Premier Romeo’s presentation at the UN General Assembly

4th COMMITTEE IN NY

Premier Donaldson Romeo

Presented On October 10, 2019

(Following his presentation to the subsidiary C24 on Decolonisation;
made on the 22nd Anniversary of the fatal volcanic eruption of June 25th1997)

Mr President,

On behalf of the Government and People of Montserrat, I must first express thanks for allowing me to address you today.  Secondly I wish to use this opportunity to thank the United Kingdom for agreeing to allow the UN C 24 Committee to visit Montserrat in the month of December, 2019.

I am very impressed with the wisdom, foresight and compassion which members of the UN demonstrated some decades ago when they put in place the UN 4th Committee and the UN C24 committee, whose task, as I understand it, is to see that “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners could sit together at the table of brotherhood” to reconcile their painful past.  Apart from educating the People of Montserrat face-to-face in December concerning its true purpose under Article 73, the C 24 Committee will at last be in a position to assess firsthand what has been done in nearly half a century to remove Montserrat from its list of Territories to be decolonized.

It is obvious that the 4th committee, the C 24 Committee as well as the UK, have long known that Montserrat has always had, the God given right, the means, the motivation, the opportunity and the skills to be economically, politically, educationally and socially liberated; liberated to the point where Montserrat could long have been well advanced in its development; yes, long before the volcano erupted in 1995, and yes, even, or especially at this present time.

Unfortunately, the People of Montserrat have been largely unaware of the rights and opportunities afforded them under Article 73. Had we fully understood this as a People and, together with our Government, insisted on timely fulfillment and deliverables according to an agreed time frame, Montserrat would long have stood on its own two feet politically, economically and otherwise, prior to the volcanic eruptions and especially since.

There was no need for the level of loss of life, property, economy and population, and the suffering which resulted from delay and lack of critical funding for both the immediate, recovery, and redevelopment response needed in the face of a volcanic eruption. The risks were predicted long before the volcano erupted and even while it erupted the true hazards were covered up in an effort to avoid spending a few pounds.  Evidence of all of this was provided in my recent letter to the Chair of the UN C 24 Committee.

The good news is that Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has finally made a significant step in addressing Montserrat’s long-standing need for both transformational and basic capital infrastructure lost to the volcano, and long needed to rebuild our society and economy.

At last, as I speak, I am particularly happy to report that after ten years of effort, through the recent help of the UK, the project to install a replacement subsea fiber optic cable to Montserrat is going through.  As I speak, my technicians are finalizing the contractual agreements for the UK funded 4.9 Million sterling undersea fiber optic cable lost 20 years ago.

Regrettably, this also tells the post volcano disaster story of Montserrat in a nutshell.  It took a decade, 10 years of haggling and red tape with the UK to get this far.

The same goes for the main road project, which even with the recent injection, may only address a portion of the relatively limited main road infrastructure, never mind that of the entire island’s roads. In the same way, is the 4.3 million pounds awarded for housing?  For it addresses less than 1/8 of the 400 households, mostly evacuees on the island waiting for permanent hurricane-worthy housing after some 20 plus years.  What then of the housing needs of over 6,000 driven into involuntary exile overseas (mainly in the UK), with no plan in place to assist them to return to their homeland as promised when they were given an attractive package to move from deplorable conditions in overcrowded shelters to the UK, where (and we are grateful for this) housing, food, education, and health care, were, and continue to be provided.

The renewed commitment by the UK is welcomed and commendable but is way behind the curve of the crisis in many respects; as many as 10 to 20 years. 

The GoM still struggles to retain essential workers like teachers, police and nurses.  The youth have continued to leave in droves each year while even the adults, including the retired, move to greener pastures in the UK.  Pensions, salaries, social welfare benefits are long and way behind the ever-increasing cost of living.  The temporary housing stock, especially many built by the government itself dare not face even a Category 3 hurricane never mind a Category 5.  All of this is well known by HMG from many studies and consultancies, but little positive action has been taken. 

When the C 24 visits, it will see children at the only secondary school standing outside in the open with no assembly room to congregate; or eating lunch under the trees and on the sidewalk once of course it is not raining, because there is nowhere else to go; no proper play area because the promised new school has sat on the agenda for more than a decade, government after government.

They will meet over 200 households living in temporary, hurricane-vulnerable housing built by the Government with no commitment to address the disaster in waiting.

They will see the successfully dug geothermal wells awaiting the grant funding needed to be completed and made operational.

They will meet single mothers and the working poor, as well as civil servants, who, after a ten-year wage freeze, were refused a salary increase because the then UK Secretary of State objected that she could not give a 3% increase to public servants in the UK at the time.

On June 25 past, I requested – among other things – that the United Nations assist GoM in coordination with HMG regarding:

  • a charter framework for good governance
  • assistance with public education and a constitutional review
  • support for putting in place key infrastructure, including a hospital
  • addressing sorely needed social housing
  • moving forward on developing Montserrat’s huge geothermal energy potential
  • aid in resettlement of our involuntary exiles, and
  • a neutral, UN-supported facilitator on island

I stand by these requests and other requests previously made to the UN C 24 Committee.

In Conclusion: The cardinal request which I wish to make today, is that after the upcoming C24 field visit to Montserrat, the Committee and the Fourth Committee work with the UK and the GoM to establish a framework, a timeline and an action programme for the full decolonization of Montserrat. This would include the requests in my previous presentations and the strategic thrust of the Montserrat Economic Growth Strategy; which I will communicate to the chair of this Committee along with other documents mentioned today.

Mr. President, thank you in advance for your attention to these important matters.

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4th COMMITTEE IN NY

Premier Donaldson Romeo

Presented On October 10, 2019

(Following his presentation to the subsidiary C24 on Decolonisation;
made on the 22nd Anniversary of the fatal volcanic eruption of June 25th1997)

Insert Ads Here

Mr President,

On behalf of the Government and People of Montserrat, I must first express thanks for allowing me to address you today.  Secondly I wish to use this opportunity to thank the United Kingdom for agreeing to allow the UN C 24 Committee to visit Montserrat in the month of December, 2019.

I am very impressed with the wisdom, foresight and compassion which members of the UN demonstrated some decades ago when they put in place the UN 4th Committee and the UN C24 committee, whose task, as I understand it, is to see that “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners could sit together at the table of brotherhood” to reconcile their painful past.  Apart from educating the People of Montserrat face-to-face in December concerning its true purpose under Article 73, the C 24 Committee will at last be in a position to assess firsthand what has been done in nearly half a century to remove Montserrat from its list of Territories to be decolonized.

It is obvious that the 4th committee, the C 24 Committee as well as the UK, have long known that Montserrat has always had, the God given right, the means, the motivation, the opportunity and the skills to be economically, politically, educationally and socially liberated; liberated to the point where Montserrat could long have been well advanced in its development; yes, long before the volcano erupted in 1995, and yes, even, or especially at this present time.

Unfortunately, the People of Montserrat have been largely unaware of the rights and opportunities afforded them under Article 73. Had we fully understood this as a People and, together with our Government, insisted on timely fulfillment and deliverables according to an agreed time frame, Montserrat would long have stood on its own two feet politically, economically and otherwise, prior to the volcanic eruptions and especially since.

There was no need for the level of loss of life, property, economy and population, and the suffering which resulted from delay and lack of critical funding for both the immediate, recovery, and redevelopment response needed in the face of a volcanic eruption. The risks were predicted long before the volcano erupted and even while it erupted the true hazards were covered up in an effort to avoid spending a few pounds.  Evidence of all of this was provided in my recent letter to the Chair of the UN C 24 Committee.

The good news is that Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has finally made a significant step in addressing Montserrat’s long-standing need for both transformational and basic capital infrastructure lost to the volcano, and long needed to rebuild our society and economy.

At last, as I speak, I am particularly happy to report that after ten years of effort, through the recent help of the UK, the project to install a replacement subsea fiber optic cable to Montserrat is going through.  As I speak, my technicians are finalizing the contractual agreements for the UK funded 4.9 Million sterling undersea fiber optic cable lost 20 years ago.

Regrettably, this also tells the post volcano disaster story of Montserrat in a nutshell.  It took a decade, 10 years of haggling and red tape with the UK to get this far.

The same goes for the main road project, which even with the recent injection, may only address a portion of the relatively limited main road infrastructure, never mind that of the entire island’s roads. In the same way, is the 4.3 million pounds awarded for housing?  For it addresses less than 1/8 of the 400 households, mostly evacuees on the island waiting for permanent hurricane-worthy housing after some 20 plus years.  What then of the housing needs of over 6,000 driven into involuntary exile overseas (mainly in the UK), with no plan in place to assist them to return to their homeland as promised when they were given an attractive package to move from deplorable conditions in overcrowded shelters to the UK, where (and we are grateful for this) housing, food, education, and health care, were, and continue to be provided.

The renewed commitment by the UK is welcomed and commendable but is way behind the curve of the crisis in many respects; as many as 10 to 20 years. 

The GoM still struggles to retain essential workers like teachers, police and nurses.  The youth have continued to leave in droves each year while even the adults, including the retired, move to greener pastures in the UK.  Pensions, salaries, social welfare benefits are long and way behind the ever-increasing cost of living.  The temporary housing stock, especially many built by the government itself dare not face even a Category 3 hurricane never mind a Category 5.  All of this is well known by HMG from many studies and consultancies, but little positive action has been taken. 

When the C 24 visits, it will see children at the only secondary school standing outside in the open with no assembly room to congregate; or eating lunch under the trees and on the sidewalk once of course it is not raining, because there is nowhere else to go; no proper play area because the promised new school has sat on the agenda for more than a decade, government after government.

They will meet over 200 households living in temporary, hurricane-vulnerable housing built by the Government with no commitment to address the disaster in waiting.

They will see the successfully dug geothermal wells awaiting the grant funding needed to be completed and made operational.

They will meet single mothers and the working poor, as well as civil servants, who, after a ten-year wage freeze, were refused a salary increase because the then UK Secretary of State objected that she could not give a 3% increase to public servants in the UK at the time.

On June 25 past, I requested – among other things – that the United Nations assist GoM in coordination with HMG regarding:

I stand by these requests and other requests previously made to the UN C 24 Committee.

In Conclusion: The cardinal request which I wish to make today, is that after the upcoming C24 field visit to Montserrat, the Committee and the Fourth Committee work with the UK and the GoM to establish a framework, a timeline and an action programme for the full decolonization of Montserrat. This would include the requests in my previous presentations and the strategic thrust of the Montserrat Economic Growth Strategy; which I will communicate to the chair of this Committee along with other documents mentioned today.

Mr. President, thank you in advance for your attention to these important matters.