Medicinal Marijuana must not be for private profit, Picardo retains ‘strawberry’ popularity, whilst Balban and Marlene feature in the unpopular lemons!

Tamsin Suarez receives her Award for courageous work in advancing Women’s Rights in Gibraltar.

By now, you will all have seen some of the coverage in the Gibraltar press regarding the annual Independent Civil Society Awards event, which was held at the Garrison Library on 24th May 2018, and hosted jointly by ERG and Unite the Union.

Many of you have been in touch, dissatisfied with the reporting on some of the items, and asking for wider information and details; so we’re providing this below: firstly, some of the key bullet points from Chair Felix Alvarez’s introductory speech, and, secondly, the results in more detail of the Sweet & Sour Poll and the separate polls on Surveillance in Gibraltar and the question of Assisted Dying.

Here goes:


  • Felix Alvarez speech: some bullet points

What’s important?

To acknowledge that we’re all in this together is important. I mean Society. I mean living. I mean that we’re all, in one way or another, labourers towards our mutual growth and development. We all of us construct and make possible the Gibraltar that we have – or fail to have! Each and every single worker in this hive! We all of us must count – and we all of us must have our fair share of the honey! Noone, absolutely noone, is more important, or more entitled than anyone else!

Because so many of you give so much – and so freely – to our Community’s well-being. This event belongs to us collectively; and we are determined it should continue growing into a collaborative reality.

Civil Society

Julian Risso receives the Award for the late Albert Risso and his early, founding contributions to Gibraltarian Civil Society.

Because that reality is that Civil Society isn’t just a shop window; it’s a REAL place lived day by day, with growing potential for breathing solidarity, for holding each other’s concerns, not just our own, dear to our hearts. It’s a place I meet every day of the week on the street as we sit down, talk and share our concerns. It’s a place of holding to account, of challenge, of emotion at times, for sure; but also, crucially and importantly for any real democracy, it’s also a natural meeting place for reconciliation, and not for revenge for thinking or being different. And that is what differentiates an open society, a democracy, from tyranny and big brother systems. It’s worth struggling for!

  • A call to Gibraltar

Nancy Lopez poses with a plaque in honour of her late mother’s (Margot Aguilera) important contributions to the rights of women in the Gibraltar Trade Union movement.

My call today from this platform is for unison and reconciliation between all social and political voices in Gibraltar in order to face a future of unity before the many challenges we face ahead. It’s time we set goals together, that we aspired long-term together for a future with democratic differences but not disunity. Workers and capital all have one interest: success. And fair treatment and a just slice of the pie and a caring vision is the recipe to look to. A recipe from which to build for these new generations in our midst today, and for the more frail and vulnerable amongst us. We need drive and certainty in our vision to build into that future.

  • Government’s medicinal marijuana project 

ERG applauds the announcement that Government is now considering establishing a project to cultivate marijuana locally for medicinal purposes. It’s a courageous announcement by your Government, Chief Minister. And we’re glad that the ‘Connected Health’ Campaign launched jointly by ERG and rehabilitation group ‘Stay Clean’ has had a salutary effect in opening us up to innovation and fresh thinking. Anything that assists in pushing the frontiers of pain relief can only be welcome. We can only applaud innovation and enterprise and the creation of new jobs.

  • The Project must be wholly Government-owned for the benefit of taxpayers and the Health System – not for private profit!

But where we cannot be in agreement, Chief Minister, is in the announced prospect of handing this over to private for-profit business. It seems alien to the purported political ethos of your Government.

Gibraltar’s first foray into pharmaceutical entrepreneurship should not be handled by commercial for-profit seekers. It should be owned fully by Government for the benefit of Gibraltar – whether we’re looking at local use or, eventually, at a potential for export. Private profit should not, in our view, come anywhere near this initiative! And yes, the benefits of such an industry must go to the People of Gibraltar, to its taxpayers, and not to Capital. Profits should be ploughed back by Government to its health service, because that’s what this is all about – a moral issue about health. It should not be a ready gold mine for those seeking to make money for themselves.

  • The GSD criticism of ‘reputational damage’ – and the question of Rifaat Al-Assad?

We have heard the criticism from the GSD along the lines that this will create reputational issues for Gibraltar, and that our Finance Centre is already under intense scrutiny by those who would wish to do us harm, and this project would make matters worse


I ask: where exactly was the GSD and all the Political Parties when Rifaat Al-Assad all those years ago came to Gibraltar with huge suitcases of the despicable, inhumane and callous Assad Family Dictatorship’s ill-gotten gains stolen from the people of Syria? Where were they? Was Gibraltar not worried then about its reputation. And if not – WHY NOT? This isn’t an attack on the GSD as GSD. This is a plea for congruence from all politicians – and for worrying about reputational damage much greater than that posed by, for once, investing in doing good for the health of people, for alleviating pain, and not for lining pockets.


And what kind of reputational damage can be done to Gibraltar by Spain when it hosts one of the biggest international Cannabis Fairs in the world – Spannabis? And when Spain has one of the most lenient laws with respect to Cannabis – allowing conditions whereby not only can cannabis be cultivated in the home by private individuals, but private individuals can set up Cannabis Smokers’ Clubs!


You don’t have to go very far. Just up the road from here, in San Pedro de Alcantara, there is a well-known and firmly established Association for Medicinal Cannabis Users. Can these people cause ‘reputational damage’? Other objections have been raised by Marlene Hassan-Nahon. Hers are more to the point, but not so well thought out. Growing marijuana is one thing – but you need an industry and expertise before you can begin refining cannabis for medicinal use. That’s not something we have as yet, and I can understand a first stage would need to be export only.

  • We’ve already extended an invitation to Dr Keith Azopardi, GSD Leader, for 2019

And looking further ahead, in 2019, we look forward to the possibility of GSD Leader, Dr Keith Azopardi also addressing us, and indeed he had agreed to do so this year. But through no fault of his own, it’s entirely ours, we had to change the dates quite late in the day, and it was not possible for Keith to be with us on this occasion. We look forward to his input next year. Whether we agree or disagree at times within Civil Society should never be a reason or an excuse not to listen to each other and move forward.

The Sweet & Sour Poll: 2018



On the ‘political’ front this year, there was just a slight ‘surprise bump’ in the Poll. Here’s the rundown.


The gen: not much change here. Picardo continues to be the most favoured politician on the scene. The surprise is that Azopardi trails very, very close to him, while only Bossano is anywhere near.



MOST POP WITH 3 STRAWBERRIES:                                                     Fabian Picardo, QC: 14%

2ND PLACE WITH 2 STRAWBERRIES:                                                     Dr. Keith Azopardi: 13%

3RD PLACE WITH 1 STRAWBERRY:                                                          Sir Joe Bossano: 12%


The gen: 3 out of 3 surprises here! Sacramento falls from the top spot she’s maintained in this unpopularity poll for several years, only to cede it to fellow GSLP-er, Paul Balban (the Traffic Plan, oh! the Traffic Plan!)

But perhaps the real surprise: Marlene Hassan-Nahon! She’s in 3rd place when it comes to unpopularity! All is not as seems?


MOST UN-POP WITH 3 SOUR LEMONS:                                                   Paul Balban: 15%

2ND PLACE WITH 2 SOUR LEMONS:                                                           Samantha Sacramento: 14%

3RD PLACE WITH 1 SOUR LEMON:                                                              Marlene Hassan-Nahon: 11%



The gen: you were asked to say if you were satisfied that surveillance powers are not being abused in Gibraltar. The response is notable – even were it to be 50% wrong!

NO, I’m not satisfied:                                       66%

YES , I’m satisfied:                                            34%




The gen: You were asked to say if people who a) are independently assessed as able to consent to ending their lives and b) are terminally ill should be allowed to have medical assistance to die. This sad but all too real topic hit a nerve with the lives of too many of us.

Yes they should                                                                      85% said assisted dying should be allowed

No they shouldn’t                                                                  15% said assisted dying should not be allowed