Executive Council met today 22 July 2014 with two items on the Open Agenda. The first item was the Bill for the Spear Guns Control Ordinance and Spear Guns Control Order. There is an existing Spear Guns Control Ordinance but in order for a prosecution to be successful an enforcement officer would actually have to witness someone using a spear gun during the closed season.
The amended Ordinance will create the offence of possession of a spear gun in the closed season in restricted areas – such as James’ Bay and Rupert’s Bay – for public protection reasons. The Council advised the Governor that this Bill for an Ordinance should be presented as Government Business at the next formal meeting of Legislative Council on 11 August 2014.
The second item on the Open Agenda was a memorandum to endorse the following definition of disability: “A disabled person is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”
This definition of disability has been endorsed by the St Helena Disabled Persons Society and Council was pleased to endorse it and discussed how this definition could inform positive public debate about disability. Further publicity will follow. Under Any Other Business, there was a discussion on the recent UK media reports about alleged abuse on St Helena. Executive Council reiterated its belief that these articles paint a totally distorted image of St Helena.
The Governor spoke of the widespread dismay among Saints and friends of St Helena around the world following the sensationalist UK media headlines of the past week. He said that FCO Ministers and officials were aware of the situation and shared the concern of Councillors that the damaging allegations should be addressed in a transparent and objective way. Recalling that in their 16 July statement Councillors mentioned that they would welcome any independent review, the Governor was pleased to report that the UK Government had given approval for the formation of an independent panel to conduct an inquiry into the allegations.
The Governor expected to receive more information soon on the composition of the panel, the terms of reference and the timing of the inquiry. ExCo welcomed this positive development as an essential step towards restoring St Helena’s good name. In the meantime, Councillors said their immediate concern was to reassure the community that, despite the irresponsible reports in the UK media, St Helena Government continued to take seriously its commitment to protect children and the vulnerable.
They had noted a recent statement from the Lucy Faithful Foundation which ‘condemns the sensationalist editorial lines (in the UK media) given the potential negative effect that such coverage is likely to have on efforts to tackle and prevent abuse’. ExCo undertook to give priority to ensuring that the good progress made in recent years on safeguarding children and the vulnerable should not be undermined by such grossly irresponsible journalism. The meeting concluded at 11.00am.
ExCo 22 July 2014