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CONSTITUTIONAL POLL

The Constitution consultation document, ‘Improving Democracy and Accountability’ (which can be viewed on the SHG website on the homepage www.sainthelena.gov.sh), explains that experience of operating the current Council system has encountered practical problems. The problems described in the document can be partially resolved by restoring the direct lines of accountability between Committee Chairmen and Executive Council, reverting to the situation which existed before 2009.

Chief Councillor

The idea of appointing a Chief Councillor is not new. It was first proposed by the St Helena Constitutional Commission which was established in 1999 to review the 1988 Constitution. That Commission recommended that:- “A Chief Councillor should be elected by the elected members of the Legislative Council and on appointment should be required to nominate the required number of further elected members to serve with him/her as Chairpersons/Executive Councillors”.

In order to establish if the office of Chief Councilor should be implemented in the current St Helena Constitution, a Constitutional Poll will be held on Saturday, 23 March from 12 noon to 6pm at the various Community Centres/venues that are normally used for elections - Blue Hill, Sandy Bay, Kingshurst, Half Tree Hollow, Jamestown, Levelwood and Harford Community Centres and Judges Lodge (subject to it being vacant at the time).

It is proposed in ‘Improving Democracy and Accountability’ to appoint a Chief Councillor, as the Commission recommended. The Legislative Council, and the public, would then be able to identify one Councillor and say to him or her: ‘The buck stops with you’.

Neither he nor she, individually, nor the Executive Council as a whole, could dictate the direction of Government Business. They would need to lead in such a way as to carry with them the support of the Legislative Council. In order to get any item of business passed by the Legislative Council, they would need to secure the support of at least two non-ExCo Members (thus achieving a 7:5 vote to support the motion).

He or she, and they, would be liable to be removed, at any time, by a Vote of No Confidence - so they would be (individually and collectively) accountable to the Legislative Council (and, through the Council, to the public). Councillor Rodney Buckley encourages members of the public to anonymously vote “Yes” or “No” to Chief Councillor and the result would thus be generated by the people.

Councillor Buckley, who is in favour of the Chief Councillor, commented “My three years on Council leaves me very clear that our Island urgently needs a new political mandate to take on the challengers that lie ahead. The fundamentals of good government must be conducive to Collective leadership; making best use of available skills and experiences; spreading the workload and distributing responsibility. None of these four basics are in place at this time - in my view, because there is no real political leadership. It is however critical for any changes to be backed by local and public ownership. Change will only succeed if it is led and tailored to our local circumstances and accountable to the people. Hence the reason for asking for a secret ballot.”

On the other hand, Councillor Brian Isaac gave his reason for opposing. “I am not against the office of Chief Councillor because Chief Councillor could bring leadership in the future. My reason for objecting the post of Chief Councillor at this time is because we have adopted the proposal to amend the Constitution which would allow for the office of Chief Councillor during a period of consultation. The majority of the public clearly indicated they were not in favour of the Chief Councillor during the consultation and I feel that we as Councillors should respect the views of the public. If we do not respect the views of the public in any amendments or changes put forward to the public for the future of St Helena, then I am afraid we are not doing justice to the public.” Have your say - persons on the Register of Electors published on 18 September 2012 and those who have since applied and whose names have been Gazetted as of now, will be eligible to vote on Saturday 23 March.

Further radio talks and reminders about the Poll will follow.

SHG

12 March 2013




COMMONWEALTH DAY 2013 ‘OPPORTUNITY THROUGH ENTERPRISE’

This year’s Commonwealth Day (held each year on the second Monday in March) celebrated economic innovation throughout the Commonwealth and a shared commitment towards youth, social and sustainable enterprise.

A short Assembly was held at Prince Andrew School to mark the day, with the theme of “Opportunity through Enterprise” - attended by invited guests and the students themselves, to celebrate and raise recognition of the issues.

Councillor Derek Thomas, Chairman of the Home, Civil Society and International Committee, began the presentation by explaining the benefits of being a member of the Commonwealth. Derek said: “St Helena has benefited from the Commonwealth through partnership in training and technical support, the development of human rights, and funding of capital projects through the European Union. Such continued support is essential for the development of St Helena.”

HE Governor Capes followed with the Commonwealth Message from The Queen: “This year’s Commonwealth theme, ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’, is a celebration of our achievements, particularly those that may have seemed challenging, daunting or even impossible, which have helped to build strength, resilience and pride in our young people, in our communities and in our nations.”

Tammy Williams (ESH Community Liaison Officer) gave an Introduction to Julian Morris, Chief Executive for Economic Development, and explained the ESH presentation that would follow. In addressing the students, Julian said: “I am looking at a group of people with everything to gain. Commonwealth Day highlights that there is a world of opportunity out there, for you.”

To emphasise this, Kirsty Joshua (ESH Training & Youth Programme Coordinator) explained that in order for those in the room to realise these opportunities it is up to them to work hard and show real interest in their chosen field of work.

A slide show followed, showing young people working in businesses such as RS Photography, Little Gems, G Unique and Nats hair salon - stressing the business opportunities available for young people on St Helena.

SHG

13 March 2013




SOCIAL POLICY PLAN – PUBLIC PARTICIPATION EVENTS - REMINDER

Social Policy Planner, Paul McGinnety, would like to remind the public that he will be hosting a series of public participation events on social policy during March. Residents are encouraged to attend and to have a real input into social policies on St Helena going forward.

Events will take place in the following venues (please note that time have changed, following feedback received):

• Kingshurst Community Centre – Monday 11 March – 7pm

• Jamestown Community Centre – Tuesday 12 March – 6pm

• Longwood Community Centre – Wednesday 13 March – 7pm

• Blue Hill Community Centre – Thursday 14 March - 7pm

• Half Tree Hollow Community Centre – Monday 18 March – 7pm

SHG

11 March 2013




RENAMING OF PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT DIRECTORATE (PED)

Staff of the SHG’s newest directorate (initially called PED) were given the opportunity to propose a directorate name, one which more closely reflected what the role of the directorate would be. There were a number of responses received, and ‘Environment and Natural Resources’ Directorate was selected as the preferred option.

Tony Earnshaw, Director of Environment and Natural Resources, said ‘I’m very pleased that we have been able to create a name for the new directorate from suggestions made by staff. There were a number of great ideas, but we eventually chose Environment and Natural Resources because it covers most of the important activities the new Directorate will be responsible for- things like environmental management and protection, the use of land and buildings, agriculture, forestry and transport infrastructure.’ The new Environment and Natural Resources Directorate pulls together a number of smaller directorates: ANRD, EMD, and some components of the former I&U. All of these strands of SHG will sit under the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate 1 April 2013. Initially, on an interim basis the Directorate will be comprised of 4 divisions: Agriculture and Natural Resources Division (ANRD) led by Darren Duncan, Property Division (PD) led by Gavin George, Transport and Infrastructure Division (TID) led by Dave Malpas and the Environmental Management Division (EMD) led by Tara Pelembe. Between April and November, detailed work will be put into finalising the format and structure of the new Directorate, after which it will be formally launched.

SHG

15 March 2013




JOURNALIST MICHAEL BINYON TO VISIT ST HELENA

Times Leader Writer and eminent journalist, Michael Binyon OBE, is to visit St Helena from Mon 25 March, for six weeks, to write about developments on the Island for a variety of high profile outlets, including The Times, The Economist, Chatham House, Diplomat Magazine, The London Magazine and a weekly magazine in the Ukraine. The award-winning former Times Diplomatic Editor, Washington Bureau Chief, Moscow and Brussels Correspondent, Michael is both well travelled and highly regarded. His visit to the Island will undoubtedly generate further interest in St Helena.

Michael Binyon brings a wealth of international journalistic and media experience at the highest levels. Especially welcome is his offer to speak to pupils at Prince Andrew School to encourage careers in journalism, and his willingness more generally to offer guidance and support, as well as his extensive experience, to journalists on the Island who are interested in raising standards in the media.

Governor Capes welcomed the visit and said: ‘I was pleased to meet Michael in London last December and I look forward to welcoming him to St Helena. His visit presents an excellent opportunity for journalists here, and aspiring journalists, to learn from his many years of experience operating at the top levels of journalism. Michael takes a keen interest in St Helena’s progress on which he will be writing articles for leading publications, helping to raise the Island’s international profile.’ Michael added: ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to return to St Helena, an island that captivated me on my last visit in 2009. I believe St Helena has an extraordinary and fascinating future ahead of it, and I welcome the opportunity to contribute to its development in the run-up to the bicentenary of Napoleon’s arrival and the opening of the airport. I am also eager to tell the world the good news about St Helena, and help to put this remarkable overseas territory back on the map in Britain and the wider world.’

 Notes for Editors

Michael Binyon is a Leader Writer for The Times, where he previously served as Diplomatic Editor. After graduating from Cambridge University, he spent a year teaching in Minsk (in the then USSR) for the British Council, before joining The Times Educational Supplement in 1968. He then moved to the BBC Arabic Service, before joining The Times in 1972 as a foreign correspondent. He reported from Moscow in the 70s, and went on to cover the fall of the Berlin Wall and numerous Middle East conflicts. He is a frequent broadcaster on the BBC and overseas TV and has won two British press awards. He has also published a book entitled Life in Russia (1984).

Michael Binyon was awarded the OBE in 2000, for services to international journalism. From 2008 to 2009, he was Master of the Leathersellers' Company, an ancient livery guild in the City of London.

SHG

15 March 2013



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