Leading island politicians have publicly condemned the actions of Governor Mark Capes in dissolving St Helena’s Legislative Council without warning – and without calling an election.
Mr Capes gave the 12 elected councillors an hour’s notice of his announcement, which appeared to have been timed to fit in with his holiday. He removed them from their positions on Friday 19 April 2013, and left on annual leave the following Monday.
Councillor Derek Thomas told Saint FM listeners the announcement had come as “a terrible shock.”
He then read from a prepared statement, saying: “Whilst acknowledging that the St Helena Constitution permits the governor to dissolve the council at any time, one would think there should be good reasons for doing so.
“One would expect that the governor should have discussed his intention with his council, rather than acting so abruptly in making his decision, particularly in view of the fact that DFID [the Department for International Development] has expressed confidence in the manner in which the council is managing the reforms.
“There are issues that could have been satisfactorily concluded for the benefit of the people, whereas now they are left undone and could not be considered until after a new election in July. That is many weeks away.”
An identical statement was read out on the rival station, SAMS Radio 1.
A suspicion that the governor had grown weary of some councillors was endorsed by Cyril “Ferdie” Gunnell in another Saint FM interview.
He said: “I believe that yes, the governor was fed up with some members of the old council and I think some people were being a bit too forceful, coming up with too many things, and the governor has the power to say that’s the end of that.
“I wouldn’t say there were problems, but what I will say is to have a good council it is important for councillors to work together as a team, and they need the support of the administration.
“If there were issues, then those issues could have been addressed.”
When he announced the dissolution of the council, Mr Capes said he hoped more women and young people would stand in the election when it was called – a statement now being taken to imply that he hoped some of the recently-removed councillors would not be voted back in.
Voting must take place by 19 July 2013. Mr Capes said a long lead-in would give people time to consider standing, and to encourage more people to sign the electoral register – though that could have been done without dissolving the council.