This morning HE Governor Capes addressed the first meeting of the St Helena Legislative Council since the General Election held on 17 July 2013. Here is the Governor’s Address in full:
“My Lord Bishop, I thank you warmly for your presence here this morning and for inviting God’s blessings and guidance. Thank you also, for all that you do, with such enthusiasm, love and compassion, for our community.
Honourable Members, colleagues, I welcome this opportunity to address you at the beginning of the term of this new Legislative Council. I should like first to congratulate each one of you for standing for election and on winning the confidence of those that you are here to represent. I offer special acknowledgment to Councillor Olsson who I believe is here to serve on Council for her fifth term. I should also acknowledge those that stood unsuccessfully at the General Election. I thank them for their willingness to serve the people of St Helena.
It would be most remiss of me not to pause here, to mention the excellent work of the Returning Officer, Mrs Gilly Francis. She, and her team, managed the preparations for the election and the count itself quite superbly. Mrs Francis, currently our acting Chief Secretary, is an outstanding public servant and trusted colleague whose professionalism sets the high standard that others may strive to achieve; I am most grateful to her.
My thanks also to our hugely capable and experienced Attorney General, Ken Baddon, for his invaluable input to the election process and for the steady supply of sound advice that he so readily provides to guide our work. That I have enjoyed every single day of my work here is due in large part to having such first class colleagues.
During the run up to the General Election, one often heard the remark that this would be the most important General Election in the history of St Helena. I would not disagree. The status quo of seemingly endless dependency on DfID has gone forever. St Helena is on a new compass bearing now, one that steers away from reliance on the taxes of people 5,000 miles away. We are approaching a new era, an era that will bring many challenges, as well as new opportunities. At the dawn of air access in 2016, this Legislative Council will be in the driving seat. Whether St Helena is well positioned, ready to prosper and benefit from this new era, will depend on you. Whether the people of St Helena will be properly prepared, ready to face that new era with confidence, without fear, will depend on you. The people of St Helena have put their trust in you to guide the Island.
I believe that they want you to deliver greater opportunity and prosperity, ensuring that all who live here can share in that prosperity, ensuring that those who need extra help and care will receive it and ensuring that the environment and cultural heritage is properly safeguarded. I believe that is the essence of the challenge that you face. And the people of St Helena, to whom you are accountable, will rightly judge you on your performance.
You will have your own ideas on how to meet the challenge ahead. But I should like to offer to you a few thoughts on laying the foundations for progress; thoughts that are drawn from my observations over the past year or so.
The people look to you for leadership. They want to see leadership. I urge you to provide that leadership and the accountability that must accompany it. That involves being prepared to explain and stand by your decisions. When the going gets tough, it is important to resist taking the ignoble route of looking to officials or others to provide cover for your decisions. You make the decisions, you own them, you explain and justify them.
Encourage good communication and trust between each other and with public servants. Avoid being labelled as one of those that constantly criticise and find fault. How idle it is, how utterly unhelpful and negative it is, to just criticise and blame others. How much more constructive, how much more intelligent, to work, to work together, to find a remedy.
Tell the people where you are taking St Helena. An absolutely vital and continuous part of your job must be to make the time to explain fully to the people where we are heading and why; and crucially, what that will mean for them.
I offer these thoughts for you to consider as you prepare to take on the heavy responsibility of government. You may choose to disregard them of course, but if you were to heed them I believe that you would soon improve the historically poor image that many people have of Councillors, and by extension of government. My challenge to you, starting from today, is to improve the reputation and worth of Councillors in the eyes of the people of this Island.
For my part, as Governor and head of the government, I commit to working with you and with officials to help meet the challenges ahead to serve the best interests of all the people of St Helena. Let us work together, in partnership, to build a stronger St Helena, to deliver the full potential of this wonderfully special and much loved Island.
Governor Mark Capes
24 July 2013