Categorized | Local, News

90 Days for 100 Years

By Shirley Osborne

Effluent and pollution at Little Bay

Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

The Government of Montserrat’s MDC says, with surprising conviction and pride, that it gave Montserratians “every opportunity” to participate and engage in the plans for Little Bay. It consulted. It conducted a consultation process. It did. I have no argument with the truth of that statement.

The Government of Montserrat says, with obvious recognition of its significance, that the current developmental direction of Montserrat is the foundation for the centuries to come of Montserratian history. I have heard tell of a one-hundred year plan. That, I’m sure most people would agree, is the absolutely shortest time-span that one can consider, in planning for a people’s history.

I have no choice, therefore, but to acknowledge the extraordinary efficiency of the Government of Montserrat and the Montserrat Development Corporation. To have succeeded in exhausting “every opportunity” to entertain discussion and feedback on a matter as important and island-life-changing as any part of the Little Bay New Town project, is nothing short of miraculous and to be absolutely congratulated.

There must be, at least 30,000 people of Montserrat, all around the world, (conservative estimate) who should, properly, be part of the consultation process. If only ten percent of them participated, i.e. 3 000, it would be extraordinary, anyhow, that the GoM and or the MDC were to succeed in gathering meaningful input in just 3 months.

DSC_0122The MDC says that it placed models and other information about the development in places like the Bank of Montserrat. I have, therefore, to commend the people who took the additional time to write a note and drop it in a Consultation Box at the Bank of Montserrat – (even if we were to disregard the aeons that are required to transact even the simplest of business in that building!). I imagine there was such a box.

But, presenting a ‘fait accompli’ is not exactly the same thing as engaging in consultation. Presenting a model is not exactly the same thing as asking people, beforehand, what the model should look like.

Only one or two people showed up at events organised especially to consult with the people, they say, and that’s okay it seems. Evidently, the MDC response, and therefore logically, the GoM’s attitude was “if they don’t want to participate, that is their business.” I would suggest, though that it is actually the Government’s business and the MDC’s responsibility to ensure that the consultation is had, is seen to be had, and is successfully had.

There is an undeniable difference, both stylistically and substantively, in, “we gave people every opportunity” to participate and “we did everything we could” to ensure participation.

It is definitely not mere semantics.

The difference between these two sequences of words is the difference between “We really want your input” and “We really don’t care about your input”. It is the difference between, “Your input is important,” (and, therefore, by implication, “You are important”) and “Your input will make no difference whatsoever,” (and, therefore, “You make no difference whatsoever.”)

Consider this: merely to conduct the rezoning of a school district, The North Ayshire Council in Scotland is allowing 60 days of consultation on the “proposal”, and this rezoning has nothing to do with the environment or the use of land, does not require the moving of mountains or people’s homes, does not destroy even one beach.

In their efforts to ensure proper and effective consultation, the authorities in that district actually provided copies of the proposal report to interested parties, individuals and groups in the community – everybody from parents and teachers to trade unions and the fire department.

The council provided a form that said, Please confirm that you have read the full report by ticking this box, and provided Yes and No boxes for answering the question: Do you agree with the proposal to rezone the West Byrehill area of Kilwinning from the St. Luke’s Primary School catchment area to the St. Winnings Primary School catchment area?

The Bristol City Council in the UK has a page on its website that defines their Code of Good Practice on Public Consultation, “Whenever we make a decision about improving or changing services, we need to be confident the decision is properly informed by public opinion.”

They grant that “the results of consultation are never a substitute for the democratic process – and do not replace the legitimate role of elected representatives in decision-making”, but they remain aware that “effective and consistent consultation can certainly help inform good and responsible decision-making and ensure that, as far as possible, those decisions – and the actions that flow from them – properly reflect and respond to the needs of our city and its people.”

Our consultation was neither effective nor consistent. The MDC, it seems to me, could not, with any conscience, disagree that the consultation could have been – more. Just more. That’s all! More.

The notion that “what’s done is done” does not fly, because among other things, “It” is not done.

“Oh, well! Too bad. We’ve already decided,” is not an acceptable response to people’s comments, objections or suggestions. Besides, parts of the Port plan were modified, significantly, to because some possible investors, who turned out to not actually invest, wanted it, not so? From Little Bay to Carr’s Bay? No?

And, “We shall build it and you will take it whether you like or not,” is not the right approach.

Not. At. All.

The consultation for Montserrat’s planning for, at least, the next 36, 500 days of the rest of our history was exhausted in 90 days. They gave us 3 months to consider the next 1200 months, to consult and comment and discuss the future of our country.

Whether in its entirety – as in the complete destruction, that is underway, of the entire coastline from Gun Hill to Rendezvous, or in part – as in the filling in of Piper’s Pond; whether in the commandeering of Little Bay for the recreation of high-end hotel guests, or in the expulsion of fishermen from 400 years of history; whether in the construction of fake Polynesian huts at the entrance to what the MDC says it wants to be a modern town, or in the destruction of the legitimate businesses of people like Gestina Frith at Race Track, is not my point here. At least, not the entirety of my point.

In whole or in part, this – the details and the broad outlines of our new town – merited deeper consultation, and the people of Montserrat deserved better.

The People of Montserrat deserve better.

Editor’s Note: With regret, this submission sat unnoticed in an email from over a month ago. It was headed, as a response to Ivan Browne’s Basil Chambers interview.

We find it still very relevant and present it nonetheless.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Shirley Osborne

Effluent and pollution at Little Bay

Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

Insert Ads Here

The Government of Montserrat’s MDC says, with surprising conviction and pride, that it gave Montserratians “every opportunity” to participate and engage in the plans for Little Bay. It consulted. It conducted a consultation process. It did. I have no argument with the truth of that statement.

The Government of Montserrat says, with obvious recognition of its significance, that the current developmental direction of Montserrat is the foundation for the centuries to come of Montserratian history. I have heard tell of a one-hundred year plan. That, I’m sure most people would agree, is the absolutely shortest time-span that one can consider, in planning for a people’s history.

I have no choice, therefore, but to acknowledge the extraordinary efficiency of the Government of Montserrat and the Montserrat Development Corporation. To have succeeded in exhausting “every opportunity” to entertain discussion and feedback on a matter as important and island-life-changing as any part of the Little Bay New Town project, is nothing short of miraculous and to be absolutely congratulated.

There must be, at least 30,000 people of Montserrat, all around the world, (conservative estimate) who should, properly, be part of the consultation process. If only ten percent of them participated, i.e. 3 000, it would be extraordinary, anyhow, that the GoM and or the MDC were to succeed in gathering meaningful input in just 3 months.

DSC_0122The MDC says that it placed models and other information about the development in places like the Bank of Montserrat. I have, therefore, to commend the people who took the additional time to write a note and drop it in a Consultation Box at the Bank of Montserrat – (even if we were to disregard the aeons that are required to transact even the simplest of business in that building!). I imagine there was such a box.

But, presenting a ‘fait accompli’ is not exactly the same thing as engaging in consultation. Presenting a model is not exactly the same thing as asking people, beforehand, what the model should look like.

Only one or two people showed up at events organised especially to consult with the people, they say, and that’s okay it seems. Evidently, the MDC response, and therefore logically, the GoM’s attitude was “if they don’t want to participate, that is their business.” I would suggest, though that it is actually the Government’s business and the MDC’s responsibility to ensure that the consultation is had, is seen to be had, and is successfully had.

There is an undeniable difference, both stylistically and substantively, in, “we gave people every opportunity” to participate and “we did everything we could” to ensure participation.

It is definitely not mere semantics.

The difference between these two sequences of words is the difference between “We really want your input” and “We really don’t care about your input”. It is the difference between, “Your input is important,” (and, therefore, by implication, “You are important”) and “Your input will make no difference whatsoever,” (and, therefore, “You make no difference whatsoever.”)

Consider this: merely to conduct the rezoning of a school district, The North Ayshire Council in Scotland is allowing 60 days of consultation on the “proposal”, and this rezoning has nothing to do with the environment or the use of land, does not require the moving of mountains or people’s homes, does not destroy even one beach.

In their efforts to ensure proper and effective consultation, the authorities in that district actually provided copies of the proposal report to interested parties, individuals and groups in the community – everybody from parents and teachers to trade unions and the fire department.

The council provided a form that said, Please confirm that you have read the full report by ticking this box, and provided Yes and No boxes for answering the question: Do you agree with the proposal to rezone the West Byrehill area of Kilwinning from the St. Luke’s Primary School catchment area to the St. Winnings Primary School catchment area?

The Bristol City Council in the UK has a page on its website that defines their Code of Good Practice on Public Consultation, “Whenever we make a decision about improving or changing services, we need to be confident the decision is properly informed by public opinion.”

They grant that “the results of consultation are never a substitute for the democratic process – and do not replace the legitimate role of elected representatives in decision-making”, but they remain aware that “effective and consistent consultation can certainly help inform good and responsible decision-making and ensure that, as far as possible, those decisions – and the actions that flow from them – properly reflect and respond to the needs of our city and its people.”

Our consultation was neither effective nor consistent. The MDC, it seems to me, could not, with any conscience, disagree that the consultation could have been – more. Just more. That’s all! More.

The notion that “what’s done is done” does not fly, because among other things, “It” is not done.

“Oh, well! Too bad. We’ve already decided,” is not an acceptable response to people’s comments, objections or suggestions. Besides, parts of the Port plan were modified, significantly, to because some possible investors, who turned out to not actually invest, wanted it, not so? From Little Bay to Carr’s Bay? No?

And, “We shall build it and you will take it whether you like or not,” is not the right approach.

Not. At. All.

The consultation for Montserrat’s planning for, at least, the next 36, 500 days of the rest of our history was exhausted in 90 days. They gave us 3 months to consider the next 1200 months, to consult and comment and discuss the future of our country.

Whether in its entirety – as in the complete destruction, that is underway, of the entire coastline from Gun Hill to Rendezvous, or in part – as in the filling in of Piper’s Pond; whether in the commandeering of Little Bay for the recreation of high-end hotel guests, or in the expulsion of fishermen from 400 years of history; whether in the construction of fake Polynesian huts at the entrance to what the MDC says it wants to be a modern town, or in the destruction of the legitimate businesses of people like Gestina Frith at Race Track, is not my point here. At least, not the entirety of my point.

In whole or in part, this – the details and the broad outlines of our new town – merited deeper consultation, and the people of Montserrat deserved better.

The People of Montserrat deserve better.

Editor’s Note: With regret, this submission sat unnoticed in an email from over a month ago. It was headed, as a response to Ivan Browne’s Basil Chambers interview.

We find it still very relevant and present it nonetheless.