St Helena Online

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

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  • Don’t feel too bad, folks. Just be glad that your island operates under British law instead of the mess we have here in the States. I write for the local newspaper in a small rural town (see name of paper in web site below; it’s an Arizona paper), doing a column and running our online blog. We are talking about the public water utility in two tiny mountain villages right now, which for no logical reason is about to replace all the water meters, tear up the entire system and replace it, and–for the second time in a few years–saddle us with a $7.5 million bill (about £3.8 million). It’s our board. We elected it**, and yet they ignore us. A few months ago someone noted that the treasurer had used a district credit card to buy himself a “few” things (about $5,000 worth). Poor baby! He has had to leave the board. No one, however, has yet to charge him with a felony, nor have we heard one word about it.

    **American English treats collective nouns as singular, rather than plural. You would say the “board were voting” and we would say the “board was voting.” Some of my comments may sound a bit odd. Sorry. I’d make a mess of it if I tried to transliterate what I am saying.

    While in the American Air Force I spent four years in England with my beloved wife, who is British. We almost decided to retire right there in Oxfordshire, but didn’t because we felt our two children should have a chance to grow up in the country where they were born. We all make mistakes.

    Simon, thank you for the chance to “blow off a little steam.” While we were in England, Loretta and I lived not too far from where you are located, in Cropredy, a lovely village filled with great-hearted people if I ever saw one, and quite a historic place too, as I am sure you know. Loretta was born on her grandfather’s tea and coffee plantation in southern India. We met while I was stationed in the American Embassy in Karachi as part of the U-2 Program (a very minor part), and were married in a magnificent cathedral there (it may surprise you to know that Karachi in Muslim Pakistan has 11 active churches). All of her friends and family have long since left India, of course.

    As a reward for reading my ramblings I’ll leave you with a happy thought which reminds me of how our politicians work:

    To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.


  • Thanks for the contact, Tom – the last line made me laugh out loud and I shall pass it on, if I may.

    I know Cropredy quite well – the festival was a good source of stories when I was the local BBC reporter, and I’ve even performed on the big stage. We lived at Adderbury.

  • Simon,

    It was my pleasure to be able to make a comment on such a well run site. Online news is, I’m afraid, slowly but surely supplanting paper editions. As with everything, it hurts to see such a hallowed tradition as the daily paper passing into history, but the world has a way of moving on whether we like it or not, and being able to talk to people anywhere on the planet, letting them know that we are all one people, and all share the same concerns and beliefs makes up for the loss. I could not, for example, read the article to which I added a comment without feeling genuine concern for the rights of the people involved.

    If the years I spent traveling the world in the military taught me anything it was that we are all pretty much the same. I saw the same concerns in Iceland, Japan, India, Pakistan, and England that I saw in the daily paper in my home town in the States. What a marvelous thing it is that the nations of today, though still at times sorely divided, meet together in the United Nations to talk things over instead of meeting on some battlefield.

    Changes like that bode well for our future. How much better it is to talk than to chop men and women to pieces with our war machines. And what nonsense it is in the long run. I have spent years in Japan, and months in Germany and Italy, among what was once the “enemy.” What good came of all those dead on both sides? Here we are, 6 decades later, the best of friends and occupying no more and no less territory than we did when I was a lad. What was it all for?

    Lolly and I used to drive to Adderbury for some reason or other, to go to an antique shop, I believe. Lolly’s sister Betty and her husband Peter had emigrated to the UK by that time, and those two just loved shopping. There was a place in Shipton Under Witchwood called (what else?) Ye Olde Antique Shoppe where I suspect I spent a measureable portion of my tour. We bought some beautiful small things there.

    We were lucky too because our time in England (1969-1973) coincided with one of the reenactments of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge which you mention. Ah, England, England, England! What fond memories we have of those far too short four years.

    I wish you and all the “Saints” well. Fight hard for your natural rights, folks. A great American named Thomas Jefferson, writing in 1776, once called them “inalienable.” He was correct.


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