In any democratic society the actions of its elected officials should be open to scrutiny and criticism - not only by their superiors, but by members of the public who have elected them and by a free Press. Similarly, those who stand for public office must expect the occasional brickbat as well as any more welcome bouquets which may come their way.
So just whom and what does Gibraltar’s “non-political” Mayor Solomon (Momy) Levy think he is? Does he believe that because he was not elected, but instead was chosen and installed as the Rock’s Mayor by an autocratic Chief Minister this absolves him from any need to conform to democratic principles? Has he failed to realize that – whether elected or not – as Mayor of Gibraltar, he has certain civic duties and obligations that go further, and are considerably more important, than the design and distribution of ties and scarves, or posturing bowler-hatted for the photographers?
And can he not accept that, by supporting Peter Caruana’s disgraceful behaviour when both men failed to welcome the Princess Royal last Wednesday, he was not only letting down himself but letting down the massively loyal population of Gibraltar whom (whether they like it or not) he represents as civic head.
As we report elsewhere on these pages, the Mayor claims that he was not invited to join the party of officials welcoming Princess Anne when she landed on the Isthmus – a stretch of land even more bitterly disputed by Madrid’s sabre-rattlers than the Rock itself. However, this conflicts directly with information received by VOX from official (though non-attributable) sources, and is as pathetic an excuse for abysmal behaviour as anything an erring third-form schoolboy could produce. It shows a similar contempt for Gibraltar’s intelligence as that shown consistently in the words and deeds of the man who appointed him.
As Mayor and as a representative of the people of Gibraltar, his duty was to ensure that he was there to greet her Royal Highness…whether his master-puppeteer wished otherwise or not.
And there lies the rub; for despite the façade of a non-political appointment Solomon Levy is not his own man…And he does not like to be reminded of this. Soon after his appointment as Mayor, when VOX had the temerity to suggest that Momy was in effect a Caruana puppet, he reacted with almost pitiable pique, contacting business acquaintances and others and demanding that they withdraw their advertising from VOX. Some complied with his angry wishes and admitted, shame-facedly, to the newspaper that they were acceding to the Mayor’s request.
But while we reserved the right to ‘name and shame’ those who submitted to pressures from Momy, we did not do so. We believed what we had written to be fair comment – something on which even the embarrassed ex-advertisers indicated that they agreed with us.
But this time, Mayor Momy has tried not merely to deprive VOX of revenue…but to gag the newspaper. Annoyed by our disclosure in his and Caruana’s boorish behaviour (is it too much to expect that he may, after all, feel a slender hint of shame?) he has told the small but excellent bakery on Line Wall Road to stop its weekly distribution of VOX. He will possibly attempt to put pressure on other outlets to follow suit.
But it will take more than a jumped up estate agent and Scroogeian landlord to silence VOX. Caruana failed to do so and Momy, his puppet, will be no more successful.
Of course this sort of behaviour…this moral and social bullying…the blustering threats of those in office who abuse their powers should not happen in a democratic society. But, as we slide on Caruana’s ever-steeper path towards dictatorship we can expect it to happen more frequently. Seventy years ago in Hitler’s Germany no one stood up to oppose the dictator until it was too late. More recently, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe force overcame good sense.