Categorized | Opinions, Politics

Yes, keep Montserrat alive

By Howell Bramble

As the debate on the draft Constitution heats up the erosion of trust should be put to rest by declarations of moral principles from the Montserrat Government and the Foreign Office officials in London who deal with Montserrat’s affairs.

It is being put about that the urgency for Legislative approval of the Draft Constitution is fueled by a Foreign Office promise of permission for the Montserrat Government’s accession to a new regional Treaty. It would be a very sad  reflection on prevailing  political morality if any such quid pro quo is used to short- circuit the consultative  process, especially since what can be regarded as serious  discussion of the issues has only began. Some of us  give  no credence  whatsoever to reports which introduce  the morality of certain perpetrators of that brand of persuasive conduct strictly forbidden by our current electoral laws.

Authors of the draft constitution can take a bow for including a Bill  of Rights and other  provisions which legal minds indicate were always covered in what they call the common law. They can also claim congratulations for revealing quite clearly that where Her Majesty the Queen reserves to herself power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Montserrat she does so “With the advice of Her Privy Council.”

The gravamen of discontent is not really the reserve powers retained by the Governor on Her Majesty’s behalf but the persistent insistence with the idea that when the Governor exercises his discretion on behalf of Her Majesty “Whether or not the Governor has complied with …….. instructions shall not be enquired into by any court.

Discontent is not rejection of reasonable checks in the constitution while Montserrat  is an Overseas Territory. Discontent arises from the reality that Governors (and the Attorneys General who advise them) can be persons of poor discretion.  History recalls that when the seat of government for the Leeward Islands was based in Antigua,  a Governor by the name of Colonel Gordon met his demise on that island. The persons who were taken to Britain for trial were freed because  the British officials in those ancient times agreed that Colonel Gordon “was of a notorious reputation.”

Let us not ignore the fact that in recent times three Governors of Montserrat failed to interpret the General Orders correctly resulting in administrative  performance which was deemed “Wednesbury unreasonable.”

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an ancient democracy. It’s peoples survived the black death, triumphed over feudalism, slavery and varying  degrees of tyranny. In their quest for freedom they put to flight the great Spanish Armada; they overcame Napoleon, erecting to his memory a train station called Waterloo. They stood up to Hitler’s bliztzerieg and emerged triumphant. These peoples blessed mankind with the Magna Carta  which emphasizes the supremacy of the law over the Monarchy, the lords and commoners alike.

Come  on Britain, come on Messrs. Cameron, Klegg and company, the most important impetus that your new constitution can give to the good governance process in 2010 is to ensure that British appointed Governors of this island are not exempt from the scrutiny of the High Court whenever they exercise discretionary powers on behalf of Her Majesty.

In respect of the Overseas Territories, Her Majesty’s  Conservative-Liberal coalition must  show consistency and throw out  all unfair policy hang-overs from the Blair-Brown era allowing the citizens of the scattered islands the full benefit of freedom and the accountability that accompanies it.

Moreover, if what we have on Montserrat is a situation in which detractors and supporters of the Government alike are insisting that the Governor’s “discretion” should be subjected to Judicial Review while the elected persons (with the  notable exception of Donaldson Romeo) are crying “power to the Governor” it seems appropriate that the new constitution should be armed with provision for Referendum and Recall.

The drafters of the constitution should exercise much caution on the issue of powers of pardon. There will never be a situation in which the Governor of Montserrat  cannot effectively consult with a majority of Ministers within forty eight hours. In view of the well known  aversion of Caucasian residents to any of their kith and kin spending time in Her Majesty’s prison  that pardon issue could make for a serious dilemma for the Governor.

At a time when the World Wild Life Federation has announced plans to double by 2020 the number of tigers on the planet, our daft constitution fails to address the crying need for some attempt to protect and preserve the Montserratian species of  residents and participants in the political process. So whereas they hasten to disenfranchise property-owning and taxpaying Montserratians – some of whom lost millions of dollars worth of property to the volcanic eruption, but relocated because of the crisis, they graciously extend to Commonwealth citizens  the right to be nominated for elections after three years residence. While we ought to welcome our Commonwealth friends and value their contribution, it would seem politic to extend their residential qualification period for nomination to fifteen or twenty years.

Drafters of the new constitution and the legislators reportedly anxious to dismiss the legitimate misgivings of the population and pass it into law, are not invited to duplicate the sentiments of the independence constitution which Britain gave to St. Kitts and Nevis. That constitution bars from standing for public office persons whose  parents were not born in the federation thereby excluding persons who had previously held elected office for several years.

Just like Montserratians who migrate to other lands, our Commonwealth friends bear family concerns and seek first and foremost to get remittances back home. They  retain  and nurture their identity; they organize themselves into communal organizations and fan the identity flames with impressively organized national day celebrations. But they are workers and consumers. The availability of their labour discourages slothfulness among the locals and it is unfair and unwise to accuse them of putting themselves in line to acquire the much sought after Montserrat passport. U.K. officials will realize that insistence on a slower path to qualification for nomination for elections towers above the vulgarity of  those who dismissed the indigenous peoples of Diego Garica as “transient workers.”

Indeed, the special circumstances of Montserrat call for inclusiveness which for electoral purposes would include the diaspora, or some of them. As MNI-Alive so aptly shows, the revolution in communications technology has shrunken our planet  giving persons residing in the United Kingdom, North America and several other parts of the world unbroken connections with their homeland.

How can legislators  entertain the idea of giving the Governor the right to allocate lands?  Governors are human beings with their own personal friends and agendas. What if a Governor decided to allocate to some foreigner lands best suited for the geothermal  project?  What if  the Governor is persuaded  to allocate for use as a toxic dump site the new bit of land created by the eruption of the volcano on the Southeastern tip of our island?

There appears to be a section of the draft constitution which is intended to permit the Governor, contrary to British Parliamentary practice, to continue the folly of appointing elected persons to offices of emolument under the Crown. That sort of thing creates corruption and should not be allowed.

Rally to the cause, push the consultation, join the national conversation, keep Montserrat alive.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Howell Bramble

As the debate on the draft Constitution heats up the erosion of trust should be put to rest by declarations of moral principles from the Montserrat Government and the Foreign Office officials in London who deal with Montserrat’s affairs.

It is being put about that the urgency for Legislative approval of the Draft Constitution is fueled by a Foreign Office promise of permission for the Montserrat Government’s accession to a new regional Treaty. It would be a very sad  reflection on prevailing  political morality if any such quid pro quo is used to short- circuit the consultative  process, especially since what can be regarded as serious  discussion of the issues has only began. Some of us  give  no credence  whatsoever to reports which introduce  the morality of certain perpetrators of that brand of persuasive conduct strictly forbidden by our current electoral laws.

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Authors of the draft constitution can take a bow for including a Bill  of Rights and other  provisions which legal minds indicate were always covered in what they call the common law. They can also claim congratulations for revealing quite clearly that where Her Majesty the Queen reserves to herself power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Montserrat she does so “With the advice of Her Privy Council.”

The gravamen of discontent is not really the reserve powers retained by the Governor on Her Majesty’s behalf but the persistent insistence with the idea that when the Governor exercises his discretion on behalf of Her Majesty “Whether or not the Governor has complied with …….. instructions shall not be enquired into by any court.

Discontent is not rejection of reasonable checks in the constitution while Montserrat  is an Overseas Territory. Discontent arises from the reality that Governors (and the Attorneys General who advise them) can be persons of poor discretion.  History recalls that when the seat of government for the Leeward Islands was based in Antigua,  a Governor by the name of Colonel Gordon met his demise on that island. The persons who were taken to Britain for trial were freed because  the British officials in those ancient times agreed that Colonel Gordon “was of a notorious reputation.”

Let us not ignore the fact that in recent times three Governors of Montserrat failed to interpret the General Orders correctly resulting in administrative  performance which was deemed “Wednesbury unreasonable.”

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an ancient democracy. It’s peoples survived the black death, triumphed over feudalism, slavery and varying  degrees of tyranny. In their quest for freedom they put to flight the great Spanish Armada; they overcame Napoleon, erecting to his memory a train station called Waterloo. They stood up to Hitler’s bliztzerieg and emerged triumphant. These peoples blessed mankind with the Magna Carta  which emphasizes the supremacy of the law over the Monarchy, the lords and commoners alike.

Come  on Britain, come on Messrs. Cameron, Klegg and company, the most important impetus that your new constitution can give to the good governance process in 2010 is to ensure that British appointed Governors of this island are not exempt from the scrutiny of the High Court whenever they exercise discretionary powers on behalf of Her Majesty.

In respect of the Overseas Territories, Her Majesty’s  Conservative-Liberal coalition must  show consistency and throw out  all unfair policy hang-overs from the Blair-Brown era allowing the citizens of the scattered islands the full benefit of freedom and the accountability that accompanies it.

Moreover, if what we have on Montserrat is a situation in which detractors and supporters of the Government alike are insisting that the Governor’s “discretion” should be subjected to Judicial Review while the elected persons (with the  notable exception of Donaldson Romeo) are crying “power to the Governor” it seems appropriate that the new constitution should be armed with provision for Referendum and Recall.

The drafters of the constitution should exercise much caution on the issue of powers of pardon. There will never be a situation in which the Governor of Montserrat  cannot effectively consult with a majority of Ministers within forty eight hours. In view of the well known  aversion of Caucasian residents to any of their kith and kin spending time in Her Majesty’s prison  that pardon issue could make for a serious dilemma for the Governor.

At a time when the World Wild Life Federation has announced plans to double by 2020 the number of tigers on the planet, our daft constitution fails to address the crying need for some attempt to protect and preserve the Montserratian species of  residents and participants in the political process. So whereas they hasten to disenfranchise property-owning and taxpaying Montserratians – some of whom lost millions of dollars worth of property to the volcanic eruption, but relocated because of the crisis, they graciously extend to Commonwealth citizens  the right to be nominated for elections after three years residence. While we ought to welcome our Commonwealth friends and value their contribution, it would seem politic to extend their residential qualification period for nomination to fifteen or twenty years.

Drafters of the new constitution and the legislators reportedly anxious to dismiss the legitimate misgivings of the population and pass it into law, are not invited to duplicate the sentiments of the independence constitution which Britain gave to St. Kitts and Nevis. That constitution bars from standing for public office persons whose  parents were not born in the federation thereby excluding persons who had previously held elected office for several years.

Just like Montserratians who migrate to other lands, our Commonwealth friends bear family concerns and seek first and foremost to get remittances back home. They  retain  and nurture their identity; they organize themselves into communal organizations and fan the identity flames with impressively organized national day celebrations. But they are workers and consumers. The availability of their labour discourages slothfulness among the locals and it is unfair and unwise to accuse them of putting themselves in line to acquire the much sought after Montserrat passport. U.K. officials will realize that insistence on a slower path to qualification for nomination for elections towers above the vulgarity of  those who dismissed the indigenous peoples of Diego Garica as “transient workers.”

Indeed, the special circumstances of Montserrat call for inclusiveness which for electoral purposes would include the diaspora, or some of them. As MNI-Alive so aptly shows, the revolution in communications technology has shrunken our planet  giving persons residing in the United Kingdom, North America and several other parts of the world unbroken connections with their homeland.

How can legislators  entertain the idea of giving the Governor the right to allocate lands?  Governors are human beings with their own personal friends and agendas. What if a Governor decided to allocate to some foreigner lands best suited for the geothermal  project?  What if  the Governor is persuaded  to allocate for use as a toxic dump site the new bit of land created by the eruption of the volcano on the Southeastern tip of our island?

There appears to be a section of the draft constitution which is intended to permit the Governor, contrary to British Parliamentary practice, to continue the folly of appointing elected persons to offices of emolument under the Crown. That sort of thing creates corruption and should not be allowed.

Rally to the cause, push the consultation, join the national conversation, keep Montserrat alive.