ERG supports Clinton on Consultative Council position
The Equality Rights Group has backed the decision of GSD Leader Roy Clinton in refusing to attend the inaugural meeting of the Gibraltar Consultative Council.
In a statement ERG Chairman Felix Alvarez expressed agreement with Mr Clinton on the question of the Consultative Council, a new body proposed by the Gibraltar Government in 2015 and approved by Parliament in October of the following year.
This follows the Council’s first meeting yesterday and Mr Clinton’s explanation that the GSD’s non-cooperation with the Council arises from the fact that its rules bind participants to silence.
Mr Alvarez said: “Consultation can never be a bad thing. It's always welcome and the Chief Minister does well to seek it.”
“But setting up a limited, tight group of ‘upper echelon’ dominant faces and voices is not the way forward for our young Democracy to be consulted on important issues.”
“Furthermore, awarding them life-long representation on the Council when many no longer have a mandate to speak for Gibraltar risks the Council being seen as unrepresentative and skewed.”
Mr Alvarez further claimed that it is ironic that at a time when the UK is debating the abolition of the House of Lords, Gibraltar seems to be imitating it.
He said a majority of ordinary people from across the community should be sitting next to the Chief Minister on the Council, “not on some kind of second thought ‘ad hoc’ basis as presently holds, but as equally valid and valuable members.”
“We trust that one of the Chief Minister’s first consultations will focus on reconsidering the body’s composition and rules,” he said.
According to Mr Alvarez, Mr Clinton is justified in his and his Party’s position when he points to the terms of reference for participation on the Consultative Council potentially leading to the fettering of the Opposition’s ability to fully exercise their role in scrutinising Government.
“This is a fatal flaw for any aspiring, free Society. Again, it would be in Gibraltar’s best interests if the Chief Minister were to amend the Council’s rules in this respect so as not to impede the vital role that parliamentarians must play,” he said.
“We must do all we can as a Society to avoid what ex GSD Leader Daniel Feetham aptly identified and called ‘a ring of steel’ becoming a fixed reality in Gibraltar,” he claimed.
The ERG said its assessment goes further than the GSD’s current objections.
“Because the surprise is that the very fabric of the Consultative Council, as it presently stands, is elitist, undemocratic and departs by some distance from the ruling parties’ accepted notions of socialist or liberal thinking.”
“We understand that it's the Executive's political prerogative to choose their approaches, yet this cannot escape the fact that the Council is set up to be as exclusive as a bow-tied Private Members Club.”
“It would greatly enhance Government’s democratic credentials to go back to the drawing board and re-modeling the body's structural rules and framework so as to avoid ensconcing privileged divides in our community,’ the statement read.