Be vigilant. Be ever vigilant
“What a plot, dem a plot ’gainst I and I”
— Ziggy Marley
On February 20, 2019, the British House of Commons released a report from its Foreign Affairs Committee. This report was entitled Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the Relationship.
Within this report was an insidious set of recommendations:
1, That the Overseas Territories will be forced to accept public registers of beneficial ownership, which would serve only to damage our individual and collective economies
2, That the Overseas Territories will be forced to allow residents who are British citizens to not only vote in our elections but also have the ability to run as candidates
For now, let's focus on the recommendation that will force Overseas Territories to allow any British citizen or Commonwealth citizen resident in Overseas Territories, to vote in general elections and by-elections held in whichever territory in which they reside.
So, for example, an accountant from Liverpool could be on a one-year work permit in the British Virgin Islands and cast a vote in any election held there.
Another example is that a skilled mason from Manchester could be on work permit in the Falklands Islands and could run as a candidate for their Legislative Assembly.
In speaking with representatives from around the Overseas Territories, there was universal outrage at this suggestion.
A prime example:
“The day the UK Government seriously considers that persons who are not Caymanians can stand for office here is the day, if I am still able and alive, I lead the charge for independence”
— Alden McNee McLaughlin Jr (Premier of the Cayman Islands)
On April 29, 2019, this was the British Government’s official reply to the FAC report:
“In the spirit of a relationship based upon partnership, we will continue to support and encourage consistent and open political engagement on belongership and its territory-specific equivalents, whilst respecting the fact that immigration decisions are primarily a matter for OT governments.”
So, end of story, right?
Not to be dissuaded by the voices of almost 270,000 persons throughout the OTs, in February this year, two British MPs took it upon themselves to draft a Private Member’s Bill entitled “Representation of the People, Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories Bill”
John D. Penrose, Andrew R. Rosindell as well Anthony Webber, as a member of the Friends of the British Overseas Territories and former member of the Guernsey Parliament.
The proposed Bill calls for six MPs from the Overseas Territories:
One for Gibraltar, including the sovereign base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and the British Indian Ocean Territory.
One for St Helena and the Falkland Islands, including Britain’s southern Atlantic islands and Pitcairn in the Pacific.
One for the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat.
One for the Cayman Islands.
One for Turks & Caicos Islands.
One for Bermuda.
The proposal also calls for three MPs to represent the Crown Dependency islands of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man respectively, bringing a grand total of nine MPs for the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
Laced inside of the Bill was the provision that would — drum roll, please — allow for British citizens to not only vote in these elections but for them to run to be MPs in the British Parliament representing Overseas Territories.
So for clarity, someone from London on permit in Turks & Caicos Islands could stand as a candidate to be elected into the British Parliament.
Essentially, this Bill would allow someone with no history or connection to Turks & Caicos to represent Turks & Caicos.
Even more insulting was that, once again, there was zero consultation with the Overseas Territories on these issues.
On November 17, the Governor of the Cayman Islands, Martyn K. Roper, made this statement: “This proposal is emphatically not one that the UK Government wishes to take forward. It raises significant practical challenges. It is therefore very unlikely to proceed further or be debated in Parliament.”
One can easily say that this is just the idea of two solitary MPs.
However, let's go back and remember that there were other British MPs, from three different British political parties, who made the initial recommendations in that insidious FAC report of 2019.
Seemingly, this idea is being discussed within the closed-door caucuses of different political entities.
In closing, it is a safe bet that we, in the Overseas Territories, have not heard the last of these recommendations to force us to have British and Commonwealth citizens voting in our elections.
Be vigilant. Be ever vigilant.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com