Letter: Struggle to help stricken island

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Sir: As a former Governor of Montserrat I am, like Tony Foster (letter, 18 January) deeply concerned at the plight of the Montserratians still living in temporary accommodation 16 months since the volcano first erupted.

But the implications of his reference to the "Governor in [his] chauffeur- driven Range Rover" are unkind and misplaced. Since the 1960s Montserrat has been run by an elected local government of Montserratians with the Governor retaining only limited special responsibilities. During the time of the volcano decision-making has been largely in their hands. They appear to have been vacillating, incompetent and over-optimistic, particularly in respect of the redevelopment of the safe zone and in making provision for the homeless. In such circumstances, as I know myself, the Governor can only persuade and advise and obtain as much assistance from the British government as he can.

A new government has now been elected in its turn, and pounds 25m (not pounds 23m), has been allocated to enable the island to continue to be inhabited. It is to be hoped the British government's concern that the pounds 25m should be well spent will result not in over-elaborate planning procedures but in their being willing to exert more authority and direction than hitherto over the Montserrat government for the welfare of Her Majesty's Montserratian subjects.

I understand that some consideration was given to suspending the Constitution to provide some more effective non-elected decision-making machinery when the previous government's term expired. Montserratians appear not to have wanted this. Let us hope that they will not regret the trust which they continue to place in their elected representatives.


London SW13