Categorized | Editorial

Know the past, find the correct path to progress for the future

Editorial – March 29, 2013

It was heartening to hear the Hon Minister of Education, Health and Social Services, refer to “we are building a country”. This was amidst the thumping of breasts that seemed to have been the order of the day during the debate of the 2013/14 budget.

Indeed like was said last week, it is not about rebuilding. As we look back, we have been asking our leaders to do this at various times for different reasons, to try to bring minds to the present and know where they have come from and where they are going. The talk will be less and action guaranteed.

Here are some excepts from an Editorial, which in May, 2001 captioned: “The Guide to Montserrat’s Future Is Contained in Critiques of the Past”. We are convinced that most of it applies today. British Government at that time believed we should have been ready to stand on our own two feet. And they came ten years later and said the same thing. Can you understand how they think? Here we go:

Sometime in May 1996, Sir Nicholas Bonsor, one of Britain’s ministers visited Montserrat. After seeing Montserratians’ determination to remain in Montserrat, in spite of the volcano, which was increasing in its ferocity, he concluded that the north of the island was safe.

He promised that the British Government would provide the necessary funding to develop the safe-north of the island so that life could go on in Montserrat.

Since then, Montserrat and its leaders have not come to grips with the fact, that there will always be difficulty for a country such as Britain, known throughout history for its subtlety, diplomacy and some other traits, may not appreciate that a people not endowed with riches still enjoy “a good lifestyle remote from the poorest of the poor.”

Worse yet, what interest can they have in a few black people, whose requirements, in the wake of proportionately one of the worst disasters in the world, exceed what their benefactors thought they would be willing to invest for their care?

The evidence is well documented in reports, none of which were put together by Montserrat, instead ordered and gathered by the British themselves, but which are ignored and conveniently forgotten. There are the various reports of their parliamentary Select Committees.

The result of one report, as one writer describes it, “trenchant in its criticism of both the British and Montserrat government,” recommends a “frank and impartial report to assess what had happened and what lessons could be learned” from the crisis to date.

That was late 1997 “in the wake of escalating hardships.” Then came a report dated December 1999, covering the period up to November 1998, and even touching on key events up to the time of June 1999 when the report was being finalized.

After that came the Robin Cook White Paper, which clearly cites “the escalating volcanic activity in Montserrat,” as one of the reasons for Britain to examine its relationship with its territories and come up with “A New Partnership.”

It was Governor Savage, speaking for the British government, who said early in the crisis that there was no bottom to the purse of his government when it came to supporting Montserrat through the crisis.

In these documents lie many of the answers in the approach to Montserrat’s future, especially since it remains unresolved and people are questioning the resonance of their resilience. How to reduce dependency when the economy has collapsed? That question was always there, but now Britain is making demands after having totally taken advantage of a people unfortunate enough to have endured four years of some of the most incompetent leaders in our times. Just remember George Foulkes.

We listen to our new leaders making statements that aggravate our position in time, like “we do not know what we would have done without the British,” and “independence is not something to expect in their lifetime.” Is it possible that their lifetime will continue for only another five years or less? One good statement though, which they must take seriously, is that “it cannot be business as usual.”

The answers and the way forward are not all clear but could be effectively strategised if every Montserratian – and especially our private sector, civil servants and government – were to read and familiarise themselves with what is contained in all those documents and reports mentioned above.  

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Editorial – March 29, 2013

It was heartening to hear the Hon Minister of Education, Health and Social Services, refer to “we are building a country”. This was amidst the thumping of breasts that seemed to have been the order of the day during the debate of the 2013/14 budget.

Indeed like was said last week, it is not about rebuilding. As we look back, we have been asking our leaders to do this at various times for different reasons, to try to bring minds to the present and know where they have come from and where they are going. The talk will be less and action guaranteed.

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Here are some excepts from an Editorial, which in May, 2001 captioned: “The Guide to Montserrat’s Future Is Contained in Critiques of the Past”. We are convinced that most of it applies today. British Government at that time believed we should have been ready to stand on our own two feet. And they came ten years later and said the same thing. Can you understand how they think? Here we go:

Sometime in May 1996, Sir Nicholas Bonsor, one of Britain’s ministers visited Montserrat. After seeing Montserratians’ determination to remain in Montserrat, in spite of the volcano, which was increasing in its ferocity, he concluded that the north of the island was safe.

He promised that the British Government would provide the necessary funding to develop the safe-north of the island so that life could go on in Montserrat.

Since then, Montserrat and its leaders have not come to grips with the fact, that there will always be difficulty for a country such as Britain, known throughout history for its subtlety, diplomacy and some other traits, may not appreciate that a people not endowed with riches still enjoy “a good lifestyle remote from the poorest of the poor.”

Worse yet, what interest can they have in a few black people, whose requirements, in the wake of proportionately one of the worst disasters in the world, exceed what their benefactors thought they would be willing to invest for their care?

The evidence is well documented in reports, none of which were put together by Montserrat, instead ordered and gathered by the British themselves, but which are ignored and conveniently forgotten. There are the various reports of their parliamentary Select Committees.

The result of one report, as one writer describes it, “trenchant in its criticism of both the British and Montserrat government,” recommends a “frank and impartial report to assess what had happened and what lessons could be learned” from the crisis to date.

That was late 1997 “in the wake of escalating hardships.” Then came a report dated December 1999, covering the period up to November 1998, and even touching on key events up to the time of June 1999 when the report was being finalized.

After that came the Robin Cook White Paper, which clearly cites “the escalating volcanic activity in Montserrat,” as one of the reasons for Britain to examine its relationship with its territories and come up with “A New Partnership.”

It was Governor Savage, speaking for the British government, who said early in the crisis that there was no bottom to the purse of his government when it came to supporting Montserrat through the crisis.

In these documents lie many of the answers in the approach to Montserrat’s future, especially since it remains unresolved and people are questioning the resonance of their resilience. How to reduce dependency when the economy has collapsed? That question was always there, but now Britain is making demands after having totally taken advantage of a people unfortunate enough to have endured four years of some of the most incompetent leaders in our times. Just remember George Foulkes.

We listen to our new leaders making statements that aggravate our position in time, like “we do not know what we would have done without the British,” and “independence is not something to expect in their lifetime.” Is it possible that their lifetime will continue for only another five years or less? One good statement though, which they must take seriously, is that “it cannot be business as usual.”

The answers and the way forward are not all clear but could be effectively strategised if every Montserratian – and especially our private sector, civil servants and government – were to read and familiarise themselves with what is contained in all those documents and reports mentioned above.