This last parliamentary session of the year was tinged with great sadness. Momy Levy will always be fondly remembered by the community as a staunch British Gibraltarian, a man who showed steadfast commitment to the office of Mayor, and whose personality touched the lives of many. But, to me, he was also a much beloved cousin, and I have many lovely memories of the times I spent in his home. My father in particular had a great deal of affection for his nephew, and our family is humbled by the very kind comments that have been made since his sad passing. There is no doubt that Gibraltar will be a sadder place without him, but I trust that his example will linger for a long time and that remembering him will continue to bring smiles to our faces.
Among the sadness, I was particularly keen to raise a number of important issues regarding the new Calpe House building and the survey process that was carried out prior to its acquisition. The discovery of asbestos in the building calls this survey into question, particularly given the money now being invested in resolving the issue. I believe that there are some irregularities in this process, and I called on the Government to carry out an investigation into the affair. My call was rather flippantly dismissed by Minister Bossano, who accused me of raising the issue simply to attract attention. In this, he is not very mistaken, as my intention was actually to attract attention to these irregularities and to a rather confused situation that needs answers. Sadly, the Government did not seem willing to provide these at this stage.
The Government also seemed unwilling to provide answers to questions about the significant pay rise that has been awarded to the post of Chief Secretary and Principal Auditor. The GSD Opposition rightly presented a motion seeking some of these answers but, as tends to often be the case, this was countered with references to the GSD’s time in office. Like many Gibraltarians, I find these replies tiresome and lacking in the substance of addressing the issue at hand. I called on the Government to clearly explain the reasons behind these pay rises (which may be entirely justified) but, again, they were not forthcoming in giving these details.
These challenges to the Government supplement others I have recently made and fly in the face of the accusations of ‘cheerleading’ that have been made by the GSD and some of their not-so-secret supporters over the past week. The undeniable fact is that my record over the last few months demonstrates a commitment to opposing the Government on issues that I feel are important, rather than blindly disagreeing with a party line. My objections to the Single-Sex Marriage Act, for example, revealed how some members of the GSD clearly felt that their own leader was lacking conviction in the issue, with three of them siding with my argument (perhaps Mr Hammond has forgotten this seeing as he was not present at such an important event). Likewise, my intervention over the Mental Health Act not only led to the Government removing their propagandist bluster and their cringe-worthy asides on the GSD’s record (as lamentable as it might have been), but also to a pragmatic and sensible approach that will force the Government to act rather than pay lip-service to vague proposals. Mental Health was an issue I had actually previously raised in Parliament, and it was encouraging to see the GSD follow my lead, an act they repeated when drawing attention to morale in the GHA. This proves that the GSD’s claim does not stand to scrutiny and, instead, they should ponder on why no one seems to be cheerleading them.
After all this discussion and debate, a deafening hush will now be descending on Parliament as we embrace the festive season that is quickly coming upon us. By happy coincidence, the Jewish feast of Chanuka this year starts on the same day as Christmas Eve. Christian and Jewish Gibraltarians will be celebrating their particular traditions at the same time, all only a couple of weeks after the Muslim community celebrated Milad un Nabi. This is a true measure of the diversity of our home, with people coming together to observe the birth of their Christ or of their Prophet, or the liberation of their nation from the Greeks, or simply the traditions their families have followed for generations, all wrapped up in a Pagan time of re-birth. Whatever we celebrate, though, we will all make a point of doing so with our families.
For this is what this period is all about. Whether you believe in one God, or many, or none at all, this is a time for family. It is when we remember those no longer with us, and welcome our latest additions. It is when we eat and drink amidst the unity of those we hold most dear. It is when we give and receive, our gifts bound in an unconditional love for those with whom we share our lives. And, above all, it is a time for togetherness.
So, wherever you celebrate, and whatever you do, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of Chanukas, the cheeriest of festive seasons, and the most wonderful of times with your loved ones.