Mr. Picardo’s Political Broadcast: Falsehoods, Distractions, and McGrail Inquiry Scrutiny

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There were aspects of Mr Picardo’s party political broadcast yesterday that smacked of cloud-cuckoo land and other aspects that were simply repeated falsehoods.
As his own fitness to ringfence conflicts and govern is under scrutiny in the McGrail Inquiry all Mr Picardo can do is do what he normally does – namely distract from his own failings. People will make a judgement in due course on his legacy
His insistence that there is nothing in the evidence before the McGrail Inquiry suggestive of concern is in stark contrast to the content of several opening submissions so far which clearly point to a highly inappropriate course of conduct by him to say the least. The GSD will not prejudge those issues. They are matters for the Chairman of the Inquiry. What Mr Picardo cannot however expect is to simply have his version accepted blindly until such time as the Inquiry has reached its findings. People will have heard for themselves and considered what has been said so far. Ultimately those matters will be decided by the Chairman.
In Mr Picardo’s rush to personalise an attack on Mr Azopardi as a distraction from the hole in which Mr Picardo finds himself he has repeated the falsehood that the GSD sought an appointment to invite direct rule. Mr Picardo knows this is a lie. For him to repeat this is scandalous. Mr Azopardi has published an extract of his communication to the Governor that says the precise opposite and made clear that the GSD were not seeking an assent conversation or inviting direct rule.
The GSD were always conscious of the constitutional boundaries. This may however not be the case with Mr Picardo’s somewhat incestous dealings at the heart of the McGrail Inquiry. Time will tell on that issue. That is a matter for the Inquiry.

The broadcast was simply a tired attempt to launch another attack on Mr Azopardi and portray himself as the only guardian of people’s interests. This portrayal is so thin and fragile in the face of the criticism he is facing in the McGrail Inquiry that it is hardly worth responding to. People see through his pathetic attempts. As his own fitness to occupy high office comes under scrutiny all he can do is try to distract from that. But that won’t succeed as the evidence unfolds in technicolour over the next few weeks.”

𝗚𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲-𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗜𝗻𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴

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𝗚𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲-𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗜𝗻𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴

The Government’s latest irrational and angry statement is built on falsehoods and is nothing other than a bare-faced attempt at turning the tables from itself, on to the Opposition and away from the Inquiry hearing that hasstarted today. This is nothing other than raw party politics which is laying out in the open a stricken government which is now in full panic mode.

People know this and the Government is all too aware of its failure and this is why it has sought to start on a
personal smear campaign against the Leader of the Opposition.

To be clear. What is at stake here has absolutely nothing to do with the Leader of the Opposition and everything to do with Mr Picardo and the Government he leads, both of whom are facing very serious allegations. The Chief Minister’s and not the Leader of the Opposition’s reputation is under scrutiny. No amount of personal attacks will pull the wool over people’s eyes.

In reality Mr Picardo does not welcome this Inquiry. If he did he would not have convened it 18 months after he promised it and so late that it was impossible to be held before the last election.

His repetition that the GSD sought to invoke direct rule is false and Mr Picardo knows it but that does not stop him from repeating the assertion, in the hope, no doubt, that repetition will make it true.

The Inquiry needs to be allowed to do its job and not be side-tracked by party-politically motivated statements which many are cynically viewing as an attempt at deflecting attention from the statements which are being made at the hearing.

GSD Still in Dark & Won’t be Gagged

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The ramped-up Government spin machinery since Friday with almost carbon copy messaging from Ministers on social media displays a nervousness as to the very late Restriction Notice issued on the last working day before the Inquiry begins

The eleventh-hour attempt to offer a private briefing on “reasons” to the Opposition which has not been accepted by the GSD also smacks of an insincere afterthought by the GSLP/Libs

In any event and despite the Government offering to show the Restriction Notice to the Opposition confidentially this has not been provided in its entirety rendering the document meaningless.

On Friday the Government issued a Restriction Notice in relation to the McGrail inquiry. The effect of that notice is to exclude certain evidence from the public and from being published. The Chief Minister offered to brief the Opposition confidentially as to the “reasons”. The Leader of the Opposition has not agreed to be briefed confidentially as to the “reasons” but agreed to receive a copy of the Restriction Notice confidentially pending the decision of the Chairman of the Inquiry, Sir Peter Openshaw as to its publication so as to understand precisely what this Notice was about and its specific scope.

On Friday the GSD in its own communication made that distinction clear because after all this is in relation to a public inquiry and as a matter of principle the GSD does not wish to be gagged by having eleventh-hour private briefings as to “reasons” on this issue. The offer to do so on the last working day before the inquiry begins when the Government has had ample time to do so is a clear afterthought deployed for tactical reasons only.

On Friday the Chief Minister sent the Leader of the Opposition part of the Restriction Notice but not its schedule. It is the schedule to it which sets out the particular evidence that is subject to the Restriction Notice. The Leader of the Opposition made clear to the Chief Minister that without the schedule the rest of the Notice is “meaningless.”

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “the Schedule sets out the relevant evidence which the Government is subjecting to the Restriction Notice. Not showing us the Schedule which is an integral part of the Notice renders the rest of it absolutely meaningless. It is like receiving a law that explains that things in a schedule are rendered confidential and not to be published but not showing you what those things are. That has, in effect, rendered the offer to show us the Restriction Notice on Privy Council terms absolutely meaningless. We make clear therefore that we remain in the dark as to its scope.

The Opposition on Friday explained that we have not accepted a confidential briefing as to “reasons”. We only accepted to receive the Notice confidentially on a temporary basis until the Chairman had an opportunity to comment or decide on what is published and to see what this was about. This is after all a public inquiry and we do not wish to go along with actions that render material excluded when the Government are issuing its own jaundiced perspective on the process and it and Mr Picardo are core participants in the Inquiry.

As we explained on Friday we have serious misgivings that this is all about sidestepping the Chairman’s previous rulings on evidence. The Chairman has already rejected the Government’s public interest submissions when they sought to withhold evidence some months ago. If that is what is happening then it is a transparent manoeuvre

In effect it is now obvious that while the Government said they would show us the Notice on Friday they have only provided us that part of the Notice which does not show us precisely what they are restricting. That is as good as providing nothing to us.”

Since then the Government have gone into social media overdrive. It is very clear what the Government is doing. They are now embarked upon an exercise of trying to undo the damage they have caused to themselves politically and to Gibraltar’s wider reputation.

Gibraltar should not be fooled at the window-dressing that is going on here. The GSLP spin machine is in overdrive; offering late in the day confidential briefings to the Leader of the Opposition; and bizarrely seeking to turn the tables on the Opposition as the party responsible for damaging Gibraltar’s international reputation. Something which is demonstrably the reverse given that the effect on Gibraltar’s international reputation lies at the Government’s door.

All of this begs the question: why did the offer of consultation not materialise before the Bill was inelegantly rushed through Parliament? The atmosphere of trust should and could have been created by the Government in advance of acting the way it did. What trust and confidence can the GSD and indeed the wider population, have at this 11th hour approach?

GSD Statement on Inquiry Restriction Notice

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“We note the statement issued by the Government confirming that they have issued a Restriction Notice under their newly acquired powers under the Inquiries Act 2024. We have serious concerns that this is no more than an attempt to side-step the Chairman of the Inquiry who has already ruled against the Government when it made submissions on public interest grounds to seek to exclude certain evidence. If this is a second bite at that particular cherry then all that has happened is that the Government have converted themselves into the Court of Appeal from the Chairman.

We further note that the Government has offered to show the Notice to the Opposition on Privy Council terms only. This means that the Opposition would be unable to comment publicly on the terms of the Notice for the moment. Despite that the Government appears to feel free in their own press release to tell the public what the Notice allegedly is and isn’t about. It is, however, impossible for the Opposition to say one way or the other what all this is about as we have not seen the Notice and neither is it able to publicly comment on the real reasons behind the decision.

The Government really cannot have it both ways – to seek to gag Opposition comment but then proceed to comment itself in a one-sided way. However, in deference to the Inquiry Chairman who has not yet expressed a view on this the Leader of the Opposition is confirming to the Chief Minister that he is prepared to receive the Notice on Privy Council terms at this stage to see its context and until the Chairman decides whether it should be made public. This is out of respect to the Inquiry Chairman as the Opposition have always proceeded on the basis that the Chairman should be allowed to carry out his job in the way he considers appropriate. If the Chairman makes the Notice public the Opposition may comment further or indeed comment on the details as disclosed by the Government. At this stage the Opposition will not accept any further private briefing in relation to purported reasons.

Finally we are dismayed at the nonsense being spouted by the Government and Mr Feetham in particular, about the Opposition having damaged Gibraltar’s reputation. This is palpably false. The damage to Gibraltar’s reputation has been caused by Mr Picardo and his Government. There is now a litany of examples in this saga that show this.”

Picardo Lies & Smokescreens

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Picardo Lies & Smokescreens


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In his utter desperation to distract from the real issues Mr Picardo is now resorting to pure invention and misinformation. It is simply not true to say that the GSD has sought “direct rule” in any shape or form after the passage of the Inquiries Bill.

The remedy for this assault on good governance and the mounting examples of democratic deficits or examples of waste, abuse or corruption is for people to speak clearly through the ballot box and decisively unseat this GSLP/Lib administration.

The letter we hand-delivered to the Governor at our meeting with him has been published and sets out the position of the GSD. There is not a single paragraph in our letter that raises the issue of direct rule or seeks it. People will be able to see the nonsense that Mr Picardo is spouting. What we do in that letter is what the Leader of the Opposition said we would do – share our candid views on the new law with the Governor as a matter of formal record.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said:

“This is just a desperate Chief Minister who doesn’t know what to do to distract from the festering conflicts of interest he is immersed in and his own inability to ringfence his personal conflicts or wade in to act in his self-interest. He doesn’t know how to get out of all this or how to distract people from the real issues.

These are that this new law was proposed by his defence team in the Inquiry. It has been introduced in an ugly power grab so he can use new powers in the very Inquiry investigating his conduct and so that he can side-step the judge in the Inquiry. He has been unable to ringfence those deep personal conflicts of interest just like he was unable to do so when he personally signed 14 Letters of Assurance for Police Officers who signed witness statements against Mr McGrail. He is deeply personally conflicted. So is the Government that is also a core participant. How the Government have behaved in rushing this Bill though Parliament is nothing short of a scandal. They will compound things if they take steps in the Inquiry using the new powers they have given themselves.

One wonders whether that will happen very soon and that’s why they need a distraction now. Is it an accident that the Act was commenced today?

I was very careful when engaging with the Governor that we kept within constitutional boundaries. As such there was nothing wrong with sharing candid views with the Governor on the Bill. Surely Mr Picardo is not saying that it is alright for him to consult the Governor on the Inquiries Bill but it is not acceptable for the Opposition to convey our own views on that Bill to him? Mr Picardo’s contradictions implode into themselves.

As someone who has fought for the notion of self-determination and self-government for 30 years I am very careful in navigating these boundaries and would not take a step that I would deem colonial. Mr Picardo knows all this and that’s why this is not just a smokescreen but a deliberate lie.

I do think this Act is a constitutional outrage and an assault on good governance. But this needs to be resolved democratically by the people kicking out this Government.

Mr Picardo’s assertions are not only false they can be demonstrated to be false. On Monday night ahead of the meeting originally scheduled for Tuesday 10am I had a series of communications with the Governor. In one of those I said:

“As my request made clear what we ask is to formally record our views to you on this important matter. I have not suggested in any communication that I am going to seek to persuade you on whether to assent to this Bill or not. I am very conscious of the boundaries here and I have no intention of crossing lines that I view should not be crossed. That judgment is a matter for you within the constitutional provisions and I intend to make no submissions or requests in that regard.”

We have, however, said that we think the Office of the Governor is conflicted because that is how we see the deep festering swamp of conflicts that affect this Bill. Our role is to call it how we see it and not worry whether the Governor is offended by that. That however is a mile removed from the pure invention by Mr Picardo that we are seeking direct rule which we have not sought and do not seek.”

Stunning Admissions by Picardo

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Stunning Admissions by Picardo
The admission by the Chief Minister that he may use the new powers in the Inquiries Bill to restrict information being received by the public or to ensure that hearings are held in private is a stunning development. It will affect public confidence in this process and is the mark of a person who is running scared at the prospect of allowing the public to
hear the evidence. What other powers would he use? And when?
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said:
“This all demonstrates that this is not about modernisation but rather about a power-grab so he can use these new powers for politically self-serving purposes in an Inquiry which is hearing allegations about his own conduct. This is nothing short of a scandal. For Mr Picardo to ask people to believe he would be using those powers in the public interest is a step too far for most people.
What is Mr Picardo afraid of? People will be left with thinking that there is evidence that must be politically cataclysmic for him if he is prepared to pull off stunts like this and pass laws in his own interest days before the McGrail Inquiry will start.
He is clearly trying to sidestep the Chairman who has already decided a number of those things or whose judgment he does not wish to defer to. With every new revelation and every day that passes Mr Picardo is simply digging a bigger hole for himself in public eyes.

Abandon Inquiries Bill Now

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Abandon Inquiries Bill Now

The Government should abandon any attempt to pass the Inquiries Bill through Parliament before the McGrail Inquiry concludes its work.

Even though the Government had been expected to take the Inquiries Bill last Friday it did not do so and adjourned Parliament to this coming Friday 22 March 2024.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said:

“We are still in time. Seeking to force this Bill through Parliament now and apply it to the McGrail inquiry should be abandoned. The Chief Minister, Government and Office of the Governor are all deeply conflicted here. There should be no step taken that looks as if any of those deeply conflicted parties are seeking to affect the Inquiry process.

We call on the Chief Minister to confirm that he will not take this Bill before the conclusion of the McGrail Inquiry. The Government should accept that the attempt to extend this Bill to the McGrail Inquiry was a massive mistake and error of judgment which it has time to walk away from now.”

Inquiries Bill Timing Really Strange

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Inquiries Bill Timing Really Strange
The timing of the publication of the Inquiries Bill and the stated intention of the Government to rush it through Parliament this week raises serious issues. Is it an attempt to weaponise Mr Picardo ahead of the Inquiry that will investigate his actions?
The Government has made clear it will apply these new provisions to the McGrail Inquiry and stunningly the Bill contains powers to suspend the Inquiry or restrict the disclosure of material which can be exercised by Mr Picardo.
The obvious question everyone is asking is why is this Bill being rushed through now? How will it be deployed by Mr Picardo in defending himself in the Inquiry?
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said
“There are fundamental issues at stake here. Nothing should be done or be seen to be done that would in any way affect the McGrail Inquiry. This was started under existing legislation and it is clear that this new proposed legislation is not at the request of its Chairman as he has not been consulted on it. The Chief Minister is fundamentally conflicted in all this and so is the Office of the Governor that was, through the former Acting Governor Nick Pyle, involved in the
original discussions with Mr Picardo that led to Mr McGrail’s departure. Steps should not be taken to pass or commence this law now.
Justice and democracy require that institutionally the Government do nothing that actually, potentially or by perception looks as if it is an interference with the work of the McGrail Inquiry or that could give it a tactical or strategic advantage in the forthcoming hearing.
Unfortunately, this simply looks like a brazen attempt to give the Chief Minister further powers that he can use to his own self-interest in the very Inquiry that will investigate his conduct.”