C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002857
NOFORN SENSITIVE SIPDIS
STATE FOR EUR/WE E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/18/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM ECON EFIN ETRD KCRM KDRG
SUBJECT: UK HOSTS OVERSEAS TERRITORIES LEADERS AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Greg Berry for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C/NF) Summary: The UK hosted delegations from eleven British Overseas Territories (BOTs) for the annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC), held December 7-9 in London. UK Under-Secretary of State Chris Bryant met with BOT leaders both bilaterally and jointly, and topics of discussion included good governance, managing public finances, borrowing guidelines, crime, and the future of the BOTs. In a meeting with Poloff on December 17, Head of Bermuda and Caribbean Section in the Overseas Territories Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Tony Bates provided details of the OTCC discussions and, separately, inquired about two Bermuda-related Uighur issues. End Summary.
2.(U) The UK hosted delegations from eleven British Overseas Territories (BOTs) for the annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC), held December 7-9 in London. Head of Bermuda and Caribbean Section in the Overseas Territories Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Tony Bates told Poloff in a December 17 meeting that bilateral meetings were held between UK Under-Secretary of State Chris Bryant and BOT leaders on December 7, a Forum with NGOs and other members of civil society was held on December 8, and the Council itself was held on December 9.Bates said that the major issues addressed included good governance, the importance of maintaining sound public finances, borrowing guidelines, and crime.
3.(SBU/NF) Bates said that the December 7 bilateral meetings focused mainly on borrowing guidelines and contingent liabilities, and noted that the UK lends to the BOTs as needed, up to a pre-set limit, but assumes no liability for the BOTs if something goes wrong financially. Bates said that the result of the bilateral discussions was that the UK would review its borrowing guidelines in the hopes of “relaxing them a bit.” Bates noted that it is the Cayman Islands, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands that most need to borrow at the moment.
4.(SBU/NF) Bates said that the Forum held on December 8 addressed a wide range of issues, including good governance, human rights, and crime prevention, and was led by NGOs and other members of civil society. Bates noted that this was the first year that the Forum was held, and said that there were mixed feelings about the success of the event. Bates said the outcomes of the Forum were “of minimal significance.”
5.(C/NF) Bates said that Under-Secretary Bryant chaired the December 9 Council, and that though there were some “quite frank” discussions, the debate never got heated on uncomfortable. Bates said that an important part of the Council was the discussion on crime, which is a particular problem in Bermuda and in the Cayman Islands. Bermuda has requested foreign assistance in combating its crime problems, and the West Midlands police (which has experience battling gang-related crime) as well as the FBI and the Miami-Dade police department are scheduled to visit Bermuda to provide assistance and training. Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said he favored using capital punishment as a crime deterrent, saying of criminals that the Cayman Islands should “let them hang”; but Bates said that there was “no chance” of capital punishment being instituted in the Cayman Islands.
6.(SBU/NF) Bates noted that the discussion of good governance included mention of the UK’s imposition of direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) earlier this year, after an investigatory committee found TCI to be “rife with corruption.” Bates said that Under-Secretary Bryant assured BOT leaders that the UK had no interest in micro-managing the affairs of the BOTs; however, Bryant cautioned that he was accountable to Parliament for the governance of the BOTs and therefore would step in when he had concerns about poor management and inadequate governance.
7.(SBU/NF) Bates said that there was some discussion of the future of the BOTs – would they move toward independence? Bates acknowledged that in some territories there would be a move toward independence, but he emphasized that the decision rests with the people, and not with the local government, and that the UK therefore expects that independence must come through a referendum rather than through a local government decision. Bates said that if independence was “the stated wish of the majority of the people” of a BOT, the UK “would not stand in the way.” LONDON 00002857 002 OF 002
8.(SBU/NF) Bates said that, overall, the OTCC was a success in that “everyone left feeling they had had their say.” Bates said that the OTCC was first and foremost an opportunity for BOT leaders to “come to London, meet the Minister, and say what they think.” In this regard, the UK said that this year’s OTCC fulfilled its purpose.
Bermuda/Uighur Issues ———————
9.(C/NF) Separately, Bates raised two issues pertaining to Bermuda and specifically to the four former Guantanamo detainees who were resettled on the island earlier this year. Bates first asked about a recent local Bermudan newspaper article that said that the Uighurs expected to get passports within a year based on comments from their lawyers and a U.S. army general. Bates said the UK was “alarmed” at this report, but Poloff assured Bates that no one in the USG had made any promises of passports for the Uighurs. Bates went on to say that the Uighurs were ineligible for refugee travel documents, ineligible for any sort of travel document that Bermuda might give them, and, at least for the next several years, ineligible for British passports that would accompany UK citizenship. He said that it appeared that the only passports they were eligible for were Chinese passports, but that there was, of course, no chance of them getting those.
10.(C/NF) Bates said that the Uighur issue was not raised by either Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown or Under-Secretary Bryant at the OTCC – according to Bates, Premier Brown has already heard Bryant’s take on this issue plenty of times. Bates said that the UK was waiting to see how the closing of Guantanamo Bay proceeded, but that as of now the UK plans to raise the Uighur resettlement issue with Ambassador Fried’s office via UK Embassy Washington at some point in January.
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