Reacting to the latest, unconstructive outburst by the Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, on the issue of the Anti-Corruption Authority, the Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo KC MP, said: “I am disappointed, as most of the public will be, that Keith Azopardi is being so unconstructive and negative about this proposal for an Anti-Corruption Authority.
“In fact, I am sorry to have to say that Keith Azopardi is at best being economical with the truth or outrageously misleading the public on his position on the Anti-Corruption Authority, no doubt in an attempt to pretend to be tough when he is universally seen as weak.
“The fact is Mr Azopardi was against an Anti-Corruption Authority for Gibraltar in 2011, not because of the reasons he gives now, but because the provisions for the investigation of corruption were already provided for in the Crimes Act. That was the position of the GSD and the position of Mr Azopardi as leader of the PDP. In fact, although he may have forgotten or may wish to forget, Mr Azopardi said so SPECIFICALLY and is now wriggling nervously on the hook he has set for himself.”
In fact, in 2011 (on the 25th October, reported widely on 26th October) Mr Azopardi said the proposal by the GSLP that we would establish on Anti-Corruption Authority was ‘a half baked idea to manoeuvre out of the point already made that the English Bribery provisions had in fact been enacted in Gibraltar in the recent Crimes legislation’.
Mr Azopardi added, exactly, that an Anti-Corruption Authority would, “serve only to create alarmist headlines which will undermine the attraction of inward investment or finance centre business by creating the impression that there must be rampant corruption in Gibraltar if there is a need for a special Anti-Corruption Authority.”
Mr Azopardi also specifically said that there “was a difference between establishing the right checks and balances to control abuse of power,” which he said had been done by the Crimes Act changes, and the sending of international signals by the creation of an Anti-Corruption Authority, “which undermine the economy and say to people worldwide that Gibraltar is not a safe place to do business because there is systemic fraud, bribery and corruption”.
That was also the position of the GSD at the time.
The Chief Minister added, “Mr Azopardi is therefore now demonstrably seeking to hide his embarrassment by misleading the public when he says the complete opposite and suggests that he was only saying an Anti-Corruption Authority was not necessary in 2011 because it had been the GSD who had been in power for 16 years.
“In fact, at the time, as leader of the PDP, Keith Azopardi was making the same and worse accusations against the GSD as he is making against the GSLP Liberals now.
“It is clear that Keith Azopardi pretends to be a constructive politician but he is not. Every time we invite him to cooperate on something he decides instead to attack and call me names because he has no arguments beyond insults and he obviously thinks a tough headline will be politically more useful to him, given how weak everyone perceives him to be. He does that instead of working with the GSLP Liberal Government to deliver a better product to the public which is what we are all elected to do and what our people expect from us – more constructive cooperation between elected politicians and less unproductive insults.
“Usefully, however, after his latest press release, the public can see that Keith Azopardi will outrageously and blatantly try to mislead them when he thinks it is convenient to him.
“That will mean that the public will understand that apart from Keith Azopardi being weak they cannot trust him to tell them the truth even when documentary evidence exists to prove be is lying. Failing to build trust with the electorate is fatal to Mr Azopardi in the last throes of his political career.
“We in the GSLP Liberal Government will nonetheless continue to do things properly and constructively as we continue with the Parliamentary progress of our law to create the Anti-Corruption Authority. The GSD have insisted before that we should not proceed, but we will deliver this legislation and deliver an Anti-Corruption Authority, despite their nervousness and Mr Azopardi’s attempts to mislead the public on this issue.
“Finally, if anyone has any information about corruption or bribery they should report that matter to the Royal Gibraltar Police who have full powers under our existing legislation to investigate any such matters already. I encourage anyone who has such information arising under any administration to do so and in particular, I call on Mr Azopardi as leader of the GSD to stop playing games and trying to sling mud for his own party political purposes and to put up or shut up and report any allegations of corruption he considers have the necessary substance to the RGP for investigation immediately. If he doesn’t, he will be seen to be just engaging in idle gossip and rumour and gutter politics of the worst sort – all the things he says he does not do but is all too often caught out doing.”