Thursday, 20th September 2012
Govt and Opposition flare up over ‘jobs for the boys’ accusations
by Brian Reyes
The Gibraltar Parliament returned from its summer recess yesterday into a full-blown row over allegations of nepotism and favouritism.
The clash descended into ugly exchanges across the floor during which Chief Minister Fabian Picardo accused Opposition leader Peter Caruana of abusing his position while at No.6 Convent Place.
He said Mr Caruana had favoured his supporters – “some of them his closest relatives” - and appointed many of them into “the best and cushiest jobs in Gibraltar” and allowed them to “feather their nests”.
Mr Caruana reacted furiously and accused Mr Picardo of pretending to be “the paradigm of democracy” while appointing GSLP supporters to public posts as reward for political loyalty.
The Opposition leader challenged the Chief Minister to name which relatives – he stressed the plural - he had supposedly nudged into public jobs while the GSD was in power.
The Chief Minister’s insinuation was “simply untrue”, Mr Caruana said, before adding: “If it weren’t that the rules of Parliament prevent me, I would say he [Mr Picardo] is a liar.”
For the best part of an hour, the two politicians jousted with increasing verbal vitriol.
Mr Picardo said it was innapropriate to identify the individuals he was referring to in his allegation against Mr Caruana.
But he came close by referring to the Opposition leader’s “brothers in law”, as well as his
friends and supporters.
“He doesn’t know how to get himself off the hook,” he said of Mr Caruana. “He’s got to stop wriggling.”
Mr Caruana countered: “How can it be wriggling to ask for particulars of serious insinuations?”
The face-off brought about an intervention from the Speaker, Haresh Budhrani, who said the Chief Minister had provided sufficient information within the context of the question and answer session.
“That is the response,” he said. “We may not like it, it may not be true.”
Mr Budhrani added that the proper circumstance for such a debate was through a motion, not during a question and answer session.
Mr Caruana, clearly disatisfied, questioned the ruling, which in turn led Mr Picardo to give notice that he would present a motion calling on the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw his challenge to the chair.
The fiery exchanges were sparked by an Opposition question over the recent appointment of two managers at the Gibraltar Bus Company.
The Opposition claimed they were “well known party activists” of the GSLP and that one, a former bus driver, had risen unsually rapidly to the senior management post.
GSD deputy leader Daniel Feetham also said one of the managers was active in a social media forum and well known for his “rabid and personalised” attacks on Opposition politicians.
Mr Caruana said that pretending the Chief Minister had not played a role in the appointment of GSLP supporters to public posts “...strains the patience of the electorate and strains his own credibility.”
“If that is what he is asking us to accept, then know that we do not accept any such fairy tale,” the Opposition leader added.
But Mr Picardo rejected any suggestion that the appointments had been influenced by political affiliation and said his government did not appoint people “...a dedo, as used to be the case.”
He said the appointments to the bus company had been made on the advice of an independent board, “...rather than parachuting pensioners or political appointees without proper notification of vacancy.”
He said that in making these crticisms, the GSD was impugning the recommendations of the independent boards.