By J. Brock (FINN)
A public meeting was held in the Court and Assembly Chamber of the Town Hall at 1700hrs on Tuesday, 22 June 2010. Present were the Hon Roger Edwards, the Hon Glenn Ross, the Hon Dick Sawle, the Hon Sharon Halford and the Hon Jan Cheek, who acted as Chair. Approximately 25 members of the public also attended the meeting.
There were two submitted questions and the first was about whether or not there was any contact with the Canadian MPs especially those who visited the Falklands in 2005. Were there any further plans to make contact with them, like a planned visit to Canada? Jan Cheek mentioned that initial contact was made at a CPA conference in Canada on 05 September 2004 and there were follow-up visits. One planned visit to Canada had to be abandoned due to the C-24 being held at the same time. Cllr Cheek said that we had to fight our corner and that John Birmingham had written to the C-24 Committee asking that a fact finding group come to the Falklands to see the place for themselves. It is thought that the letter wasnt answered because the UN may feel opposition from Argentina for not coming there. Also the Argentines could object to a UN visit to the Falklands. Nonetheless, Gavin Short and Emma Edwards visited the US State Department today (22 June) and visited with relevant US Officials.
The second submitted question dealt with FIGAS and whether the airstrips on the outer Islands of West Falkland could be improved to CAA standards. Mrs Jerome Poncet had written to councillors saying that her family would be willing to foot some of the cost providing they had the relevant plant on island to do this. Councillors liked the Idea.
The alternative would be to use a helicopter, which while efficient, was costly as £900.00 per flight. FIG subsidises helicopter flights but that only covers half the cost and the islands resident has to foot the other half of the bill. This means that Beaver Island, for example, is only occupied for eight months of the year. Sharon Halford assured Mrs Poncet that PWD would get the necessary plant and equipment on island prior to the summer season. Rob McGill said that helicopters frequently off-loaded people on Carcass and a boat was employed to take people to Westpoint Island.
Dick Sawle said that the decision to close the outer islands airstrips was made by FIGAS. Roger Edwards amended that by saying that it was under advisement from CAA that the decision was made. Roger Edwards would get precise answers for Mrs Poncet and the inhabitants of the other affected Islands.
Lewis Clifton then brought up dissatisfaction with Councillors decision to renew the Chief Executives contract. Councillors, however, refused to be drawn on the subject. Jan Cheek said that part of the explanation was that if Dr Thorogood left it would mean three vacancies those of Chief Executive, Governor and Attorney General - at the top within 3 months and this was unacceptable. She said that further to this it was inappropriate for Councillors to comment on personal matters.
Roger Edwards commented that it was a majority decision and that it was not unanimous. It is understood that three Councillors objected to the renewal of this contract.
Phil Middleton noted that employment law was due for public consultation and he wondered if the exclusion clause for public officers was going to be removed as there is still a law which excludes all Government officers and other Government personnel. He went on to say the Management Code takes over but if you go along that track it isnt as yet enshrined in the Employment Protection Ordinance. If it was all employees would be under the same law.
Jan Cheek said that the review of the employment law had just started and she and Gavin Short were taking forward two urgent issues minimum wage and some who work very long hours being treated as if they worked only part time with no holiday or sick pay. She added that the whole employment law needs to be updated and government employees could certainly be part of the discussion.
Mr Middleton mentioned that the main part of the law would protect all employees but government have 70% of the workforce under their remit are not covered by a law. Keith Watson said that it was important to make the law applicable to the Falklands because UK law was too complicated for the Falklands and a simpler format like the law of the 1980s should be enacted.
Jan Cheek admitted that Mr Watson was preaching to the converted. She will look at the questionnaire sent out by the Policy Department.
Gerald Cheek has heard stories that the FIGO Flat often is empty and it is his impression it is to be used by Government employees and officers who are in London. Several Councillors said they had stayed in the Flat and it was often too full to take any more people. Jan Cheek mentioned that it was not wonderful but it was adequate. She went on to say that people from outside Government could use it if it is not required but that a modest fee must be paid. Sharon Halford said that people in the UK undergoing medical treatment must be fit as there were a lot of stairs to climb. Roger Edwards said it wouldnt do any harm to send a note around from Gilbert House to all the departments informing them that the flat is available.
Lewis Clifton mentioned Argentine Foreign Minister Tianas resignation and Jan Cheek said she e-mailed Gavon Short on his way to New York to give him the news. Lewis Clifton added that Argentine Foreign Policy was at an all time high at the moment and he speculated that Mr Timmerman would look more favourably upon us. Jan Cheek said she couldnt begin to guess what the policy towards the Falklands would be. She has looked at his CV and he has fairly impeccable human rights connections but she had the feeling they wont extend to Falkland Islanders and their rights to self determination. Mrs Cheek is sure that he was put in place to continue Mrs Kirshners policies. Dick Sawle added that he thought he was appointed so that he would be a mouthpiece for Mrs Kirchner and mr Taina wasnt going to be. Sharon Halford said that the only predictable thing about the Argentine government was that it was unpredictable so anything could happen.
Rev Hines mentioned he was having trouble with the Mercopress website in that it seemed to freeze. Dick Sawle recommended e-mail alerts with links that could direct the user right to the story instead of hitting the main page.
Brian Summers brought up a story about a Falkland Flagged vessel being boarded somewhere in the River Plate. Jan Cheek mentioned that two vessels were contacted by the Argentines asking where they were going. Evidently they ignored a request for information. Brian Summers said the company involved didnt say anything for about 10 days but Jan Cheek said the one incident she heard about was reported as it happened. Jan Cheek suggested Mr Summers contact the ship owner for more information.
A proposal for Stanley to remain on summertime hours was then aired by Dick Sawle, who has had an exchange on the subject with Penguin News. He had wondered how people felt about losing an hour every winter. Jan Cheek said that people could have any time they want but in terms of official Falklands Time, she asked if a little more light in the evenings would be more welcome than the extra light in the morning. Rev Hines said that it would get light just before 9 O Clock. Luis Clifton mentioned that it depended on what time you left work. Jan Cheek felt that children might have time to go to the playground or whatever else they do if there were extra light in the evening after school. Sharon Halford thinks it is fine as it is and that most places in the world change time twice a year. Glenn Ross brought up some statistics showing children more prone to accidents in the afternoon because they wander home from school and that they tend to go straight to school in the mornings. Having more light in the evenings would benefit child safety. Jan Cheek mentioned that the debate is going on in the UK as well.
The up and coming Solar Flair in 2013 was then brought up by Rev Hines. Glenn Ross had heard of this but thought the Falklands should be relatively safe due to our not pumping high voltages through huge towers as other larger countries in the world.
Rob McGill brought up the phone services and said that on Carcass Island he had been without any service at all. He had on occasion been without a phone but broadband worked fine. Gary Clement suggested using Skype to Skype on the computer. Dick Sawle suggested using 2Metre but Rob McGill said the system doesnt work. Dick Sawle suggested calling Mario Zuvic for help with equipment an HF radio or equivalent. Mr Mc Gill said that if one of his guests became ill there would be a problem getting in contact with the hospital. A member of the public suggested using Chanel 67 if there was an emergency in a remote place.
Lewis Clifton mentioned a ministerial visitor the Director of Strategy and Intelligence, who would be visiting soon. He wondered it this was a forerunner of other visits. Jan Cheek said she was hopeful of further visits. She said that invites would be forwarded at the party conferences. David Camerons constituency included Brize Norton and Mrs Cheek feels that he also has a keen interest in Armed Forces in the Falklands. Sukey Cameron would be working on providing information to MPs about the Falklands and she would be working on a visitor programme for Ministers and MPs. Roger Edwards mentioned that David Cameron had been invited to the Falklands at the last party conference but now that he is Prime Minister things could change.
The final discussion was about conditions at Brize Norton with the Gateway facility no longer available and car parking being in a mess. Dick Sawle mentioned that the bus dropps people off across the road and they have to crawl over barriers in the face of on-coming traffic to get to the terminal. It was a wonder that people didnt get hurt when they got their luggage from busses in the face of on-coming traffic.
Phil Middlton said thank you to the road gang for excellent footpath and road clearance after our heavy snow. This message would be passed on to the road gang.
Everyone then congratulated Gary Clement for receiving his MBE.