Number 50 • January 2015

The Chairman's Letter
by Paul Burnett

As published in the January 2015 magazine

Greetings, I do hope you all had an enjoyable Summer and Autumn.

Despite glimmers of hope in the economy and a feeling that recession is behind us in the UK, things haven’t been looking so good for Pitcairn Island or Norfolk Island! Earlier this year, Daily Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne painted a grim picture of our Government’s lack of interest in our overseas territories (Ministers are still treating the Commonwealth with contempt). In particular he claimed that William Hague’s vow to put the “C” back into the FCO is without real intent. Further he tells of a continuing lack of interest by Government in our “remaining colonies”. A situation which he says existed under the last Labour administration and is being perpetuated by the coalition!

In August The Daily Mail published a concerning article revisiting the 2004 Sex Scandal (The Paradise Island That’s Dying of Shame). Journalist Neil Tweedie reminded readers of the background to the scandal and suggested that there is an ongoing seething undercurrent on the island. Further, he considers that efforts to help Pitcairn move on and work to boost the island’s economy and the population will surely come to nought? Members of our Committee discussed this disturbing article and considered it negative, much exaggerated and sensationalist. Nevertheless, a depressing read, and not at all helpful to Pitcairn. More recently The Daily Telegraph has highlighted financial difficulties in Norfolk Island. Emigration by inhabitants, closure of businesses there, a significant reduction in tourist aircraft traffic and trouble and disagreements between their Assembly and the Government in Canberra. There was a suggestion that the islanders might well prefer to be back under a UK jurisdiction. This is of course unlikely to occur, and in any case the UK could neither consider adding Norfolk Island to its burden, nor risk a quarrel with the Australians. Newspapers are a necessary evil. Usefully they reveal what is happening in the world, but equally they can do a lot of damage. Our Society does what it can to promote these islands but it sometimes feels we are whistling in the wind. If only more of the good things about Pitcairn and Norfolk could be seen and read.

News of the failure of the rat eradication programme on Henderson Island is sad and it seems unlikely that the scheme will be resurrected. Additionally there doesn’t seem to be much progress with the marine reserve either. Very little good news!

Now to some positive comment. Our recent Autumn meeting and AGM in London was much enjoyed by all. Yes, our membership has reduced slightly and our finances are less rosy, but we are generally in good heart. Our speakers for the day included a presentation by Laveen Ladharam and Robert Midgley of the Friends of the British Overseas Territories. We think that our organisation and theirs share similar views and may be helpful to each other. The afternoon session was headed by Glynn Christian entitled ‘The Revolutionary Women of Bounty’. Glynn’s talk was well researched, well presented and thoroughly enjoyable. It was a pleasure to have a professional speaker of such calibre. A gift of a special leather embossed pouch, organised by Tim Waters, was presented to Glynn and certainly seemed to please him. There was a momentary hitch at the start when it seemed that laptop to PowerPoint projection incompatibility looked likely to compromise Glynn’s talk, but thanks to the skill of Carys Faichney (wife of Committee member Tony Williams) the day was saved.

The usual auction concluded our meeting and there were some choice items on offer. We all felt it had been a good day. We do look forward to better news of Pitcairn and Norfolk Island and for our Society in the new year, and we are certainly not dispirited. May I use this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2015 and that we may all be healthy and remain in good heart.