25 December 2022
Governor Nigel Phillips CBE has issued the below Christmas message:
“Christmas is always a special time of year, but this year has particular resonance, for it will be the first time since 2019 that our three communities have been able to welcome back friends, family members and visitors from afar without the need for quarantine and other restrictions.
To re-engage with the wider world in the wake of COVID was a difficult decision. Leaders were able to take this considered step because the conditions were right to do so; the Public Service had gone to incredible lengths to ensure we were as safe as we were ever going to be and the UK Government had been able to provide the critical enabler, a high quality vaccine programme.
I would like to take this moment to thank all who helped us to get to where we are today. Yet I also want to thank you, the communities of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. I do not underestimate the sacrifices made and the difficulties encountered, yet you overcame. I think we can all take heart from how everyone coped, and perhaps, having been tempered in the heat of the largest public health emergency of modern times, we can believe that when we work together, we can overcome anything.
2022 has been bitter sweet for another reason; I refer of course to Her Late Majesty The Queen. Her reign embraced silver, gold, diamond and finally, through February to June, a Platinum Jubilee. That span meant that for nearly all of us, the milestones by which we measure our lives occurred whilst The Queen was on the throne. And then, just a few months after the jubilee celebrations had concluded, Her Majesty passed. I know I was not alone in what felt akin to a personal bereavement. Yet there is also reason to be grateful. Hers was an incredible testament of service and duty; to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the Overseas Territories. Here in St Helena there are fond memories of her visit in 1947 as a young princess, whilst Tristanians remember with gratitude her kindness following the forced evacuation of their home. It was therefore a humbling privilege to be present, together with the Chief Minister of St Helena, at Her Late Majesty’s State Funeral. The three island communities being represented at such an important event was something we all would wish and I am thankful the air travel timings worked for it to be possible.
This year also marked the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands Island’s War. We well remember that Ascension provided an invaluable staging post for the UK to mount the operations which liberated the islands, whilst St Helena deployed its namesake, the RMS St Helena, to support naval operations. It is with justifiable pride that the crew of that vessel wear the South Atlantic medal. These acts of support deepened the bonds between the South Atlantic islands and it is fitting that Minister Scipio represented St Helena at the Falkland Islands Battle Day commemorations this month. It is also the case that the close relationship we enjoy provides opportunity. Today, in addition to the UK, Saints are well represented in both Ascension and the Falkland Islands to mutual benefit. As we approach Christmas, I know loved ones will be reaching out across the ocean to pass festive greetings.
Having spoken of one much respected ship, I would like to mention another. The Royal Research Ship Discovery undertook a ground-breaking scientific expedition in the Ascension and St Helena Marine Protected Areas. As island communities, our seas are a crucial part of our identity and culture. Supported by local scientists, the improved understanding of our waters this expedition facilitates will allow us to better manage our waters, serving to preserve them for future generations to come.
Christmas is often a time for reflection, and this year St Helena reflected on its long, and sometimes complicated, history. The culmination of 14 years work, in August over 300 coffins with the remains of Liberated Africans were reburied in the newly designated Liberated African Cemetery. Separately, a plaque was installed on the Waterwitch Monument in Castle Gardens to recognise the three Africans who fought alongside the Royal Navy in 1839. Symbols of our shared identity are important. It is right that these things were done. I must say, I am also pleased the flag mast was reinstalled just above Jamestown at Signal House; it is wonderful to see the Union Flag flying so prominently.
St Helena also had a bumper year of international sporting representation. Although their stellar efforts were unfortunately hampered by weather conditions, the cricket team set records in Rwanda. And we celebrate that once again the Island sent representatives to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Events like these put St Helena on the map. Jonathan helped out too. His 190th birth year attracted huge media attention in the UK and across the world. Let us hope that such attention will help reinvigorate the tourist sector.
Another island hoping the tourist sector will get back to historic norms is Tristan da Cunha. After a successful fishing season, preparations are now well in hand to welcome back cruise ship passengers.
Ascension will also hopefully be welcoming visitors in 2023. Repair work on the runway has progressed and the island will soon once again resume its strategically important role hosting the South Atlantic Airbridge.
It is notable that Ascension elected a new Council this year. On a working island, where being an elected member does not draw a salary in its own right, I welcome our new Council and the commitment they have shown to serving their community. Democracy is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Constitution of the three communities. Yet we must never take such rights for granted. Democracy must be nurtured. In that vein, it was fantastic to see the Overseas Territories represented for the first time at the UK Youth Parliament. All the participants represented themselves and their ‘constituencies’ with skill and vigour. I am quite sure that those of us who were in the House of Commons that day witnessed the beginning of more than one political career.
I will close on two notes. First, to thank all those who will be working over the Christmas period both to keep us safe and comfortable. One can easily take for granted the operation of emergency services and essential utilities. Yet in reality it requires considerable effort and planning. I know you will spare a thought for them and their families. And second, Emma and I, in this our first year of being part of these wonderful communities, want to wish you a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
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25 December 2022