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St Helena Online

The St Helena report and the gap in media

Island media, 20 January 2012

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Military interest in the airport (or not) – representation in the UK Parliament – underwater heritage – a Falklands cruise row – points mean immigration – cargo ship concerns – SHG breaches its planning rules – a ban on pets from Africa – and St Helena’s international cricket team. 

Not much news, but plenty of comment in this week’s St Helena Independent.

The editorial reports that the UK Ministry of Defence has denied taking an interest in the strategic potential of an airport on St Helena, now that tensions are hotting up between the Falklands and Argentina. Editor Mike doesn’t accept this: ‘If a dumb little Editor for a tin-pot newspaper on St Helena can see the connection between what is happening at the Falklands and the development of St Helena, I am sure MoD can see it as well.’

Mike also specutates on the type of aircraft that might be landing on Prosperous Bay Plain, now that the runway will not be as long as originally planned. The options appear limited, and as Johnny Clingham points out in his St Helena Community Blog, it looks as if there won’t be direct flights from Europe.

Democracy: The British overseas territories deserve better representation in the British Parliament,  according to Andrew Rosindell MP. Mr Rosindell wants to see a debate on the territories held in Parliament at least once a year, says a report re-published in the Shindy.

‘We give our 21 territories nothing,’ he says. ‘We have a democratic hole, with hundreds of thousands of people for whom we make laws, whom we ultimately govern and on whose behalf we can declare war, make foreign policy and sign international treaties. We have substantial control over their domestic affairs. Although the… Overseas Territories are not part of the UK they are substantially influenced and ultimately governed by this Parliament, so it is wrong for them to have no voice at Westminster.’

Underwater heritage: Divers have found plentiful evidence of the days when James Bay was a busy port. ‘A large number of ship’s anchors, some of them presumably dating all the way back to the 1600s, were found. However, they saw no wrecks.’ Marine archaeologists had been called in ahead of the next phase of the wharf development. A report on protecting this underwater heritage is on its way.

Falklands cruise ban: Three and a half thousand cruise passengers were refused permission to land at in the Falklands because 20 people on the Star Princess had symptoms of stomach flu, according to a re-published report from in The Scotsman. It says the chief medical officer consulted with a UK microbiologist before barring the visitors, on the grounds that a norovirus outbreak on the islands would put too much pressure on limited medical resources. Some Argentinian passengers had been planning to pay respects to loved ones, the paper was told. Penguin News said it may have cost the island’s economy more than £100,000 – nearly £47,000 in arrival tax.

Immigration points: Non-Saints wanting to move to St Helena or invest in the island will have to score enough points to qualify, according to Lewis Evans, the Immigration Executive at The Castle. It’s aimed at ‘protecting the local labour market while allowing migrants to come and do the jobs that there is no one on island to do.’ And also attracting investors. There’s no detail on how the points system would work.

Cargo concern: In his weekly column, Vince Thompson worries that there’s no evidence that anything’s being done about finding a cargo ship to replace the RMS St Helena when the airport becomes operational. He also wants a better service: ‘Too often we are told that something we want to buy was expected on the last call of the RMS but it didn’t arrive. Maybe what we want will be on the next ship. If, in an attempt to keep prices down, we have a cargo ship calling less often than the RMS does now, this kind of 19th Century business practice will have to stop.’

Vince also reports from the first-ever public meeting of the Planning Board, with the revelation that the government had started work on converting a house into flats without first gaining planning consent. ‘The Planning Board resisted the temptation to phone for the police and settled for a strongly worded letter to the Chief Secretary’s Office. It is not the first time a letter has been sent to that office drawing attention to this.’

Pet aversion: A public notice says pets can no longer be imported directly from Africa, because a six-month quarantine system is too difficult to maintain, and too harsh for the animals. It’s also abused. Instead, dogs and cats must now be imported through the UK, which has a tracking system to avoid the need for long quarantine. They can’t be carried on military flights, but must travel instead on an MoD supply ship to Ascension, and then on the RMS.

Lemon Valley: The tourist office reports that the landing stage in Lemon valley is now in place and can be used by boats. There are also plans for barbecues and beach shelters at Sandy Bay.

Sport: Training’s well underway for St Helena’s first-ever foray into international cricket. The International Cricket Council Division 3 T20 tournament in Johannesburg from the 25th – 30th April, at which Saints will compete against Cameroon, Gambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Rwanda and the Seychelles. Sponsors are needed.

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