The GSD announces that the following 8 candidates have been elected onto its Executive in the second round of voting held this week:
Sean Ballester, Youssef El Hana, Atrish Sanchez, Giovanni Origo, Nathan Conroy, Allan Sene, Robert Azopardi and Bernadette Gracia.
They will now join the 8 other members elected in the first round in January, MPs and other members on the Party Executive.
GSD Leader, Keith Azopardi said: “this has been a really competitive process with a record number of people coming forward to contest the remaining 8 elected slots. It was always going to be hard to choose just 8 candidates in such a strong field of people. I look forward to working with those elected onto the Executive and to the ongoing support of those who did not make it this time but who will have opportunities of participating in other ways within the GSD to contribute to our campaign for change. All of the candidates are valuable members of the GSD and it is a sign of the new energy and dynamism in the party that they and many others are willing to come forward and stand up and be counted. I am grateful to all those who participated in and the elections sub-committee that organised these internal elections.
This is an exciting time for the GSD in our presentation of a strong, alternative to the current Government. The people who have been elected come from diverse backgrounds and have different specific interests that they bring to the table. They represent all sectors of our community. They will add enormously to the important discussions we will have in coming weeks and months. Together with so many other people joining the GSD project they represent the wider desire for change in this community that we are all working hard to achieve at the next election.”
I get that the GSLP and its mouthpiece the New People are worried. After all they are seeing people flocking to the GSD, a massive regeneration of it and a desire to stand up and be counted against the politics of lies and spin. This is a real signal of the rejection felt in wider society with how the Government is running our affairs across so many fields from health to housing to how they handle your money.
People want change.
Last week in a sign of how worried they are the New People trash-talked a number of GSD executive candidates as their baptism of fire into politics. The fact that in some cases they “welcomed” them into politics having first undermined them was nothing more than a massive front for what they were really trying to do – put people down for just wanting to get involved – against them. Our 20 candidates are drawn from all sectors of society. Inevitably because of the pure mathematics only 8 of them will get elected to the Executive. That means that the majority of them will not even be in our Executive. And yet the GSLP’s New People tried its sour and desperate best at dismissing as many of them as it could. They are just ordinary citizens trying to make a difference. If anything, it strengthened the individual resolve of candidates and once again shone a bright light on why we need change.
I held back last week from commenting because I wanted the GSD to announce our internal electoral process in a proper way – as we have now done. But now I want to make some observations on this needless denigration of citizens who merely have the temerity of holding their hand up against the GSLP government and want to make a difference.
It is a cause for celebration when citizens desire to participate in politics – in any political party. We need people to come forward. It is a good thing for our community and it will guarantee sustainable change and governance – so that there are new generations to take over and continue to build and secure the Gibraltar we love.
For people to want to come forward also requires courage because of the unfortunate climate in this small place of ours where people are often afraid of taking public positions against a Government that in the past has used all its resources to squash ordinary citizens.
That isn’t an equal fight.
There is nothing wrong or new about people being drawn into politics having first participated in sectoral groups. That doesn’t mean the GSD control those groups although clearly it does show the Party’s diversity of appeal. To criticize some of our candidates on that basis ignores, of course, that some of the GSLP/Lib Ministers themselves made the jump into politics from lobby groups, unions or associations. I don’t criticize that. That someone who wants to make a change first starts lobbying for it and then tries to effect it more directly is not a surprise.
The latest spin and distortion of the New People and Mr Picardo is the attempt to create a false impression of Marlene Hassan Nahon as an arms dealer. That plainly fictional spin is done once again just to trash an opponent in the hope that some people believe it. Robust political criticism of politicians is fair game of course but we have to pause to question where the dividing lines between fair criticism and plain distortion are.
I have in another article expressed concern about the crisis of truth in this community because of the style of spin and half-truths of the Government. The New People has become an indistinguishable part of the armoury of that campaign. The reality of the New People’s style is that it is a mere echo of political lines first drawn by Mr Picardo. So no wonder that many people can fall to believe that some of the sentences in the newspaper are simple regurgitations of Mr Picardo. When people are systematically fed fake news two things will happen. First the truth is lost and second people lose faith in politicians because they no longer really know where the truth lies. This is a dangerous game for the GSLP’s New People to play.
Ultimately a style of denigration and personal character assassination that breeds lies or intolerance that borders on soft intimidation or just plain trash talks about candidates speaks volumes of the New People and magnifies why we need a new style of government.
Welcome as it was for the Chief Minister and the GSLP Chairman to both say on Thursday (on an unrelated issue) that they respect the GSD’s internal processes when it comes to the New People the problem is that Mr Picardo’s historic presentation of deep blue water between the GSLP and the New People doesn’t work. No one believes it. This is just another of those endless twists or spins that we are served up with by a straight-faced Mr Picardo.
The New People is the GSLP’s party organ. There is no doubt about that. To the point that the Chief Minister [as GSLP Leader] is the beneficial owner of the shares of the company owning the New People. The paper represents and supports the GSLP line in everything. But it goes further in an insidious and undemocratic way with the personalization, constant name-calling and singling out of citizens whether true or untrue. A lot of the time plainly untrue. That goes well beyond freedom of speech. It has become no more than an antiquated caricature sheet of days of old. That may have been how politics was conducted in a bygone era but if we are to aspire to progress, to do things differently and to genuinely stand for a new style of government then those old ways need to be ditched too. I am the first to recognise that the GSD and other political parties may have also fallen into the trap of aspiring to have a political paper before. But politics need to be done differently and as long as I am GSD Leader we will not have a political newspaper to systematically do the political dirty work on citizens. I am committed to a new style of Government.
Mr Picardo can’t say he values certain citizens or lobby groups and then through the New People unleash a full-on assault on the same citizens with whom he will subsequently pose for photographs for his endless political propaganda machine. It is a contradiction that will explode in his face come the next election
The GSD will be hosting a ‘Meet the Candidates’ coffee morning this Saturday 12 March from 11am to 1pm at GSD HQ, 1A College Lane. This will give Executive election candidates an opportunity to meet Party Members ahead of the commencement of voting on Monday 14 March.
Membership Secretary Tarik El-Yabani said: “This social event will give members the chance to meet candidates to help them make their choices when they vote next week. That way members can get to know some candidates better and talk to them about issues. The event will also be attended by the other members of the Executive Committee as well as the party’s MPs.
“It will be fantastic to re-connect and catch up with members over a cup of coffee. I encourage all party members to attend to meet their representatives, bring issues of concern to their attention and to meet our candidates.”
The GSD Executive has now approved the voting process for the second round of elections to the Executive.
As the Party has announced there are 20 candidates for the 8 remaining elected places on the 30 plus strong Executive. Other elected places were filled in the first elected round in January. There have been more than 30 candidates come forward for the elected places. This is a clear sign of the momentum and regeneration of the GSD.
Party Members are being written to with the candidate details and an invitation to cast their vote at Party HQ in College Lane from Monday 14 March to Wednesday 16 March during the hours of 10am-7pm and on Thursday 17 March from 10am to 12 noon. The count will commence as soon as the poll closes at noon on Thursday 17 March with the result announced once the count process has concluded that day.
Any member who due to medical or other exceptional circumstances is unable to attend HQ or will be away from Gibraltar during the voting period can contact the Party office by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or on +350 54075220 and alternative arrangements can be put in place so that they can vote. Electronic voting arrangements will be available for those away from Gibraltar and to university students on request.
The 20 candidates for the second round are: William Anidjar-Serfaty, Robert Azopardi, Sean Ballester, Victoria Bula, Liam Byrne, Joseph Capurro, James Caruana, Julian Celecia, Dean Chipolina, Nathan Conroy, Dion Darham, Abigail Davies, Richard De La Rosa, Youseff El Hana, Bernadette Gracia, Giovanni Origo, Steven Robles, Atrish Sanchez, Allan Sene and Albert Tellez.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “This is a great and competitive field of candidates. It is made up of people of all ages and drawn from diverse areas of work or backgrounds and with a strong emphasis of younger candidates coming forward. This is a real mark of the injection of new energy and dynamism in the GSD. It is also a sign of people coming forward to form part of our movement for change and the growing desire there is in Gibraltar that this Government must now be replaced for the good of all our citizens. 11 years after the GSLP under Mr Picardo were elected it’s time for change again and the people coming into the GSD is a sign of that tide of change. Choosing just 8 candidates in such a strong field will be hard. I encourage all our members to come out and vote as the Executive in place after this round will be the one that will take important decisions in the run up to the next general elections. As such your choice will shape what we do and how we do it.”
Party members will also have an opportunity to meet the candidates at a Meet the Candidates coffee morning drop by at Party HQ in College Lane this Saturday 12 March between 11am and 1pm. All members are very welcome.
Gender and equality barriers need to be broken down and all members of society can contribute towards that. Those in government or positions of influence can also drive those changes. In marking International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of “Gender Equality for a Sustainable Tomorrow” the GSD calls for greater efforts to break down barriers to women’s participation in important fields.
Joelle Ladislaus of the GSD Executive said: “With the world in the grip of a climate emergency it has become more important than ever to break the gender bias that is still very much a reality in this day and age. For a long time, women have led the charge towards a more sustainable future. However, because women still have unequal decision-making powers and low representation in society’s leadership roles, women are not always given the platform we deserve to implement the necessary changes. It becomes a grave hindrance and a disservice to the development of society when many women face difficulties of gender inequality.
Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes often have the effect of discouraging women from fields, such as the sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics, where they could make a significant impact in the fight for scientific, organizational, and cultural sustainability.
Yet, even against that backdrop, there are women and girls who continue to break that gender bias that is so ingrained in many societies. The past years have seen some of the highest profile climate campaigners breaking onto the international scene, and most of those have been women and girls. Who could ever forget Greta Thunberg’s challenges to world leaders to take immediate action to combat the effect of climate change. Her activism begun at home where she persuaded her parents to make lifestyle choices to reduce their family’s carbon footprint, but her tenacity and her ability to build bridges across the eco gender gap has meant that her message and her relentless drive are impacting globally. Locally, the GibSchool Strike for Climate Change in 2019 was organized by 13-year-old female activist, Iona Sacarello, who demonstrated initiative and leadership in representing her peers in calling the Government to action.
Women and girls are standing up to be counted and the message is clear, the biggest global impact on the sustainability agenda will be had once we can achieve the aims of breaking the gender bias, and that begins at home. It is driven by equal opportunities in education and employment; with shifts in daily attitudes as to the role that women are expected to play within society. To engender a little girl with the belief that she is equal to her male counterparts, and to provide her with the same opportunities and platform to achieve is the key to break the bias.”
The Government press release denying a relationship with Putin’s regime, raising issues about “arms deals” by the Together Gibraltar leader and asking Opposition MPs to clarify if they have any relationships with Putin and his cronies is as bizarre in its tone as it is wild.
GSD MPs are entirely aware of their legal and professional obligations and will abide by the same. GSD MPs do not have relationships with Putin’s regime or sanctioned individuals. Instead of raising such questions and needlessly pointing fingers at the GSD Opposition, Mr Picardo should concentrate on the many domestic issues that require attention in Gibraltar.
The GSD are shocked and deeply concerned by the news being received that Gibraltar Ambulances and Paramedics carrying members of our community for scheduled appointments or for emergency medical intervention in Spain, are being denied access or experiencing significant difficulties with border controls at the land frontier crossing.
Shadow Health Minister Elliott Phillips MP said:
“Either it is an example of poor planning at best or sheer incompetence at worst that the Government has not been able to make provision for sick and vulnerable people requiring medical treatment in Spain. Brexit has challenged us all, but it cannot be right that the transit of our patients for medical services and treatment has been prevented or delayed by red tape at the border. We ask why the Government has not foreseen this or put in place contingencies in place to minimise the impact on patients.
We call on the Government to issue an immediate statement reassuring the public that no patient transiting across the border by ambulance for medical treatment in Spain will be refused entry or experience delay. The Government must do all it can to take the matter up with its Spanish counterparts immediately to resolve the problem”
Action for Housing’s revelation that the Ombudsman was not pursuing the investigation regarding the housing allocation case raised by the group 6 months ago is surprising and concerning. The Ombudsman’s reaction today only raises further questions and wholly fails to clarify the matter.
The public will be reminded that the GSD raised its own concerns in relation to the alleged allocation of public housing to someone who was not eligible – the issue having first been put in the public domain by Action for Housing. The NGO’s seeking of clarification was met by an aggressive response by the Chief Minister representing nothing other than a wall of silence.
In his reaction today the Ombudsman says that the matter was ‘fully investigated’, without stating how and without addressing the group’s allegation that he said he did not investigate because he believed in the credibility of the government official concerned. He then seems to cite further and different grounds for the apparent non- investigation as being that his Office did not investigate complaints made by political organisations. It is not clear why the Ombudsman considers Action for Housing to be a political organisation but if that is the case why did he reach a determination (in this case not to investigate after he presumably approached the official) on a complaint brought by a body he considered had no standing to do so?
The Ombudsman’s reply leaves many questions unanswered on what is a matter of public and political importance.
In the end, despite the NGO’s raising of an issue of public concern, they and the public are left with no answers. Legitimate issues of process – such as why someone who is allegedly not eligible to be placed on the housing list is so placed and then rapidly allocated a government property – are left unanswered.
It has to be emphasised that this is not about the individuals concerned. This is about legitimate questions being raised about a government’s behaviour on a matter as important as the fair allocation of much sought after social housing, in respect of which the shroud of secrecy continues to stubbornly prevail.
The GSD has asked Action for Housing for a copy of the Ombudsman’s reply.
The GSD has received reports from people being denied services in other countries based on non-recognition of Covid Certificates and the GHA Covid App. The GSD call on the Government to set out precisely how it is remedying the defects on the process to ensure our people can benefit from recognition of our documents within the EU and beyond the continent.
Shadow Minister for Health Elliott Phillips MP said:
“With the lifting or easing of restrictions across many countries, travelling remains a challenge for people. The Government’s duty is to ensure that the GHA Covid Certificates and the GHA Covid App are recognised the world over to avoid the issues associated with travelling during Covid. We would ask the Government to set out why our citizens are experiencing problems with documents and apps not being recognised and confirm what steps they are taking to remedy the issue without delay”
The GSD has been receiving regular complaints from parents in relation to the very limited availability of routine check-ups for children. It is well understood that COVID-19 would have impacted on the delivery of this vital service given the redeployment of medical teams during the height of the health crisis. We are now living side by side with the virus, and we must ensure that the dental service provided to children returns without further delay.
Shadow Minister for Health Elliott Phillips MP said:
“It is unacceptable for children not to have seen a dentist for a period fast approaching 3 years. We are receiving complaints regarding a complete breakdown in the information being provided with some reports being received that parents are being advised that it could take up to 3 years for their child to be seen by a dentist. If these reports are accurate this is a damming indictment of the Government’s handling of its restoration policy.
Mr Phillips continued:
“The Government must pull their heads out of the sand, stop blaming others for their failings and get our health service back on track, particularly in areas and specialisms which are capable of being restored in quick order. Our people expect nothing less than a close as to normal restoration of services and excuses by the Government simply will not wash anymore.”
It’s time to review COVID rules that were designed in 2020, in a totally different world environment & before the vaccine. 2yrs on we now need to move on & normalise our daily lives as much as possible. That makes sense socially, economically & for mental well-being
Finally #McGrail #Inquiry convened. In July 2020 Chief Minister promised it within “weeks.” Delay has only made people think there’s something to hide. It’s vital to get to the unadulterated #truth & ensure independence of our democratic institutions wasn’t threatened