Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts
Simply whatever comes to mind. Probably about St. Helena but not always . . .

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Andrew, on BREXIT

My eldest son, Andrew, posted the following this morning on Facebook™.  It so eloquently says what I could not have expressed better myself.

Growing up in many ways I was proud to be British. I looked at my nation as being progressive and, although far from perfect, a generally sensible nation with gun control, healthcare and many things other countries haven’t got right yet.

I looked at Britain as one of the great unifiers; a founder of Europe, the commonwealth and other groups that were going to bring the world together.

That Britain died yesterday. It had been sick for a long time, but is now truly dead.

From today onwards, Britain is no longer a part of building a better world; it has become isolationist, caught up in its own ridiculous feeling of self importance and backward.

Britain now reminds me, not of a proud nation, but of the stereotypical town drunk who sits in the corner of the bar trying to tell stories of his glory days to anyone who might listen.

I know Brexit was “the will of the people” but frankly the people were wrong, the people were lied to and in the end, sadly it is the people, both those who wanted Brexit and those who didn’t, who will now have to suffer the long hard days ahead.

To the old Britain: may she rest in peace. To the new Britain and all of us in the OTs who are dragged along this path, I wish us all good luck – the real work begins now

Be careful what you wish for ....

A lot of nations have experienced the same thing.  In the midst of all the celebrations of their newly-gained Independence someone suddenly realises that they have also lost something – a very important something: someone to blame.

When you leave home you can no longer blame your parents for holding you back.  It’s now all down to you.  The successes are your successes but the failures are also unequivocally yours.  And when a country becomes independent it can no longer blame “the colonial masters” for all the country’s ills.  It has to take responsibility for its own failures.

For many years the BREXITeers have been delighting in blaming the EU for everything that is wrong in Britain and convincing a gullible public that once Britain leaves the EU all the problems will go away and Britain will become a land flowing with milk and honey.

Now they have to deliver on that vision.

“Be careful what you wish for .... you may get it!”

Friday, 24 January 2020

I call "bullshit"

In yesterday’s newspaper SURE paid for a two-page advertisement which basically told the people how wonderful SURE is and how committed it is to serving the people of St Helena.

As the phrase goes, “I call bullshit”.

Imagine a visitor who arrives at the Airport on a Saturday. His friend is not there to pick him up and he doesn’t have his friend’s number, so he calls Directory Enquiries and hears a recorded message saying that the service is only available from 8am to 4pm, Mondays to Fridays (excepting public holidays).

This being St Helena, of course, he does not have to wait for his friend to remember him, or the 43 hours until SURE next operates, he just asks somebody for help and probably ends up getting a free lift to his friend’s place – but that is not the point.  Our visitor’s first impression of St Helena is that it makes a 3rd world country look sophisticated.

If your Internet fails or your telephone goes crackly at 2pm on a Saturday you cannot even report the fault until 8am on Monday (or Tuesday of Monday is a public holiday).  In the “real world” two days without Internet access would be considered a crime – here it is a fact of life, often experienced.

I could site many other examples.

If SURE wants the people of St Helena to believe it is committed to improving their lives it should start by providing a reasonable standard of service at the times when it is required (which is, by the way, 24/7).

(PS I am well aware that, as a result of my posting this, my telephone/Internet will mysteriously develop a fault at about 2pm tomorrow.  That’s the price I must pay for telling the truth.)

Friday, 17 January 2020

United Nations & St Helena

Our Equality & Human Rights Commission ("SHEHRC") has made its first submission to the United Nations regarding Human Rights on St Helena, which makes interesting reading!

The submission is part of an update on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the document can be read at https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/GBR/INT_CCPR_IFS_GBR_41059_E.pdf (other submissions are indexed here: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1371&Lang=en).

The SHEHRC's submission concludes .....

Two issues stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to addressing human rights issues within St Helena and affect the SHEHRC’s ability to achieve real progress. They are:
1. The Territory’s restricted ability to exercise its right to self-determination including to report directly to the UN, vote on significant matters like “Brexit” or indeed take part in the elections for the Government that decides its future.
2. The very unclear relationship between the UK Government (UKG) and SHG with regard to responsibility for protecting human rights. Although UKG has supported the development of human rights laws and policies in its St Helena, including the addition of a Bill of Rights section in our Constitution, it has not codified its own responsibility for human rights on the island.
If transparency on these issues can be achieved the path for reporting and resolving the SHEHRC’s concerns will be clearer and it will be more likely that the human rights concerns on the island will be understood and resolved.

It's a great shame that Sir Simon McDonald did not take the time to meet with the SHEHRC during his recent visit. He and they could have had an interesting discussion about this!

It will be interesting to see what the UN thinks about the UK Governments treatment of its ‘colonies’.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

No democracy here

On Thursday the people of the mainland UK get to decide who runs the country.  They also get to decide who runs the overseas territories (of which there are many - http://sainthelenaisland.info/government.htm#britishoverseas).  But the people who live in these “OTs” do not get a say in their own future.  The OT citizens are not allowed to vote in UK parliamentary elections, even though the decisions taken by the UK parliament directly affect them in many ways, such as their overarching laws, their local governance and especially funding.  In France the OTs take part in national elections.  Also in Holland.  But not Britain.  Britain, it seems, leads the world in denying democracy to its citizens.

This needs to change.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Problems with elections

We just had a by-election (or, as SHG often charmingly puts it , a"bye-election" - goodbye!)

Once again some candidates put themselves forward even though the result shows there was almost no realistic possibility of them getting elected.  Does this matter?  In a true democracy isn't anybody that is qualified entitled to put themselves forward?

Except that there is a cost to them doing so, not all of it borne by the candidates.  For two examples there is the work registering the candidates and checking their qualifications and also the space allocated to them in newspapers and on the radio.

The only barrier at present is that you need a proposer, a seconder and ten other supporters - this amounts to 0.6% of the electorate.  And at the recent by-election some candidates got very few more votes than this threshold: 34 (less than three times the minimum), 30 & 17 (only 4 more than the minimum).  Surely there should be some mechanism to prevent people from standing if they are only going to get so few votes?

In the UK you make a deposit; a sum of money you put up and if you get fewer than 5% of the votes cast you lose this.  In the UK the sum is £500, designed not to be too high (which would hinder democracy) but also not an insignificant amount to stake.  As St Helena incomes are about a quarter of the equivalent UK salaries, how about a deposit of £100?

£100 should not be enough to put off genuine candidates (and anyway, if they get 5% or more of the votes they get it back). But it might be enough to give pause to people who really have no hope of actually being elected.

In yesterday's by-election three of the five candidates would have lost their deposit, which might have deterred them from standing, making the election simpler and less expensive to run.

Worth discussing?

PS: while we're talking electoral reform, two weeks was not enough time for an effective campaign.  It should be always at least a month.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Your "Right to Know" (but only what we choose to tell you)

Today SHG has issued an Update on the “Code of Practice for Public Access to SHG Information”. Read the update at http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/public-access-to-shg-information-update-on-code-of-practice/

Only 26 requests since June 2017?  And, as we remember it, it was also 26 when the last "update" was issued, some months ago. 

People do not bother using this policy because it is discretionary - you ask and SHG decides what it will release. 

The whole point of Freedom of Information is to expose things SHG would prefer to keep hidden – errors, mismanagement and, perhaps, corruption.  A discretionary policy cannot achieve this.

St Helena needs Statutory Freedom of Information, where SHG is REQUIRED to publish information, even when it would prefer to hush something up.  Inward Investors will run a mile from an administration that keeps its secrets hidden.