An open letter is calling on Stuart Moors and John Styles to resign as heads of St Helena’s chamber of commerce, because of their role in the closure of the island’s only private-sector newspaper.
Hazel Wilmot says that if they don’t step down as president and vice-president, then all the other members should walk out in protest.
Mr Styles set up the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation (SHBC), which launched the new Sentinel newspaper yesterday (29 March 2012). He has said he will cease to be a director once it is established. Chamber president Stuart Moors is also a director of the new organisation.
Ms Wilmot, owner of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown, has told this website she was “appalled” at the way the SHBC was set up with government funding, and allowed to compete for advertising with the Independent – which announced its closure from today as a result.
In a statement to this website, Stuart Moors says: “The president and vice-president are in receipt of the open letter from Ms Wilmot, and we will be discussing the issues she raises within the Chamber Council before deciding how next to proceed.”
The annual general meeting of the chamber takes place on 12 April 2012 – ironically, in the Consulate Hotel.
Mr Styles has pointed out that the SHBC and The Sentinel are owned by a community trust representing organisations across the island – including the chamber of commerce. It’s hoped it will eventually become self-supporting as the island’s economy grows.
The open letter says the chamber leaders acted “in the knowledge that a conflict existed between the function of the chamber to nurture existing businesses, and the establishment of a private company that has precipitated the demise of another existing business.”
It also tells them they have:
- sown division among chamber members
- brought the St Helena Chamber of Commerce into disrepute, by, without comment or intervention, permitted legislation be formed that endangers the principal of free enterprise on St Helena, whilst in the positions you hold.
And if they do not step down from their chamber roles:
“The alternative is for me to propose that all members of the Chamber of Commerce resign their membership of the Chamber until a satisfactory reply can be provided, by yourselves, on the conduct currently alleged.”
The open letter is published in full in the final issue of the St Helena Independent.
Hazel Wilmot says she is “reassured” by a pledge from the CEO of The Sentinel that it will be robustly free of government influence. “I will reserve judgement,” she says.