Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Constitution still 'gravely deficient'

Over two years ago GGR made a public statement to the effect that the proposed new Constitution was ‘gravely deficient’. We stood outside Convent Place in a banner demonstration to affirm that the negotiation for a new Constitution was not and could not be seen as a mere “sovereignty patch”. At the time few if any groups seemed to understand the meaning of that message, though we have been pleased to find over that time and through a series of GGR press releases, that the core message has been picked up and echoed around the community, with the welcome coming together of a No Campaign organizing committee.

Various issues have not been equally well echoed, however. A No vote on the new Constitution is not merely to say no for the sake of it. It is not, as the Chief Minister would have us believe, some retrograde ‘wet blanket’ approach: it is a positive step for insisting that self-determination, like Sovereignty, is not just about politics and politicians, but about people as people above all. It just is not possible for Mr Caruana or anyone else to argue that self-determination is primarily about Gibraltar’s relations with the UK and consequently with Spain. If self-determination is not about every Gibraltarian’s right to determine their own lives in a free, equal and democratic manner and if that is not truly and expressly reflected in any new Constitution, then what the new Constitution protects is the political establishment, with all its new extensions of power to local Government, whilst doing almost nothing for ordinary people in Gibraltar. Constitutions are basic road maps for building society, not a mere patch for Sovereignty.

The Chief Minister’s claims that the new Constitution brings Gibraltar ‘bang up to date’ with the human rights provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights just does not wash. Whilst this would indeed have been the case had the Convention been made directly effective through what is known as ‘incorporation’ into the Constitution, all the Chief Minister is proposing is that the Convention – contrary to what happens practically everywhere else in Europe – is merely ‘taken account of’. This, in legal and political speak means “well maybe”. The Chief Justice himself has lamented that this should be the case, a point GGR has made since the year 2004.

Nothing, and we repeat, nothing the Chief Minister or the Yes campaign has said has changed the deficiencies in the proposed new Constitution. Human rights – whether for the disabled, sexual minorities, the elderly, people of different race and so on – will remain in exactly the same poor state under the new Constitution as it is under the present one. Anyone considering voting Yes should remember their fathers, mothers, friends and themselves when honestly deciding whether allowing a defective and insufficient Constitution to go through is indeed in their interests – or maybe whether, instead, it is merely a charter for the political machinery. Saying Yes is saying yes to that. Saying No keeps the negotiation alive not only between Gibraltar as an emerging State but also between the people and our own representatives, the majority of whom are so proactive at leading headlong at full speed to increase their own influence and power and who, once in Government, are so quick to ditch the promises and accountability to the ordinary man and woman in the street. A Constitution on the right terms would help protect against that happening – but that is precisely what Mr Caruana does not propose to deliver!

It is for these reasons that Equality Rights Group GGR asks Gibraltarians to think seriously again about a Yes vote. “Yes” is a yes for them, “No” is your insistence that you, the ordinary people and your rights cannot and should not be brushed aside so lightly.

If we don’t do this – who will? And if not now – when?