The Value of Government Promises

HM Government doesn’t just screw over the good people of the British Isles. The Empire may be a thing of the past, but there are still little territories scattered around the globe. I first learned in detail about Ascension Island by reading The Teatime Islands by Ben Fogle.

Ascension is located in the South Atlantic and has a population of 1,100. The residents have no right of abode or right to own property. They were promised these a few years ago. A land register was prepared. People invested in businesses in preparation for tourism. They inaugurated an elected council and developed their own laws, based on those of the UK and St Helena, the island that is in charge of Ascension. Ascension is dependency of St Helena, itself a British oversea territory. The Governor of St Helena sends an Administrator as his representative.

Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has changed its mind about the reforms. Yes, the Government has just unilaterally pulled the plug and left everyone in the lurch. But what do they care? They have absolutely nothing to lose. The Ascension Islanders are not UK voters. Even as St Helenians they aren’t UK voters. At least as of 2002 they have British citizenship – the Government did throw them that bone. But it gives them no right to or on Ascension.

So why has the Government done this? As usual, there is the official story and the truth. Lord Triesman, the foreign office minister, told Parliament the reforms were dropped because of the financial liabilities that British taxpayers would face if they had to bail out the islanders. Triesman must not have told Parliament the population of Ascension and the single-digit number of businesses on the Island. I’m sorry, but the excuse is indistinguishable from the guano left by the increasing sea bird population on Ascension.

The real reason? Did I mention that there is a US Air Force base there? Did I mention that it is a stratetic location for long range bombers and was used as such by the RAF in the Falklands War? Does this sound like another Diego Garcia? There’s nothing that can change British colonial policy like a little pressure from Washington.

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2 Responses to The Value of Government Promises

  1. Pingback: Perfidious Albion « Khanya

  2. eastofthesun says:

    We in the Overseas Territories had full British citizenship until the passage of the British Nationality Act 1981, which made us British Dependent Territory citizens, with no rights to live or work or even visit the UK. The grant of UK citizenship in 2002 was not a gift, but the restoration of what had been taken from us.

    We are grateful to those in Parliament who speak for our democratic rights, even though we cannot vote for them.

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