Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Alvarez calls on undecided and minorities 'to make the difference' at Elections

Chief Minister Caruana refuses to meet with GGR Chairman
Alvarez tells politicians to ‘stop avoiding the ‘g-word’ in public’

Felix Alvarez, Equality Rights Group GGR Chairman has today called on "all wavering and undecided citizens, and especially on minority citizens, whether disabled, gay or other status and their families and friends in the Gibraltar community to move with more determination, unity and energy than ever before at these Elections. We and all our supporters should only vote in favour of those who are openly and clearly in favour of moving forward in equality and tolerance," he stated. "Together we are no longer a minority, our vote made a difference last time, let’s do it again!"

The statement comes on the eve of meetings to be held today between Alvarez, Peter Tatchell and political leaders Joe Bossano (GSLP), Joseph Garcia (Liberals) and Keith Azopardi (PDP) which signal the increasing importance the gay and minority vote is gaining in the elections and which GGR already claimed as a factor at the 2003 polls. Most significant, perhaps, is the fact that Peter Caruana accepted meeting Mr Tatchell but declined the presence of GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez. Unless Mr Caruana changes his mind, therefore, the meeting will not be taking place.

"I cannot accept that a Gibraltar Chief Minister who says he wants a ‘culture of human rights’ should treat outsiders more favourably than his own people," stated Tatchell. "This is an inconceivable and unacceptable attitude which none of the other political leaders in Gibraltar have demonstrated in their arrangements over our meetings. Mr Caruana seems insensitive to the fact that this would have been a noteworthy moment marking the first time in the seven years since the establishment of GGR that Alvarez and the Chief Minister were to meet formally. It would have been a clear signal that the Chief Minister was genuinely interested in the human rights of Gibraltarians. In a word, Mr Caruana has flunked it. It puts a question mark over his political maturity."

For his part, Alvarez said that "This is only one of many lessons in intolerance that Mr Caruana has dealt Gibraltarians over his three terms in office. It comes as no surprise. Dialogue with his own people does not seem to enter Mr Caruana’s vocabulary. It is just more of the same from a Chief Minister who in his last three terms of office has cared little for ordinary Gibraltarians," he went on to add. "On another note, let me say to the gay community: rights and equality are never given away, you have to earn them. This is the time for all those who want to see a more accepting society in Gibraltar to move with greater commitment and unity than ever before by voting in our own favour. It is also the time for politicians – even those who support us – to stop avoiding the ‘g-word’ in public!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We host Peter Tatchell visit to Gibraltar

Peter Tatchell, human rights spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales, arrives on the Rock tomorrow on a fact-finding tour, as a guest of Equality Rights Group GGR. "I'm pleased to welcome Peter to Gibraltar," Chairman Felix Alvarez said today. " It's good to have him here on a fact-finding mission. Anyone who shows interest in Gibraltar’s people is welcome as far as GGR is concerned."

Mr Tatchell is the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Oxford East. Famous for his gay rights activism, he is the author of several books, has a weekly column on The Guardian website, and hosts a weekly internet TV programme, “Talking With Tatchell” at www.18doughtystreet.com.

He recently wrote a controversial article on the status of human rights in Gibraltar for The Guardian’s Comment is Free website, following which he was invited to get a first-hand account of the local situation and to meet Gibraltar’s political leaders.

Tatchell and Equality Rights Group Chairman Felix Alvarez will be jointly meeting with Joe Bossano (GSLP), Joseph Garcia (Liberals) and Keith Azopardi (PDP) during his stay. Details for a meeting with Chief Minister Peter Caruana have yet to be finalized.

Mr Tatchell, meanwhile, is also scheduled to meet with members of the disabled community, as well as the Environmental Safety Group, Friends of the Earth and members of the gay community.

“Having written and campaigned in support of Gibraltar human rights activists for many years, Tatchell says he is ‘’keen to get first-hand knowledge and meet local campaigners.”

“This visit will be a listening and learning exercise. I want to broaden my understanding by meeting Gibraltarians and hearing their concerns. Perhaps I can also share with them some of my campaign experience and ideas.

“I strongly support Gibraltar’s right to self-determination. The European Union and wider international community should respect the right of Gibraltarians to decide their own future.

“I am glad to see The Rock strengthening its involvement with the wider European family of nations and peoples, and beginning to embrace European standards of citizenship and human rights. I look forward to seeing further progress in the fields of justice and equality.

“In today’s globalised world of instant communication and international travel and trade, all the world’s peoples are interlinked and mutually dependent. We share a common future, regardless of whether we live in London, Gibraltar, Baghdad, Moscow, Beijing, Jarkarta, Sao Paulo, Sydney or New York.

“It is important to acknowledge our common humanity, the universality of rights and freedoms, and our need for joint international action to solve the global problems of climate change, terrorism, war and poverty.

“For me, solidarity has no frontier and I hope to demonstrate the value of mutual exchanges and support during my visit,” concluded Mr Tatchell. Peter Tatchell will be available to meet members of the public at Charlie’s Hole-in-the-Wall next Saturday from 9.30pm and says he “looks forward to meeting people of all walks of life there in a relaxed atmosphere.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We urge Gibraltar's Broadcasting Corporation to re-think its policy

Equality Rights Group GGR has today appealed to the Management of GBC (Gibraltar's monopoly tv and radio provider) to re-think and reverse their decision regarding the Progressive Democratic Party's (PDP) Leader’s exclusion from "Leader debate" programmes during the Elections. The rationale is that the PDP is putting up less candidates for election than, it says, the number required to form Government. On this basis, "Leaders" debates can only include the heads of Parties in that electoral position.

“A strict approach to this question, whilst arguably within technical reason due merely to the title given to the programme, is nonetheless disproportionate. As a small community, Gibraltar needs as much political diversity as can be mustered. To prevent face-to-face live debate between the main contenders to Government and not only the PDP but independent candidates would be to practise political protectionism of one set of politicians from exposure to the competing ideas of others who present themselves before this community.”

“Equality Rights Group GGR has advocated freedom from political interference with GBC, in particular following Government announcements not so long ago of a review of its structure and practices and we cautioned vigilance on the part of the public to ensure this was not a ploy by Government to control our broadcast services. However, GBC must practise the same level of equanimity towards the pluralistic culture that we as Gibraltarians strive for. It will be no big deal to rename the programme “the Contenders debate” and allow the main parties, alongside the minor parties and the independents too, the opportunity to be seen by the Electorate in free and open debate and thus overcome the strict technicalities and obstacles whilst serving this community as GBC is indeed entrusted to do. Despite its issued announcement of ‘no change’, and particularly in view of the GSLP/Liberals statement of no objection to Mr Azopardi’s inclusion, we urge the Corporation to do whatever it takes to rectify this situation in the interests of serving the community of Gibraltar at large at these Elections. The public has a right to see how the politicians measure up against each other in lively and open discussion and GBC will no doubt find much respect and appreciation from the public it serves if it reconsiders this matter. Keith Azopardi, along with Charles Gomez and Richard Martinez (two Independents) ought to have the opportunity to lock horns with Caruana and Bossano (leaders of the two main Parties) and let the public decide!”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GGR thanks GSD moderates

Equality Rights group GGR has today thanked “GSD Party moderates” for their expressions of support lately.

“We have been aware of internal changes within Mr Caruana’s Party for some time now. However, of late, Equality Rights Group GGR has been increasingly approached by both ordinary GSD party members and well-known faces within that grouping, expressing disagreement with the hard-line approach of Chief Minister Peter Caruana on the issues of sexual minority rights in Gibraltar.”

Chairman Felix Alvarez stated that he is happy to note the increasing change within the GSD grass roots, “and, indeed, as the GSD people who have been approaching us and more recent political parties also already know, ordinary GSD members should be assured that where a possibility of real and civilized dialogue exists I will not hesitate to be there, to sit down at the table, and to engage in the kind of talks towards resolution of conflict which are the hallmark of a democratic and socially responsible Government – without recrimination, without anger and looking forward to the future, not setting our faces to the past. Constructive and not merely 'cosmetic' dialogue is the way forward.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

We call for PDP's clarification

Equality Rights group GGR has broadly welcomed the recently announced Equality Policy of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), adding, however, “that it is unfortunate that it should employ ambiguous language in the process.”

The group points to the fact that whilst the PDP makes a clear commitment to introducing equality for non-EU citizens in Gibraltar by stating that if in Government it would “ensure” this to be so, when addressing gay rights issues GGR notes that the PDP simply says it would “support” such a move, making this subject to a “free vote within Parliament”.

Chairman Felix Alvarez stated that “GGR has always stood for non-discrimination across the whole of this community. Nonetheless, it does not understand why unqualified support by the PDP should be good for non-EU nationals in this community but not for sexual minority citizens. Whilst this may simply be a case of careless or imprecise language in the policy document, it is nonetheless a matter of concern since it is only natural that where a Party fails to be clear the Electorate cannot help but question. I would therefore call on the PDP to clarify these points forthwith in good faith and as a demonstration of their real commitment to openness and democracy in our community. A failure to do so will be read as a negative intention not only by GGR but by concerned citizens in general. ”

The GGR Chairman revealed that he has been in consultation and dialogue with Keith Azopardi and the PDP over a period of time. “This consultation and dialogue has proven positive and civilized, demonstrating that with fairness and reason, understanding is indeed a reachable goal in this community. I trust this will now extend to their clarification on this matter.”