar’s "administrating power", should have allowed this fascist Dictator and his so called democratic successors, to act with hostility against their ward, British Gibraltar, and get away with it. It has to be noted that it was the British Government that registered Gibraltar in 1946 as a non self-governing territory, that required decolonising. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Britain to have decolonised Gibraltar before the 1946 dateline. Perhaps the real reason why they failed to do so will never be known but it cannot be discounted that the feeble policy makers in the Foreign Office were more worried about Spanish reaction than in failing to carry out what was morally honourable. They may have conveniently believed, as they apparently still do, that in the long term the Gibraltarians would sensibly give in to a democratic Spain after Franco’s death. Submission, at a high cost was the appeasement policy that led to World War ll; as it did to the Falklands War; and may still come to pass in Gibraltar with some unpleasant physical fracas in the Bay of Gibraltar and even at the Airport.

As to decolonization, there can be no doubt that Spain is not really interested in the decolonization of one tiny piece of territory in the Iberian Peninsula of 7 square kilometers. How can this be the case when her territory extends over half a million square kilometers. Obviously, her objective is to oust Great Britain from the Strait of Gibraltar to attain more military influence with the resultant greater say in international power politics and its beneficial economic side effects, depending on the military cooperation needed of her at any given time.

Sr Fernando Moran, former Spanish Foreign Minister, that so ably negotiated the Brussels Agreement in 1984 for Spain, has said that "Gibraltar is an obstacle in Spain’s military control of the Strait and the area about North Africa"….He added, speaking with Mrs Thatcher,.. "I told her that the British presence was not desirable but a lot less acceptable would be an independent Gibraltar, that would be a source of conflict and insecurity"...He went on to say, "The area will play an important strategic role in the future and not having control of the shores of Gibraltar is a flaw in our geographical position". The latter explains the reason for the Spanish government’s assertions that Gibraltar has no jurisdiction over its surrounding waters and their reason for employing lately paramilitary action that the British Government has been monitoring with calm indifference.

The playful manner in which a Spanish Civil Guard popped shots at two Gibraltar youths boating leisurely in British waters and that the Spanish pertinent authority speedily dismissed as not having happened when there are eye witnesses that can swear that it did happen, shows brutal disdain for basic human rights and lack of respectful regard for their relations with Britain.

Because Britain has not taken effective action, the mother of Cain Martinez, one of the two sixteen years old lads fired upon, has had to take legal advice and has written to the Civil Guard in question to that effect. This kind of British Government inaction on such incidents and their deliberate obstruction to decolonisation, make the Gibraltarians look at self- determination as their first and last line of defence against Spanish usurpation.

The Brussels Agreement of 1986 is a case in point. This nefarious Agreement is a projection of the General Assembly Resolutions 2352(XX11) of 1967 that contrary to the fundamental principles of the Charter recommended that Gibraltar be decolonised by integrating with Spain. Worse still, Resolution 2429 of 1968 made the recommendation more forceful by calling on Britain to terminate the "colonial situation in Gibraltar no later than the 1st October 1969".

The Resolution was almost an incitement to Spain, by the General Assembly, to trespass into Gibraltar. This is how the British Government perceived it otherwise they would not have sent at the time naval and military reinforce to Gibraltar as a deterrent.

The Brussels Agreement now primed with the latest "Matutes Proposal", Spain’ current Foreign Minister, is presently the most controversial political issue. Particularly so, because the British Government has not rejected them notwithstanding they have been demanded to do so by the Gibraltar Government, the Opposition, the Liberal Party, the Association for the Advancement of Civil (AACR), the Self Determination Gibraltar Group (SDGG), the Voice of Gibraltar Group and The Help Us To Help Them; and, in a reliably accurate opinion poll, by 97% of the people

The on going talks under the Brussels Agreement is boycotted by the Opposition. The Government is prepared to attend if their condition of having a separate voice to that of Spain and Britain is met. The Chief Minister is also ready to talk to Sr Matutes even if he and his Government do not accept his proposals on decolonisation.

The issues I have mentioned demonstrate the importance of the right of self-determination as a vital step to decolonisation. It has always been so for the Gibraltarians. It is not just a matter of dignity. It is a crucial matter on which they fasten their chance of surviving as a people. Especially as Britain seems to be losing interest in the strategic value of the Rock judging by their disengaging attitude; erroneously perhaps!

There are a declared few Gibraltarians who in a greater or lesser degree feel that it is not realistic to continue to confront "two bullies", Spain and Britain and therefore, that it is wise to give in. However the overwhelming majority of the people are passionately determined to fight for decolonisation under the human right of self-determination.

The fight for self-determination goes back to the first days of the dispute when Spain mobilised all its resources to conquer Gibraltar in the United Nations. Living witnesses assert, supported by historical facts, that constitutional advancement, with decolonisation as its vehicle, has been the aspiration of the political leaders since after of the First World War. The efforts were intensified with the formation of the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights,(AACR) in the early 1940s, primarily to ensure the return of the women, children and eldery men evacuated to London and other places in order to make the fortress more tenable; then the "Fortress Came First"!

By 1963, Gibraltar had semi-responsible Government with an elected majority and some members being given responsibility for certain Departments. The question of the nature of a decolonised relationship, with their mother country surged up as a lively political issue. There was no Movement for Independence. The two contesting political philosophies were Free Association with Britain and Integration with Britain. Major Bob Peliza was the chosen Leader of the Integration Movement, a popular pressure group.

At the time the late Sir Joshua Hassan, was Chief Member and Leader of the AACR. He, together with Mr Peter Isola, member for Education in the Legislative Council, attended as petitioners at a session of the United Nations Committee of 24. They went to plead for decolonisation by self-determination under the principle of Free Association. Although the Integration Movement was canvassing for Integration with Britain they supported its constitutional attainment by the decolonising process of self-determination.

Incidentally, the Integration with Britain Movement was tabooed in many quarters. For instance, the Gibraltar Chronicle, then the organ of the Establishment, would not print any letters coming from the Integrationists, as they were known, nor were they allowed to hold meetings in Mackintosh Hall, the town’s central social hall. Clearly, Integration with Britain, was anathema to the British Government, it still is, and to the AACR then. Yet the ideal has survived and an opinion poll this year (1998) showed that 90% of the electorate support it.

The day in 1963 that Sir Joshua Hassan, Chief Minister and Mr Peter Isola, Minister for Education, left for the United Nations, before their departure, they appeared on the balcony of the City Hall, overlooking Mackintosh Square, to wave acknowledgment of appreciation to the masses of people who had specially congregated on the square to show fervently their solid support to their elected representatives. Before they left the balcony, in full view of the well-wishers, Major Bob Peliza very deliberately shook hands with Sir Joshua Hassan and Mr Peter Isola, two rabid opponents of the Integration with Britain Movement, thus showing solidarity with the principle of self- determination, notwithstanding their political rivalry, as they departed for New York to the rousing cries of support from the people of Gibraltar.

At the United Nation, Hassan and Isola in 1963 and again in 1964, did their utmost to convince the member states’ delegates that "the land in which they lived was their birth place and the land of their forebears for no less than 250 years"; that therefore the people were entitled freely to make one of three choices as a form of decolonisation; Independence, Free Association and Integration; that they opted Free Association with Great Britain. That the "concept of self determination belonged to the people of Gibraltar as of right" and that "Gibraltar belongs to the people of Gibraltar and to no one else"; stressing that the Gibraltarians were a people not unlike that of the United States. Regrettably it all fell on deaf ears.

The Spanish Government, unlike the British Government, had spared no efforts to win over support, especially from countries that were unsympathetic towards Britain. They went into the attack to capture Gibraltar fully prepared as if they were undertaking a military operation. So the result was a consensus that denied the Gibraltarians the right to self-determination. It was not because of any convincing arguments put forward by Sr Jaime de Pinies. This Spanish representative based his case on a racial Treaty of almost 300 years ago that disallows the presence of Jews and Moors in Gibraltar. He backed his argument with callous threats, not unlike those still heard these days, that unless the Gibraltarians knuckled under Spain’s imposition, more severe restrictions would be applied henceforth. And they carried out the threats with impunity! At the meeting Sr Pinies also relished in calling the Gibraltarians British puppets of a prefabricated society.

In 1964, Spain won the round in the Committee of 24. They achieved a consensus that sided with paragraph 6 of Resolution 1514(XV),that calls for decolonisation by the reintegration of the territory as against paragraphs 2 and 5 that sanction self- determination as the mode of decolonising a people. The Resolution urged Spain and Britain to resolve their differences by Gibraltar’s sovereignty passing over to Spain and to report back to the General Assembly in 1966.

The British representative Mr Cecil King fought a brave rearguard action. He held on firmly to the then British position that the Treaty of Utrecht did not clash with the right to self-determination of the Gibraltarians as Spain contended. He declared that Britain was not prepared to discuss sovereignty with Spain. Subsequently, the then British Foreign Secretary, Mr Michael Stewart, very much a Foreign Office man, softened the stand, saying that Britain would not talk to Spain under duress. This was a significant change of attitude, and worse still, before his words had been blown by the wind he went back on his word and spoke under duress.

Thus the fight of the Gibraltarians has not ended by any means. The Brussels Agreement followed by the Air Port Agreement were two. great blows for Gibraltar. ..A prefabricated society would never have endured the pressures of being locked up in the 6 square kilometers of Gibraltar from 1969 to 1985, 14 years of a rigorous land blockade with the airport as a lifeline to the outside world. So the people were shocked when Lord Howe, then Foreign Secretary attempted to take away from them this safety lifeline by making a deal with the Spanish Government that handed them control of the Airport and gave them a foothold on the isthmus; the flat strip of land joining the Rock to the Spanish frontier that Spain claims does not fall under the Treaty of Utrecht. Notwithstanding Gibraltar has not lost the Airport, the agreement with Spain, although not ratified by the Gibraltar House of Assembly, has crippled the lucrative potential use of the airport through non cooperation from Spain.

Furthermore, the same Lord Howe agreed for Gibraltar to pay £210,000,000 in pensions to about 12,000 of the Spanish workers withdrawn from Gibraltar at 24 hours notice by General Franco in 1969, when he imposed the 14 years blockade to strangle Gibraltar economically. The workers had only contributed about £250,000 to the pensions funds. At the time the IWBP Government advised the British Government that their funds should be handed over to the Spanish Government to administer, or to the workers themselves to whom the money belonged. The British Government failed to take any notice.

The cost of this British Government omission, £210m is being born by the British tax payers but shamefully it counts as aid to Gibraltar. The £210m were supposed to have been paid by the people of Gibraltar who instead should be receiving compensation for the damage done by Franco’s 14 years blockade. It is thanks to the courage of the then Chief Minister, Joe Bossano and his Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP) Government, who valiantly confronted the British Government on this issue, that Gibraltar was spared the ruinous effect of finding the huge amount of £210m to pay pensions to workers whose total personal contributions were about £15 each, before they were withdrawn by Franco overnight, to strangle Gibraltar’s economy.

The pernicious Brussels Agreement and its derivative Airport and Spanish Pensions compounding Agreements were revolting to the people of Gibraltar and made them turn to the GSLP, led by Joe Bossano, that had vigorously and unequivocally opposed all these Agreements. They won the 1988 elections and the 1992 elections.

It became obvious that the people of Gibraltar had to depend much more on themselves and had to strive for decolonisation through self-determination. Joe Bossano as Chief Minister decided to petition directly the United Nations. Against the advice of the then Minister of State in the Foreign Office, Tristian Garrel Jones, he went to the United Nations in 1992 on the strength that he had a mandate of 73% of the electorate. He went every year thereafter until Mr Peter Caruana, the current Chief Minister followed in his footsteps after his party, the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD) won the 1996 election

In 1992, the sentiments that urged Joe Bossano to go to the United Nations to argue for the right to self-determination, inspired some people to from themselves into the Self Determination for Gibraltar Group (SDGG) headed by Dennis Matthews, a one time active member of the Integration With Britain Party (IWBP). Clearly the object was to drum up popular support for self-determination. With this in mind they held the first Gibraltar National Day at the Piazza in 1992 on the 10th September to commemorate the day the Referendum was held in 1967, and the day that by coincidence, the Gibraltar Legislative Council became representative and responsible for internal affairs in 1964.

The first Gibraltar Day was so successful that the avalanche of people that spontaneously turned up could not fit into the John Mackintosh Square. It became obvious that the Government had a responsibility to provide some help since the event fostered the right to self- determination that the Gibraltarians had been demanding in the United Nations since 1963. So the Government declared the 10th of September a public holiday and gave a grant to the SDGG for them to administer. The venue in 1993 and thereafter was Casemates Square until it was changed this year (1998) to even larger area the Naval football ground.

The active opposition of the Spanish Government to self- determination combined with the negative posture of the Foreign Office, strengthened the resolution of the vast majority of the Gibraltarians to press ahead for their decolonisation by the year 2000 in accordance with the high principles of the Charter and the target date set by the United Nations to eradicate colonialism.

This assertive mood is apparent in the language used by Joe Bossano at his appearance before the Fourth Committee on 9th October 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. The excerpts that of his contribution that follow illustrate the new dynamics of the times; the driving force that made possible reclamation of land on which to build over 3000 flats, great offices blocks, a supermarket, factory premises as well as moves to embellish Tourists Sites and the City; all at a time when the national income had been reduced by 50% through drastic defence cuts and the Spanish restrictions were severest; and simultaneously build up a reserve of about £70m in the Government funds; an astronomical amount if compared with that of previous years, that continues to help developments and provide confidence.

This energy vibrated in the then Chief Minister’s words when he went to the United Nations. He told the Committee …, "the issue you have to consider are our rights and aspirations - not outdated territorial disputes" … "In 1985 …the Consensus Resolution ….described the Brussels process as that foreseen in the Consensus Resolution approved by the General Assembly on 14th December 1973. We reject that Resolution 2352(XXII) as unworthy of the United Nations and a disgrace to this Committee".

"Strong words you may say, Mr Chairman. I have to tell you they are not mine…..I have quoted verbatim the reaction of the United Kingdom representative, Lord Caradon in this Committee, to the passing of that Resolution, in December 1967. Every subsequent Resolution that is capable of interpretation of this so called doctrine is also unworthy of the United Nations and a disgrace to this Committee."

"The General Assembly in operative paragraph 5… of Resolution 35/118…of Action Plan of 1980 and 1991… ‘Categorically rejects any agreement, arrangement or unilateral action by colonial and racists powers which ignores, violate, denies, or conflicts with the inalienable right of peoples under colonial domination to self-determination and independence’ ".

"..the Brussels Agreement referred to in the Consensus Resolution..(2353 XII) such an agreement" .. as it .. "ignores, violates, denies and conflicts with the inalienable rights of a colonial people, the Gibraltarians, to self determination".

"Operative paragraph 7"..(of Resolution 35/118) "requires the holding of a self-determination Referendum as soon as possible but not later than the 31 December 1999. …My Government is fully committed to the holding of such a Referendum as soon as possible on self determination, supervised and organised under the auspices of the U. N "

In July this year the current Chief Minister Mr Peter Caruana addressed the Special Committee of the United Nations. …You will note that basically he has repeated what previous Chief Ministers have reiterated

He said Gibraltar… "was ceded by Spain to Britain in perpetuity by the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 and several subsequent Treaties. It has been British ever since…. Over those 294 years a population has established itself in Gibraltar and developed into a unique people with their own characteristics and identity. They are the Gibraltarians of today. We enjoy a very large measure of self government. We govern our own affairs through our own Government except in respect of external affairs, security and defence. Before 1704 Gibraltar had been Spanish for 266 year… But before, it had been Moorish for 727 years…"

"How long does it take to acquire the rights given to colonial people by the Charter of the UN? Other ex colonial peoples have exercised the right after a much shorter tenure, for example, the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and all the Caribbean countries were once colonies like Gibraltar. Why should Gibraltar be any different"?

"Gibraltar has a thriving self sufficient economy….Our port operates one of the worlds most strategically located ship repair facilities and the biggest bunkering port in the Mediterranean We are rapidly expanding into new areas of manufacturing and telecommunications activity. Only last week I inaugurated in Gibraltar Europe’s most modern wine bottling plant".

"The fast dwindling British military presence in Gibraltar constitutes no more than about 6 percent of our economy"

"… some people might think that I have painted a self serving picture. But it is verifiable. I can do no better than repeat the invitation that I extended to you two year ago for the members of the Committee to visit Gibraltar and see and assess it for yourself".

There follows a legal observation that demolishes Spain‘s and Britain’s misuse of the Treaty of Utrecht; Spain to suit their objective to take possession of Gibraltar and Britain, to suit its appeasement policy. It is drawn from the International Court of Justice ruling that in 1975, followed the line of previous precedents. It reads, "The paramountcy of the principle of self-determination over bilateral agreements is unequivocably spelt out in Resolution 2734(XXV), paragraph 3, whereby the General Assembly solemnly affirms that in the event of a conflict between the obligations of the members of the United Nations under the Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement the obligations under the Charter shall prevail".

And so, unbelievably two civilised European Nations, Spain and Britain, at the threshold of the 21st Century deny decolonisation to the 30,000 British people of Gibraltar and Nationals of the European Union as well as to the democratic right to participate in the elections for the European Parliament.

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