Headlines: Falklands representative joins Saints’ airport protest; Stanley Co-op members hoping for a final dividend; Mrs K may get her meeting with Brown.
SUKEY Cameron, FIG Representative in London joined representatives of other overseas territories at a rally outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, to support St Helena’s campaign for an airport to be built on the Island.
Four years ago the British Government gave an undertaking to build an airport to enable Saint Helena to develop a tourism industry, revive the local economy and ultimately reduce the amount of subsidy paid by UK taxpayers.
Negotiations were suspended in December 2008, days before the contract was due to be signed.
The decision stunned the local population who had begun to invest in tourism and three months later there is no sign of the negotiations being restarted.
The letter of protest outlined the difficulties St Helena has with a rapidly decreasing population and economic down turn.
“A sustainable high-value, low volume tourism industry would inject cash into the community whilst minimising negative impacts. In short, St Helena needs the airport to survive,” read the letter, which asked that the ‘pause’ be ended so that negotiations for the construction of the airport can proceed with further delay.
STANLEY Co-operative Society Chairman, Malcolm Ashworth, confirmed this week that shareholders in the society may yet see some return on their investment, but admitted that, “no one is yet prepared to put a figure on it.”
At a meeting with the liquidated company’s administrator, last Friday, members were told that local trade creditors of the stricken business would be paid in full, though discussions were taking place about the claims of two overseas creditors and there were still a number of debtors to the company to be pursued.
Returns to shareholders would depend on the funds generated by the disposal of the Co-op’s assets in the form of stock, buildings and land. It was planned that an auction of the remaining stock would be held shortly.
At the end of the day, with trade creditors paid and any debts recouped, what money remaining from the sale of assets would be divided among shareholders on a pro-rata basis, said Mr Ashworth.
Mr Ashworth also revealed that an enquiry into the reasons for the failure of the business had been commissioned by the Registrar General under the terms of the appropriate ordinance.
Mr Ashworth did not know whether the results of the enquiry would be made public, but said that even were any negligence proved on the part of anyone concerned in the Co-op’s failure, it was unlikely that any action would be taken. The main objective of the liquidation process was not to enter into expensive legal battles, but to maximise the financial returns to the Co-op’s members, he added.
The cost of any legal action and the cost of the enquiry, which was carried out by accountant, Peter Copp, would be charged to the Co-op, as would the costs and fees of the administrator, Scottish insolvency expert Bryan Jackson.
Mr Jackson’s visit to the Falklands has excited the interest of some sections of the Scottish press, with the Glasgow Daily Record running the headline, “I went 17,000 miles on day trip to Falklands.”
Mr Jackson, who works for accountants PKF and has been the administrator for several high-profile company wind-ups, from fashion chains to football clubs, is quoted as saying that dealing with a small shop made from corrugated iron on the Falklands was a world away from his regular corporate work in big cities around the world, though in 2002, he had been brought in to save a struggling co-op in the Scottish town of Motherwell.
ARGENTINE President Cristina Kirchner and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will hold a meeting in Viña del Mar, Chile on March 27, according to Argentine daily, La Nacion, on Wednesday, which claimed that the sovereignty issue between the two countries would be on the table.
Referring to the fact that the anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the Falklands coincided with the beginning of the G20 global financial summit in London and the fears that the Argentine President might present the bilateral dispute over Falklands sovereignty before the world’s leaders, the report claimed that such a meeting would, “Take away the pain which has been keeping diplomats awake at night.”
Argentina, together with Brazil and Mexico will represent Latin America in the London summit.
Gordon Brown is expected to be in Viña del Mar for a meeting of the Progressive Leaders Summit, an event which he chaired himself in London last year.
News of the proposed meeting between the Prime Minister and Mrs Kirchner is reported to have come from two high government sources working close to Foreign Affairs Minister, Jorge Taiana, who is personally involved in the talks, but the British Embassy in Buenos Aires is quoted as neither confirming nor denying this report, saying simply that Prime Minister Brown’s agenda was not yet available.
First Secretary at Government House in Stanley, Paul Martinez, also stated that he could not comment on the Prime Minister’s travel plans.
Speaking on behalf of the Falkland Islands Government, Councillor Mike Rendell said that if the report was accurate, it was not unexpected that Mrs Kirchner would seize this opportunity for a long-desired meeting with the British Prime Minister. However, the Falkland Islands Government was confident of the Prime Minister’s firm stance on the Argentine sovereignty claim and the rights of Falkland Islanders.