Governor undermines Freedom of Information

Leo Olivero

The Governor or anyone else holding a privileged and high position in Gibraltar cannot and certainly should not, use their office as a tool to silence journalists or the important issue at the centre of this report ‘intentionally keep information of national interest away from the media’.

This unfortunate latter set of circumstances is what Governor Ed Davies has been silently practicing from his bunker at the Convent, while flagrantly ignoring repeated questions by Panorama on issues of huge national interest to Gibraltar! 

The Freedom of Information

In July last year the Government passed the freedom of information act (FOI).

The Bill for Freedom of Information or the Act was first published in December 2015 but held back due to ‘colonial motivated representations’ from the UK Government where the new FOI legislation involved the office of the Governor, specifically, where it concerned communications between the Convent and the UK or FCO!

FCO Attempts to keep Iniormation of national interest from the people of Gibraltar.

In other words, there were already pre-planned ideas by the British Government, even before the FOI was enacted into local law to keep information away from the local natives when it suited them. Panorama can report today that it very much appears we have the first real taster of that, as I will explain.

As Panorama is aware, the Governor was not given any special FOI dispensation, especially one that keeps him completely silent, and especially on matters which are hugely important to Gibraltar like the Sovereignty Issue. It cannot get any important then that to any Gibraltarian or in any democracy that values it’s identity.

The Governor now seems to be hiding from Panorama as he continues to ignore this newspaper, refusing to answer questions on an important related Sovereignty matter. Creating a situation where we will not allow him to get away with it and will follow our enquires through until we get an answer, even to the extent of taking a UK or legal and any other alternative if need be!

It’s shameful that in a democracy like ours this totally unacceptable situation has been created, which could resort to FOI rulings to wheedle any information out of the Governor or the FCO.

To the Issue itself:

On Tuesday 18 June this year, Panorama published an important exclusive edition titled ‘International Court Rules: Continued display of authority only way to confirm nation’s claim to sovereignty’

Essentially, the importance of the article was for the first time, we were able to legally establish and report to readers, that in fact the FCO policy with Spain over Gibraltar where it concerned illegal incursions and Sovereignty of BGTW was and is totally flawed and importantly, legally undermines sovereignty!

This was not Panorama or myself making a calculated journalistic guess, but it came non-other then from a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague in case involving a sovereignty claim between two nations going back some years where the ICJ made a specific and well-defined ruling.

In fact, over the years the ICJ has made similar rulings on several occasions in different, but similar sovereignty related cases. And in circumstances similar to Spain’s Sovereignty claim over Gibraltar where the ICJ has ruled several times that ”a claim to sovereignty based not upon some particular Act or Title such as a treaty of cession, but merely upon continued display of authority, involves two elements each of which must be shown to exist: the intention and will to act as sovereign and some actual exercise or display of such authority”.  The ICJ pertinently pointed out that the jurisprudence of both the International Court of Justice as well as the Permanent Court of International Justice in the period which followed the dispute in question, established that a continued display of authority would imply ”effective administrative exercise in the area concerned.

Meaning in Gibraltar’s case, an ‘Effective Display of Sovereignty not only of BGTW but also by Land and Air’ was vital to our Sovereignty as a nation.

It is also obvious that in the light of the legal citation or ruling from such an important international high court, that the British Government and FCO Gibraltar policy with Spain over Gibraltar on incursions and also the Commissioner of Police for his dangerous anti-Sovereignty enforcement policy on illegal fishing are all putting at risk the ‘Sovereignty of Gibraltar’ because of the manner they think they are exercising control of BGTW.

International Legal Precedence Discovered by Panorama

With the ICJ legal precedence and ruling discovered by Panorama, which clearly explains that in any national sovereignty claim ‘The Display of Authority’ is a hugely important prerequisite in international law in legally resolving sovereignty dispute of this nature.

All that is from the ‘highest international court in the world’; it obviously made clear how international courts judge the important issue of sovereignty and how effectively nations should be protecting their disputed territory!

This newspaper was hoping that matters would not remain the same. But they have, the Governor remains in his FCO bunker at the Convent refusing to answer or even acknowledge Panorama questions on this important of national interest.

While the Police Weakens Sovereignty For Better Cross-Frontier Cooperation

As for the Commissioner of Police who has ‘international police cooperation’ at the top of his priority list, is also silent on this important matter. Instead he continues to weaken the Sovereignty of Gibraltar with a useless illegal fishing enforcement policy for the sake of police cooperation, with half corrupt national enforcement body across the Frontier he naively trust, this if continue`d cases of corruption and arrest of Spanish enforcement officers, even recent high ranking ones, is anything to go by!

Panorama and Gibraltar Ignored on such an Important National Issue of Importance.

Panorama was obviously seeking answers to all this, to enable us to report back to our readers and to the Gibraltar public.

On the 21 June we sent the Governor via the Convent FCO desk the following set of questions:

1. In the light of the Panorama article and the rulings by the International Court of Justice at the Hague as quoted in our report, what is the position of the FCO in view of the repeated and well known diplomatic line that “Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it. They do not weaken or undermine the legal basis in international law for British sovereignty over Gibraltar, including BGTW.”

2. With the highest international court of law disagreeing with the FCO’s legal basis as our report confirms ‘Will the FCO now review the legal basis of its long held position regarding incursions into BGT’ ...if not

3. WHY?

4. Does the Governor or the FCO also in the light of the above international court ruling believe that the present RGP illegal fishing enforcement policy in BGTW also undermines sovereignty in the event of any future claim presented before an international court of law?

5. Has the Governor recently, specifically discussed the RGP’s illegal enforcement policy with the Commissioner of Police and can the public now expect an enforcement policy that is measured and meets international court judgment in protecting and reinforcing Gibraltar’s sovereignty in BGTW.

Panorama received neither a reply nor an acknowledgement from the Governor or the Police. Although the Commissioner of Police regarding these questions would have acted on the instructions of the Governor who chose not to say anything.

This newspaper made repeated requests for answers to our questions, the last request was on the 8 July which the Governor again ignored and in my opinion with it, disgraced his office for totally snubbing this newspaper and the people of Gibraltar who this newspaper has a duty to inform. Just who does this departing Governor think he is?

The local and UK Freedom of Information Act requires classified information to be disclosed unless there are good reasons for secrecy. What possible could be secret about some straightforward questions to the FCO via the Governor regarding an historical long running national issue on the Rocks Sovereignty, unless the FCO and the Governor were in cahoots to withhold information of great public interest to Gibraltar - Blatantly Undermining the Freedom of Information?

The Freedom of Information Act is based on the simple, democratic principle that citizens have a right to know about the decisions and actions taken in their name.

Panorama would like answers to our questions so we are best prepared and accurate when we report back to inform our readers on a national issue of great importance to all of us!`