Reports last week in the UK media dismayed Saints here and around the world. The response issued by the five members of Executive Council on 16 July, under the heading ‘St Helena Island Falsely portrayed’, accurately captures the mood of Saints everywhere.
I am sure that the many good friends of St Helena around the world would subscribe to the views expressed by the Councillors.
As Governor of St Helena and Ascension Island, I should draw attention to two important points arising from the sensationalist UK media headlines and the 16 July statement by Councillors.
In their statement the Councillors said: ‘Councillors and Government here welcome any objective and independent review of our current arrangements’.
I want to highlight that remark which I strongly endorse. In recent years, we have openly welcomed and cooperated fully with several independent reviews. As in any small community, we recognise that external assessment is often the best option to establish the facts and, importantly, to withstand any suspicion of a lack of objectivity. The allegations made in the UK media articles about St Helena and Ascension Island are serious and we must now address them. To that end, we will consider urgently with our partners in the UK Government how to examine the allegations carefully, to establish the facts and, crucially, to do that in a way that will ensure confidence in both the process and the outcome.
The second point I want to stress is that, despite the UK media reports, anyone who is suffering or has suffered because of abuse of any kind, should still have confidence in coming forward to seek help from the Island authorities. As our Children’s Champion, Councillor Christine Scipio O’Dean, noted in the 16 July statement, ’We have taken great steps on St Helena (and Ascension Island) to protect our children and vulnerable people against abuse of any kind’.
That is right and much good work continues to boost resources and to strengthen procedures. The governments of St Helena and Ascension Island remain firmly committed to protecting children and the vulnerable in society.
Governor Mark Capes
20 July 2014