Norfolk Incinerator and the Caribbean Link
What do the Turks & Caicos Islands have in common with a waste incinerator proposed for West Norfolk, and the most decisive referendum result in British electoral history? We explain below.
The Turks & Caicos Islands are a former Caribbean pirate hideout, first sighted by the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon in 1512. They lie south of the Bahamas and comprise some 30 islands, populated by 36,000 people. The islands were first ruled as a Spanish colony before passing to the French, and then on to the British. They gained independence in 1982. The Progressive National Party won 13 out of 15 seats in the 2007 elections. Then in August 2009 self-government was suspended, and control was handed over to a British Governor.
The suspension of self-government centred on allegations of ministerial corruption, including the alleged sale of crown lands for personal gain. The investigation is ongoing. When the investigation started, the then Prime Minister Michael Misick denied all charges, referring to the plan to remove sovereignty as, “tantamount to being re-colonised.” His successor Galmo Williams, who was replaced by the British Governor, claimed the Turks & Caicos government was being substituted with a “one-man dictatorship.”
In response the then Governor Wetherell said the aim was for the islands to regain their independence in two years and, “In the meantime we must…listen to all those who have the long-term interests of these islands at heart, and safeguard the fundamental assets of the Territory for future generations… Our guiding principles will be those of transparency, accountability and responsibility.”
The current Governor Ric Todd is now re-establishing home-rule. In a potentially inflammatory situation, you can imagine how this process should be carefully managed. The islands residents need to be confident that those re-establishing the instruments of government are beyond reproach, and that the new bureaucracies genuinely deliver “transparency, accountability and democracy.”
Enter Norfolk County Council and its leader Derrick Murphy. Mr Murphy has recently announced that Norfolk County Council has, “been asked by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to advise them on how to re-establish representative government.”
Governor Todd, Mr Misick and Mr Williams are no doubt unaware of Norfolk County Council’s credentials. Let us recount them. In February 2011 West Norfolk Borough Council held a referendum on a proposed incinerator. The incinerator was supported by Norfolk County Council, but had very little public support. Almost 71,000 people voted, giving a West Norfolk turnout as large as that during a General Election. Of these, just over 65,500 voted “no”, that’s 92.7% and the most decisive result in British electoral history.
Norfolk County Council dismissed the result. Not only this, but they sought to undermine public confidence in the outcome. Before the result was known, papers from the incinerator company’s public relations advisors were leaked. They referred to, “the overwhelming no vote which all parties expect.” The PR company advised that, “We need to suggest our absence from the referendum undermines the moral value of it..” Despite this plan being known to the public the County Council have unashamedly followed it. Neither the County Council nor the incinerator company were ‘absent’ from the referendum, but they did refuse to submit information to accompany the ballot paper. NCC claimed “legal reasons”, which they refuse to disclose. The incinerator operator claimed it wouldn’t participate primarily because they disputed the use of the term “mass burn” in the referendum question. This is despite it being in widespread use, not least by the environmental regulator and the County Council itself.
The County Council’s decision to award the incineration contract was described as a “pantomime” and was clearly rehearsed. There then followed an internal Council inquiry, and members of the public were asked to give evidence. However, Councillor Murphy’s fellow Conservative Party, who make up the majority of the Scrutiny Committee, voted to support his Cabinet’s decision. A leaked e-mail then revealed that the Conservative members had decided their “stance” at least 5 days before the evidence was heard.
All of this followed a public consultation in which Council officials claimed a mandate for incineration, saying “You Said, We Did.” Those who actually expressed a preference for it numbered 39 out of almost 8000 people; in other words the County Council had a mandate of 0.5%. Council officials also released false information in an effort to change public opinion. One of the most blatant examples was the claim by the County Council’s Director of Planning who said emissions from the incinerator, “are so low they are not even measureable.” He claimed this just before the referendum, and despite the planning application showing an expected release of over 250,000 tonnes/year of carbon dioxide. Doctors, environmental professionals and residents have all asked for false claims to be withdrawn, but the County Council has refused. There have been numerous conduct complaints, but none have been upheld. The public’s questions to the Cabinet receive elusive answers.
One MP described the situation as “a dark day for democracy” and another complained to the Parliament’s ombudsman when the County Council withdrew funding from a housing development, in what looked like retaliation in response to her opposition to the incinerator.
As a result people in West Norfolk no longer feel they live in a democracy. Their votes have been ignored, and most of their County Councillors have failed to represent them. There is little transparency, and as for accountability, Councillor Murphy has decided he will not seek re-election in his current West Norfolk seat, but is standing 50 miles away; away from the accountability that would be imposed by West Norfolk’s electorate.
The residents of Norfolk will be astonished and appalled to learn that Governor Wetherall’s commitment to “deliver transparency, accountability and democracy” is to be undertaken by an organisation that they believe exhibits none of these traits. This will be viewed as a further snub to the people of West Norfolk. No doubt the residents of the Turks & Caicos Islands may also have something to say about this.
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Please contact the Governor of the Turks & Caicos Islands and ask him help restore democracy in Norfolk. Click here for a template letter, copy the text, then click on the e-mail below. This will generate an e-mail in your Outlook. Click ‘paste’ the text into the automatically generated e-mail. Personalise it and click send.
Governor Ric Todd
Turks & Caicos Islands
Turks & Caicos Islands
Tel. 001 (649) 9462309 or 001 (649) 9462308 (remember the UK is 5 hours ahead)
Full PRESS RELEASE available to Press. Contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: KLWIN has no experience of Caribbean politics. We neither condone nor endorse any of the views expressed in the Caribbean press. However, we believe that should the culture prevalent within Norfolk County Council be exported to any other country, it can only serve to damage their democratic institutions.
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