Chedmond Browne presentation to the UN Committee on Decolonisation

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<


MP Chedmond Browne Speaks to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee May 2005

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman I begin with a brief history of Montserrat. The People of Montserrat are predominantly People of African Descent. From the days of emancipation to the present the ethnic balance has remained more than 95% People of African descent.

Mr. Chairman Montserrat comes out of a history of Slavery. As far as we are concerned Colonialism is Slavery's Daughter. From our position Mr. Chairman Colonialism is National Slavery and is no less demeaning than was physical slavery.

To add to the demeaning nature, Mr. Chairman the administrators that impose their will on us through the colonial system are ethnically different from us. This makes this colonial situation even harder to accept. Having said that Mr. Chairman i will give my report.

Mr. Chairman, I had expected that at this point in time, I would have spoken to this honourable gathering at least 10 times.

Reality is Mr. Chairman that this is only my second opportunity to present a paper.

This is the reality of a struggle of a small island against a powerful Administering Power whose intent is to hold on to its remaining colonies.

As a result, the issues addressed in this presentation as they relate to the colony of Montserrat should long ago have been fully documented and recorded by the Decolonisation Committee.

1959-1989

Governed by Letters of Patents.

With no constitution during this period Montserrat was governed under Letters of Patents 1959 with 5 revisions. The last revision came in 1983.

These rules and regulations insured direct colonial administrative control of the colony.

With the momentum of the Mandate on Decolonisation taking place, during this period Montserrat gained some benefits.

While the rules of governance and control were not changed significantly, many of the internal controls were loosened.

In 1974 Montserrat became a full Member of Caricom.

Antigua, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitt’s, Nevis and Anguilla also became full standing members during this period.

It should be noted with interest, that Montserrat while not an Associated State at that time entered Caricom as a full standing member.

One can easily conclude, that during this period with the Decolonisation Mandate still having momentum on its side that Montserrat was in fact following her sister states out of colonialism and into statehood.

By 1978 the last of the senior civil servant positions that had direct impact on Montserrat’s internal affairs, ie-: that of the Financial Secretary, was taken over by a Montserratian.

Even though still governed by a system of elected and nominated members with the Financial Secretary and the Attorney General still holding Executive Council positions and voting rights in Legislative Council, Internal decision making was left to Executive Council comprising of a majority of elected MP’s.

Chapter 1 paragraph 3 of the Management Handbook for the Government of Montserrat which was valid until 1989 reads.

“At the same time the Executive Council is established to have the general direction, and control of the Government of Montserrat …..”

Ambiguous as it was since there were apparent contradictions, with the Governor’s discretionary powers, from the period of the 70’s until 1989 when the Montserrat Constitution Order came into force the internal authority to govern Montserrat actually emanated from the Executive Council with the full cooperation of the Permanent Secretaries of the various Ministries.

Again, it can be concluded that while Montserrat was not an Associated State, the pattern established to move Associated States into National Sovereignty was followed.

These gains came about as a result of momentum, from the Decolonisation Mandate and the fact that many of the small island colonies had moved out of their colonial state into an Associated Statehood relationship with the Administering Power.

We can state here, that during this period the self awareness of the colony with regards to its rights to Self Determination and the process by which this could be achieved, were in a state of abject neglect.

The last visit of the Decolonisation Committee came in 1976.

While there was some impact on the movement out of colonialism from external forces, during this period, the internal dynamics pointed in the opposite direction.

Absolutely no form of encouragement, education or information came from the Administering Power.

Even less, come from the political machinery.

By the end of the 70’s most of the momentum towards Self Determination from external forces had been spent.

The colony was left in a state of limbo.

No encouragement from the Administering to move on and no organized process from the political arena to bring the People to a level of awareness as to their rights to be a Self Determined People.

From the 1980’s, clashes between the Governor and elected officials became the order of the day.

Decisions on internal matters that did not please the Governor became matters of disagreement.

During these periods of open disagreement between elected officials and the Governor over the demarcation line for control and decision making occasional lip service was paid to the Right to be a Self Determined People.

These periods were brief and short lived and never made it to the political platform.

By then, however, it was becoming more and more apparent, that the Administering Power had no desire to relinquish its colonial control over Montserrat.

The opportunity follow its sister states out of colonialism had passed it by.

By 1986, the Administering Power started to document the policy it wanted to implement

The politicians for their part never seemed to be aware of their Rights under the UN Mandate and also made no serious effort to bring their People to a level of understanding of their colonial history and the necessity to elevate themselves above their colonial status.

The struggle for internal control continued.

Montserrat, being free from budgetary assistance since 1978 was able to hold its own with regards to the internal policies it wanted to implement.

The Governor the FCO and HMG used whatever tools were at their disposal to have things done their way.

All things came to a head in 1988.

The government of Montserrat had by then established an Offshore Banking Industry.

The disagreement between the government of Montserrat and the Administering Power came to a head, over control and regulations.

The administering Power commissioned a report on the offshore banking system in Montserrat out of which came some specific recommendations.

1)      The destruction of the offshore banking system in Montserrat and the rescinding of all offshore banking licenses to banks licensed to operate in Montserrat in Montserrat.

2)      The placing of full control of the responsibility for offshore banking under the Governor.

3)      The re-establishment of an offshore banking system in which only British lawyers, accountants and managers could take part.

In order to implement these recommendations the Montserrat Constitution Order 1989 came into force.

From the outset it was one overriding colonial imposition.

Very little consultation at the executive level.

Even less consultation with the People of Montserrat.

The 1989 Constitution Order was brought into force on Montserrat at a time when the most devastating hurricane of the century had passed directly over Montserrat.

The executive council was locked in struggle with HMG, but the People whose right it is to ratify the instrument that governs them were fully occupied with their recovery from the devastation that hurricane Hugo had left in its wake.

Any hopes visions or aspirations that the people of Montserrat may have had, as it related to their future, and their continued progress out of their colonial state, were truncated with the 1989 Montserrat Constitution Order.

With it’s coming into force in 1990, the structure for the re-introduction of complete administrative control of Montserrat began to take shape.

The powers of the Governor were both specific and discretionary.

A man, above the law of the land.

Not required to take the advise of the elected Members of Parliament.

Areas that were ambiguous with regards to the authority of elected members of Parliament now became specific.

What the 1989 Constitution Order did, was remove any question as to who had the constitutional authority to govern Montserrat.

The clause that gave the Executive Council the general direction and control of the Government of Montserrat, never made it into the 1989 Constitution Order.

In effect, the executive power of elected MP’s to govern, that had some degree of legal authority attached to it, became non- existent.

From that point to the present, the authority of elected members of parliament to govern the people that elected them has been steadily eroded to the point of non- existence.

By accident, or intent this clause was omitted.

The Government of the day and subsequent governments that followed seemed not to understand fully what had taken place.

Tradition had established a certain degree of authority and cooperation between Executive Council and the Permanent Secretaries who administrated the various ministries. So some degree of cooperation and coordination continued.

As a result, the erosion took place over time.

By 1991, however, it had already become apparent to anti-colonial activists in Montserrat that the Administering Power intended to take back total control of its colony.

In 1991 in order to address the colonial status of Montserrat and its relationship with the Administering Power a committee was formed.

Being aware of the fact that the Mandate on Decolonisation would expire in the year 2000, its intent, was to raise the awareness of the People of Montserrat to their situation, and get the attention of local Government, the Administering Power and the Decolonisation Committee.

To this end, they started a series of programs based on the historical reality of the People of Montserrat.

The avenues used, were in house study programs, lectures, print media, and radio programs.

Out of this committee, eventually emerged, The Pan-Afrikan Liberator Newsletter.

A weekly radio program called the Conscious Connection and the formation of the Free Montserrat United Movement.

The creation and maintenance of an FMUM website.

In 1991 for the first time in Montserrat’s political history the issue of Montserrat’s colonial status was placed in the political arena.

Running on an independent platform, a member of the newly formed committee contested the 1991 elections.

The foundation of his platform was Montserrat’s right to be an Independent country.

The result at that time was not the priority.

Placing the issue in the political arena was.

We did not win, but we got everyone’s attention.

From that point on, agitation began to insure that some one from Montserrat attended the yearly Decolonisation Committee meetings.

In 1992-3 knowing that the year 2000 was drawing close, the committees spokesperson also began to seek ways of procuring an invitation to address the Committee.

In 1993 noticing that there were no responses to their attempts to communicate with the Decolonisation Committee the spokeperson made a trip to NY with the specific intent of speaking with the Chairman of the Decolonisation Committee.

He eventually met with and spoke to the Ambassador from Grenada who provided him with some very relevant information.

1)      All communication between the colonies and the Committee could only come through the Administering Power.

2)      Invitations to meet with the Committee could only go through the Administering Power.

3)      Invitations to Montserrat were in fact being responded to by the Administering Power declaring no interest to attend the meetings.

Clearly, for many years from the period of the 1970’s – to the 1990’s when the government and people of Montserrat could have been getting relevant information from the Decolonisation Committee which they could have used to raise their level of awareness and understanding the Administering Power denied them access by declining in their name.

Armed with this new information, the movement was able to up the level of agitation in relation to participation in the Decolonisation Committee meetings.

Every year from that point on even though we could not procure an invitation, we made government aware of its need to send a representative.

In 1995 Montserrat started another phase in its colonial relationship with the Administering Power.

Volcanic activity started.

Two thirds of the island was eventually evacuated either to a portion of the island considered to be safe or to neighbouring islands or to the United Kingdom.

From the onset, the Administering Power did its utmost to totally evacuate the island.

The government of the day put up enough resistance to this idea that the Administering Power eventually changed its approach, and offered one tickets to the United Kingdom to all who wished to leave.

The majority of the evacuated population took the offer.

A previous use of this offer to another one of the Administering Power’s colonies in the Pacific resulted in the islands depopulation and no repatriation many years later.

It should be clearly apparent, that the Administering Power was aware of the short medium and long term effects of such an approach on its colony.

Rather than establishing a policy whereby the displaced could have been resettled, thereby maintaining the economic and social stability of Montserrat, the Administering Power choose to add to its disruption.

When the volcanic activity began, a new Administering Power entity entered into the internal affairs of Montserrat.

The Department for International Development became the entity responsible for providing Montserrat with emergency aid.

In 1996 another election took place.

Once again FMUM placed a candidate on the political platform with Montserrat’s right to Self Determination as one of the foundation issues.

Again, we lost. Despite the disruption and flux in movement due to volcanic activity, our vote total increased.

With a new government in office, having no clear idea who ran the ship, a question was placed in the House of Commons seeking clarity about HMG’s policy towards the remaining colonies.

A letter from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office emanating from the Secretary of State on the 17th December 1996 to the Chief Minister of Montserrat Mr. Bertrand Osborne in response to the question, paragraph two states.

“ Considerable improvements are being made in the administration of the territories and their good government. However, it has become clear that some extension of those powers which may be exercised by HMG may be needed. We will take this into account in our continuing discussions ….. and make any changes if and when necessary.”

Paragraph four states.

“Firstly, let me emphasize that for those territories for which independence is an option HMG’s position remains that it is for the People of the territory to decide to become independent or to remain constitutionally dependent. The only change is that in future continued dependence, may, in some cases, require that there should be an extension of those reserve powers which may, if necessary, be exercised by the governor with my approval ……”

Here, in 1996, we have documented evidence from the Administering Power, that the colony has only two options to express it Right to Self Determination.

1)      Take its independence.

2)      Remain constitutionally dependent and accept direct colonial rule.

The volcano continued to erupt, the colony continued to depopulate, and the Administering Power continued to increase its direct control over the administrative and economic policies of Montserrat.

With the change of government also came the Administering Powers exercise of its constitutional and extraordinary powers.

The Public Service began more and more to answer to the Governor and DFID officials and less and less to elected MP’s.

In 1998 FMUM Spokesperson tried once again to address the Decolonisation Committee in St. Lucia.

Once again we were not successful.

With the Mandate on Decolonisation running out, the Administering Power issued a White Paper in 1999.

Words like Partnership, discussion, hopes visions and aspirations of the People, and constitutional change are mentioned.

According to the White Paper, once the colonies had passed the some particular laws they would be made british citizens.

Every british colony in the Caribbean refused to pass the stipulated laws.

Such a refusal, in effect, rejected the Administering Powers offer of british citizenship.

In 2000 The Administering Power passes the stipulated laws as Orders in Council, and bring them into force in the colonies.

In 2001 another election takes place.

For the first time in Montserrat’s political history a political party places Self Determination on its political platform and in its Manifesto.

On page 13 of the New Peoples Liberation Movement Party Manifesto for 2001 there is an entire page on the issue of Self Determination.

The first paragraph states.

“The NPLM supports the declaration expressed in paragraph 1.19 of the UK Government White Paper which states that Self Determination is one of the fundamental principles on which its new relationship with its overseas territories is based.”

On April 2nd 2001, the NPLM won the election overwhelmingly, taking 7 of the 9 available seats.

In May 2001 a representative of the NPLM government attends the Decolonisation Committee meeting. Anticipating the Administering Powers intent to seek the delisting of it’s remaining colonies he expresses Montserrat’s desire to remain on the Committee’s list, until such time as Montserrat expresses its own hopes and aspirations as they relate to the Decolonisation Mandate.

In 2001 the Constitutional review process coming out of the Administering Powers 1999 White begins in Montserrat.

This process is initiated and financed by the governors office.

In a letter dated April 27 2001 from the Governors office to all Members of Parliament instructions are given, as to the process and the expectations of the Administering Power.

Clause 1.2 states “The United Kingdom retains responsibility …….” “Proposals for constitutional change should not undermine HMG’s ability to exercise those responsibilities.”

Clause 2.16 states. “Consideration should be given to whether the executive or legislative powers held and exercised by the Governor are adequate in respect of .”

They then go on to list 9 areas A-I where we should consider if the Governors powers should not be increased.

While the Administering Power speaks openly of Partnership and negotiation for external purposes it has set parameters internally that basically seeks for its colonies to endorse or increase the existing constitutional status quo.

In 2002 the Administering Power passes an Order in Council making all the People in its remaining colonies British citizens.

In 2002 the Government of Montserrat seeks entrustments from the Administering Power to sign the Revised Treaty of Chagaramus cementing its continued membership in Caricom. To date the Administering Power has refused to grant the entrustments. Leaving Montserrat in limbo in an organization that it has been a part of for 31 years.

In 2003 the Decolonisation meeting is held in Anguilla.

This is perhaps the first time that all the colonies and a high level Administering Power official attend.

This, also seems to be the first time, that many of the remaining colonies Chief Minister become aware of the fact that they have three instead of two options to express their right to Self Determination.

The opening remarks by the General Secretary of the UN stated clearly to all participants that there were three options available to the remaining colonies.

The Administering Power of Montserrat continues to insist that Montserrat has only two options available to it.

At this meeting the intent of the Administering Power anticipated by Montserrat at the 2001 meeting is tabled.

The Administering Power attempts to justify and then requests that its remaining colonies be delisted.

It should be noted, with interest that none of the Administering Powers remaining colonies supported that request.

On April 12th 2005 the recommendations approved by the Legislative Council of Montserrat was placed on the table in the House of Parliament in Montserrat.

Clause 6 of the recommendations addresses the way the governor exercises his constitutional powers.

Clause 17 states “The Government of Montserrat should explore with Her Majesty’s Government the possibility of entering into a Free Association arrangement.”

The closing statement of the chief Minister of Montserrat on the constitutional process stated.

At a meeting in London with the British government Minister and the heads of the remaining territories certain matters were discussed.

I stated, that

“Nothing must be in the constitution that denies the People of Montserrat the right to Self Determination if and when the people of Montserrat see fit for that. And that was agreed in London.

There are I believe 14 British overseas territories and every one of the territories thinks that some changes must be made with regards to the reserve powers of the Governor. And this is not only Montserrat. What we are saying here is said loud and clear by all the other territories including Montserrat. In fact there was an agreement signed that we would all stand together on this issue against the british government with the reserve powers. When I raised the question supported by Bermuda about more autonomy for Montserrat the Minister did not hesitate to say that he has no objection against that but you have one choice. So I asked him to tell me what the choice is and he said independence. You have to understand that with the constitution, I did not take him that seriously because the constitution also supported by TCI because the constitution is not the perogative of a single minister. To change a constitution needs and act of the british parliament so it is not an easy ride. What we are sending here is what we would like to see done to our constitution. …. This is very clear that its not going to be an easy ride for us, but that should not prevent us from presenting our case as to what we want and we might have to fight for it. I think you will agree with me that our history is Freedom is never free so even though we are fighting with the british government for more autonomy they are not going to just hand it over….

I just want to make that clear that the fight has to go on….”

It is us who must join together to get the best deal possible.

I see that as a National thing and not a party issue.”

Conclusion.

This presentation, is an attempt to put into chronological perspective, the process that Montserrat has gone through from the establishment of the Decolonisation mandate to the present.

For the greater part of the Decolonisation Mandate Montserrat existed in a state of unawareness.

Absolutely no encouragement in any form from the Administering Power, little attention from the Decolonisation Committee and very little expression or articulation of the Right to be a Self Determined People from the political directorate.

Some time during this period the Administering Power took up the position, that Montserrat had only two options available to it.

It could either maintain the present status quo, or it could take its outright independence.

Towards the end of the Decolonisation Mandate, Montserrat began its awakening and awareness process.

In 1991 the issue of Self Determination entered Montserrat’s social and political arena.

In 2001 a political party won an overwhelming mandate from the People.

The issue of Self Determination was articulated on their platform and documented in their Manifesto.

Presently, Montserrat finds itself caught in a double disaster.

1)      A natural disaster of an active volcano.

2)      The man made disaster of colonialism.

The continued oppressive and overbearing approach of the Administering Power in its application of colonial control over Montserrat becomes more obvious everyday.

Because of the volcano, Montserrat has two Administering Power agencies involved in its decision making processes.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, (FCO) and the Department fpr International Development. (DFID)

Overzealous application of its constitutional powers, by the FCO through the Governor and decisions on how, when and where and in what manner, and at what pace, Development Aid money is spent by DFID has left Montserrat administratively and economically shattered.

The governors interpretation of constitutional authority has taken total control of the Civil Service out of the hands of the elected officials.

Because we are in Budgetary Aid, DFID’s total control of financial matters makes the disaster even worse.

This makes Montserrat even more vulnerable to the internal coercion and pressure utilized by the Administering Power to bind the colony to it with its present status.

Montserrat, presently, is in a worse state constitutionally, administratively, economically, regionally and socially than it was during the middle years of the Decolonisation Mandate.

During this period Montserrat became a full member of a regional body. (Caricom)

Today Montserrat’s position lies in limbo as the Administering Power refuses to grant entrustments to sign the revised treaty.

Elected officials in Montserrat had internal autonomy, and administrative authority over its Civil Service and was out of Budgetary Aid.

Today there is no clause in the constitution that grants elected official authority to run to run the internal affairs of the country, or their ministries.

All authority lies with the governor.

Today, we are saddled with an onerous Budgetary Aid agreement that gives the Aid agency (DFID) total control over financial matters.

Today, Administering Power officials sit in our ministries. More are in the wings waiting to come.

Direct physical, administrative and economic control of Montserrat by Administering Power officials is taking place as we meet.

The depopulation of Montserrat, based on the Administering Powers policy has had a huge impact on the economic and social fabric of the country.

Very quietly with little fanfare expatriates from the Administering Power are buying up property and moving into Montserrat.

However, we see no coherent policy for the repatriation and resettling of Montserratians.

We contend, that Montserrat is a special case, and more attention must be paid to the actions of the Administering Power, in light of the fact that the Administering Power has no intention of easily relinquishing its hold over Montserrat.

We contend, that the Administering Power has had 45 years to aid assist and encourage Montserrat to move out of its colonial state.

We contend that the Administering Power could have easily used its power, its influence and its finances to help move Montserrat out its colonial state.

We contend, that the Administering Power has in fact used its power, influence and finances to keep Montserrat in a state of colonial dependency.

We contend, that the Administering Power has in fact used the volcanic activity on Montserrat, to further its own agenda for holding Montserrat and to thwart the hopes and aspirations of the People to see some progressive move forward out of their colonial state.

Montserrat has requested that the Associated Statehood option be revisited.

That is a clear indication that-:

1)      We are not in favour with maintaining the staus quo.

2)      We want to see some indication of a process that will eventually lead to our own national Identity and Nationhood.

The Administering Power contends that we have only two options.

1)      Remain tied to it in a perpetual state of dependency and control.

2)      Take our Independence.

That is their stated position which they have maintained for many years.

The Administering Power, appears to have no problems wasting money to keep us dependent.

However, the Administering Power has yet to suggest a modality by which it would assist us to become Independent.

There is no criteria placed upon a Peoples right to Self Determination other than their self awareness and will to express it.

Therefore, it should never be to late for a People to express that right.

The Decolonisation Committee holds the responsibility for seeing that all the remaining colonies get the opportunity to exercise that Right.

It would be a tragedy, if the Administering Power is allowed to outflank, and deny the People of Montserrat the right to change its colonial status, when it has now become apparent that the People are becoming cognizant of their position and condition as it relates to the Administering Power.

Montserrat has now entered the beginning stages of Self Awareness as it relates to their colonial condition.

The Administering Power, cannot be allowed to truncate that process before it reaches its logical conclusion.

It is the duty of the Decolonisation Committee to insure that the Administering Power abide by the intent of the Decolonisation Mandate and assist rather than retard Montserrat’s progress.

Chedmond Browne (FMUM) Spokesperson

Opposition Member of Parliament

POINTS CLARIFIED AT THE COMMITTEE MEETING 2005

GO TO WE CONTEND

 

1959-1989 Governed by Letters of Patents.

1974- Montserrat becomes a full standing member of Caricom.

1976-1990 no attendance at Decolonisation Committee Meetings.

1978- Montserrat appears to have full internal administrative control.

1987 Commission Report on Offshore Finance (Ghallager Report)

1989- Governed by Montserrat Constitution Order 1989.

1991 The first time Self Determination (Independence) enters Montserrat’s political arena for an independent candidate.

1995- Volcanic Activity started in Montserrat.

1995 Department for International Development became the main funding agency for Montserrat.

1996 An election year and once again Self Determination (Independence) is a political platform issue for an independent candidate.

1996 documented evidence from the Administering Power, that the colony has two options.

1)      Take its independence.

2)      Remain constitutionally dependent and accept direct colonial rule.

1999 Administering Power issues a White Paper with regards to its remaining colonies.

2000 colonies in effect reject the conditions for british citizenship, by refusing to pass the laws stipulated in the White Paper.

2000 The Administering Power passes the stipulated laws by Orders in Council, and bring them into force in the colonies.

2001 For the first time in Montserrat’s political history a political party places Self Determination on its political platform and in its Manifesto.

2001 A political party wins the elections overwhelmingly with the issue of Self Determination as part of its platform and Manifesto.

2001 Representative of the NPLM government attends the Decolonisation Committee meeting. Anticipates administering powers intent and expresses desire to remain on the Committees list of remaining colonies.

In 2001 the Constitutional review process coming out of the Administering Powers 1999 White begins in Montserrat.

2002 the Administering Power passes an Order in Council making all the People in its remaining colonies British citizens.

In 2002 the Government of Montserrat seeks entrustments from the Administering Power to sign the Revised Treaty of Chagaramus cementing its membership in Caricom.

2003 the Decolonisation meeting is held in Anguilla.

On April 12th 2005 the recommendations approved by the Legislative Council of Montserrat was placed on the table in the House of Parliament in Montserrat.

BACK TO             HOMEPAGE