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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The role of mayor in Gibraltar has always been a political one. That commanding figure of politics on the Rock, Sir Joshua Hassan, once held the post. Until recently the position was held by a member of the government in the House of Assembly so you knew where you stood. In recent years the post has either been GSLP or GSD.

Now that has changed. Gibraltar has a parliament and the chief minister, Peter Caruana, announced that in future politics would be separated from the position of the city’s mayor. All parties were happy to unite behind Solomon ‘Momy’ Levy who at the end of July, in an emotional ceremony, was installed as mayor.

To think for a moment that in the village of Gibraltar politics could be divided from every day life would be a naive act. So ‘Momy’ has found out as he walks in to his first political storm of his year in office. Don’t worry there will be plenty more!

You or I may wonder what all the fuss is about. Last week in an interview with the Rock’s broadcaster, GBC, the mayor advocated setting politics to one side on National Day. This, incidentally, is what the ruling GSD of Peter Caruana had proposed. Hence the GSLP/Liberal opposition have taken exception to “Momy’s” words and accused him of “abusing his position as Mayor,” and supporting the policy of the ruling GSD party.

What Momy Levy apparently said was: ‘Now as far as the general comments going round town, I feel that we have politics 365 days a year and for one day for Gibraltar to be united. Forget politics. We are Gibraltarians. Forget Britain. Forget Spain.’

In a statement the GSLP/Liberals said: “Momy Levy, speaking as Mayor of Gibraltar, has said that National Day should be a day of unity in which politics is put to one side. The Opposition very much regrets his comments, which go to the heart of the ongoing controversy between the Government and the Opposition surrounding the downgrading of the National Day political rally.”

Now you or I again may view “a day of unity in which politics is put to one side” as a very worthwhile day indeed but then you are probably not Gibraltarian.

The GSLP/Liberal statement continues: ““The justification given for Mr Levy’s selection was that he is supposedly neutral and would not involve himself in politics. By defending and justifying the decision of the GSD Government to hold a “civic gathering” at the John Mackintosh Square to replace the traditional “people’s public rally” at Casemates, he is supporting the policy of one political party and criticising the views of the other three parties that contested the last general election.

“He is entitled to do that as an individual citizen who supports the GSD, but he is abusing his position as Mayor by providing the support of the office to the policy of the GSD Government. He can hardly be considered an unbiased and neutral political person when he is the very person at the centre of the disagreement. As far as the Opposition is concerned, the statement by Mr Levy as Mayor of Gibraltar invalidates the terms on which he is supposed to be conducting himself in carrying out his Mayoral role.

“It is not the political parties who should keep politics out of the debate on National Day, it is Mr Momy Levy who should keep party politics out of the role of Mayor of Gibraltar.”

It should be pointed out that it was the GSD government that decided to take the politics out of National Day and to propel the mayor to the fore. As a non-political figure but a proud Gibraltarian it is natural that Momy Levy should welcome politics being set aside for one day. However, if he had disagreed with the decision, should he have spoken out in support of the opposition view? Apparently not because he “should keep party politics out of the role of Mayor of Gibraltar.” He’s in a no-win situation.

Waiting in the wings as the deputy mayor is Olga Zammitt who will take over from Momy Levy next July. Given what she is seeing you couldn’t blame her for fleeing for the hills. Unfortunately the nearest hills are across the border in Spain so that too would be a political act!

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