Together Gibraltar Urges Voters To “Vote With Hope, Not Fear”

By Adriana Lopez

Together Gibraltar held a well-attended public meeting on Monday night at the John Mackintosh Hall. The leader of the party, Marlene Hassan Nahon, stood at the entrance and greeted voters as they arrived at the theatre. They used the occasion to set out future policies and plans if elected into government in the upcoming General Election on the 17th of October.

Ms Hassan Nahon kicked off the meeting by urging the audience to ‘vote with hope, not fear’ and reiterated the slogan on their manifesto to ‘believe in a better way’.  

She said: “We have built this party from nothing. From grassroots activism. In only less than a year we have produced this wonderful slate of talented, conviction-driven and experienced individuals who are looking forward to represent you in the future.”

She added: “I strongly believe there are many people who are not here and still will stand with us. Mainly because a lot of people in Gibraltar live in fear of expressing public dissent. People unfortunately are afraid of getting blackballed or marginalised. They are afraid they will lose out on a promotion. We need to live in a democracy where people are not afraid express their views and can criticise openly, if we are ever to have a hope of a fair and just society.”

The leader of Together Gibraltar highlighted that she was proud of what her father, Sir Joshua Hassan, had achieved for the community during his time in politics. She concluded that: “Being a member of the elite has nothing to do with your origins, it’s what you do with your time and efforts that makes you who you are. I recognise my privilege. I am determined and always will be to use my position to help close the gap between the privileged and everybody else.”

Craig Sacarello greeted the crowd with “Como estamos Together Gibraltar?” Responsible for the environment and sport, he spoke about the two reasons of why he joined politics. He said: “The first was to clean up politics, and the second, to clean up the environment.”

He posed the question of “What Gibraltar do you want?” and went on to say that Together Gibraltar was the party to put the needs of the many above the ‘greed of the few’. From the perspective of the environment, he proposed immediate changes that would help the generations of Gibraltar to build a more sustainable future.

Neil Samtani, responsible for transport, infrastructure and planning, spoke about the development and prosperity of Gibraltar. He said: “We want to encourage mobility but we want to reduce congestion. The way we do that is by looking at mobility not just private transport but we need to look at alternatives.”

Mr Samtani spoke about creating a transport hub which would include a meeting place for busses, bicycles and, in future, car sharing. He mentioned the need for more electric modes of transport and vowed to “make electric vehicles cheap to buy and easy to use.”

Responsible for finance and Brexit, Sian Jones explained that she had spoken to the community who had told her that “they did not feel better off”.

She said: “You can’t use GDP to pay for the shopping, and you can’t use GDP to pay the bills”.

“How many of you feel 10% better off?” she asked the audience. She argued that only a few must be benefiting from the prosperity or that “the figures were wrong.”

Amongst other things relating to the economy, she said: “We are going to reform the tax and welfare system, pensions and employment conditions, to make them fairer and reverse the growing social and economic divide. We are going to introduce a property tax on second homes over £1 million. We are going to tax unoccupied homes that lie vacant for over three months.”

Jackie Anderson, who has been given the portfolio for education and housing, spoke next. She explained that her reasons for getting into politics now were because of “infuriating inequalities.”

She added: “I have a firm belief that we are all equal and all deserving of the best things in life. No one is made better than anybody else.”

“I have spent a lot of time looking into Gibraltar’s housing system and it is totally dysfunctional. I don’t want to offend anyone who works in the system it’s not their fault – the system is broken [...]   I have a great detailed plan for that and we are going to put it into place starting the 18th of October.”

Kamlesh Khubchand, who focuses on business and tourism, reiterated Together Gibraltar’s claim that ‘the system is broken’.

He said: “Our politics is broken. We’ve had two parties that thought they could get away with blaming each other for every single thing that happens. [...] It’s just not good enough.”

“We want a democracy that participates. In terms of business, the tender system has to change. Any tender that is handed out that is worth more that £10,000 will have a report explaining why exactly that company has had that tender. We will replace the system,” Mr Khubchand added.

Tasmin Suarez, mother of eight and political activist for 20 years, spoke about equality and justice. During her speech, she took wooden building blocks to illustrate different stories of people in Gibraltar who are struggling. She said that these were real stories from people within Gibraltar’s community, living in hard conditions.

“Many face challenges of their own and we are not immune to grotesque inequality. Gibraltar is gradually becoming more elitist. The politicians offer trips up to the moon yet at the bottom all that is blowing is hot air,” asserted the Together Gibraltar candidate.

John Montergriffo, responsible for Together Gibraltar’s Social Services and youth portfolio said: “We live in a Gibraltar that instead of looking out for each other, we look over our shoulders. We’re living in a two speed Gibraltar, one speed for a select few, and one much slower speed for everyone else.”

Mr Montegriffo added: “The people of Gibraltar who will come together to make this work. Our public service, our essential services, our business sector and above all our resilience and ingenuity as a people. You show leadership by inspiring confidence not fear.”

In keeping with Mr Motegriffo’s message, Erika Pozo, who is managing public accountability and employment said: “I’m very glad we promote politics of hope, we do not promote politics of fear. At Together Gibraltar we will do things differently.”

“Together Gibraltar will fight tooth and nail to ensure we put an end to corruption, nepotism and cronyism. I ask myself, why is our government so afraid of transparency? What have they got to hide? [...] At Together Gibraltar we have a robust framework ready to implement. A framework no other party has ever brought to Gibraltar because it does not suit them,” she added.

Daniel Ghio, with the responsibility of culture and eGov for Together Gibraltar, said that the current affairs of politics was based on “finger pointing” and had “no planning or real solutions.”

“They can’t really blame us for anything, we haven’t been in government yet, we haven’t done anything that they can pin on us. At the moment apparently ‘we don’t have any experience’ but as you can see there is a good group of individuals here.”

The public meeting ended with a closing speech from the Together Gibraltar’s Leader. They stood and waved to the crowd, whilst their new campaign song resonated across the auditorium with a catchy chorus which said “If we believe, we can achieve, together.”