Montserrat government finds support in the UK APPG

| April 3, 2016

Premier, The Honourable Donaldson Romeo and Hon. Minister and Deputy Premier Delmaude Ryan along with Hon. Ag. Financial Secretary Lindorna Brade and Permanent Secretary to the Premier Camille Gerald were in the United Kingdom (UK) from Friday, Nov 27 2015 attending primarily the Joint Ministerial (JMC) Council’s fourth annual meeting which took place on December 1-2, 2015.

With Mrs. Janice Panton, Government of Montserrat UK representative in support of the delegation, while in the UK attending these meetings, leaders do meet in several other meetings. This year on Nov. 30 the Premier and his entourage, he and the Hon. Delmaude Ryan attended firstly the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) made up of representatives from territories and of which Mrs. Janice Panton MBE represents Montserrat.

Later that day, the full group attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG), hosted by MP Andrew Rosindell. The APPGs are made up of MPs who besides taking part in formal parliamentary business, are active in other areas such as within their own political parties and constituencies. They may also take part in informal work at Westminster, such as working with All-Party Parliamentary Groups.

An invitation to one meeting from Mr. Rosindell said: “This will be an opportunity for members to hear from the Premier of Montserrat, the Hon. Donaldson Romeo and Minister Delmaude Ryan and to discuss ways in which we can improve links between the UK and Montserrat and improve the quality of life of citizens of Montserrat.”

Delmaude Ryan and Bennette Roach. Photo courtesy www.themontserratreporter.com

Delmaude Ryan and Bennette Roach. Photo courtesy www.themontserratreporter.com

The well-known Lloyd ‘Makabius’ Thomas in parliamentary circles, Chairman of the Hackney Montserrat Foundation, with other members of that Foundation, Misses Kiema and Keisha Allen, also  Members of  the Foundation  along with Janice Panton MBE – Montserrat Government UK Representative attended the meeting. Parliamentarians attending that meeting were: Lord Jones of Cheltenham, Coner Burns MP, Diane Abbott MP, Naomi Hirst – Office of Lord Watson of lnvergowrie, Rudi Page – Enhanced Leadership Insights, Guy Shires – Clerk to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Montserrat. Also invited to that meeting were The Rt. Hon. Lord Foulkes of Cumnock and Diane Abbott MP, names of well-known UK parliamentarians to either or served in the interest of or visited Montserrat early after the volcanic crisis began.

Reporting at the end of that meeting which began at 5.00 p.m., before having to attend a reception hosted by the British Virgin Islands, the Premier told me, “What we basically did was update the All Party Group on Montserrat’s status right now. We gave them an idea of what is happening with regards to negotiations with DFID and with the FCO.”

The Premier said he was candid. “What we made plain was that we’ve agreed to an Economic Business Plan which will guide funding and what happens for Montserrat in not just in the near future, but over the next fifteen (15) years.”

Mrs. Delmaude Ryan, the Minister of Health, Education and Social Services also gave insight of her presentation to the group. She firstly gave her understanding of the group’s function. “What you find is that the All Party Group here, they are the ones who pretty much put on that pressure on DFID to hold them to what it is that we agree,” she said.

“It is where they are now, giving us that support – so, it’s not just the Government of Montserrat and DFID just talking, but we have people who surround you to ensure that goes forward,” she continued, adding in support of what the Premier had said, “…Which is why we want a written costed time-table plan that regardless of whoever comes into DFID that the plan will outlive them and it actually happens.”

The Premier had also said, “It’s not just economical, it has to do with governance, financial management and having the people, having the resources to fund the key projects in a timely fashion and having the plans to take advantage of those projects that are provided.”

Mr. Rudi Page no stranger to Montserrat and who had worked with Montserrat in helping to develop the Private sector during the first half of the 2000s in business and trade especially with the UK, had made some brief interventions at the meeting. He spurred on the Premier, adding his comments calling the Premier’s comments, “the long term sustainability.” “If you say Montserrat is now taking a new position and focusing on sustainability it triggers a ‘movement’,” he said.

Premier Romeo then said giving insight into what he had hoped to discuss with Montserratians later that week, said, “We need Montserratians to start to write to him (the APPG) to encourage them (HMG) to do more for Montserrat  – and in terms of the voice of Montserratians, because that’s the key point.”

Rudi Premier and Andrew Rosendill MP

Rudi Premier and Andrew Rosendill MP

Page who is keen to get back involved in working with Montserrat to develop the private sector, said in support of the Diaspora involvement in putting the Montserrat case said: “There always has to be a balance between the message to the Montserratians here, those who are constituents here, they could do a lot more. If you’re encouraging the DIASPORA to contact his MP or a particular MP because he’s leading on Montserrat, then that gives him a lot more leverage with the other people in the system that he’s got to deal with…”

Romeo followed up noting, “If they’re writing to other members of Parliament as well. That would be a lot.

When the suggestion was made that there can be a conflict with the message being delivered here in the UK, it was said,  “There wasn’t any conflict between them, between the Government of Montserrat and the British government. Generally, everybody was working well together.”

Page said his observation was that there was support from the group for Montserrat in two particular areas. “…there’s Montserrat itself in terms of its capacity, in terms of implementing projects, but also when it came to DFID and the British government, it was never anything for the long term…”

There was an ensuing discussion that the suggestion by Montserrat “… there was no plan, there hadn’t been any plan for years.”

The trades and business developer, said that he expressed his interest in the meeting as having to do with, ”business and economic development – that the importance of business being the driver for the economy.” I am saying today that the Chamber must at least try and reinstate itself, so it could work – you need a proper business group,” he concluded.

Meantime, the lady Minister, developed on her vision at the meeting. She was of the view, “we had a very good discussion about an hour, hour and half, with the All Party – the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords,”

She said, “It was a very good opportunity for them to be updated on the Montserrat situation, they had a great interest in Montserrat given the challenges that we have had over the volcanic situation and in terms of the British government’s support in relation to the funds that were put into the island, but the results of those funds which was very notable.”

She concluded: “We came to understanding in relation to how they can work in supporting us about moving forward and particularly as we have now entered a new phase,” referring next to the well bandied word, “or I must say a new relationship with the British government and their willingness to want to provide that support to Montserrat…it is about helping them to maintain that willingness and to maintain that relationship that we can finally come to a plan where Montserrat has a documented ‘costed’ time plan that would allow us to move on and bring Montserrat into a stage where we can become dependent on our own efforts.” Article By Bennette Roach

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