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Together Gibraltar claims Govt forced into backbench ‘u-turn’

Johnny Bugeja

Together Gibraltar has claimed a “victory for democracy” as it insisted the Gibraltar Government had been forced into a u-turn on the process of parliamentary enlargement.

This comes as a demonstration planned by members of the public yesterday against the enlargement of Parliament was called off at the last minute.

The demonstration had been planned to coincide with Monday’s meeting of Parliament but was cancelled after the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, assured organisers that the motion on reform would not be dealt with during that session.

Organiser Julie Gonzalez said: “Our demonstration was planned to coincide with the passing of the Bill. Since this is no longer the case, we feel that our objective has been achieved.”

Nonetheless, the text of the motion agreed by both the Gibraltar Government and the GSD makes clear that changes are to be given effect before the next general election.

The Gibraltar Government made no comment on the matter yesterday and has yet to confirm publicly whether it intends to table the motion and associated legislation in parliament ahead of the forthcoming general election.

The proposal, which follows a recommendation by the Select Committee on Parliamentary Reform, would see the Gibraltar Parliament increased from its current slate of 17 MPs to 25.

The motion will be moved Mr Picardo, but will come before the House on a joint basis having been agreed by the GSD.

Additionally, the GSD has long supported proposals for parliamentary reform having first mooted the proposal in 2011 when the then GSD Government under Sir Peter Caruana brought a motion to parliament proposing the creation of a system of backbenchers in line with the constitution.

In a statement yesterday Together Gibraltar said: “This week the people of Gibraltar mobilised and expressed to both Government and opposition, in no uncertain terms, that they opposed the enlargement of Parliament that was going to be rushed through today without any consultation.”

“Together Gibraltar continued to stand strong in support of the position of our leader, Marlene Hassan Nahon, who expressed her dissent with this policy from the beginning of this most undemocratic saga.”

“While both Government and opposition have shown a worrying lack of awareness of the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, only the GSD opposition has continued to push for this policy to be approved by displaying, in many of its communications, a complete disdain for the democratic desires of this community.”

“We believe this is yet another example of how the barristocracy push their agendas forward, regardless of the feelings expressed by those they represent.”

“They know best, and we must all be deluded or simply too ignorant to understand what’s best for us,” the party said.

“We commend the government for having had the sense to backtrack, listen to the people of Gibraltar, and start working for a Parliamentary reform that the community can stand behind.”

The party conceded that there has been no statement from the Government expressing this “change of heart”.

“We would like to remind them that, were they to continue down the path of steamrolling this unpopular change, they should expect loud and firm opposition from Together Gibraltar.”

Together Gibraltar insisted that any future reform should not involve any extra costs to the public purse, not allow for parties to extend their power or be rushed through without adequate consultation.

“We believe we can achieve a better separation of powers via alternate means, with policies that encourage a truly non partisan voice to have a say in Parliamentary procedures.”

The party vowed to promote “innovative” ideas such as the deployment of direct democracy or the participation of independent and pro bono backbenchers.

“We are also convinced that if we give experts and the community at large a chance to participate in this debate, we will find new and exciting ideas to make our democracy more dynamic and effective, without having to go against the clearly expressed wishes of the people we represent.”