Friday, 15 March 2013
Jersey’s Historical Abuse Inquiry—the Nelson Touch?
I knew little of Tenerife’s history and visited the site where a fort once stood and from where the musket ball was fired shattering Lord Horatio Nelson’s right arm when attempting what turned out to be a futile invasion in 1799. I will return to Lord Nelson later.
Whilst away the Child Abuse debate was successfully concluded and there was also the revelation of the Dean’s alleged failure to satisfactorily deal with a complaint from a lady who claimed to be an abuse victim. This is a matter which has been well covered by Voice for Children Blog.
I had hoped to be present when the States debated the long awaited proposition but because it was twice deferred it clashed with our pre-planned holiday. However in my Blog which I published a couple of days prior to my holiday, I said I was hopeful that all the amendments, including Deputy Tadier’s would be unanimously approved. I also said that the eyes of the world would be looking on and in particular on those Members who had previously unsuccessfully opposed the proposition to establish a Committee of Inquiry.
To get back to Lord Nelson, prior to the Battle of Trafalgar he sent a message to all under his command that “England expects that every man will do his duty” On Wednesday 6th March the Jersey taxpayers and in particular those who had in any way been subjected to abuse were expecting that every States Member would do their duty. Although I had hoped that all Members would give their support it was perfectly in order for those with opposing views to express them and vote accordingly.
Unfortunately not every States Member did their duty, and when asked to support Midshipman Tadier’s amendment to provide the Committee of Inquiry with balls for their muskets Admiral Gorst and Rear Admiral Le Gresley declined to do so and before any one could say “kiss me Hardy” 11 members of various ranks jumped ship and retreated no doubt to the safety of the Members’ tea room.
Fortunately following several broadsides from the lower ranks both Messrs Gorst and Le Gresley remembered that they were supposed to be at the helm and agreed to provide the musket balls. However it was apparent that neither could persuade the 11 deserters to return to their posts. There are times when Members do get out caught short and because the toilets are some distance they may not be able to return to vote if suddenly called upon to do so. Given that Deputy Tadier had to sum up that should have provided ample opportunity for every Member to return to their seats not only to listen to the summing up but also to vote. It is hard to believe that all 11 were stuck in the toilet so why were they not present to vote?
It is now on record that Deputy Tadier’s amendment was approved by 38 votes with no one voting “Contre.” However no one will ever know how many of the 11 absentees would have voted against had they been present.
What is known is that 4 of the absentees were also among the 6 absent when the vote was taken on the proposition as amended. The 4 were Senator’s Bailhache and Ozouf along with Connetable Rondel and Deputy Rondel. No doubt each will have their own reasons for not being present but given the importance of the vote one would have expected each to have given reasons for their absence, particularly as they could have been valid.
I don’t want to speculate on the reasons for their absence or pick on any one particular member but I was disappointed to note Senator Bailhache’s lack of involvement. Had he asked to be excused from participating in the debate due to the fact that as a former Crown Officer he was conflicted one could have accepted his absence.
As he chose not to declare an interest one would have assumed that given his position as Assistant Chief Minister and with responsibility for affairs outside the Island he would have spoken and voted in favour of both parts of the proposition. It should also be recalled that as Bailiff in 2008 he strongly condemned the World’s Press for publishing what he considered to be misleading and derogatory information about the Historic Abuse Investigation and the Island in particular. So why was the Senator absent and why was he not doing his duty to the Island’s electorate?
Now that the mechanism for appointing the Committee of Inquiry and its Terms of Reference have been approved it will be for the Chief Minister to ensure that there is no further procrastination and the wheels are kept turning. Not that anyone should be thinking of erecting a Gorst Column in the Royal Square, but due credit should be given to Senator Gorst for the manner in which he eventually accepted amendments to the original proposition and by proposing them it certainly ensured a smoother passage through the States.
It is to be hoped that he is now a wiser man and his performance in the debate will have done much to enhance his leadership whereas the colours of the other would be Chief Ministers were badly shredded and are irreparable.
There is still a long way to go and no doubt there will be much soul searching along the way because it is almost inevitable that some unsavoury acts or omissions will come to light during the Inquiry. However I am confident that Senator Gorst will have now realised that it much better to be true to his beliefs and of his duty to the public he serves than be swayed by the views of some Ministers close to him. Who knows he too may develop the “Nelson Touch.”