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Commonwealth Parliamentary Association embeds good governance and democracy in St Helena, one of the remotest legislatures in the Commonwealth

Hits: 117 / Published Date: 30 Jan, 2018


The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has helped to strengthen parliamentary practice and procedure for the St Helena Legislature following the recent elections in July 2017 through a CPA Post-Election Seminar for newly elected Members from 20 to 27 January 2018. One of the remotest legislatures in the CPA’s membership of over 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures, the St Helena Legislature is in the British Overseas Territory located on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean with a population of 4,500 people.

 

On 26 July 2017, St Helena held transparent, free and fair elections which demonstrated the Territory’s commitment to the democratic ideals and standards upon which the Commonwealth is founded and the ideals enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.

 

The CPA is the only Commonwealth body that works to strengthen territorial assemblies and legislatures such as the St Helena Legislative Council as well as working with national, state and provincial legislatures. The CPA provides a key platform to develop good parliamentary practice in St Helena and other self-governing UK Overseas Territories and to share good practice between similar legislatures across the Commonwealth.

 

The CPA Post-Election Seminar saw Members of St Helena Legislature provided with an excellent opportunity to ask questions about parliamentary practice and procedure. It provided Members with a better understanding of the parliamentary system and democratic processes in other Commonwealth jurisdictions. The seminar was opened by Hon. Eric Benjamin, MLC, Speaker of the Legislature of St Helena and Her Excellency Lisa Phillips, Governor of St Helena. Hon. Derek Thomas, MLC, former CPA Executive Committee Member, and Ms Meenakshi Dhar, on behalf of the CPA Headquarters Secretariat made addresses. Commitment to improving democratic processes in the legislature was demonstrated by the active participation in the seminar of Councillors, both new and those returning to the House.

The five newly elected and seven returning Councillors heard from experts from across the Commonwealth at the CPA Post-Election Seminar including: Hon. Barry House, Former President of the Legislative Council of Western Australia; Mr Roger Phillips, Clerk of Tynwald, Secretary of the House of Keys and Counsel to the Speaker, Isle of Man and the Attorney-General, from St Helena.

The CPA Secretary-General, Mr Akbar Khan, in a message delivered on his behalf by Ms Meenakshi Dhar from the CPA Headquarters Secretariat, said: “The CPA Post-Election Seminar in St Helena demonstrates the CPA’s commitment to our Small Branches and to the territorial legislatures that we represent. The CPA Post-Election Seminar is emblematic of the mutuality of learning among CPA members, small and large, which is so much part of the life blood of the CPA family. I am delighted that the CPA is able to share good practice with local Members on issues such as the importance of Codes of Conduct as a tool to help address the trust deficit in Parliaments; the importance of gender equality in parliament; and the essential role that an effective Committee can play. This peer-to-peer learning and bringing together of expertise from across the Commonwealth, goes to the heart of the CPA’s key strength as an Association.”

Hon. Eric Benjamin, Speaker of the Legislature said in his closing remarks, “The week-long Seminar has been educational and greatly beneficial as Councillors have engaged in constructive exchanges with the visiting CPA resource team who have shared with us how different Legislatures across the Commonwealth operate. I believe that Councillors will reflect on how some of the ideas shared can be implemented here in this House to help improve the way in which we function and better represent the people of St Helena.”

Following the CPA Post-Election Seminar, the CPA Roadshow for Young People was launched at Prince Andrews School in St Helena as part of the CPA Roadshows tour of Commonwealth schools and universities. Over 300 students discussed the importance of the Commonwealth and parliamentary democracy with the visiting CPA delegation and local Councillors, Derek Thomas, Christine Scipio-O'Dean and Cruyff Buckley. The CPA Roadshows provide an opportunity for young people to learn about the political values of the Commonwealth such as diversity, development and parliamentary democracy; the role of St Helena Councillors in representing the issues of concern to the people of St Helena and the work of the CPA.

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