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War of words on anti-corruption Bill continues

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The war of words on draft law to create an anti-corruption authority continued Thursday, as the GSD dismissed accusations that its statements were alarmist and pressed the Gibraltar Government on its “weak” legislative proposal.

The party was responding after the Government said anyone with knowledge of corruption should report it to the Royal Gibraltar Police and that the GSD should not “sling mud” for political purposes and instead should “put up or shut up”.

The Government accused the GSD of misleading the public on this issue and urged the party to adopt a more constructive position and work with the Government to shape the draft legislation, rather than engage in “idle gossip and rumour and gutter politics of the worst sort”.

But the GSD hit back yesterday and said it was Chief Minister Fabian Picardo who had a poor track record on constructive politics.

“Mr Picardo doesn’t even recognise there is a problem,” it said of the festering row over the draft legislation.
“He thinks there’s nothing wrong. That’s why he cannot solve it.”

“Every time he opens his mouth on the issue he confirms he is part of the problem and that there will not be lasting change until there is a change of government.”

“If he is serious about clamping down on waste, abuse and corruption he will recognise that his proposed Bill is a weak half-measure.”

“If he does not then all he is doing is confirming that this is a deliberate decision so as not to tackle these issues in the robust and vigorous way they should be tackled.”

“The inadequacy of the proposed anti-corruption law or the fact that Mr Picardo has done nothing to fulfil his promise of 2011 is not answered by Mr Picardo repeating the fact that Mr Azopardi did not think an anti-corruption authority was necessary in 2011.”

The Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, had previously stated that in 2011, after 16 years of GSD government under Sir Peter Caruana, he had not believed an anti-corruption authority was necessary.

He said to establish one at that time “…would have sent the wrong signals given that there was no need to do so.”

“However now in 2022 after 11 years of Mr Picardo’s Government there is a crying need to do so, a public clamour for anti-corruption controls and everyone knows that.”

“Everyone also sees the rampant cronyism, contracts for friends of the government and the massive conflicts of interest. They also see the financial abuses. That is his legacy.”

“It is nothing to be proud of and he doesn’t defend himself by saying that after 16 years of Peter Caruana’s Government I was saying similar controls were not necessary.”

“It is to Sir Peter’s credit and a damning indictment of his own tenure that the opposite is true. The comparison totally undermines him.”

“We won’t be distracted by this nonsense. Our clear and unwavering focus is on winning the next election so that people can get the change they deserve not just on this issue but on other matters.”

The GSD said Mr Picardo only offered cooperation “when his back is against the wall” and to “bury an issue in the long grass”.

By way of example, the party said that during a Leader’s debate in John Mackintosh Hall Mr Picard had deflected an “awkward” question on the environment by saying the matter was important and above party politics and he would set up an environmental select committee.

That committee has not met once since the 2019 election, the GSD said.

The party cited too a working committee on special needs after criticism from the GSD’s Damon Bossino 18 months ago. Again, that committee “has not met once”.

It also referred to Mr Picardo’s position on parliamentary reform, which he favours.

But neither that committee or another one on constitutional reform had met in last five years.

The GSD said it had offered to help the Government with the Brexit talks.

“He has failed to involve the GSD in the negotiating delegation and here we are more than six years later with little to show for it except failure,” it added.

“Unlike him the GSD government led by Peter Caruana involved the opposition in the talks on our constitution.”

“When Gibraltar needed elected leaders to stand together at the height of the Covd crisis Mr Azopardi and the GSD responded to the Government’s call and worked with them at the worst moments of the crisis.”

“We believe in genuine co-operation in the public interest.”

“His offer on anti-corruption is in his own political interest to bury the issue.”

“We are not going to play his game.”

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