Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Anguilla speaks out against its colonial masters

AP , THE VALLEY, ANGUILLA

Anguilla's leader lashed out at Britain's policies toward its overseas territories during a UN-sponsored decolonization summit, saying that the British government has retained too much power and impeded economic progress.

Speaking during a session on Wednesday, Chief Minister Osbourne Fleming said that he was sending "an SOS to the United Nations: We need your intervention."

Fleming said that although Anguilla is a British territory, no true partnership exists between the Caribbean island and the government in London.

Echoing comments by other delegates, he accused the British government of ensuring Anguilla's people did not have the ability to determine their own destiny. The message regularly sent by British officials was "stay small, keep investors out, don't spoil Anguilla," Fleming said.

He also said British-appointed officials -- such as the governor -- held absolute power over locally elected ones.

British representative Roy Osborne disagreed, saying that -- from his government's perspective -- overseas governors had many responsibilities but little real power.

"So, we are at complete ends of the spectrum on that one," said Osborne, the deputy head of the Overseas Territories Department.

Such debates took center stage in the annual conference, which concluded yesterday.

The summit brought together nine of the 16 non-self-governing territories, which include Montserrat, the Cayman Islands, US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Western Sahara, St. Helena, Tokelau, American Samoa, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guam, New Caldonia, Pitcairn and Anguilla.

The UN Special Committee on Decolonization meets annually to discuss developments in overseas territories.

The summit of more than 60 delegates from British, Dutch, US and French territories comes as Anguilla itself undergoes constitutional reform.

In August, Anguilla's government began re-evaluating its status with the aim of increasing economic and political autonomy.

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