Government of Montserrat

PREMIER ROMEO’S STATEMENT REGARDING SHELLY HARRIS’ SUBMISSION TO THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

Over the last week, I was away on Government Business in Puerto Rico attending a tourism conference, alongside Antigua’s Minister of Tourism in our first official effort towards twinning our destinations.

 
While there I was kept abreast of the happenings on Island and in the UK. A major issue that arose was the statements made in the submission to UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) by one Mrs. Shelly Harris.

 
While, like most, I was appalled at the tone of her unfounded accusations and ill advised colonialistic suggestions, I must admit that I am not at all surprised. Her statements clearly show the sort of attitudes and influences behind the scenes that have harmed and hampered Montserrat’s progress for many years.

 
One has only to note, how the former DfID Secretary of State and Member of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) particularly used Mrs. Shelly Harris’ statement during last week’s Foreign Affairs Committee hearings to question how aid to Montserrat is spent. This should be an eye opener to many, of how statements by a well-connected few behind closed doors can displace and discredit solid facts and evidence in support of the Government and People of Montserrat.

 
So far, I have listened to the statements of protest and correction by many on and off Island in reaction to Mrs. Shelly Harris’ words, as submitted to the FAC. Please take note that Mrs. Shelly Harris’statement is not an isolated one, for we are well aware of ill-informed articles in the UK media which have erroneously painted Montserrat in a negative light, undermined the fiber optic project, gave incorrect news on the risk of volcanic eruptions and very recently (just a few weeks ago) gave the impression that Montserrat was on a financial services black list. This sort of misinformation has been going on for 20 plus years.
 

Mrs. Harris has every right to use her freedom of speech, but at the same time, she like all of us must be responsible in communicating our opinion, whether as an individual or on behalf of others. Clearly, she has done a grave disservice to herself and to the people of Montserrat. It is not too late for she still has an opportunity, with careful reflection, to publicly correct and put right errors in her submission and the disrespect shown to the People of Montserrat; including degrading remarks about the public service and Non-Nationals. She owes the People of Montserrat an apology.

 
Like many others I, too, exercised my right as Premier and as an individual to make a personal submission to the FAC. I made sure to provide evidence to support my statements which clearly show that since taking office, against great odds, this Government has taken an aggressive stance on improving legislation, policies, mechanisms and our capacity to deliver a more effective and efficient public service, which in turn would create a suitable environment for the private sector to grow us out of dependence on British aid.

 
As Premier, I particularly insisted on the improvement in the areas of financial management, procurement and project management not only so that there would be greater accountability and efficiency in the use of all aid but so that the Government and people of Montserrat can proudly create a culture of managing our funds from here forward to when and after we stand on our own two feet.

 
So clearly, this government continues to function after previous governments did their part as far back as the 1960’s when the Rt. Hon. William Bramble became our first Chief Minister.

 
We have come a long way, especially over the past 23 years of volcanic activity. The Government and People of Montserrat, though we face various challenges, have many opportunities for progress. Rest assured that with God’s help, no weapon formed against the people of Montserrat will prosper and all things will work together for our good.

 
We must not become distracted by irresponsible individuals and their statements. Let us all make good use of an opportunity to put things right and allow healing to take place.

 
With that said, fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat, I thank you.