St Helena Online

Tag: election

2013 St Helena general election

Polls have closed in what must be one of the world’s smallest general elections. Voting began at the eight polling stations around St Helena at 10am GMT and queues were reported, despite there being only 2,309 electors.

Times given here are UK times.

20:13 SAMS Radio 1 and Saint FM Community Radio School are both preparing to link up to their reporters for live coverage from Prince Andrew School.

UK politicians revive St Helena group on eve of polls

The all-party Parliamentary group for St Helena has been revived in London, close to what could be the most important general election in the island’s history.

It comes after Vince Thompson of the St Helena Independent talked with Lord Jones of Cheltenham and Sir Bob Russell at separate meetings in Westminster.

The group had not met since the Coalition Government came to power.

At the meeting with Lord Jones – also attended by Simon Pipe of St Helena Online – a number of concerns were raised about issues on the island, including infrastructure and lack of open government.

Lord Jones was strongly supportive of the campaign to introduce freedom of information legislation and end excessive secrecy on the part of the island’s executive council.

He continues to receive informal briefings by email  – including an update on the election and the abrupt departure of fisheries expert Mark Brumbill amid allegations of unspecified threats against his family.

The all-party group held an annual general meeting on 4 July 2013. 

Sir Bob, who led the fight in Westminster for Saints to be given back their British citizenship after it was removed by Margaret Thatcher, was re-elected as chairman.

Meg Munn MP is a vice chair.

Ten government and ten opposition names are the minimum needed for the group to be legitimate.

Two Labour peers, Lord Snape and Lord Brookman – both former union leaders – were brought in to make up the numbers.

2013 election: older men dominate once again

The list of candidates standing in the 2013 general election on St Helena may be a disappointment for Governor Mark Capes.

While the line-up of 20 candidates is healthy enough, only four of them are women and even fewer of them could be called young.

Mr Capes dissolved the island’s legislative council in April 2013, nearly three months before the election date.

He said at the time: “By allowing quite a long period between the announcement today and the general election in July, I hope we may see more people coming forward to stand for election, especially those who would be doing so for the first time.

“I hope too that more women and younger people will stand, so that LegCo has a fresher, more balanced and representative membership at this exciting time in St Helena’s history.”

That prompted a protest to the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, signed by 11 of the 12 councillors who lost their seats in the surprise dissolution.

They wrote: “The governor’s statements appear to infringe our human rights as it could imply that older people make poor decisions.

“As a consequence some of our members’ chances for re-election, and indeed the election hopes of new candidates of a mature age, could be seriously jeopardised.”

As it turns out, nearly all the candidates are over 50, with some in their late sixties or early seventies.

And the former members of LegCo – the island’s parliament – have refused to take the governor’s apparent hint about wanting the next council to have a “fresher” membership: nine of the 12 are standing for election again.

Only Rodney Buckley, John Cranfield and Stedson Francis have decided not to enter the fray. Mr Buckley had already made his decision before the election was announced.

More than half of the candidates have served on LegCo at some time in the past.

The 20 candidates include three who were not born St Helenian: Les Baldwin, Ian Rummery and Nigel Dollery.

Bernice Olsson and Christine Scipio o’Dean, the only two female members of the last LegCo at the point when it was dissolved, are standing again despite murmurs of a chauvinistic culture among some councillors.

The other two female candidates are Audrey Constantine and Brenda Moors.

Three would-be councillors are members of the Citizenship Commission, which has continued to keep a critical watch on island affairs since winning its fight for Saints to be given back their British status after it was removed by Margaret Thatcher.

The commission has since supported the St Helena Freedom of Information Campaign.

The initial announcement of the candidates’ names did not make it clear how many had joined Stedson George in his newly-launched St Helena Democratic Socialist Party – an attempt to give government clearer political direction.

St Helena Online asked Vince Thompson, columnist on the St Helena Independent, for an assessment of the candidates.

His comments – with no names attached – included:

  • hopeless – plenty of questions but no answers” 
  • “hard working, intelligent”
  • “lightweight”
  • intelligent, alert and independent minded”
  • rebellious”
  • energetic but not as focused as is desirable”  
  •  “has an eye for detail – can keep his teeth into an issue”
  •  “normally quiet – unknown quantity”
  • amusing personality but political acumen needs to be demonstrated”

Readers might like to try to guess which comments apply to which candidates.

(The candidates described here are not named because some of their rivals attracted no comment, and so to pick out individuals would be unfair).

READ MORE: St Helena election stories

20 candidates bid for a part in St Helena’s future

Twenty candidates are to fight for the 12 seats in the 2013 St Helena general election. They are:

Leslie Paul Baldwin of Half Tree Hollow
Audrey Mavis Constantine of Maldivia, Jamestown
Nigel Dollery of Pleasant View Cottage, New Ground
Wilson Charles Duncan of Old Millsite, Longwood
Gavin George Ellick of New Ground
Cyril Robert George of Clifton Cottage, Sapper Way
Stedson Robert George: of Utopia, Two Gun Saddle, Alarm Forest
Anthony Arthur Green of Oltonia, Knollcombes
Cyril Keith Gunnell of Cashem House, Napoleon Street, Jamestown
Earl Hilton Henry of Thompson’s Hill
Lawson Arthur Henry of  Sea View, Alarm Forest
Brian William Isaac of Elizium, Longwood
Brenda Elaine Moors of Alarm Forest
Bernice Alicia Olsson of  Association Hall, Main Street, Jamestown
Ian Sebastian Rummery of Alarm Forest
Christine Lilian Scipio-O’Dean of Black Field, Longwood
Derek Franklin Thomas of Cow Path, Half Tree Hollow
Lionel George Williams of Brenville, Near Half Tree Hollow
Raymond Kenneth Williams of Saddle Cottage, Near Horse Pasture, Blue Hill
Mervyn Robert Yon of High View Cottage, Near Red Hill

The names were announced by the returning officer, Gillian Francis, after nominations closed on 2 July 2013. The election takes place on 17 July, with electors able to vote for up to 12 candidates for the island’s new island-wide constituency.

Stedson attempts to revive party politics on St Helena

An attempt is being made to introduce party politics to St Helena for the first time in four decades.

Stedson George has announced the launch of the St Helena Democratic Socialist Party.

It follows a separate announcement by would-be councillors Lawson Henry and Ian Rummery that they would campaign together in the 2013 general election – due to take place on 17 July.

Stedson has distributed a manifesto in island shops, calling for better pensions and benefits, free health care for Saints, and a fairer society – which includes confronting the “wild difference between island and expat salaries”.

Ian and Lawson’s “common values” include: the need for freedom of information; better water and housing; pensions and benefits that reflect living costs; more support for health and education; economic development to benefit all Saints, not just in tourism; and a “level playing field” for local and overseas businesses. 

They have begun holding public meetings, which other election candidates have also attended, but they have not formally established a political party.

Stedson told Saint FM Community Radio: “You hear people talk about the government as if it was some faceless people in the Castle.

“The government is actually the executive council. And the executive council is made up of five elected Saints, so you wonder, if they are the government, why are they doing things that are perhaps not in the interests of the people/

“I think the answer is because they are not united. They don’t have a unifying manifesto – a policy – and the old saying is, divide and rule.

“I think the only way to overcome this is to form a political party.  

“I know it’s been done before. Mr Tony Thornton formed a Labour party back in the Seventies, and people will say that didn’t work so why try again?

“I think somebody has to make a start, so I have decided to make a start. I have called it the St Helena Democratic Socialist Party and of course if the name doesn’t suit people we can always change that.

“I have prepared a manifesto and if people don’t like the manifesto we can change that, but this is a start.

“If you have a party you have to follow the party line, and everybody will be singing from the same hymn sheet.

“This won’t happen overnight. To have an up-and-running party is going to take some time but if you only have one candidate, at least you have made a start.

“The aim really will be to increase the number of party members and candidates, and when you have seven you are in a position to form a government.”

Several other election candidates have come forward. They include Derek Thomas, Earl Henry, Christine Scipio o’Dean and Cyril Gunnell – all members of the last legislative council – and Nigel Dollery.

The closing date for nominations is 2 July 2013.

Ninety days in a wilderness: election delayed until last moment

The restoration of democratically-elected government on St Helena is to be delayed until the last possible week.

A general election is to take place on St Helena on 17 July 2013 – two days short of the 13-week deadline allowed under the island’s constitution. 

Governor Mark Capes dissolved the island’s Legislative Council without warning on Friday, 19 April 2013. He said at the time that the election would take place in July. 

He also said he wanted it to be held well in advance of the latest possible date in November 2013, in order to allow a new council to settle in before dealing with major business, such as the annual visit of UK aid negotiators.

No explanation has been given for the subsequent decision to delay for as long as possible.

Allowing time for votes to be counted, that means a gap of 90 days between dissolution and the naming of 12 new councillors.

There would then be several days’ further delay for training and formation of committees before they would be ready to start work – taking the hiatus close to 100 days.

Displaced councillors have publicly protested over the governor’s decision to exercise his right to dissolve the council without consulting anyone on the island.

Former councillor Derek Thomas told radio listeners he acknowledged the governor’s right to dissolve the council, but added: “One would think there should be good reasons for doing so.”

Professor George Jones, of the London School of Economics, said the governor had “cocked it up” by dissolving the council before he was ready to call an election. The announcement of the polling date came 24 days after the council was dissolved.

It said:  

“The Acting Governor Owen’ O’Sullivan has now agreed a date for the general election 2013, which will take place on Wednesday 17 July 2013.

“In order to vote, or stand as a candidate, your name must be on the register of electors.

“The provisional register of electors was published on Wednesday 8 May 2013, and during a two-week period it will be available for inspection and amendment by contacting the assistant registration officer, Gina Benjamin, at 1 Main Street.

“Copies will also be available at the customer service centre, library and the rural sub post offices.  The provisional register will be available for inspection and amendment until Friday, 24 May 2013.” 

SEE ALSO: Sacked councillors round on His Absency the Governor

Sacked councillors round on His Absency the Governor

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.

SEE ALSO:Governor ‘cocked it up’ by dissolving LegCo, says professor

A Saint in America – and the excitement of the US election

The re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America will affect a few St Helenians more than most. DOREEN GATIEN – formerly Doreen Peters – is one of a small number of Saints living in America. She has sent a personal election night dispatch from her home in California.

I am a Saint Helenian, and I have lived in the United States of America since 1986. I am a Resident Alien and not an American citizen. This means that I have every other right that an American citizen does, except the right to vote. However, I too have felt the stress of the many months of the most amazing Presidential race ever.

As I write I am watching the voting results and having a cup of tea and a slice of vegan cake. My husband reminded me he had also made some cookies, so I added this to my election treat. Believe me, I don’t always eat so badly.

Wow! To think I am privileged to live in such an amazing country as the United States of America, where problems of many kinds exist, but where freedom rings!

The number of my fellow islanders living in this country are about as many as the fingers on my hand. On the way home from work this evening I called Debbie in Washington DC. She is a fellow islander and also not an American citizen. Debbie and I were nurses together at the only hospital in our homeland.

I mentioned how would we never imagined more than twenty years ago that together in 2012 we would seem almost like a team again; the only difference this time is we share it long distance. How would we have dreamt we would be sharing and living through the months, weeks, days and moments of the most stressful and bitter American presidential race ever, at least since we have lived here?

The television networks  just now announced the re-election of President Obama. Months and months of planning being repaid. I yelled in delight on my patio for the neighbourhood to hear. The Race has ended!

Governor Romney just spoke and his words were very calm and gracious. I actually felt some tears run down my face as I saw his sadness and disappointment; this is how I am, no matter whose team I am on; let’s admit it, this could not have been easy. It has been brutal.

Now I am waiting on another speech, the most important one of the night. Crowds and more crowds are also waiting at the President’s headquarters in Chicago, with smiling faces and American flags being tossed from side to side. I doubt any of those in waiting are sipping Rooibos tea!

Why did I put so much energy into a process that I cannot be legally involved in? Because when you have lived in the most powerful country in the world for this long, you cannot help but feel the American spirit at its best. Even when the ride is brutal.

Congratulations President Obama. You deserve another four years. And God bless America!

Editor’s note: some readers may notice that this piece is not completely impartial. St Helena Online would still have run it, even had it been from a Romney supporter. Governor Romney is welcome to submit a response.

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).