The Voice of
5th November 2003
Now that the 'drama' of Monday's closure of the Frontier is over and no one left in any doubt as to Spanish motives, stock must be taken of what transpired up to the time of the despicable act and during the course of the day. What are the implications?
It must be assumed that British, Spanish, Gibraltarian and P&O Line officials were in some sort of contact since the ship left the Dalmatian Coast for the Rock. How much effort was expended to find a 'solution' during those days prior to its arrival here or, had each party already decided on its stance, be it for practical and/or political reasons?
It is patently clear and rightly so, that the Gibraltar Government would allow the vessel to dock and after inspection by the GHA's Chief Medical Officer, disembark the crew and passengers, bar those suspect to the 'virus'. By the time this in fact occurred, the Spaniards had locked up. What is rather surprising if not illogical, is that the Spanish Authorities allowed Dr. Kumar, the only person who had direct contact with the 'problem', to cross the border to meet officials in La Linea.
The British Government's role in the whole episode requires close scrutiny, notwithstanding Jack Straw's comments:
The Voice of Gibraltar Group finds itself with having to choose one of two conclusions:
Firstly; if the Spanish Government took a unilateral decision, the F&CO, not for the first time, lamentably failed the People of Gibraltar. So much for HMG's trust in their new - found friends and allies. When will they ever learn that despite or in spite of their 'best endeavours' the Spaniards will just not 'play cricket'. This is another opportunity for HMG to respect the wishes of the Gibraltarians by revoking Jack Straw's policy statement of 12July2002 and ditch the Brussels Process. Whilst there is an agreement in principle, signed or otherwise, the Spaniards will continue to feel they have a right to interfere in all aspects of life on the Rock.
Secondly and more ominous is the prospect that the F&CO colluded with the Spaniards as a timely reminder to the Gibraltarians of the consequences of their rejection of the proposed deal. HMG's main concerns must have always been for a British ship with British passengers and these were allayed upon arrival in Gibraltar. Jack Straw & Co. must re - evaluate their relationship with their Spanish counterparts to end the present farce which is only leading to a quagmire into which every one will be dragged with no benefit to either, Spain, UK or Gibraltar. In the meantime, only the Rock has to endure the knocks.
The People of Gibraltar must seriously consider the wider implications of the event and the consequences that can arise from it. Experience dictates that once the Spaniards are permitted to 'get away with murder' there is no turning back. HMG will continue to 'monitor' situations and subsequently 'negotiate', a policy of acquiescence and surrender. The 'pan mantecado por ambos lados' philosophy has to stop. Every one must be prepared for the worse and start thinking of tightening their belts when that time comes. That a large number of Spaniards will loose their jobs here and that Campo businesses will face hard times cannot be an excuse or compensation for what might have to be endured on the Rock. People are free to ignore realities but do so at their own risk. There must be a change in attitudes and work ethics if Gibraltar is to survive through difficult times. Most important of all the incoming Government must consider contingency plans for the worst scenario. A 'rainy day' kitty will be fundamental even if this means less hanging - baskets in Main Street.
Finally, The Voice of Gibraltar Group welcomes the support of the British Media in its coverage of the day. Special mention for the tongue-in-cheek tone of the reporting in the Press, which has been well understood and appreciated on the Rock. The Group's 'Monty Python' stunt at the Frontier on Tuesday was carried out in a similar spirit, although it must be stressed that the environmental threat from the Campo area is a real and present danger to both communities, rather than something created for political purposes.