VOICE FOR AN INDEPENDENT MONTSERRAT
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE CARIBBEAN PAN-AFRICAN MOVEMENT
Sometimes we forget our status as a "British Colony." We worry about things like recolonization. We get indignant when the British tell us they have a right to direct the conduct of Montserrat's affair or when they decide what is best for Montserrat without consulting its people.
Recent actions by the British government send a clear message to remind us that Montserrat is their possession and that until we become independent, they are, to quote Governor Taylor, "ultimately the government which is responsible for the conduct of affairs in Montserrat.
In the September issue of this newsletter, we posed the question, "Independence or Colonialism, Where is Montserrat Heading?" and we reproduced the text of a press conference held late July, 1992 by Lennox Boyd, British government minister responsible for England's dependent territories, who told us about Britain's new initiative for managing its dependent territories.
According to Mr. Boyd, the British government had just completed a review of the foreign office of the dependent territories.
This review concluded that the British "... have to pay more attention in government in London to the dependent territories..."
He informed us that they are putting into place a dependent territories board which can give the dependent territories, the collective advice of people in government in London as to how we should proceed.
This board will be chaired by Mr. Boyd and staffed by a whole range of departments in the British government including the foreign office, the ODA, home office, department of transport and the ministry of defence, plus other officials.
The board will NOT include any dependent territories citizens, says Mr. Boyd, because "it isn't a form of government of the dependent territories that we are instituting in this board."
"This board in London," he continued, "will be there to help the British government focus it mind on the needs of Montserrat and to bring advice through the governor to the government in Montserrat and give guidance and help."
Below, we present the text of an interview with Montserrat's governor, David Taylor, conducted by Government Information Officer, Claude Hogan, in which the governor explains more about Britain's new ministerial board of management for its dependent territories.
The interview was broadcast on Radio ZJB during the week of November 1st, 1992. We hope, as the governor says in his closing remarks, that it is helpful and enables the people of Montserrat to understand this new initiative better than we did before.
It appears that Montserrat is now moving back to a more rigid form of colonial administration rather than moving toward political independence. Read the words carefully and judge for yourself.
Q. Does the policy review suggest that Britain is not interested to allow a change of its current constitutional relationship with Montserrat and the other dependent territories, especially since Britain is not a member of the United Nations Committee on Decolonization?
A. The review does not in fact suggest any change whatsoever in the Montserrat Constitution or in Montserrat's constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom. The policy of the United Kingdom as far as Montserrat is concerned remains that if Montserrat wishes to become independent it may do so.
That would require a government which either went to the people on the basis of a independence platform or conceivably a referendum or so initiated by the elected government of the day. If the people express the clear...the majority wish for independence then, Montserrat could become independent.
I would like to say that it is really because of the British Government's commitment to this goal of independence if people wish it ... and it's commitment to decolonization and self-determination that it does not see any particular point in taking part in the decolonization committee.
Q. Britain assists not only dependent countries, so why is a Ministerial Board of Management being put in place only for its dependencies in the Caribbean?
A. Well the Ministerial Board of Management, I think, has been put in place in respect to the dependent territories because of the particular interest and concern which Britain shows not only in aid to the dependent territories but in the totality of their government.
My own view about the Ministerial Board which is going to be composed of officials from a number of different ministries in the United Kingdom, is that it will help to get a lot more people at a high level in government interested in the dependent territories on a continuous basis instead of just involving them as we do at the moment when there's a particular problem to be dealt with.
I'm thinking, for example, of the pensions problem. We've had recent discussions with Minister Lennox Boyd about the question of pensioners from the United Kingdom who come to live in Montserrat and find that their pensions no longer increase as they would do if they were in the United Kingdom. Well now that's an issue which is not just for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but for the relevant ministry in the United Kingdom.
And it's useful, I think, for that ministry to have the problem of pensioners in the dependent territories continuously in focus rather than simply being alerted to the problem when it becomes an issue. And that's the sort of thing that I would expect the Ministerial board to be doing.
Q. Is standing alone economically the only need Britain observes as essential for Caribbean Dependencies? What about the right to self-determination and dignity?
A. Well I believe that the two go together. It's not very much use having the right to self-determination if in fact you're not economically as viable as possible so that Britain in looking at the dependent territories thinks in terms of achieving the goal of economic self-sufficiency as far as that is possible in line with the eventual goal of achieving political independence.
Q. Is Britain of the view that the drug problem is more fundamentally one of demand and not supply, and how does this affect their policy on drug interdiction?
A. The drug problem is a very broadly- based one and it has a great number of different ramifications. Clearly, Britain in looking at the drug problem is not thinking only of Montserrat although it's concerned that there should not be a drug problem in Montserrat.
It is concerned also about the drug problem in the whole Caribbean basin and in the world so that our efforts in relation to drugs are focussed both on the need to control drugs in our society and also on the need to control drugs on a much wider regional basis and to fight the spread of drugs and all the crime that goes with it on all fronts.
Q. Recently, Minister Lennox Boyd said the proposed board was about managing development funds, yet the stated policy is suggestive of further intervention into "off-shore banking operations and white collar crime" which amounts to the policing of the governments of dependent territories. Do you see this as a reversal of the gains of dependencies since the introduction of Ministerial Government in the Caribbean, Montserrat not excluded?
A. I don't really. I think that the problem of crime, the problem of drugs to which we referred and related problem of money laundering has become a much greater one since the introduction of Ministerial Government in the various dependent territories and I think it's become problem which can't just be addressed by the dependent territories alone but one which has to be addressed by the dependent territories with the support of the British government.
So I don't see this as intervention. I see this as a joint effort in combating something which we all want to deal with effectively.
Q. Is it correct to suggest that the British government does not allow officials of dependent territories to at least learn to take care of their own affairs, but acts as a sort of, 'Mr know it all' who does everything himself without regard for the dignity if his so-called friends?
A. Well, I'm certainly not aware of that in Montserrat. I think the first thing is that we try very hard to give Montserratian officials opportunities to be trained. We have Montserratian officials being trained in the United Kingdom at the moment.
We also have a policy whereby we don't bring in officials from outside Montserrat unless in fact there is a clear need for them and if their presence is requested by the Montserrat government. The other thing I think we should remember where we have British officials here, where we have TCOs working, they are working for the Montserrat government, they are not working for the British government.
It has to be borne in mind, you know, that Montserrat has a pretty small population base and it would be surprising if we didn't have to employ at least a certain number of people from outside the island whether they be expatriates from the UK or whether they be West Indians from other islands to enable us to run our government and development efficiently.
Q. Why is training dependent territory citizens taking back-stage in the new British Policy Plan?
A. Well, I wasn't aware that it was, in fact, taking the back-stage. I believe that it is actually mentioned specifically in the policy and I do know that in any British aid policy, the training content is a highly important one so I wouldn't accept that.
Q. It seems that the board, whether it will govern or not, lacks one key ingredient, that is the involvement of some key people, from the region, who are more closely acquainted with the development needs of dependencies. How can the British government departments even try to address local needs, or mobilize effectively without coming to grips with the very ethos of the people they hope to serve?
A. Yes. Well, when we think about the board, one of the whole points about having the board is, as I said in my previous answer, to ensure that there are people, there are senior officials in the UK who are more continuously involved, more continuously aware of the problems of the dependent territories.
The second point to make, I think, is that all the developments, all the planning which is envisaged in the Policy document requires a combination between the people of the territory concerned, between their elected representatives, in particular, and the British government and it seems to me that their elected representatives are the best people to ensure that the British government in the aid that it gives...the assistance that it gives addresses local needs.
Q. There is talk of "widening the range of expertise" to include more than the FCO and ODA. How is it that this plan does not also seek to utilize the expertise available in the dependencies?
A. Well. I don't think it excludes expertise available in the dependencies. What the plan is saying is this is what we can offer from our perspective in the UK. I believe that Montserrat will only be developed successfully by a combination of the elected government of Montserrat, the people of Montserrat and people from the other West Indian territories, organizations, regional organizations, which have a very important input and finally the British government.
Q. What criteria does the British use when selecting TCO and other aid officers for positions within government departments of Montserrat?
A. Well as I say, the first thing you have to remember is that these people don't come here at all....are not required to come here at all unless there is a perceived need, a perceived task which they are required to do. The task is identified and then the Overseas Development Administration does its best to find someone who has the appropriate professional expertise to do that task.
I would like to hope that they also look for people who have the right attitudes, who have the right degree of commitment which is likely to make them give an appropriate and sensitive contribution to the development of the country.
Q. In the past, technical aid to Montserrat have been such that the officers became members of staff of government departments.
The usual criticism was that despite being underqualified, in some cases, the aid officers were put into senior management positions, and never as consultants, or advisers to a senior person as would have been most advisable.
Now we understand that an FCO official will be placed outside the administrative arm of government as "reinforcement" to the governor. If he is not a part of "the local dependent territories government structure" then what is he? and could he not usurp the authority of our ministers and other officers?
A. Well I think what you want me to do is address the second half of your very long question and talk about the person it is proposed may come to Montserrat to assist me in my office and likewise other governors in their offices.
As I see it, that person will be essentially another member of my office staff. At present, I'm assisted by a personal assistant who comes from the foreign office and a Montserratian clerical officer supplied by the local government. Now I am, believe it or not, severely overburdened at the moment. I spend too much time at the office. I don't get out and about enough. I have to work long hours. I have to work at the weekends.
I don't resent any of that. But I think that I could be a better governor if I had someone in the office to help me with the very large amount of paperwork ... paperwork which particularly comes in from the foreign office. Now, as far as the question of usurping local authority is concerned, I really don't see my assistant as having a role outside my office. I see them as having a role in liaison with local government but I certainly don't see them, in any sense, usurping the authority of even very junior civil servants let alone ministers and senior civil servants.
They're simply part of my staff to enable me to do my work more efficiently and I suspect that the majority of the work which they will do will relate more to requirements from the foreign office in the way of reporting and so forth than they will to the day-to-day work of government here.
Q. Do you think anyone should set priorities for anyone else, especially when one may be out of touch with the people's culture and background?
A. No. I don't think they should set priorities for someone else when they are out of touch with the people's culture and background. And I don't think there's anything in this document which suggests that the British government honestly expects to do that.
I think one has to bear in mind that the British government has certain responsibilities in respect of Montserrat and the British government has to answer for its responsibilities in respect of Montserrat in Parliament. So it's bound to have a substantial interest in how we conduct our affairs here.
But I think when it comes to planning development, when it comes to the country plan which is talked about in the policy document, that must be surely a combined effort between the British government and the locally elected government and people.
Q. Why is it necessary for the British to be involved in setting priorities for Montserrat? And, could the proposed policy plan or country plan become the instrument of authority for planning and development on Montserrat?
A. Well, it's necessary for the British to be involved in setting priorities because they are ultimately the government which is responsible for the conduct of affairs in Montserrat. They are ultimately the government that's responsible for that. And as I say, they're held accountable for what happens here.
But that said, I simply don't see the country plan being other than a contract, if you like, between the Montserrat government and the British government. I don't see there being some enhancement of the British government's authority. I see the two governments working together to decide what will happen in Montserrat and how it will happen.
The british, of course, will be providing aid and to some extent, aid is bound to be conditional, in other words, the British in providing that aid may ask that certain conditions be fulfilled. There's nothing odd about that.
It applies both to dependent territories and to independent countries. I don't think that's something which we should be embarrassed about or worried about. I see us every year looking at the country plan, hammering this out.
Yes, we shall have our disagreements. Yes, we will have our confrontations but in the end we shall have an agreed way ahead which we will of course revise in accordance with developing situations as they occur over the years ahead.
Q. The country plan also makes reference to a penal code and a prison. Why is a new prison important at this stage especially when we have so many other important issues to be dealt with?
A. Well, there was a visit by the judge who advises the British government about prisons in the UK several years ago and he was concerned generally about the condition of the prisons in the dependent territories.
He felt that they were out of date and not in accordance with modern penal policy and the British government allocated funds to all dependent territories to build prisons on the basis of his report and I believe in that particular case they are saying that they are prepared to allocate funds for that particular purpose and not for any other because of their particular concern about that problem.
Q. If the British decided to build a prison, can we disagree under the country plan or, will we be forced to supplement, by percentage, funds advanced by the British and, as a result, forego what our local government knows are more important priorities?
A. Well, in the case of the prison, the British government has certainly said that those funds are only available to build a prison. That is quite true. And I think that we are expected to be in a position to meet the recurrent costs of that new prison. ,P> I believe that normally in the context of the country plan, we will expect essentially to agree about all our various priorities.
If there's some particular concern which the British have...which they have in security or whatever, they may still say as they as they have done in relation to the prison, well, we think that this particular need has to be addressed and we're prepared to provide the money to address this particular need and we aren't necessarily prepared to say well you can choose between this need and some other one.
I think that may still occur. There are certain funds which are earmarked for this kind of purpose which can't readily be used for other purposes.
Q. It sounds like decision-making. Why would the British want to take away decision making from anyone?
A. Well they don't want to take away decision-making from the local governments. They want the local governments to be as thoroughly involved in decision-making as it is possible to be. But they also want to play a part in that decision-making.
And as I say, if they have some particular funds which are only available for some particular purpose, then they have to make that clear, which is what they have done in this particular instance and I think that it is a very sensible purpose if I may say so.
I think it has both a social purpose in the sense that we want to treat those particular individuals in the way that they should be treated by a modern society. But we also want to make sure that we have a secure penal system and not one in which people can readily escape as has happened recently several times in Montserrat.
Q. Looking at the policy plan as a whole and as it relates to development, would you say that Britain is reintroducing the same limitations, such as budgetary control under grant-in-aid, with this new policy on development aid?
A. No, I wouldn't. When you have the budgetary aid, as it's called, where the British government assists over recurrent costs, I think the sort of controls that are imposed...the kind of conditions that are imposed are considerably tougher than they would ever be under the normal regime of providing capital development aid.
No, I don't see that at all. And I'd be very concerned in fact if that was the case because if you have day to day control over your recurrent expenditure, it can be extraordinarily inflexible as I think people who've had experience of the day-to-day budgetary aid will tell you.
Q. The policy statement being circulated proposes that ratification of the plan requires a local signatory to be an "elected representative of the DT government concerned. " Why does it not say the Chief Minister who usually signs on behalf of the government and people of Montserrat, or could this also mean an elected opposition member of the Legislative Council?
A. I don't know why it says that actually. My understanding is that it means the Chief Minister, or failing the Chief Minister, one of the other ministers when the Chief Minister might happen to be away or something of that sort.
But what in fact it has in mind, I think, is the need for the local elected government to be a firm signatory to the agreed plan. That's the main point of that point of that particular remark although I agree that it's slightly confusing.
Q. Don't you think that any British initiative concerning colonies should look more closely at a policy of less management rather than more, especially at this the five hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus and what Columbus' coming meant for the Caribbean?
A. Well it depends what you mean by management. If you see the British initiative as trying to be more authoritarian, if you see the British initiative as trying to give more unilateral direction, then I would have to agree that is not a management policy which we should be pursuing.
If you see the management policy as being one where we provide more assistance, more expertise and we have a much more helpful input to the planning and development and the government of the dependent territories than we have at the moment, then I would be in favour of more management rather than less.
Perhaps I put that in a slightly complicated sort of way. You have to bear in mind that our policy remains one in which we are committed to the people of Montserrat becoming independent when they want to. We are committed to self- determination.
This is not a question of recolonization but looking at it in that context, we want as the British government, to assist the Montserrat government to develop the country, to make the best of its resources in a way which is likely to be most beneficial to all its people.
That is what I see this new management initiative as being about.
Q. I've asked quite a lot of questions on the policy and in fact maybe I haven't asked all the relevant questions but I could not have you leave unless I asked one other pertinent question which is of issue at this moment and this is whether our chief Minister, Reuben T. Meade has in fact been subpoenaed in London. Would you care to comment?
A. I find this expression, subpoena a rather strange one. I think of it as an american expression rather than a British expression.
Let me try and just put your mind at rest over that because I think there's been quite a lot of confusion about this particular issue. The Chief Minister, along with some other people, people who purchased the cars which were eventually found to have been stolen, was invited to go to London to give evidence in the case against the man who is alleged to have stolen the cars there and eventually shipped them here.
The other witnesses indicated that they didn't wish to go. The Chief minister indicated his willingness to go.
He expects to go to London to give evidence in the case, I think it's the week after next along with Sergeant Lewis of our own police force who was in fact concerned in the investigation when it took place here. He assisted the man from new scotland yard who came to carry out the investigation.
That is all there is to it. The chief minister is under no obligation to go, any more than were the other witnesses.
He himself, I think if I may say so actually, in a particularly public-spirited way, in being willing to go to London and make the long journey and take the trouble to become involved in the case and I think he deserves the thanks of everyone who believes that crime should be punished and prevented.
Q. I want to thank you very much but before I do that I will give you the pleasure of any final words.
A. I think that we've had an interesting conversation. I hope that it's been perhaps more of a conversation in a way than an interview.
I think we covered a number of areas, I hope in a way that is helpful and which enables people to understand this new British initiative perhaps rather better than they did before.
I would like to say that I'm always happy to talk further about this particular initiative. There has to be a continuous process of consultation.
I, myself as governor here, am the person who really stands in the middle between the British government, the elected government of Montserrat and the people of Montserrat in trying to get the very best deal for Montserrat in all this whilst also paying regard to British government policies. I shall continue to try to do that to the best of my ability.
This is the continent of Afrika.
Man began his great adventure on the planet earth on this great land mass.
For five thousand years while the rest of the planet was recovering from the ravages of the ice age the Afrikan man began his age of discovery. From the edges of Lake Nyanza (Victoria) down the banks of the River Nile the Afrikan man began the rudiments of civilization that took him on a journey of 5,000 miles and lasted 5,000 years.
The epitome of the Afrikan's genius peaked in the civilization of Egypt which has a three thousand- year unbroken history.
The testament to the Afrikan's creativity lies in the monuments he left spread along the length and breath of the Nile. The high civilization's created by the Afrikan lasted thousands of years and is still to this day a mystery to western man.
The tremendous breakthrough made by the Afrikan in every field of endeavor is today the basis that western civilization uses to establish what they call the most advanced civilization ever to grace the face of the planet.
Today, western mass media has chosen to present only negative images of Afrika. These images give the impression that Afrika has nothing but war, famine, starving people, wild animals and forests.
Western historians lied about our past. How can we accept their view of our present or future?
PAL Header Image created by Chad Cumberbatch
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