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Donaldson Romeo speaks on the OECS Treaty – A statement

Delivered only days before the announcement of Minister of State Alan Duncan that Montserrat had FCO’s go ahead to sign the Treaty

Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat

I just had to take serious notice of the recent strong remarks of our Hon Premier when accusing the FCO for forcing their intentions down his throat.  Please listen to what he recently said on ZJB:

HMG must stop trying to shove things down the throats of the overseas territories.  Let us have a discussion, a full and open discussion.  A lot of the rubbish questions which are being asked over the past two years by the Foreign Office in relation to the OECS, I am sick and tired of them, they just keep repeating the same questions, the same questions . . .

What do you think about what our Hon Premier has said?

Well in order for us to be able to know enough to agree or disagree with our Hon Premier we need to first know specifically what he is talking about.  But notice: he has not given us any details about what his battle with the FCO over the OECS is all about.

We must therefore ask why our Hon Premier is crying out to the public and accusing the FCO of doing, the exact same thing he has been doing to us, his own people.  He himself has not had the necessary open discussions with us over the same OECS Economic Union treaty.  Our Hon Premier is only crying out because he is getting a taste of his own medicine.  For should he have had his way with the FCO and had gotten the power to sign the OECS treaty do you really think our Hon premier would conduct frank and open discussions with the people of Montserrat before any rush to any rush to sign the treaty?  I hope so but I very much doubt it.

Worse yet do you think that after joining the other OECS leaders in an OECS assembly that our government will consult us before using their power to make decisions and laws for us?  Well I contend that what our government does today is what we should expect tomorrow.

Please do not misunderstand me.  The OECS Treaty has some very good ideas in it, though there are points of concern too:

1: The treaty unites us with the people of our region, and is meant to provide an open economic space that could potentially benefit us all.

2: The treaty, however, needs to protect territories like Montserrat, where we are feeling the effects of not just the global economic crisis, but also fifteen years of volcano crisis that has led to 2/3rd of our population fleeing and has locked us out of more than ½ of our land.

3: We also need to be very, very sure about the terms of the treaty that set up an OECS legislative assembly and council of Premiers and Prime Ministers with law-making power; power to  make laws that would take priority over our own laws on matters linked to trade and the economy; power to make laws without consulting us.

4: The treaty will allow free movement of workers and freedom to set up businesses.  Many believe that this will be harmful and some believe that this would be beneficial to us.  The people of Montserrat need to know the facts.   This must not be forced on the people of Montserrat.

Unless there is first full and open discussion with the people of Montserrat I cannot in good conscience support the signing of the OECS Economic Union Treaty.

For, the GoM must have the wisdom to openly discuss the positive and negative impacts the OECS treaty may have on the people of Montserrat and allow us to respond for ourselves and work to resolve challenges together.   And in fact, the OECS Secretariat has said that governments should not sign the treaty without first consulting with the people; they even offered to help our government to do this. Dominica’s Prime Minister told us right here with regards to his own country. But after a year, what has our Premier done about this. If he was able to say this is what my people want, we have talked about it, don’t you think the questions would have to be less?

The FCO is fully aware that the GoM has not done the necessary consultations with the people of Montserrat.  I made sure that our Governor and FCO are aware of this fact.  The big question is then: Should we not expect both FCO the GoM to follow international best practice of good, transparent, democratic government that demands that stakeholders are not only consulted but given a fair opportunity to express their concerns?  Will HE, our Governor, at cabinet level, approve a resolution to vote the OECS treaty into law without the full knowledge and support of the people of Montserrat? The Governor, the FCO and the GoM all repeatedly say that transparency is vital, but if FCO were to give its blessings for us to sign a treaty, with little or no information and consultation, wouldn’t they be condoning and  showing the same lack of transparency? Talk about transparency and good governance would then be little more than empty words.

Many including close advisers to our Government quietly believe that failure to consult the people of Montserrat and involve them in such a major decision as full economic union with the OECS would itself be adding yet another crisis to the various crises we already have.

We the people of Montserrat will not stand by and let big decisions like this get made behind closed doors then announced to us as done deals.  Then no matter what we say “until the cows come home” we cannot change what was decided behind closed doors.  We the elected members of Parliament must insist that proper consultation be done with all of our people.  Our Chamber of Commerce, businessmen, contractors and concerned citizens also all need to speak out before it is too late.

So let us listen again:

A lot of the rubbish questions which are being asked over the past two years by the foreign office in relation to the OECS, I am sick and tired of them, they just keep repeating the same questions, the same questions . . .

Sooner or later the people of Montserrat are going to get sick and tired of a continuation of the kind of decisions being made behind closed doors and not even published as was promised and ruled a year ago. Are they not published because they are mostly bad decisions made not in the interest of the rest of us? Decisions that seriously affect our lives with little or no consultation?  People will get sick and tired too of the repeating of the same mistakes, the same mistakes over and over again.

I have every confidence that after having frank and open discussion and consultation with the people of Montserrat the GoM will be in a much better position to make a wise decision:  a wise decision that has the needed support of our people.

So it is time for our Hon Premier to recognise that the very thing he so strongly objects to when the FCO does it to him, it is the same that we have been objecting to all along.   And, since he has not carried us the people with him in his dealings with the OECS, he is bound to be isolated.

The solution to all of these problems is simple, quite simple. “Let us have a discussion, a full and open discussion” to quote the Premier.

Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat,

 

Thank you for listening.

 

 

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Delivered only days before the announcement of Minister of State Alan Duncan that Montserrat had FCO’s go ahead to sign the Treaty

Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat

I just had to take serious notice of the recent strong remarks of our Hon Premier when accusing the FCO for forcing their intentions down his throat.  Please listen to what he recently said on ZJB:

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HMG must stop trying to shove things down the throats of the overseas territories.  Let us have a discussion, a full and open discussion.  A lot of the rubbish questions which are being asked over the past two years by the Foreign Office in relation to the OECS, I am sick and tired of them, they just keep repeating the same questions, the same questions . . .

What do you think about what our Hon Premier has said?

Well in order for us to be able to know enough to agree or disagree with our Hon Premier we need to first know specifically what he is talking about.  But notice: he has not given us any details about what his battle with the FCO over the OECS is all about.

We must therefore ask why our Hon Premier is crying out to the public and accusing the FCO of doing, the exact same thing he has been doing to us, his own people.  He himself has not had the necessary open discussions with us over the same OECS Economic Union treaty.  Our Hon Premier is only crying out because he is getting a taste of his own medicine.  For should he have had his way with the FCO and had gotten the power to sign the OECS treaty do you really think our Hon premier would conduct frank and open discussions with the people of Montserrat before any rush to any rush to sign the treaty?  I hope so but I very much doubt it.

Worse yet do you think that after joining the other OECS leaders in an OECS assembly that our government will consult us before using their power to make decisions and laws for us?  Well I contend that what our government does today is what we should expect tomorrow.

Please do not misunderstand me.  The OECS Treaty has some very good ideas in it, though there are points of concern too:

1: The treaty unites us with the people of our region, and is meant to provide an open economic space that could potentially benefit us all.

2: The treaty, however, needs to protect territories like Montserrat, where we are feeling the effects of not just the global economic crisis, but also fifteen years of volcano crisis that has led to 2/3rd of our population fleeing and has locked us out of more than ½ of our land.

3: We also need to be very, very sure about the terms of the treaty that set up an OECS legislative assembly and council of Premiers and Prime Ministers with law-making power; power to  make laws that would take priority over our own laws on matters linked to trade and the economy; power to make laws without consulting us.

4: The treaty will allow free movement of workers and freedom to set up businesses.  Many believe that this will be harmful and some believe that this would be beneficial to us.  The people of Montserrat need to know the facts.   This must not be forced on the people of Montserrat.

Unless there is first full and open discussion with the people of Montserrat I cannot in good conscience support the signing of the OECS Economic Union Treaty.

For, the GoM must have the wisdom to openly discuss the positive and negative impacts the OECS treaty may have on the people of Montserrat and allow us to respond for ourselves and work to resolve challenges together.   And in fact, the OECS Secretariat has said that governments should not sign the treaty without first consulting with the people; they even offered to help our government to do this. Dominica’s Prime Minister told us right here with regards to his own country. But after a year, what has our Premier done about this. If he was able to say this is what my people want, we have talked about it, don’t you think the questions would have to be less?

The FCO is fully aware that the GoM has not done the necessary consultations with the people of Montserrat.  I made sure that our Governor and FCO are aware of this fact.  The big question is then: Should we not expect both FCO the GoM to follow international best practice of good, transparent, democratic government that demands that stakeholders are not only consulted but given a fair opportunity to express their concerns?  Will HE, our Governor, at cabinet level, approve a resolution to vote the OECS treaty into law without the full knowledge and support of the people of Montserrat? The Governor, the FCO and the GoM all repeatedly say that transparency is vital, but if FCO were to give its blessings for us to sign a treaty, with little or no information and consultation, wouldn’t they be condoning and  showing the same lack of transparency? Talk about transparency and good governance would then be little more than empty words.

Many including close advisers to our Government quietly believe that failure to consult the people of Montserrat and involve them in such a major decision as full economic union with the OECS would itself be adding yet another crisis to the various crises we already have.

We the people of Montserrat will not stand by and let big decisions like this get made behind closed doors then announced to us as done deals.  Then no matter what we say “until the cows come home” we cannot change what was decided behind closed doors.  We the elected members of Parliament must insist that proper consultation be done with all of our people.  Our Chamber of Commerce, businessmen, contractors and concerned citizens also all need to speak out before it is too late.

So let us listen again:

A lot of the rubbish questions which are being asked over the past two years by the foreign office in relation to the OECS, I am sick and tired of them, they just keep repeating the same questions, the same questions . . .

Sooner or later the people of Montserrat are going to get sick and tired of a continuation of the kind of decisions being made behind closed doors and not even published as was promised and ruled a year ago. Are they not published because they are mostly bad decisions made not in the interest of the rest of us? Decisions that seriously affect our lives with little or no consultation?  People will get sick and tired too of the repeating of the same mistakes, the same mistakes over and over again.

I have every confidence that after having frank and open discussion and consultation with the people of Montserrat the GoM will be in a much better position to make a wise decision:  a wise decision that has the needed support of our people.

So it is time for our Hon Premier to recognise that the very thing he so strongly objects to when the FCO does it to him, it is the same that we have been objecting to all along.   And, since he has not carried us the people with him in his dealings with the OECS, he is bound to be isolated.

The solution to all of these problems is simple, quite simple. “Let us have a discussion, a full and open discussion” to quote the Premier.

Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat,

 

Thank you for listening.