Wikileaks documents show UK territories asked for help: Bermuda asked for anti-gang units, Cayman for death penalty
Growing crime problems in two of the United Kingdom’s wealthiest overseas territories were discussed during meetings with officials in late 2009, according to documents released by the Wikileaks website.
The summary of the 2009 Overseas Territories Consultative Council in London, held between 7-9 December, is essentially a US government synopsis of developments in the UK’s overseas territories, according to Wikileaks.
The 2009 conference hosted representatives from a total of 11 British Overseas Territories and addressed a wide range of issues, including borrowing guidelines for the territories, crime, independence and general governance.
In the cable, marked ‘confidential’, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office official Tony Bates states that there were some “quite frank” discussions about crime with then-overseas territories minister Chris Bryant on 9 December, 2009.
“[Mr.[ Bates said that an important part of the council was the discussion on crime which is a particular problem in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands,” the leaked report states.
“Bermuda has requested foreign assistance in combating its crime problems, and the [UK] 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 favoured using capital punishment as a crime deterrent, saying of criminals that the Cayman Islands should ‘let them hang’. Bates said there was ‘no chance’ of capital punishment being instituted in the Cayman Islands.”
The UK ordered the use of the death penalty to be stopped in Cayman in the early ‘90s.
The US diplomatic document also summarised discussions at the overseas territories meeting regarding whether any of the local governments would seek independence from Britain.
“Bates acknowledged that in some territories there would be a move toward independence, but he emphasised that the decision rests with the people and not with local government.”
“The UK, therefore, expects that independence must come through a referendum rather than through a local government decision.”
According to the documents, Mr. Bates stated that if independence was “the stated wish of the majority of the people” in a British Overseas Territory that the UK “would not stand in the way”.
The leaked diplomatic cables also made mention of agreements between the previous UK Labour Party government and the territories on financial constraints for borrowing money.
“The UK lends to the British Overseas Territories as needed, up to a pre-set limit, but assumes no liability for the BOTs if something goes wrong financially,” the summary document read.
“[Mr.} 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’.”
He also noted that the Cayman Islands, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were the territories that most needed to borrow money at that time (December 2009).
According to the summary documents: “Bates…said that there were mixed feelings about the success of the [Overseas Territories Consultative Council]. Bates said the outcomes of the forum were ‘of minimal significance’.”