The Honourable Premier Donaldson Romeo, has asked the ‘Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24)’ to withdraw the 2012 request to have Montserrat removed from the list of Territories which need to be decolonised.
According to a release from the Government Information Unit, the request was made during the United Nations Sustainable Development Seminar, convened in Grenada from May 9 to 11, 2018. The Seminar was held under the theme, ‘Implementation of the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism: towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Non-Self-Governing Territories: social, economic and environmental challenges.’
In 2012, former Premier Reuben T. Meade submitted a request for Montserrat to be removed from the decolonization list, stating that nationals had no desire to sever their relationship with the United Kingdom and have chosen to continue as an overseas territory and do not see themselves as being a colony.
However, Premier Romeo believes that staying with the process of decolonisation will force the hand of the British to ensure that the island does have all of its reasonable needs met. “He explained that, by remaining on the list of territories which need to be decolonised, Montserrat will be assisted in receiving much needed support through the work of the Committee, to which the UK Government will be held accountable under the legal force of the UN Charter, Article 73. For it is on this very legal basis that the UK Government agrees that the reasonable assistance and development needs of the Dependent Territories are a priority on the UK’s development programme.”
UN Charter, Article 73 reads: “Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
a. to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;
b. to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;
c. to further international peace and security;
d. to promote constructive measures of development, to encourage research, and to cooperate with one another and, when and where appropriate, with specialized international bodies with a view to the practical achievement of the social, economic, and scientific purposes set forth in this Article; and
e. to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations may require, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories for which they are respectively responsible other than those territories to which Chapters XII and XIII apply.”
On Thursday, May 10, during a bilateral session with the Chair of the Committee and staff, Premier Romeo was able to explain Montserrat’s current situation in that, despite significant funds spent over the past 20 years, the island still remains heavily dependent on the UK Government and tax payers to fund our recurrent budget, and that the UK has been the main grant agency supporting our development budget. The premier, also informed the UN that the main barrier to Montserrat achieving economic independence is the lack of and slow replacement of key, adequate and basic infrastructure lost to the volcano.
When the issue of decolonisation was raised, Premier Romeo insisted that for Montserrat to be decolonised, the Territory would need the timely replacement of the long agreed tools to grow its economy out of dependency. These he said, included a safe harbour and sea port; an improved airport, better access/connectivity arrangements, a new hospital, the replacement of the undersea fibre optic cable, the development of geothermal and solar energy, road infrastructure, housing, among other things.
The Premier further added that Montserrat’s resiliency and key social welfare concerns for education, youth, the elderly, the vulnerable and health care must also be addressed. The urgent need for the road project to be completed with underground utility lines as well as the provision of housing for hundreds living in houses that are not fit to withstand hurricanes, were also highlighted during the Premier’s discussions.
He noted however, that some progress has been made along these lines but said there remains a lack of urgency, and projects too often face a ‘stop-start-stop’ pattern, that results in uncertainty and delays.
Premier Romeo also used the opportunity to invite the Committee to visit Montserrat and to have discussions with members of our diaspora (particularly evacuees to the UK, North America and Antigua). He said this will allow them to have a clearer view of Montserrat’s challenges, opportunities and hopes for onward development given our Economic Growth Strategy, key welfare needs, and the resiliency challenge.
The Committee is scheduled to have a sitting in June 2018 and the premier has already indicated his willingness to provide a comprehensive report and presentation to the Committee during this sitting in New York.
Premier Romeo’s attendance at the Seminar was sponsored by the UN Decolonisation Commission.