It’s time to write to MPs about St Helena, says island-watcher

The low turn-out in St Helena’s October 2012 by-election has prompted speculation about the cause of voter apathy. Here, one of St Helena Online’s readers, ROBERT THOMSON, offers a view from another island.  

It is always very disappointing when an electorate does not engage with the election process. Many people literally laid down their lives to allow us this freedom: we do them a great disservice by not exercising it.

Watching from afar, it appears that the actions (or inactions) of the St Helena Government have a significant part to play. The serious lack of transparent modern local government and an apparent wish to control the press are very worrying.

Governor Capes, while receiving plaudits from his boss, does not appear to be making progress in modernising SHG, but would apparently like to see it operate as in the days of the empire! I may of course be doing him a great disservice, but that it is the way it appears to an interested observer.

As SHG is funded both by the UK Government and the European Union, I am quite surprised that they are allowed to operate in many of the ways that they do. EU competition rules should have prevented the setting up of a state-sponsored media organisation as being anti-competitive.

The lack of transparency is another issue which would not be tolerated in the UK, so why should it be tolerated in St Helena?

Local government where I live, in the Shetland Islands, has to come up to the same standard as expected nationally. We are a smallish community of around 22,000, spread over a number of islands. We have very similar issues of conflicts of interest and family differences that supposedly are a barrier to transparency in St Helena. They are not.

If people, as they must, adopt an adult and forward-thinking attitude, there is no reason that St Helena cannot operate to the same or higher standards than the UK.

Maybe it is time that myself and other UK taxpayers took the time to write to our MPs, asking them to take a greater interest in the governance of St Helena as well as the other Overseas Territories.

(St Helena Online has also received an informal comment suggesting that the poor turnout may also indicate that Saints saw councillors as being too-easily manipulated by St Helena Government).

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