Fugro Gauss, an undersea survey ship, early closure of the Sir Hudson Lowe Exhibition and Dr Jeremy J Sarkin holding political reform consultation meetings, were some of the stories making headlines on St Helena, from August to October 2019.
While you can see the very latest news stories on the Inside St Helena app, older stories are removed from the app and archived here on the website.
Audit Moves Office to New Porteous House
The island’s external auditors, Audit St Helena celebrated their move to New Porteous House with an Open Day last Friday, 27 Sep 2019, and used the opportunity to present formal certificates to staff in areas of auditing, accounting and business.
The auditors outgrew their space at the Post Office building and have now secured a six-year lease at the previously vacant NPH. The open plan office, on the first floor overlooks Main Street and the Castle Gardens.
Chief Auditor, Phil Sharman said, “Our new location provides a professional working environment and now separate from Government offices helps to underline the independence of the Chief Auditor and the staff of Audit St Helena as external auditors of the public purse. We are always keen to practise what we preach and have carefully planned and saved up for the move.”
Audit St Helena’s workload has expanded with the addition of Ascension Island Government and St Helena Airport Limited. The team are currently experiencing what is traditionally the busiest time of year following year-end accounts and are working with a team of 11 established and three seasonal staff who hail from six different countries.
The original Porteous House, named after owner Henry Porteous, was famous for accommodating Napoleon when he finally came ashore on 17 October 1815. It was then a hotel/guesthouse and a meeting place for officers. The house was destroyed by fire in 1865, the lot remained empty until the rebuild of NPH in 2001.
Hospital Calls For Patients Made Easy by League of Friends
Patients in the hospital’s wards no longer need to hobble to the phone to receive calls or have messages relayed to them. To eliminate this inconvenience two sets of twin cordless phones were recently donated by the League of Friends, allowing easier access to conversations with loved ones.
This comes two years after the switchboard upgrade rendered the former cordless phones incompatible.
A thousand-pound contribution was also recently made to the hospital to buy a bilirubinometer, a monitor that checks newborns for jaundice. It allows blood tests to be done without doing a heel prick. Instead a non-evasive measurement is taken from the sternum or forehead. The landed cost of this small piece of equipment is around £5K.
The League of Friends, currently a 12-strong group are in their 25th year of raising funds for institutions and charities. They have raised just shy of £50,000 through bingos, raffles, dances, dinners and musical evenings.
The equipment bought is generally identified by hospital staff and includes cardiac monitors (£20K+), blood pressure machines, an examination couch, an orthopaedic bed, the hospital’s outdoor benches and contribution towards the mammography machine.
To celebrate their 25th anniversary the Friends will be hosting a ball, 26th October in the “splendid” setting of the General’s Quarters in Longwood House. “This is going to be in association with the Napoleonic Heritage,” said Chairwoman, Pamela Ward Pearce. “It is our way of saying thank you to the people of St Helena for their support. We want it to be one of the most amazing celebrations.”
New members and fund raising ideas are always welcome.
Is It Time To Change the Political System On St Helena?
The process of developing a new type of political system on St Helena has started, with the arrival two days ago of Dr Jeremy J Sarkin, a governance and democracy expert, contracted by DfID.
Dr Sarkin will spend a week on island reviewing the current committee-based system and developing options for a (likely) transition towards a ministerial type of government, as already in place on 12 of the 14 British Overseas Territories.
Dr Sarkin met with Legislative Council yesterday morning and, at his request, with representatives of the island’s media in the afternoon.
Two public meetings have been scheduled, hurriedly it would seem as they were not advertised in last week’s newspapers. Kingshurst Community Centre, St Paul’s, will host the first tonight, Tue 24 Sep, with the second in Harford, Longwood tomorrow night. Both are from 6 to 8pm.
In the media meeting yesterday, Dr Sarkin emphasised some of the advantages a ministerial system could bring, especially in helping to introduce greater levels of accountability.
The last attempt to change to a ministerial form of government failed in 2005 when a majority (52-48) of the public voted against it.
In 2013 a proposal to introduce the position of chief councillor into the constitution was also defeated in a public vote, 168-42.
But now, in 2019, councillors feel the island is ready for a ministerial system and in May set the wheels in motion for this latest consultation process.
The public reaction and reception to the proposed changes will become clearer as the week unfolds and Dr Sarkin has had a chance to hold meetings and answer questions.
Dr Sarkin has been a professor of law for 25 years. His CV is extensive, having worked around the world on constitutional reform, human rights issues, transitional justice, good governance, economic development, and legal reform. The wide range of countries, include Iraq, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Bosnia-Herzegovina, to name just a few.
Immigration Concerns Dominate LMS Meeting In Longwood
Concerns over proposals for TC workers (Technical Cooperation) and immigrant workers generated the most discussion last night in Longwood, at a 7pm public consultation meeting on SHG’s draft Labour Market Strategy (LMS).
Approximately 50 people braved the chilly winter temperatures, wrapped in coats and jumpers, with some making the journey from afar as Levelwood, Half Tree Hollow and Jamestown to have their say. Media representatives from both Saint FM/Independent and SAMS also attended.
Councillor Lawson Henry led the panel which also included Senior Economist, Amanda Curry Brown, Director of HR, Lindsay Shankland and Councillor Clint Beard.
A concern was expressed that SHG are not doing adequate research when recruiting TC Officers, with an example given that one senior position is now occupied by someone whose previous work expertise appears to be that of a ‘car salesman.’ The panel admitted SHG had not been ‘consistently checking’ the work references on application CVs but would do so going forward.
A range of issues were put forward about partners/family members of TC staff picking up local jobs that deny employment opportunities for Saints. In some cases, it was suggested, TC staff spouses were walking straight off the plane and into jobs.
TC staff in the “coffee shop” and not adhering to office hours like other government staff was felt to be unfair.
The point was made that people like Basil George, the bishop and the late Cathy Hopkins had fought extremely hard to have UK citizenship rights restored for Saints in 2002, so it was unfair that now people from South Africa and other countries are “using” St Helena as a “stepping stone” to UK citizenship. It was felt that Saint Status rules should be tightened.
One person suggested the immigration ordinance review should be completed first, before tackling the LMS.
Another explained the challenge of making their £623 monthly wage cover expenses that included a housing loan, food, utilities, hospital bills etc., compared to the wages and many benefits enjoyed by TC staff.
Answering the LMS’s claim that a lot of Saints leave St Helena to earn better wages, it was highlighted that a large proportion of those leaving recently, actually express feeling “disillusioned” and “under-valued” as their reasons for going. This pertains to the unfair way which governance policies are implemented on St Helena; while some people are forced to “jump through every hoop” and battle against “red tape,” the same rules don’t apply for a thin layer of people at the top.
St Helena’s ‘jobs for life’ culture was felt to be a serious “blockage” to progress.
It was suggested if SHG doesn’t address the problems of disillusionment amongst Saints before trying to bring in expat workers, it would only create resentment of newcomers.
An experience was shared of visiting the Victoria shop in Jamestown, yesterday, and noticing half the customers were Africans, suggesting it may not be long before Saints could be in the minority.
A number of people said SHG needs to “invest in our own people” as a priority.
An example was outlined of how the Falkland Islands has benefitted greatly by investing in their own people.
A lack of jobs for students returning from university, was raised, as well as some local people with top qualifications not being recognised financially.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” was a common viewpoint.
If was felt SHG’s attempt to revive traditional industries (agriculture, fishing, etc.) for young people was failing by only targeting students at secondary level, which was too late. It was also highlighted St Helena’s traditional industries was once very productive but over-fussy health & safety regulations caused it to be stopped.
Young people being criminalised for minor offences that affected their long-term job prospects was felt to be a problem. Policing was criticised for not being out-of-touch with the community it served. The audience were informed an independent review of the police has already been ordered because of public complaints.
There are 40 people registered as officially unemployed but it was felt the real number is far higher.
There were calls to bring back the 3-day work scheme and to speed up the benefits review process.
Discussions throughout were enthusiastic and constructive. The meeting ended at 9.30pm.
Governor Rushbrook Announces Bye-Election
SHG Press Release
In a Proclamation issued today, Wednesday 11 September 2019, Governor Dr Philip Rushbrook has announced that a Bye-election to fill the vacant seat on Legislative Council (following the recent resignation of Kylie Hercules on 31 August) will take place on Wednesday, 27 November 2019.
The public is reminded that to vote in the Bye-election or to stand for election to Legislative Council your name must be on the Register of Electors.
A window of opportunity is being given to members of the public whose names are not included in the Register of Electors dated 1 July 2019 to have their names added to the Register. Persons wishing to take part in the Bye-election and whose names are not yet on the Register of Electors, should make an application to the Registration Officer on the prescribed form by 4pm on Friday, 20 September 2019.
Forms can be obtained from the Registration Officer at the Castle (tel: 22470) or from the Post & Customer Services Centre. The forms can also be downloaded from the SHG website via: http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/forms/.
Remember – you can only apply to be registered if you are:
- 17 years of age or older with St Helena as your ordinary place of residence
- Have St Helenian Status as defined in the Immigration Ordinance, 2011.
Water Shortage Crisis Still Grips St Helena
Water consumption dropped to just 865 cubic metres on Monday (2 Sep), the lowest so far, as islanders continue to reduce their usage whilst the wait for significant rainfall goes on.
The opening days of September have shown hints the weather might be turning, however, SHG’s Resilience Forum have advised: “At least two weeks of continuous meaningful rainfall is needed to make a positive difference in reservoir levels.”
It’s been 11 weeks since water restrictions were imposed (24 Jun) on St Helena, when normal island consumption was then at around 1,300 cubic metres per day.
While the usual winter rains have failed to appear, reservoir levels remain seriously low. Red Hill water stocks are now reliant on pumped water from Chubbs Spring in Jamestown and Hutts Gate at Longwood.
Combined island reservoir capacity is now at 34%, representing an estimated 37 days of water at current usage levels which averages 1,000 cubic metres per day. This is the required usage rate to sustain a safe level of stored water.
Connect Saint Helena announced last week that the Osbornes water catchment in St Paul’s is completely dry and there hasn’t been any surface run off in this area since March. Osbornes usually produced on average, 90 cubic metres per day for the Red Hill reservoirs.
Total rainfall of 35.4mm was recorded in August at the Bottom Woods Met Office, a significant decrease to last year when 106mm was logged.
Statistics from the Met Office in Bottom Woods shows August 2019, on average, experienced high temperatures, less rainfall, more sunshine and windier periods, in comparison to previous August months since 2001. Although, no records were broken.
Green Light For Solar Lights and Toilets by 31 March 2020
Executive Council have approved a £101,000 spend on three Micro-Projects: Solar Street Lights in Jamestown, Public Toilet Upgrades and Costings for Refurbishment of Napoleonic Heritage Sites.
SHG’s Programme Management Unit as well as the Financial Secretary, Dax Richards, and Chief Secretary, Susan O’Bey, have reassured ExCo Members that “all contracts will be tightly monitored and completed by the end of this Financial Year.”
SHG’s Procurement, are now finalising specifications for the solar street lights, which will need to be specially manufactured, to comply with St Helena’s dark skies policy. Cost of the lights is still to be determined, however, £50K has been allocated to the project to cover “procurement, freight and installation.”
Executive Councillor and ENRD chairman, Russell Yon, said that once installed, the solar street lights are expected to “save SHG approximately £15k per year on electricity.”
A £45K budget is allocated to four Public Toilet Upgrades – Jamestown (Duke of Edinburgh playground), Ladder Hill, Longwood Avenue and Half Tree Hollow.
The Napoleonic Heritage Sites under consideration for refurbishment are Mulberry Gut Wall (aka Longwood Boundary Wall), Banks Fortifications, The Run, and Historic Gates (such as White Gate, Red Gate etc.). £6K has been allocated for the “design and costing” work on these ideas.
The Micro-Projects are part of the Economic Development Investment Programme, (EDIP), Year One, spend, aka the ‘capital programme.’
New Eatery, Joshie’s, Opens in HTH
Joshie’s, a new eatery opened today in the centre of Half Tree Hollow and already doing their bit in addressing the hot topic of plastic pollution – by serving their food in 100% biodegradable plates and containers.
The roadside café is serving meals and drinks in trays, containers and cups that are compostable and actually good for the garden as they’re made of plant raw materials. The see-thru cups may look like plastic – but they’re not! They are made of plant-based bioplastic.
Owned by Alan and Toni Joshua, Joshie’s offers toasties, hot dogs, chicken, fries, burgers and daily specials.
Customers can choose to eat inside, or al fresco out on the decking overlooking the road and entice passers-by to call in. The idea for the business was hatched in 2014. Once they decided to go ahead, the actual build took 10 months, start to finish. The building’s pre-fab material is designed to be cool in the summer but warm in winter.
Due to an unfortunate planning obstruction, the layout was redesigned for the main entrance not to open facing the road.
Joshie’s central location, next to the Salvation Army Hall and Solomons HTH Shopping Complex, is ideally placed for a ‘roadside drop in’.
Government To Pay Damages To Councillor Cruyff Buckley
SHG Press Release, 22 August, 2019
COUNCILLOR CRUYFF BUCKLEY
It has come to the attention of SHG that press releases issued on 24 and 27 September 2018 which related to the outcome of the trial of Councillor Cruyff Buckley may have been misleading. While Councillor Buckley was convicted of possession of an offensive weapon and was sentenced by the Court accordingly, SHG would wish to clarify that Councillor Buckley was not convicted of an offence of domestic violence.
SHG has agreed to pay damages to Councillor Buckley.
The error in any implication arising from the reporting is regretted.
Quad Bikes, Street Lights & Tasers – Councillors Hear The Issues In HTH
Tasers and housing development drew the most discussion at a Half Tree Hollow constituency meeting last night, hosted by five councillors plus a secretary, and attended by 15 members of the public.
A wide range of issues were raised and discussed, with councillors making it clear it was an open forum and they were there to listen.
Councillor Derek Thomas chaired the 7pm meeting, supported by Councillors Russell Yon, Cruyff Buckley, Cyril Leo and Clint Beard.
First on the agenda was the unbanning of cycling on roads into and out of Jamestown which most agreed as acceptable with an age restriction so children don’t go using these routes. The topic broadened to cover quad bikes being passed roadworthy even though they don’t have reverse gears, and the tonnage of cargo carrying trucks on Ladder Hill road which are sometimes 20 tonnes in weight, exceeding the 14 tonne limit. A parking attendant is being considered for Jamestown.
Immigration and St Helena status was discussed. The audience were informed the immigration ordinance was in the final stages of a complete review and expected to go out for public consultation in Oct/Nov. Currently St Helena status can be obtained by persons living/working on the island for 5 years, providing no more than 500 days absence in that timeframe and less than 100 of those occur in the 5th year.
Plans for the Economic Development Investment Programme, commonly known as the ‘capital programme,’ were outlined. The £30m spend over 6 years will centre around four key themes:
- Transport and logistics infrastructure
- Visitor/tourism economy
- Private sector & human capital
- Modernising how the Island functions in the 21st Century
The public were informed of plans to install 50 solar street lights in Jamestown, possibly beginning early 2020, which will save SHG £15k per year, and also that public toilets will be upgraded in Jamestown (Duke of Edinburgh playround), Half Tree Hollow, Ladder Hill and Longwood.
Work on certain Napoleonic Heritage sites are planned for the 2021 Napoleon bicentenary initiative, including the start of renovations at Banks Battery fortifications, which will then be ongoing.
Affordable housing development proposals were discussed, including two projects in Bottomwoods, one for 28 new homes and another for 19.
Income Related Benefits and Basic Island Pension queries were answered.
Tobacco tax increases were discussed and the high price of sugar-free drinks in shops was highlighted as not being fair as they were given import tax relief as a health initiative.
There was discontent voiced about the police introducing tasers and concerns that new policing practices might be sending the wrong message to tourists.
There were a few other points raised and covered during the evening.
Engagement and discussion between councillors and constituents was overall quite positive and at times, good humoured, during the 2hr 20min meeting.
A series of constituency meetings across the island are taking place this week and next.
Fugro Gauss Begins Rupert’s Survey For Landing Fibre Optic Cable In St Helena
Fibre optic connectivity for St Helena took another step closer today when the undersea survey ship, Fugro Gauss, docked at Rupert’s Jetty at 6am this morning, beginning shallow water survey in the bay as a likely landing site for the cable.
As reported in July, the ship is part of Google’s, ‘Equiano’ subsea cable project, connecting Europe with South Africa.
On board a total of 26 crew arrived, but 27 will sail away tomorrow evening, after an extra member flew in yesterday to join the vessel.
Crew members who were not involved directly in the survey work today came ashore for a tour of the island, including at least one who tackled Jacob’s Ladder.
The undersea survey of Rupert’s Bay is being carried out using a much smaller boat.
Fugro Gauss is a purpose-built hydrographic and cable route survey vessel by design, fitted with a bespoke infrastructure for both geophysical and geotechnical survey work.
The ship was built in Germany in 1980 by Schlichting-Werft Lübeck. Today she sails under the flag of Gibraltar.
Fugro Gauss measures 68m length, 13m breadth with 1,684 gross tonnage. The ship cruises at 10 kts but has a max speed capability of 12 kts. She has a 30-day cruise endurance and a 45 day survey endurance listed on her spec sheet.
The ‘Equiano’ subsea cable project is expected to be completed in 2021.
Two & Half Year Exhibition Closed After 3 Months
An exhibition launched on 14 April, 2019, at Plantation House, which received £10,000 of funding from ESH on the condition it would be “retained until the end of 2021,” has closed after less than four months.
The Sir Hudson Lowe Exhibition will be dismantled tomorrow, Wednesday 14 August, by its curator, French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau.
A suggestion to store the exhibition was made by H.E. The Governor, Dr Philip Rushbrook, in response to low visitor numbers.
Bookings for the one-hour-a-week viewing, priced at £10 each, had been taken at the St Helena Tourism Office. We requested the booking numbers that had been made but the information has not been supplied.
Mr Martineau told Inside St Helena, he was just the curator, closing the exhibition was not his call. He received a request from the governor on Friday 9 August, to put the exhibition “into storage and relaunch when we have a significant number of people coming to the island connected to the Napoleonic era around the time of the 2021 event.”
At a November 2018 meeting, ESH board directors agreed the £10,000 exhibition investment after being informed by DfID to do so only if they were “confident on the overall value for money for this project…”
Another DfID condition was, “…written confirmation is sought from the current Governor to host the exhibition at Plantation House and that the exhibition will be retained until the end of 2021.” The governor at the time was Lisa Honan.
Mr Martineau confirmed today, the total cost of the exhibition was between £20 – £25,000. ESH agreed to contribute £10k, the balance was covered by the Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, the St Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd and Fondation Napoleon in Paris.
As far as Mr Martineau is concerned the exhibition is now over. He met with the governor at 4pm today to discuss the possibilities and arrangements.
Sir Hudson Lowe, subject of the exhibition, was governor of St Helena from 1816 – 1823, a significant period in the island’s history with Napoleon Bonaparte a prisoner here (1815 – 1821).
Scruffy August Weather Stops MV Helena Docking In Rupert’s
St Helena Port Control announced today that the MV Helena, which arrived today (9 August) from Cape Town, will not dock alongside of Rupert’s Jetty as it usually does.
Due to unfavourable weather conditions, the MV Helena will remain on the James Bay anchorage and all cargo operations will take place from here.
This follows heavy overnight winds on St Helena, which had been forecast earlier in the week. The weather warning, issued on Wednesday (7 Aug), also advised that large sea swells are anticipated to hit St Helena on Sunday.
St Helena is now in its winter season when it often experiences high winds, rain and lower temperatures. In 2018, the lowest temperature of 13.8 degrees Celsius was recorded in August. Locals have nicknamed the month, “Scruffy August.”
Whilst the MV Helena is anchored in James Bay, the whole of Lower Rupert’s, including the beach area, will now remain open to the public, reversing a closure notice issued yesterday when the jetty was still expected to be used for cargo operations.
More about St Helena weather on the app.