Politics of today not enough to placate independent-minded public!

Leo Olivero

Trust and confidence with public office-holders and institutions is important for the effective functioning of modern democracies. People need to be able to rely on the processes by which they are administered and governed.

In the absence of trust and integrity, public institutions lack legitimacy. A factor that weakens their capacity to command compliance in areas like, public order, taxation, health and safety and many other areas. Creating strained relations between individual citizens and Government departments.

And why I find it naïve, for political parties, who often seem content with a status quo that no longer suffices to placate, an increasingly demanding and independent-minded public!

Today, few can argue that we have not reached a like situation in Gibraltar. It’s exactly where our public institutions, who have generally been held with a high degree of integrity. While the same time, there has also been a growing degree of scepticism on the part of the public, generally towards politicians and public institutions. A situation, that is healthy in a robust democracy. Though it must be measured, with effective regulatory control to ensure it does not get out of hand or that laws are not broken by those who wish to air their grievances with any physical or verbal action.

Sharp Decline in Public Confidence Towards Public Office Holders

But without any doubt, there has been another sharp decline in public confidence in recent months. Again, towards public office-holders and institutions. A disturbing situation marked by a scenario brought about in my opinion, by months of Covid lockdown and how decisions on public health, but also government plans and policies drawn up to unlock Gibraltar, including previously unannounced government policies that have clearly become unpopular. Taking a huge toil on the trust factor!

This is not the first time, or an era where public aggression, intimidation even violence has been levelled at staff behind public counters, even at the hospital. So, let’s not blame Covid for everything going on in our lives now!

I’ve witnessed these incidents myself more than a few times; where irate members of the public have for whatever reason, became abusive, aggressive and violet. Not only at the housing department staff, but at the social services building, tax office and as highlighted at the hospital.

Not a New Social Phenomenon

It is not a new social phenomenon we’re talking about. I recall the government some time back issued a statement regarding this problem. No 6 stressed at the time it would not tolerate this kind of behaviour and that public employees were entitled to work without fear or intimidation. Further warning, that with police support and that of its own legal people, vigorous action would be taken against those who threaten or assault any member of the Government’s staff. Action including administrative sanctions a statement at the time explained. The statement. also aimed at social media, saying that insults and threats on these platforms were equally unacceptable.