Fly Montserrat's Shelley Harris' Written Statement to the UK's Foreign Affairs Committee Has Inflicted Potential Development Harm to Montserrat


Jeevan A. Robinson - MNI Media

Release Date

Friday, November 9, 2018


Fly Montserrat's Shelley Harris has inflicted potential development harm to Montserrat.

Since the issue of the statements made by one Fly Montserrat’s owners, Mrs Shelley Harris, to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee, to do with her views on what both the present situation, and the future of Montserrat should encompass, I have been wondering what do her expat peers make of her submissions?

Witnessing the uproar from many Montserratians both at home and abroad - the expats that live on Montserrat enjoying life as tranquil and as near 100% crime free as compared to many of the other islands in the Caribbean – what do they all think of Shelley Harris’ statements to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee. 

It is expected that in a society mixed with varying cultural backgrounds, not everyone will agree on how best to execute the social, political and economic functions that are required for the island to progress. However, it borders on near treasonous, and callously inflammatory the way in which Shelley Harris has painted her obvious disdain towards Montserrat.

Shelley Harris stated many things that makes one wonder, how can a person live amongst a group of people, being in business for over 30 years within that community, as she clearly stated, yet express such venomous distaste towards them. The full text of what was stated by Mrs Harris to the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee can be found here:

Fly Montserrat Has Done Well
Fly Montserrat has for years enjoyed vast benefits from their operations on Montserrat; perhaps more so than any other company that has come into the island and set up over the years. There are not many who can claim to be in receipt of a monthly subsidy from the Government of Montserrat to an amount nearing EC$18,000, yet having the audacity to essentially paint a damning picture of the country from whom they most benefit, to a high- level UK Parliamentary Committee.

Fly Montserrat, seeing the very clear public backlash has attempted to quell the fire by issuing a statement where they stated:

“Flymontserrat would like to make it clear that Statements recently made by Shelley Harris are made by her on an individual basis and not made on behalf of the company.

The views made by Shelley Harris do not necessarily reflect the views of Flymontserrat.”

Who wrote that statement one wonders?

The statement issued by FM was a weak PR attempt, as both Shelley Harris and her Husband Nigel are known locally to be the owners of Fly Montserrat, and have operated their business on the island for many years. It is shambolic and insulting to the intelligence of Montserratians that FM would have even dared to include in the statement issued that the views do not “necessarily reflect the views of Fly Montserrat.”

So was this an admission that Fly Montserrat in some parts agree with these statements made by Shelley Harris?

A public apology needs to be forthcoming from Fly Montserrat, but sincerely, I doubt that it will happen.

Fly Montserrat and the Governors
MNI Media is aware that over the years Fly Montserrat has enjoyed a rather cosy relationship with whoever the Governor of the day is on Montserrat. MNI recalls the impasse with Fly Montserrat a few years ago when previous Governor Adrian Davis seemed more disposed towards protecting Fly Montserrat, as MNI looked into the 2012 crash in Antigua.

Now, I am left to wonder whether perhaps in an effort to ensure no favour is lost with Montserrat’s current Governor Pearce, that this may be the reason for Shelley Harris to have stated in her presentation to the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee her view that:

“The current Governor is excellent. I have confidence in him.”

In light of this, one has no choice but to wonder what is the relationship between the present Governor Andrew Pearce and the owners of Fly Montserrat? Do they share dinner/social chats about the state of affairs on Montserrat, and was Governor Pearce privy to these views by Shelley Harris prior to them coming to light publicly?

Shelley Harris Has Potentially Damaged Montserrat - Implications

The wider implications of the statements Shelley Harris made will have a direct impact on Montserrat, and it has already begun.

Recently, on Tuesday November 6th, 2018, Mrs Janice Panton gave oral evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on behalf of the Government of Montserrat in her role as the Government of Montserrat’s UK Representative. Present at this hearing was former International Development Secretary Priti Patel, the very same lady who spoke about aid being linked to investment returns when she held the position.

Priti Patel was armed with Shelley Harris' written evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and used it to good cause to grill Mrs Panton and paint an unfavourable picture of Montserrat. See below transcripts of the exchange between Patel and Panton:

Priti Patel: I have a brief follow-up question, if I may, which links to the wider discussion we have been having. We have obviously had plenty of written evidence from various individuals as part of this inquiry. Do you feel that the Montserrat Government, in the light of the money that is received from the British Government—from UK taxpayers—are spending the funding they receive in the right kind of way? You have articulated very clearly on a number of occasions the lack of healthcare and of basic public amenities. Is that not the responsibility of the Montserrat Government, bearing in mind the funding that is received from the British Government? What can you say about the efficacy of the Government in Montserrat when it comes to public finance and accountability, bearing in mind that approximately 60% of British taxpayers’ funds go to service the deficit of the Montserrat Government?

Janice Panton: The money spent on Montserrat is micromanaged by DFID—DFID officials on the island and DFID officials here. It is not the Government of Montserrat who spend the money. The money is spent for specified activities, and that is micromanaged by DFID officials on the island.

Priti Patel: We have also had evidence that the Montserrat Government are completely incompetence and waste enormous amounts of money, which comes from the British taxpayer. Is that something you think is true?

Janice Panton: No. That is not something I think—

Priti Patel: So what do you think could be done to get DFID or the UK Government—HMG, as we described earlier—to support public services but also long-term economic development? We have also had evidence—actually from Government sources in Montserrat—basically saying that there is no real intention, that DFID is not focused enough on long-term economic development in Montserrat.

Janice Panton: One thing that can be done is to agree on identified priorities. From your point of view, it may well be what you want, and it may be much more—we talk about efficacy—to have a steering group that looks at the spending, that is made up of officials and is accountable. I say officials—Montserrat officials, FCO officials and DFID officials. It would steer through projects so that they were managed in a timely manner and funding was drawn down appropriately.

Priti Patel: Is this about projects or governance?

Janice Panton: It may be about both, but I see it from both sides. I put FCO in the frame and I am looking at the White Paper, “Security, Success and Sustainability”. We cannot have sustainability or success without security. We cannot have any of those things unless there is governance, and governance comes through the White Paper—the FCO policy paper. I would like to see if that could be effective.

Chair: May I ask a grossly unfair question; one that you are very welcome to shoot down very quickly? Given that the population of Montserrat has fallen from 15,000 to 5,000, given what you quite understandably say about healthcare, and given that I am right, I think, in saying that Montserrat has access to four treatments on the NHS a year—is that correct?

Janice Panton: Yes, a quota of four.

Chair: Is Montserrat sustainable as an individual territory anymore?

Janice Panton: I think it could be. If you look at what Montserrat as a territory has to offer, we have the Centre Hills and beautiful biodiversity that is second to none. We also have a natural volcanic landscape that is awesome, and we are in a position to benefit from both, but it has to be high-end tourism. We do not have the sea, sun and sand, but we have a pristine natural park and, as I have said, a volcanic landscape. Together, they can help Montserrat to be sustainable.

Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Donovan and Ms Panton, for your evidence this afternoon. I am very grateful.

As can be seen clearly at the end of the exchanges, the Chairman, Tom Tugendhat, is already asking questions about Montserrat’s overall sustainability from the UK support perspective.

Read the full Oral Evidence Transcript here:

Shelley Harris' statement to the Foreign Affairs Committee has in no form helped Montserrat's case. Mrs Harris has inflicted potential development harm to Montserrat. Both her and the Fly Montserrat brand owe the people of Montserrat an apology.

In addition, if Shelley Harris does feel the monies on Montserrat are being so grossly wasted, then perhaps it is time for GoM to reconsider their position in Fly Montserrat, and open air access to services such as WinAir to compete for the subsidy that Fly Montserrat so comfortably enjoys.

MNI Media has long stated our view that Fly Montserrat’s owners are no true friends of Montserrat.

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