THE PAN-AFRIKAN LIBERATOR
Agitate until we create a stable society that benefits all our people.
Instigate the nation until we remedy the injustices of society.
Motivate our people to set a meaningful path for the coming generations.
Educate our people to free our minds and develop an Africentric consciousness.
THE VOICE FOR AN INDEPENDENT MONTSERRAT
Published by Chedmond Browne, P.O. Box 197, Plymouth, Montserrat Phone: 809-491-6962 FAX: 809-491-6335
September 4, 2001 Radio ZJB Interview with MP, Chedmond Browne
WC: Good day listeners and welcome to our news feature.
Today I have with me, Member of Parliament, the Honourable Chedmond Browne and we will be discussing the new British passport for Montserrat and the other dependent territories.
Good day to you Mr. Browne.
CB: Good day Brother Cabey. Good day to all our radio listeners.
WC: Now, we’ve been hearing a lot about the bill on the new British passport.
I think we should start at the very bottom, the contents of the bill.
What exactly is in this bill to grant us this passport?
CB: Let me see if I could get the foundation established properly because you see, a lot of times when we discuss things we discuss things as if they actually just happened without knowing the history of how it happened.
That is why a lot of times when a person like me speaks or takes positions they appear to be taken out of context so that they don't make any sense.
This whole citizenship act has been in the making for over, some twelve years now.
It is only now coming to pass because it is now convenient for the present British administration to pass it.
So, it’s not like it just happened overnight.
It’s not like the new people in office in England, the Prime Minister and the present government just woke up one day and said, ah, it's time for us to make those people down there citizens.
So, let us pass an act.
This has been in the making, this has been a projected bill for over twelve years. There is an objective and an intent in it.
Now, our people always assume that … the assumption is that we’re getting something for nothing.
Or, we’re getting a benefit.
But what we should be aware of is the fact that nobody gives you anything for nothing.
That is the first thing.
And if the British, who has never traditionally given us anything, right up to the present, even in this volcanic crisis, they have given us little or nothing, are now going to make us, whether we want to be or not, British citizens, the question we should really be asking is:
Of what benefit is this to the British government, to the British administrative process and who is going to benefit the most?
Is it the people of Montserrat?
Is it the remaining dependent territories that the British are trying to hold on to?
Or is it the British government and the British administrative and political process that is going to benefit the most?
These are the questions that we need to ask.
Now, as to what is in the bill. Basically all that is in the bill is that on a specific date in time, the British government is going to pass a law that is going to make all people who living in the remaining colonies that Britain has throughout the world, most of which are in the Caribbean, British citizens.
End of story. There’s nothing else in the bill.
WC: But in terms of the project itself, how much input is coming from Montserrat and the other territories?
CB: There has been no input from the rest of the territories, including some of the territories that have basically, kith and kin, white people on them.
The Chief Minister of St. Helena wrote to the Prime Minister of England and told him that there was no consultation with the people of St. Helena in passing this act.
The Prime Minister wrote back and told him that he consulted the Governor of St. Helena and the Attorney General of St. Helena and as far as he, the Prime Minister is concerned, those are the only relevant people needed to be consulted.
So it is the same approach here.
We have not been consulted. We are a colony of England. England owns us and England is showing us clearly, time and time again, that whenever it desires to pass an act or a bill, in its own interest and for its own benefit, it is going to do it regardless of whether it benefits us or not.
Now, there are a few of us … there are a few people in Montserrat who perceive there is a benefit there to be received from it but those same people have not sat down and thought out clearly, the little benefit that we are going to get from it, who is going to gain the most out of this bill:
the British government, the British administrative process, the continued colonial system, or the people on the islands of the remaining territories and specifically for us, the people of Montserrat?
That is the question we need to be asking.
WC: Maybe this question should not be for you but can we make individual and specific cases because all the territories are different?
CB: All of the territories are different but you see all of the territories are colonies and the British government is passing one overriding bill for all.
That’s what I am telling you. The only thing that the bill says is that on a specific date in time, all the remaining colonies of Britain, the people who live there will be made British citizens.
That covers everybody. It is one broad, general statement. There are no specifics in it. There are no specifics pertaining to each particular colony. We are all going to be made British on a specific date in time. Whether we desire to be British or not is not the question.
That does not come into play. The British government has shown clearly, it owns us, it controls us and it does what it wants and until we show that we are not going to stand for that type of action, they are going to continue to do it.
If we are happy to be a colony then we must be treated as a colony. A colony means that you are owned, ruled and controlled.
Therefore, whenever the British government so desires it will pass an act or a bill or enact something in its colony that serves its purpose. This bill serves the British administrative purpose at this point in time.
WC: You said this has been going for approximately twelve years, this bill has been in the making. Who should have been responsible and who is responsible now for educating the folks from the different territories and especially here on Montserrat as to what this will mean?
CB: The British government holds total moral, legal, all forms of responsibility for its colonies.
Now the British government plans in blocks of 10-year timeframes, 20-year timeframes, 25-year timeframes.
The British government does not have to devolve to its colonies what its aims and objectives are.
So it is up to the people of the colony if they understand colonialism and colonial rule to understand the implications.
I wrote on this bill over seven years ago. If you go on my website right now and take up one of my Pan-Afrikan Liberators, you’re going to see this bill here written about since 1994, its aims, its objectives, its intents and what it is intended to do.
When I wrote that story in 1994, when I educated and lectured on that particular issue in 1994, the elite sector of this society, the intellectuals in this society all laughed at it.
They said it was a fantasy, it was a nancy story, that I was speaking on air and not a thing that I said was going to come to pass the way I wrote it. But it is happening exactly the same way.
I have proven to be correct. Every piece of analysis that I have done over the last fifteen years on British colonialism, the British colonial system and its hold on us has proven to be correct in each and every instance.
And I’m going to be proven to be correct here again in this instance. This citizenship bill can in no way benefit the people of Montserrat or the remaining dependent territories.
It can only benefit the British government and British administration.
WC: The bill is almost through now the House of Lords and we understand that there has been no opposition to the bill.
CB: Well, that’s one man’s interpretation, the head of the FCO's interpretation that there has been no opposition because he is a British administrative person and he is also a diplomat.
British personnel are very good at diplomacy, in not answering questions, or in fudging questions or in dodging questions.
The reality is that there was huge opposition to the bill in committee and if you read the minutes of the committee, there were numerous propositions proposed at the committee level that opposed the bill or attempted to counter the bill in some way or attempted to clarify certain aspects of the bill.
Now the fact that at committee level, they did not get through does not mean that there was no opposition.
And one thing I could tell you is that the same people at committee level promised that there was going to be a huge fight on the floor in the House of Commons on the same issues.
So if they think that they are going to just easily cram it through the House of Commons, it is not going to be like that.
There is no broad-based, across the board acceptance of this thing.
There is no opposition in the world that is just going to sit by and watch this happen knowing that you have people's help; all the colonies are already making noise.
In Anguilla, there is huge noise going on; Turks and Caicos, the same thing; Cayman Islands, the same thing; Bermuda, the same thing; Tortola, the same thing. In Montserrat, I might be the only voice at the public level but there is underpinning grumblings.
There has been no huge, huge hoorah over this thing, by us.
So it is not just us that are going to go up to England and tell the opposition that we are not happy with how this thing is being done.
All the remaining colonies are telling members of the opposition and friends that they have in the ruling government that they are not happy with this thing. It is not being done properly.
Now a lot of people are going to hear me today, and they are going to call me tonight or whenever they hear me and they are going to make noise with me because they do not understand the dynamics of what is going on.
I am not saying that you should not be a British citizen if you want to be a British citizen.
I am saying that if the British want to pass this Act, there must be certain clarifications in the passing of this Act that ensure that Montserrat retains its nationality, that Montserrat retains its right to self-determination, that Montserrat retains its right to claim and ownership of the land and property on this island.
None of those clarifications are in this bill and this is where the huge trick comes in.
Let me show you something.
You have two Acts that have been passed. One is already passed in Montserrat, the Crown Lands Ownership Act.
That has been passed in Montserrat. The British Citizenship Act is being passed in Britain. You take those two Acts and put them together and you make us nationless and you make us landless.
Those two acts alone together properly utilized by the British government will make the people of Montserrat a nationless people and a landless people.
Let me explain. If you go anywhere in the world on a British passport, claiming British citizenship, you can’t claim to be a Montserrat national because when you fill out that form that says “nationality,” the nationality has to be the passport that you’re walking with.
So you can not claim to be a Montserratian if you are walking with a British citizenship passport.
WC: But how about the place that says,place of birth?
CB: Yes, it says place of birth. That is written inside of the passport but the nationality that you are going to claim when you fill out that form has to be the nationality of the passport that you are holding.
So have abdicated your nationality. You are no longer a national if you are going to use that passport as your means of moving around the world.
WC: So then, where does that put us in terms of self-determination?
CB: This is exactly what I am saying. This is where all of this thing benefits only the British government. That is the key.
When we accept without objection, this Citizenship Act just been passed so, without insisting that the British government document within that passing of that Act, the right, the continued right to self-determination, the continued right to pursue the right to separate ourselves from Britain - what it is saying, in effect, is that we have agreed, willingly, that we are going to be integrated.
This is what the British government is doing right now. It is integrating us into the British empire without even giving us the opportunity to say yes or to say no. This is what it is doing.
WC: But will we have a chance in the House of Commons to have an input in terms of rights and entitlements?
CB: No. Unless we can get somebody in the opposition or in the ruling party to present a position for us, we won't have any right.
The most right we are going to have: our Chief Minister is going to England the end of this month.
Unless he states categorically to the Prime Minister of England that we are not pleased,(I am not saying he should go up there and say we do not want it because again I know people are going to bite me up today or tomorrow when they see me).
So, I am not saying for anybody to go and say we do not want it.
I am saying that we need to go up there and say that if you are going to pass this Act, there must be some clarifications in the passing of this Act, that assures, number one our nationality;
that assures, number two, our right to continue to proceed along our path to self-determination; and number three, our right to total ownership and claim of this little island named Montserrat.
Those two Acts, the Crown Lands Act and the British Citizenship Act take all of those rights away from us and our people don’t recognize those dangers because a few people want to use a passport to go where?
And again, most of the people believe that they are going to get to go America with the passport.
It is not even like they want to go to Europe or even to go to England.
They believe that they are going to get to go to America.
WC: That is another thing: the U.S. and the waiver system, how does that work?
CB: Well, I think we understand how TPS works, the temporary status that our people have in America right now.
America grants a specific status from its Immigration Department in one-year blocks.
So that means every year TPS has to be renewed. If you know, every year, our people in America have a huge period where they are very unsure of themselves because the new agreement has not been signed.
Well the visa waiver between the British government and American Immigration is the same thing.
Every year the British government and American Justice Department, the Immigration Department signs a waiver that says that British nationals - listen to the word now, I did not say British citizens-I said British nationals can pass through American ports of entry with a visa waiver but that has to be signed and agreed to every year.
WC: Explain the difference: nationals, citizens.
CB: Nationals, citizens. A national is somebody born in a country that is a citizen of the country.
A citizen is somebody who takes up nationality but not born in the country.
So therefore, it is the same thing that you said in the passport.
If I am born in Montserrat and I am a Montserrat national and a Montserrat citizen, my place of birth is Montserrat.
If I go to England and I take up British citizenship, my place of birth is Montserrat but my citizenship is in England.
The passport will not reflect the same thing, it will say, place of birth, Montserrat.
Therefore as an Immigration officer I can look at that passport and know whether you are both a British citizen and a British national or just a British citizen but not a British national.
You understand the difference? There is a huge difference there for immigration officers and for information criteria which our people do not look at, do not think about, do not even care about because they believe they see a loophole to go to America.
WC: But this leaves us is a sort of a problem Mr. Browne because we know that the British government, they are trying to get this through before the end of the year.
Coming back now to the education, what is the government doing in terms of educating the population about this passport?
CB: Well I would say that again - because I mentioned it before - I think the people of Montserrat recognize me as one of the people who will educate, who will attempt to tell the truth regardless of the positive or negative feedback that I get off of it.
Now, this is the third time I have spoken on the issue. So I would say that I am part of the education process.
Now what is the government doing? The government basically recognizes that there is little that we can do to stop the British government from passing this bill.
We can not stop them from passing the bill. So what we need to do is what I have suggested. If they are going to pass this bill, ensure that in the passing of this bill that we get certain assurances to certain rights, demands and obligations that are our human rights, that are our moral rights, that should not be taken away from us simply because the British government has now determined that it is in their best interests to make us British citizens.
We have been second-class, third-class and fourth-class citizens for three hundred years.
WC: You mentioned human rights in terms of the passport. There was also the question of human rights with the Homosexuality Act. What do you think they would say there? At one time we are saying no. Now we are saying yes.
CB: No. We are not saying no. The human rights in terms of nationality, is for us to be our own nationals. The British are denying us that right. They are not asking us if we want to be nationals.
The U.N. mandate on colonialism demands that every country in the world be independent.
The British making us citizens is contravening the U.N. mandate. What the British should be offering us is our independence not offering us dependence on British citizenship.
You understand? So they have taken away our human right, our right to self-determination, our right to exercise the right to be a self-determined people by making us citizens. So they have taken away our human rights.
WC: However, especially for the Montserratians who may want to reside in the United Kingdom, they will receive some benefits?
CB: Yes. Now again this is where Montserrat has to be extremely careful and the government of Montserrat has to be extremely careful in the position that it takes.
What we need to recognize, which was never mentioned by the governor, was never mentioned by the head of the FCO, no matter what law is passed in terms of citizenship, laws criteria for benefits, they have a qualifying criteria in terms of residence, and in terms of time-frames for residence.
For you to become a citizen of America, for instance, you have to be residing in America for five years before you can apply.
For you to accrue any benefits in Britain you have to be residing in Britain for a certain amount of years. Let me show you what’s going to happen with the same citizenship bill when it goes through.
Montserratians, right now in England that are getting benefits are going to lose those benefits, because once they become British citizens they will not have the residency time-frame criteria that allows them to have that. So they are going to have come off that benefit list and go and sit and wait until they satisfy the residency criteria before they can reapply for the same benefits that they are getting now.
So down here in Montserrat, people in Montserrat are not going to get any of those benefits because those benefits come about by being resident in England for a specific amount of time, something like three to five years.
So for us to be sitting down here thinking that we’re going to be getting anything out of it other than a passport -
Now, how many of us are going to be wanting to travel all over the world?
There are only a handful of people in this country who can utilize that passport as a use for a free port of entry to anywhere in the world.
So of what real benefit is it to the collective interest and the national interest of this country? It isn’t.
The real interest number one is for our people in England who are going to stay in England.
They should have the right and the access to do those things.
The overriding real interest is to the British administrative and the British political and the British global interests because the British can now go to the United Nations and tell the United Nations:
Montserrat and the remaining dependent colonies, the remaining colonies are no longer colonies. Because we have now made them British citizens, we have now integrated them into the British empire.
So they have taken away our right to choose for ourselves where we want to be integrated, whether or not we want to be free and independent peoples or not.
They have done of all that with this little act and we are sitting there believing, ah, we get a passport and we can go anywhere in the world on it.
When you look at all the checks and balances, the pluses and the minuses, we lose big time on this issue. We are going to lose big time on this issue for a passport.
I am telling you I have never been wrong yet when it comes to British intent, when it comes to implications of the things that the British are doing and I am not wrong now. And I am going to be proven to be correct again.
WC: Thank you very much Mr. Browne, but before you go, in our last interview, we did get some criticism for something you said about the British monarchy.
And this is not a low blow for the finishing of this interview but your views in terms of her majesty, the question is why swear to her majesty if you are not supporting the monarchy.
CB: I agree with you a hundred percent. But like I stated time and time again, Montserrat is a British colony.
Montserrat is ruled, owned and controlled by the British government.
The constitution that governs this country was written by the British and in order for you to become a member of the legislative council, there is written into it something called the swearing process where the oaths and obligations command you to swear allegiance, not to the people of Montserrat but to her majesty's government and the queen.
Now when I asked the Speaker of the House if there is no way I could I have objected to this, the Speaker of the House informed me that unless you swore according to the constitution, you could not legally become a member of the legislative council.
So I was forced to do so simply to become a member of the legislative council.
Now, I know that this can be contravened, because subsequent to that the honourable Reuben Meade did not swear to her majesty's government.
He did in fact swear allegiance to the people of Montserrat and to the community.
So knowing that it can be done, if the opportunity arises again for me to do it, which is what I had really intended to do in the first instance is to swear my allegiance to the people of this country because it is the people of this country who voted for me.
WC: So how was he able to do that?
CB: Well he did it and nobody objected and nobody stopped him.
Being an experienced legislative council member, he is aware of the fact that he could have gotten away with it.
Me, being a rookie and a newcomer was not aware of the fact that I could have gotten away with it so I obeyed explicitly what I was told by the Speaker of the House and I swore allegiance to her majesty's government and her majesty the queen and all her descendants, by the way who are of no - I repeat again - of no benefit to the people of this country. Until we recognize that we need to be swearing allegiance to ourselves, we are going to remain mentally colonized, physically colonized and we are going to remain a British colony forever.
We need to start thinking about becoming free and independent people and this is part of my educational process. I thank you.
WC: Thank you once again, Mr. Browne, Member of Parliament, the Honourable Chedmond Browne. And for ZJB Radio News, I am Winston Kafu Cabey. Thank you for listening.
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