St Helena : OVERSEAS TERRITORIES (OTS) JOINT MINISTERIAL COUNCIL REPORT
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Public Relations Information Office) 22.12.2012 (Article Archived on 05.01.2013)
‘I attended the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council at Lancaster House, London, from 3 to 5 December.
THE OVERSEAS TERRITORIES (OTS) JOINT MINISTERIAL COUNCIL (JMC) 3 – 5 December 2012
Report from Councillor Derek Thomas
‘I attended the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council at Lancaster House, London, from 3 to 5 December. On Monday 3 December I was fortunate to have a bilateral meeting with Mr Mark Simmonds, Minister for the OTs. During this session I was able to provide him with an update on the airport project which was running on target and within budget. I informed the Minister that the political will is there to make tough decisions required for the Island’s future. Recognising the need for change in trying to do more with less is a real challenge, we must ensure that vulnerable and low income households are not adversely affected by such changes.’
‘I also discussed the proposal for constitutional change in order to strengthen the democratic process of Elected Members. I stressed the importance of continued modes of funding to the Island, especially the EU funding which is valuable and essential in developing our infrastructure, if we are to encourage tourism, investors and the diaspora to the Island. I also explained to the Minister the importance of the proposed fibre optic cable coming out from South Africa with a spur for St Helena. Such a connection will be of vital importance in recognising the potential value to the development of the Island, if we are to ever achieve our future goal of being self sufficient.’
‘On Tuesday 4 December, the conference commenced with the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) Political Council Meeting. The main agenda item of this forum was to discuss the future of the UKOTA.’
‘Three options were presented: a) No change on the current arrangements but more focus on the anticipated achievements; b) increased role with the required resources to set up and run a Secretariat and c) UKOTA is discontinued.
The majority of the OTs presented, preferred option (b). Those OTs, including St Helena, who are in receipt of Grant In Aid could not prescribe to option (b) and preferred option (a), due to budgetary constraints. However due to the majority being in favour of option (b) it was agreed that a working group be established to work up the proposal and costs and present to the OTs. The Chief Minister from Gibraltar and the Premier from the Cayman Islands agreed that if option (b) was to go ahead and the Grant In Aid OTs had difficulty with funding, they would be prepared to fund the additional monies.’
‘Many of the OTs were represented by their Governors and it was good for St Helena that Governor Capes was present at the conference, to know and hear first hand how the issues in the White Paper will be developed.’
Discussions also took place on business opportunities in the OTs, trade and investment links with the UK, constitutional issues, support from the EU and Commonwealth, healthcare, tourism, protecting the environment, community development, education and sport, all within the context of the White Paper and St Helena’s situation
‘In relation to crime, talks were mainly centred on the Caribbean OTs, who experience serious drug related crime, gun violence and asylum seekers- not the case on St Helena.’
‘In relation to Human Rights and Good Governance, I explained that St Helena had made good use of training support and technical assistance provided by FCO, in forming a National Action Plan on Human Rights for the Island.’
‘I found the conference to be extremely useful and worthwhile and am pleased with the contribution I was able to make for the benefit of St Helena.’
In Tuesdays ExCo meeting, The Acting Governor mentioned he ‘heard very good things about London concerning the JMC, and Councillor Thomas made a very good input and represented St Helena well.’