The UK Government frequently criticises countries like China for denying their citizens Democracy and Human Rights. This is not inaccurate – China does deny its citizens Democracy and Human Rights. And yet the UK Government is itself doing precisely that – denying the citizens of the British Overseas Territories such as St Helena the basic Human Right of self-determination – Democracy.
Let’s focus on St Helena, but what follows applies equally in many other “OT”s.
The residents of St Helena (“Saints”) are not allowed to vote in British parliamentary elections for the government that will dictate their fate. London appoints a Governor, selected by the government for which the Saints cannot vote, and this person has ultimate power over the island, reporting only to the UK Government. St Helena does have a local democratically-elected Council, but it really has little power – no more than a UK District Council. The people of St Helena do not have the right of self-determination which, according to the UN is one of the most basic Human Rights. Saints were not, to give a recent example, allowed to vote on BREXIT; whether Britain remained in or left the EU was decided with no input from the island.
It has been argued that St Helena cannot have Democracy while it is still financially dependent on the UK. This is a ridiculous argument. Since when were Human Rights only granted to people who turn in a profit? If Manchester was running at a loss would its residents lose their right to vote? What about the isolated Scottish Islands, who are financially dependent – should they lose their democratic rights? Anyone who suggests that being financially dependent means you lose your right of self-determination has fundamentally misunderstood the basic concept of Human Rights.
Surely before Britain lectures other countries about Democracy and Human Rights it should get its own house in order? People who live in glass houses ...
So two things need to happen; sooner rather than later.
Firstly Britain needs to find a way to allow the citizens of its overseas territories to vote in UK parliamentary elections and national referendums. It can’t be that hard – France and Holland both manage it.
Secondly Britain needs to reduce the role of its Governors to a purely ceremonial one, with no political power over their Territories whatsoever, and set up a meaningful legislature with genuine power of self-determination in each of its Overseas Territories.
Only then will Britain’s protests about the behaviour of China, etc. carry any credibility. Only then will Britain be actually compliant with the United Nations policies it claims to uphold. Only then will Britain join the 21st Century, instead of remaining as it is today: a 19th Century colonial power.