‘Now for transparency’ says Ian as reformers win election

The 12 new councillors chosen to transform St Helena look set to start by blowing away the cobwebs in The Castle.

The winners in the island’s 2013 general election are: Ian Rummery (894 votes), Lawson Henry (857), Nigel Dollery (845), Christine Scipio o’Dean (771), Cyril George (711), Brian Isaac (678), Les Baldwin (608), Derek Thomas (598), Tony Green (570), Wilson Duncan (536), Gavin Ellick, also known as Eddie Duff (511) and Bernice Olsson (502).

The line-up includes several figures who have strongly supported demands to make St Helena Government more transparent.

Ian Rummery said: “It’s overwhelming. I guess this means we get a Freedom of Information Act, anyway.

“This was the easy bit. It’s the next four years that’s going to be the long hard slog, but we’re up for it.”

The candidates who scored the highest numbers of votes have painted themselves as progressive figures who have promised to change the relationship between the government and its people.

Now people must wait to see which of the new councillors win places on the ruling Executive Council, which must lead the island through the greatest changes in its history, with the opening of its airport in 2016.

The five ExCo members are chosen through a vote among the 12 members of LegCo, but the strong lead established by the top scoring candidates may give them an edge.

Ian Rummery has a strong background in the island’s health service, having previously run the community care centre. He has also experienced government from the other side of the table, as a serving official.

Lawson Henry is a seasoned politician, having been involved in the battle over democratic rights on Ascension Island a decade ago.

Councillors may want to see someone with experience of serving on ExCo among the chosen five.

However, Governor Mark Capes has invited politicians in Westminster to travel to the island to give the new councillors guidance on how to fulfil their duties effectively.

Lord Shutt of Greetland sets out for the island on 22 July. No other Parliamentarians are joining him.

Lord Jones of Cheltenham, who maintains an interest in island affairs, had to pass up the opportunity for personal reasons.

Only two women were elected to the new LegCo. Christine Scipio o’Dean and Bernice Olsson were both members of the previous council – in fact, this will be Bernice’s fifth term as a councillor.

During the early part of the count it had looked as if she might not be in the top dozen, but her personal popularity carried her through.

Soon after the declaration, she said: “I still shaking because I can’t believe that I just scrape in. I just can’t believe that I made it again.”

In fact, her tally of 502 votes put her comfortably clear of the other two female candidates, Audrey Constantine (419 votes) and Brenda Moors (405), who finished in 13th and 14th places.

Bernice said voters had elected a strong team to run the island.

Several veteran politicians were among the lowest-scoring candidates, suggesting the public mood had turned away from the “old guard”.

They included Cyril “Ferdie” Gunnell and Mervyn Yon – the only two councillors who failed to respond to a questionnaire asking their views on open government.

They became popular hosting their own Radio St Helena programme on government affairs during the run-up to the 2009 general election – which would not have been allowed under a broadcasting code introduced for 2013.

Earl Henry and Raymond Williams also failed to win back their seats.

For some, though, there was elation at the end of a count that lasted just over six hours, with “callers” taking turns to read out the 10,367 votes cast.

Tony Leo, hosting coverage on Saint FM Community Radio, told listeners at 3.30 in the morning: “I can see hugs and kisses. This is just the start.”

He said voters had picked up on a comment by Governor Capes that the election provided an opportunity to choose some younger councillors, with more women.

“A lot of people took that hint – oh, we don’t want the old ones,” said Tony. “He hasn’t got as many females as he wanted.”

In fact, five members of the previous council have been re-elected – Christine Scipio o’Dean, Brian Isaac, Derek Thomas, Tony Green, and Bernice Olsson.

New boy Wilson “Tony” Duncan told Saint FM Community Radio: “I feel elated.

“Being an unknown really, after being away for 40 years and more, and come back… I’m really excited about it. I’m raring to go to be honest.”

Eddie Duff – best known as the guardian of the island’s wirebirds – said: “If anybody got any champagne I wouldn’t mind a drink right now.

“This will be the biggest challenge of my life. I have to get it right. We all got to get it right and make sure we do the right for the people.

“If everybody get together we can move this island forward. We have got some very powerful people in this group here.”

His election may well be seen as a further boost for efforts to push conservation issues up the political agenda, given the global significance of the island’s wildlife and its importance to future tourism.

The new council will be significant for having three members who were not born St Helenian.

Ian Rummery, Nigel Dollery and Les Baldwin were all born overseas. Les Baldwin, who played a leading role in reviving Saint FM Community Radio, said he felt elated by the result.

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