Premier Reuben Meade (L) and leader of the opposition Donaldson Romeo
by Nerissa Golden
BRADES, Montserrat (GIU) - Montserrat’s leader of the opposition Donaldson Romeo on Thursday filed a motion of no confidence in the administration of Premier Reuben Meade and is calling for public support in light of several recent decisions that may have negative implications for the political and economic future of Montserrat.
In a statement to the press, Romeo said, “Recent controversial import tariff increases, the MoU signed with the FCO and the premier’s May 30 declaration in Ecuador that Montserrat is no longer a colonised country all reflect a pattern of government decisions made behind closed doors, without adequate consultation with the people who have to live with the results of such decisions.”
The opposition leader said Meade’s actions are counter to his party’s 2009 election manifesto, which “promised to move beyond “one-manism,” and said that it would facilitate “community level consultations as the preferred means of involving the citizens in decision-making and governance on all matters affecting their lives.”
Romeo also challenged the June 1 introduction of a new Customs Tariff, which he says is “riddled with problems that need to be fixed, such as the rises in tax on medicines like insulin for diabetics and antibiotics for people with bacterial infections.”
The revised tariff abolished the service tax, leaving only duty and a consumption tax on over 6,000 items. The most commonly used items by the lower income groups were to attract a lower banding while luxury items such as some electronic goods attracted a higher banding, according to a release from the Ministry of Finance. However, the opposition leader said, “Chicken, school exercise books and cement are necessities, not luxuries.”
Meade said last week that the new tariff was a work in progress and people were to come forward with their concerns.
Romeo pointed out that “this attempt to fix the problem after the fact simply tells us that Mr Meade failed to adequately consult with stakeholders before releasing the 90-page tariff. And while we are already feeling the pinch of the new tariffs, taking Montserrat off the list of overseas territories that the UK has to report to the UN year by year on progress may make it even harder for us to get the long promised aid support we need to recover from the volcano disaster. This is because HMG itself acknowledges that it is due to its UN Charter obligations to report year by year that British Overseas Territories have ‘a first call’ on Britain’s aid money.”
The opposition leader, who is an elected member of the local legislature, pointed out that in Meade’s May 30 Ecuador statement to the UN Committee on Decolonisation, he said that “he is ‘certain that the UK supports our stance.’ But, at no time has he consulted with the elected representatives of the Montserrat people, nor has he done so with the Montserrat public; just as already happened with the import tariffs. That is why the Ecuador statement and the new tariffs have provoked such a strong feeling that the MCAP habit of government behind closed doors has now gone too far.”
Romeo also asked “the public to support the opposition when it raises these and related concerns through a motion of no confidence” in the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly scheduled for June 26, 2012.