It’s not your normal buzz around Jamestown at 11 am on Saturday 23rd July but a damp morning with a slight drizzle of rain, However that wasn’t enough to dampen the views of a small crowd of protesters/demonstrators who are making their way down main street towards the Castle gate with a petition in their hand of 1301 signatures.
The protest gathering was made up of residents from various districts around the Island who were also joined by backbenchers Cllr Dr Corinda Essex and Clle Ronald Coleman.
The main reason for the protest was to vent some Individual Island frustration in support of those who are not in favor of the decision that was made by the Islands executive council to lift all of the quarantine restrictions from Monday the 8th of August 2022.
The original petition.
“We call on our Ministers to review their decision of 21st June 2022, that with effect from Monday, 8 August 2022, quarantine will no longer be a legal requirement on St Helena”.
On the frontline a large banner stood out with the words “Different rules for you and me, we want our Island covid-free” Other banners amongst the crowd displayed messages and slogans expressing feelings of the decision.
Peter Young who originates from the Briars and is well known on St Helena for his creativity for paraded events, sign wrote on his pickup truck which read “Remember Remember, that December twenty twenty” with images depicting images of some of the current ministers who were against home quarantine back in 2020.
Peter also held up a sign which read “test for lice, test for fleas test for COVID I beg you please”
On arrival at the Castle entrance, The ministers and several backbenchers including the Chief Secretary met the protesters.
Councilor Ronald Coleman, who was part of the protest , opened his speech and spoke loudly by thanking the crowd for the overwhelming support, Ronald said “people are not happy with the decision that the ministers had made in opening up of the Island, and he was there to support the protest as asked by the organizers,” Ronald also spoke on a few documented subjects that was submitted prior but not included in the original reason for protesting.
The subjects summary.
- “They were very disappointed with the ministerial system that they were promised openness and transparency and they have got just the opposite they don’t expect changes to be over night but what they have seen so far is not what was promised, “
- “They have doubts about the public health preparedness to cope with the outbreak of COVID in the community on the basis that the numbers of nursing staff, how did they calculate that for the long term and the additional staff to be available,”
- “How many working ventilators are expected to be required? How many do they have and how many are working, how would they be maintained,”
- “They wanted to know if the oxygen plant at bradleys now fully functional, can the island produce sufficient oxygen for a worse case scenario,”
- “The Island has recently experience a shortage of medicine and what steps has been taken for the continuity of these supplies, including the antiviral and covid treatments”
- “Has the ministers taken into consideration of the alarming news from the world health organization regarding the rapid spread of the new variant of covid, the forecast of the IMF, the effects of war in eastern europe ”
Ronald ended his speech by stating “those wishing to come to the island are very welcome but should be prepared to spend 5 days in lockdown as everything comes with a price.” This statement had the protesters in agreement .
Ronald then invited anybody to speak before a petition was to be handed over to Chief Minister Julie Thomas.
During the Chief Minister’s response she was interrupted many times by dissatisfied protesters who mentioned that she was repeating what they already knew or had been published in local media.
A lady told the Chief minister “All we are asking is one small thing and that’s to test people on arrival to St Helena”, protesters supported her by shouting yes.
Many other strong topics relating to the reopening of the Island were expressed and the Chief Minister did her utmost in answering but on many occasions was interrupted by other protesters before she could give a full explanation.
Another lady spoke loudly “We are down here like fools, nothing is going to change because you’ll be on that side for everything, did you come first and ask us”. The Chief Minister tried to address the statement but again was interrupted by frustrated protestors arraying NO.
Tensions and frustrations ran high amongst the protestors, when questioned by the Chief Minister asking if they’d like for her to continue she was told to “Throw it in the bin”
It was also said from the crowd that ” You need to listen to the St Helena people as well” The Chief Minister replied “Remember this is a good crowd here and I thank them for coming but it’s not everybody in St Helena.”
Mrs Olive Brown presented the petition to the Chief Minister with what is believed to be over 1300 signatures which is around 25+% of the island’s population.
The Chief Minister made an attempt to conclude the protest by thanking everybody who attended but was ask “when can the community expect a reply” Chief minister thomas replied “I’ll send you what I was going to say and what I started to say” Some dissatisfied protesters shouted “the best thing you’ll do is resign.”
Ministers and councilors returned to the Castle shortly after.
Below is a response to the petition from the Cheif Minister