Need to embrace Constitutional reform

Leo Olivero

‘Constitutional Reform’ is one of those subjects that crops up from time to time. Normally causing a bit of a dust-storm and then quietly fizzles out into nothing, until its mentioned again in party manifestos. But mostly, to fill pages about something important, which over the past 10 years or so have come to nothing.

What happens in the meantime and the real reason why it is necessary to revisit this legal document in the first place, is now absolutely vital. This, if we are to function as the modern-day democracy we generally aspire to be. But particularly, with the Brexit issue roaring and the Covid mess sandwiched in-between!

The Rule of Law

The rule of law encapsulates the principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accoun­table to law that is fairly applied and enforced.

Though Gibraltar still enjoys the trappings of a modern democracy governed by the rule of law, including the basic essential elements of good governance, that includes, accountability, transparency and the uniform and universal enforcement of laws. Important elements, which in my opinion, are being swiftly and dangerously eroded. Believe me they are?

Society, is also fast losing its moral compass. Self-interest and greed, rather than the core values of good governance and the common good, often motivate the conduct of public affairs. There is a manifest weakening of institutions that have the function to ensure law and order and to guarantee that all are subject to the same laws!

Some authorities charged by law to keep the public administration accountable, are no longer effective as they should be and public trust in them is being undermined!

Recent developments seem to point towards a few answers. Since the last election, certain controversies have brought the constitutional issue to life once again. Nearly all of which arose directly from the lack of proper institutional checks and balances within our national operating system.

Questions Now Being Asked - Rule of Law Best Served by Constitutional Re­form

Questions are now being asked about the competence of key institutional roles. Such as the Gibraltar Police Authority, the Governor and of course the Police Commissioner, who suddenly tendered his notice to retire. But also, the role played by the Chief Minister, who has already announced in parliament, the Government will convene an inquiry into the whole affair!

I will not delve or report further into the issue regarding the Commissioner. But if readers are interested and want to read my many reports on this Constitutionally related issue going back years and on Policing in general, they should visit the Panorama webpage (achieve section) and insert in the search engine ‘GPA or Police’ should bring up a few results to read.

It is my opinion, while urgent steps need to be taken to res­tore and guarantee the independence, autonomy and effectiveness of these au­thorities and institutions in general. The rule of law could best be served by a constitutional re­form ensuring a strong Parliament and a more accountable Executive.

Regrettably, the decline in the values of correctness and integrity is blurring the notions of what is just and proper, right or wrong.

Strengthening the Constitutional authorities and institutions (not just the GPA) is essential. It is even more important to ensure that the people entrusted with the responsibility to keep the government accountable and to fully ensure the observance of law and order are honest, upright and capable of fulfilling their duties without fear or favour. Experience has shown, that this has not always been the case?