Queen's Representative Welcomes 'Open Debate' on Independence
Bermuda is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, administered under a 1968 constitution that provides for an extensive degree of self-government, with certain responsibilities, including public security, reserved to the governor, the queen's representative. Bermuda became Britain's second colony, after Virginia, early in the 17th century. Bermuda has been Britain's oldest colony.
Gov. Sir John Vereker says the British Crown is prepared to grant Bermudians their independence, should they want it.
"I welcome the discussion on independence for Bermuda, which the government of Bermuda has now set in hand through the Bermuda Independence Commission," he said.
"The political party, which at present forms the government of Bermuda, is committed to independence so it is natural, and healthy, to have an open debate. We look forward to participating in that, in order to clarify the position on issues which will involve the United Kingdom, including nationality and citizenship, and the nature of post-independence relationships."
But so far, neither voters nor the immensely powerful corporate interests that have made the island one of the world's wealthiest, seem to want independence. In any event, setting in motion the wheels of independence is likely to take many years.
"When that debate has drawn to a conclusion, the matter will need to be settled one way or another--to move to the next stage, the active negotiation of independence arrangements, or to put the issue aside for another substantial period," the governor said.
"That decision, either way, must reflect the clearly expressed wish of the people of Bermuda. I hope that a consensus will emerge in Bermuda as to the means of that expression; it is, however, ultimately for the United Kingdom to determine what mechanism would legitimately convey the wishes of the people.
"Independence cannot happen overnight. The normal procedure is for preliminary discussions to take place between the territory and the United Kingdom in order to establish the main framework of the arrangements, followed by a constitutional conference at which the constitution of the newly independent country would be agreed."
March 1, 2005
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