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Address by Hon. C.M. David S. Brandt – Flashback – November 2000

at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council Meeting in London, Oct 2000

(Pd for Insertion)

Ladies and Gentlemen, over the course of today and tomorrow we will continue a series of truly important discussions regarding the relationship between The Overseas Territories and the United Kingdom. It is my hope that we can arrive at a common understanding of modern partnership so we can begin quickly to put it into effect.

David S. Brandt, former Chief Minister of Montserrat

The Hon. Robin Cook, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in Her Majesty¹s Government, has spoken eloquently on this topic. He has laid it out with great clarity in his White Paper. I want to say at the outset that I fully agree with his postulation that our new modern partnership should be based on the following four fundamental principles:

  • First, self-determination
  • Second, mutual obligations and responsibilities
  • Third, freedom for the territories to run their own affairs to the greatest degree possible, and
  • Fourth, a firm commitment from the UK to help the territories develop economically and to assist them in emergencies.

I would like these four principles to be the framework of our discussions and that the topic for this session: Constitutional Modernisation and Good Governance be considered in the context of establishing our modern partnership.
It has been suggested that I cover in this introduction such areas as:

  • measures to promote open, transparent and accountable government,
  • improving the effectiveness of the public service through a public sector reform programme, including training and secondment of public servants with the UK,
  • improvements to the composition and operation of legislatures and Executive Councils and,
  • electoral reform.

I have made it my duty to include these important areas in the discussion

SELF-DETERMINATION

It is true that all of us have chosen to retain our connection to Britain. Or to put it more bluntly, have chosen not to opt for full independence at this time. Unfortunately, too many of the examples around us dictate that we be cautious about independence. But it would be unwise to interpret this as a vote against independence in and of itself. Thankfully, this is not at issue.
Both sides agree that self-determination is to be pursued. Our current situation gives both Britain and ourselves the opportunity to get the business of independence right. And by this I mean to put so firmly in place the structures and practices that strengthen the principles of good governance, the rule of law, the fundamental rights of all people and the drive to greater economic progress, that they can never be easily pushed aside.
One important way to do this is to promote open, transparent and accountable government. Such is the hallmark of democracy, and while I believe it is accurate to say we all enjoy democracy it is equally true that we can explore new means to strengthen our democracies even further. Let me offer some suggestions for consideration:

  • Our parliaments should convene more frequently. The current practice in most territories is for parliament to meet every three months. More meetings will enable parliament to better supervise the executive and should promote greater accountability.
  • The development of watchdog organisations such as unions and NGOs should be encouraged and allowed to play the important role expected of them in a democracy
  • Governments, in general, should be required to be more responsive to the findings, suggestions and requests of all such organisations.
  • A free press must not be viewed as a nuisance but an indispensable necessity
  • Care should be taken to ensure that on all state owned radio stations the opposition receives adequate time to air their views
  • Government should disclose to the public in a timely manner all of its relevant decisions
  • Measures should be introduced to make Public Accounts Committees more effective. Presently, the Public Accounts Committee has to wait on a report from the Auditor General before it can meet on or investigate a particular matter. Some mechanism needs to be in place making it easy to convene whenever it is appropriate to do so.

MUTIAL OBLIGATIONS & RESPONSIBILITES

Certainly the new partnership should create responsibilities on both sides. Britain will be expected to honour its pledge to defend the Overseas Territories, to encourage their sustainable development and to look after their interests internationally. In return we should ensure the highest standards of probity, law and order and good government. But if the partnership is to be meaningful, it will require greater consultation and respect among the partners. Britain should not enter unilaterally into international commitments and then simply expect us to go along with those commitments or to impose those commitments on us.

The obligations, responsibilities and expectation of each partner should be made clear and agreed upon. This will help to reduce fiction and misunderstandings

FREEDOM FOR THE TERRITORIES TO RUN THEIR OWN AFFAIRS

This is of course very closely linked to the matter of self-determination on which I have already said much. But so close is it to the heart of the matter, so sensitive and so at odds with the doctrines, practices and spirit of colonialism that it requires very close and special attention.
In business today, I believe one of the central characteristics of modernisation is the concept of empowerment. It gives real power and responsibility to every worker. It transforms workers from being a largely interchangeable, easily dispensable mass, who are expected merely to follow orders, into important thinking operatives who are required and permitted to make decisions in ways that were unimaginable in the old industrial age. No business can expect to flourish in the so-called new economy without empowering its workers.
What does this say to us? Government cannot ignore the demands of the new economy and we will do well to emulate some of the practices of business. As governments much of our business is conducted by a civil service, put in place many years ago to serve a colonial economy. All over the region it is openly acknowledged that the need to build an effective and efficient service is huge and that the development of our countries greatly depends on so doing. This being the case, improving the effectiveness of the public service is not only necessary but also urgent. I would be reluctant to say just how this should be done because I believe it is a matter that needs to be studied to best meet the demands of a modern world and a modern partnership. But I would like to make a few suggestions I believe will help to improve how the civil service functions.
At the moment civil servants are accountable to the governor, so feel their allegiance should be to him. But on a day by day basis they work closely with ministers. The dichotomy is they have a head who is different from the elected representatives with whom they work and to whom they report. I believe appropriate safeguards should be put in place to prevent any possible victimisation of any civil servant, but their head should be the minister for whom they work.
The other thing it tells us is that we must review and change the administrative structures that govern our relationship with Britain. Mr. Cook’s White Paper says: “Britain must ensure that its structures and its practices are reformed and modernized. The relationship between Britain and the Overseas Territories needs to be effective and efficient, free and fair. It needs to be based on decency and democracy.”
We know from good authority that you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. In much the same way, you can’t build a modern partnership on old administrative principles and practices. In this regard, nothing is as glaringly anachronistic as a British colonial governor in the 21st Century. Nothing cries louder for constitutional modernisation and reform. The powers of the governor should be reduced and put into the hands of elected officials. The micro-management by Britain and British officials should cease. Their powers should be placed in the hands of elected representatives. And the transfer of power should start now. Although we made this point emphatically last year, nothing so far has been done about it.
Today, a colonial governor ought to be an embarrassment to Britain, to the Overseas Territories and to the British civil servant who is called upon to play this role. But in Montserrat at least, this is not so.
And it is not just the governor, but the mechanism through which he exercises the considerable power that the constitution accords him. In his office, British civil servants fill all of the top positions while locals are relegated to the posts of file clerks, cooks and gardeners. I dare say that in Britain he would have been a prime target for bringing a charge of racism against. But of course no such charge would be possible in any Overseas Territory, because of the extraordinary powers which governors enjoy.
In Montserrat, our constitution exempts the Governor from consultation on some matters. And where he is required to consult he may disregard the advise, even of the executive council. It is he who appoints civil servants and is their head so he is in a position to seriously affect both their lives and livelihoods. But the courts of law have no jurisdiction to inquire into whether a governor has satisfied any consultation or advice-taking directions. In actuality the governor is a power onto himself. Symbolically he recalls the most baleful aspects of colonialism and of old and despicable practices.
Modern businesses are moving to reduce bureaucracy and eliminate middlemen. Her Majesty’s government in its wisdom has seen it fit to appoint a minister for Overseas Territories Affairs. Why not have that minister deal directly with some counterpart in the territories?
Also, why not make it possible for the territories to have direct representation to the Bar of the House of Commons in much the same way as was possible for the Old Dublin Cooperation and the Cooperation of London?
Modernisation is required. Amendments need to be made to each territory¹s constitution so that Robin Cook’s call for us to have the freedom to run our own affairs to the greatest degree possible can become a reality and not just a laudable sentiment.

COMMITMENT FROM THE UK TO HELP THE TERRITORIES DEVELOP ECONOMICALLY

We are all familiar with the truism he who pays the piper calls the tune. In Montserrat, and I suspect in St. Helena also, we know too well how galling that can be. While we are deeply grateful to the UK for the help we are receiving in this time of greatest need we recognise how difficult it is to maintain a spirit of partnership when one party is paying all of the bills. This is the challenge that confronts Britain: How do you pay a people’s bills and still find the generosity of spirit to not ride roughshod over them?
We are happy for all of the assistance given by Britain and its continued commitment to the OTs. While the granting of aid has been cumbersome and painfully slow the good news is that efforts are being made to effect improvement. It would be good today if we can explore ways for aid to be both given and received with dignity and decency.

But I have said enough. Enough I hope to stimulate your thoughts and lead to meaningful discussions that would further lead to meaningful actions.

Another of the characteristics of business in the new economy is that it must be done quickly. In the words of Bill Gates, at the very speed of thought. Let us think action, discuss it and bring it about. The action we want to see is in constitutional modernisation and good governance. Action that would quickly put in place the modern partnership between the Overseas Territories and Britain that will ensure greater self-determination, greater progress and the attainment of the highest possible standard of living for all our people.

Thank you very much.

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council Meeting in London, Oct 2000

(Pd for Insertion)

Ladies and Gentlemen, over the course of today and tomorrow we will continue a series of truly important discussions regarding the relationship between The Overseas Territories and the United Kingdom. It is my hope that we can arrive at a common understanding of modern partnership so we can begin quickly to put it into effect.

Insert Ads Here

David S. Brandt, former Chief Minister of Montserrat

The Hon. Robin Cook, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in Her Majesty¹s Government, has spoken eloquently on this topic. He has laid it out with great clarity in his White Paper. I want to say at the outset that I fully agree with his postulation that our new modern partnership should be based on the following four fundamental principles:

I would like these four principles to be the framework of our discussions and that the topic for this session: Constitutional Modernisation and Good Governance be considered in the context of establishing our modern partnership.
It has been suggested that I cover in this introduction such areas as:

I have made it my duty to include these important areas in the discussion

SELF-DETERMINATION

It is true that all of us have chosen to retain our connection to Britain. Or to put it more bluntly, have chosen not to opt for full independence at this time. Unfortunately, too many of the examples around us dictate that we be cautious about independence. But it would be unwise to interpret this as a vote against independence in and of itself. Thankfully, this is not at issue.
Both sides agree that self-determination is to be pursued. Our current situation gives both Britain and ourselves the opportunity to get the business of independence right. And by this I mean to put so firmly in place the structures and practices that strengthen the principles of good governance, the rule of law, the fundamental rights of all people and the drive to greater economic progress, that they can never be easily pushed aside.
One important way to do this is to promote open, transparent and accountable government. Such is the hallmark of democracy, and while I believe it is accurate to say we all enjoy democracy it is equally true that we can explore new means to strengthen our democracies even further. Let me offer some suggestions for consideration:

MUTIAL OBLIGATIONS & RESPONSIBILITES

Certainly the new partnership should create responsibilities on both sides. Britain will be expected to honour its pledge to defend the Overseas Territories, to encourage their sustainable development and to look after their interests internationally. In return we should ensure the highest standards of probity, law and order and good government. But if the partnership is to be meaningful, it will require greater consultation and respect among the partners. Britain should not enter unilaterally into international commitments and then simply expect us to go along with those commitments or to impose those commitments on us.

The obligations, responsibilities and expectation of each partner should be made clear and agreed upon. This will help to reduce fiction and misunderstandings

FREEDOM FOR THE TERRITORIES TO RUN THEIR OWN AFFAIRS

This is of course very closely linked to the matter of self-determination on which I have already said much. But so close is it to the heart of the matter, so sensitive and so at odds with the doctrines, practices and spirit of colonialism that it requires very close and special attention.
In business today, I believe one of the central characteristics of modernisation is the concept of empowerment. It gives real power and responsibility to every worker. It transforms workers from being a largely interchangeable, easily dispensable mass, who are expected merely to follow orders, into important thinking operatives who are required and permitted to make decisions in ways that were unimaginable in the old industrial age. No business can expect to flourish in the so-called new economy without empowering its workers.
What does this say to us? Government cannot ignore the demands of the new economy and we will do well to emulate some of the practices of business. As governments much of our business is conducted by a civil service, put in place many years ago to serve a colonial economy. All over the region it is openly acknowledged that the need to build an effective and efficient service is huge and that the development of our countries greatly depends on so doing. This being the case, improving the effectiveness of the public service is not only necessary but also urgent. I would be reluctant to say just how this should be done because I believe it is a matter that needs to be studied to best meet the demands of a modern world and a modern partnership. But I would like to make a few suggestions I believe will help to improve how the civil service functions.
At the moment civil servants are accountable to the governor, so feel their allegiance should be to him. But on a day by day basis they work closely with ministers. The dichotomy is they have a head who is different from the elected representatives with whom they work and to whom they report. I believe appropriate safeguards should be put in place to prevent any possible victimisation of any civil servant, but their head should be the minister for whom they work.
The other thing it tells us is that we must review and change the administrative structures that govern our relationship with Britain. Mr. Cook’s White Paper says: “Britain must ensure that its structures and its practices are reformed and modernized. The relationship between Britain and the Overseas Territories needs to be effective and efficient, free and fair. It needs to be based on decency and democracy.”
We know from good authority that you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. In much the same way, you can’t build a modern partnership on old administrative principles and practices. In this regard, nothing is as glaringly anachronistic as a British colonial governor in the 21st Century. Nothing cries louder for constitutional modernisation and reform. The powers of the governor should be reduced and put into the hands of elected officials. The micro-management by Britain and British officials should cease. Their powers should be placed in the hands of elected representatives. And the transfer of power should start now. Although we made this point emphatically last year, nothing so far has been done about it.
Today, a colonial governor ought to be an embarrassment to Britain, to the Overseas Territories and to the British civil servant who is called upon to play this role. But in Montserrat at least, this is not so.
And it is not just the governor, but the mechanism through which he exercises the considerable power that the constitution accords him. In his office, British civil servants fill all of the top positions while locals are relegated to the posts of file clerks, cooks and gardeners. I dare say that in Britain he would have been a prime target for bringing a charge of racism against. But of course no such charge would be possible in any Overseas Territory, because of the extraordinary powers which governors enjoy.
In Montserrat, our constitution exempts the Governor from consultation on some matters. And where he is required to consult he may disregard the advise, even of the executive council. It is he who appoints civil servants and is their head so he is in a position to seriously affect both their lives and livelihoods. But the courts of law have no jurisdiction to inquire into whether a governor has satisfied any consultation or advice-taking directions. In actuality the governor is a power onto himself. Symbolically he recalls the most baleful aspects of colonialism and of old and despicable practices.
Modern businesses are moving to reduce bureaucracy and eliminate middlemen. Her Majesty’s government in its wisdom has seen it fit to appoint a minister for Overseas Territories Affairs. Why not have that minister deal directly with some counterpart in the territories?
Also, why not make it possible for the territories to have direct representation to the Bar of the House of Commons in much the same way as was possible for the Old Dublin Cooperation and the Cooperation of London?
Modernisation is required. Amendments need to be made to each territory¹s constitution so that Robin Cook’s call for us to have the freedom to run our own affairs to the greatest degree possible can become a reality and not just a laudable sentiment.

COMMITMENT FROM THE UK TO HELP THE TERRITORIES DEVELOP ECONOMICALLY

We are all familiar with the truism he who pays the piper calls the tune. In Montserrat, and I suspect in St. Helena also, we know too well how galling that can be. While we are deeply grateful to the UK for the help we are receiving in this time of greatest need we recognise how difficult it is to maintain a spirit of partnership when one party is paying all of the bills. This is the challenge that confronts Britain: How do you pay a people’s bills and still find the generosity of spirit to not ride roughshod over them?
We are happy for all of the assistance given by Britain and its continued commitment to the OTs. While the granting of aid has been cumbersome and painfully slow the good news is that efforts are being made to effect improvement. It would be good today if we can explore ways for aid to be both given and received with dignity and decency.

But I have said enough. Enough I hope to stimulate your thoughts and lead to meaningful discussions that would further lead to meaningful actions.

Another of the characteristics of business in the new economy is that it must be done quickly. In the words of Bill Gates, at the very speed of thought. Let us think action, discuss it and bring it about. The action we want to see is in constitutional modernisation and good governance. Action that would quickly put in place the modern partnership between the Overseas Territories and Britain that will ensure greater self-determination, greater progress and the attainment of the highest possible standard of living for all our people.

Thank you very much.