News for 2013 from the Tristan da Cunha Government, including the Governor, the Resident Administrator, Chief Islander and Tristan-related official events in the UK and abroad.

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Tristan flags at half-mast on Friday 6th December as the community learns of the death of Nelson Mandela

News of Nelson Mandela's death reached St Helena late yesterday evening. Commenting on the sad news this morning, HE Governor Mark Capes said:

'I know that the news of Nelson Mandela's death will be received with great sadness by the people of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. During my visit to South Africa only a few weeks ago, I spoke of the close historical, family and cultural links with South Africa and of the warm and friendly relationship we enjoy.

‘At this sad time we give thanks for the life of a truly great man and celebrate the powerful and lasting legacy of his commitment to peace and reconciliation. On behalf of our communities on all three islands, I extend sincere condolences to Mr Mandela's family and to all the people of South Africa'.

Governor Capes has directed that all flags on St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha be flown at half mast today, 6th December.

Photo of the Tristan Flag at
half-mast outside the Prince Philip Hall on 6th December from Carl Lander

Tristan Administrator Alex Mitham added:

‘News of Nelson Mandela's death reached Tristan da Cunha late last evening and the whole community sends their deepest condolences to the family. Mr Mandela’s legacy will continue to live on. Our on-going successful relationship with South Africa would not have come about were it not for the changes Mr Mandela oversaw in the country. Our thoughts and wishes are with Mr Mandela's family at this sad time.’

HE Governor Mark Capes Visits
Tristan aboard RMS St Helena

HE Governor Mark Capes Visited Tristan aboard RMS St Helena 19th-21st November 2013
Photos from Shirley Squibb
Above: Mark Capes with Administrator Alex Mitham
- Left outside the Tristan Traditional Thatched House Museum and Right by the Tristan Flagpole .
Centre picture shows Mark alongside successful Tristan examination students Caryn Green and Riaan Repetto

who received their certificates from him at St Mary's School.

During a Reception in the Prince Philip Hall on 20th November
HE Governor Mark Capes presented
on behalf of HM Queen Elizabeth II :
Tristan Government Treasurer Lorraine Repetto with an MBE
Former Head of Tristan's PWD Mechanical Department
Joe Green with an MBE
Former Tristan Midwife Gladys Lavarello
with the British Empire Medal
MV Edinburgh Captain Clarence October with an MBE.

Photo right shows the four award recipients: Left to Right:
Clarence October, Gladys Lavarello, Lorraine Repetto and Joe Green

For a full report and more pictures of the RMS Visit go to
2013 RMS St Helena Voyage

Alex Mitham becomes Tristan da Cunha's 22nd Administrator



During a ceremony at an Island Council Meeting on 23rd September 2013 Alex Mitham became Tristan da Cunha's 22nd Administrator as he took over from Sean Burns.

Photos from Iris Green show:
Above left: Alex during the swearing-in ceremony flanked by Island Councillors in the Council Chamber
and right a close-up of Alex as he takes the oath.
Right: Signing in with Island Council Clerk Geraldine Repetto looking on
Below left: being congratulated by previous Administrator Sean Burns who will depart with his wife Marina aboard SA Agulhas II in October
Below left: being congratulated by Chief Islander Ian Lavarello.

Alex Mitham visits Isle of Man
Tristan's Administrator-designate Alex Mitham made a visit to the Isle of Man in July-August 2013.
See the Isle of Man Training Page for a photo and report.

Sean Burns to become Head of the Governor's Office on St Helena
Tristan's Administrator Sean Burns, who will leave Tristan in October 2013 when Alex Mitham takes over, has been appointed as Head of the Governor's Office on St Helena from January 2014. The appointment is very significant for Tristan as Sean will bring a full knowledge of the island to within St Helena's Government during one of the most exciting periods of the island's history as the new airport is being constructed and future shipping links reviewed. For the first time the post will include being Deputy Governor in the Governor's absence.
A report on this news, including quotes from Governor Mark Capes and Sean can be found on the separate
Governor Page

BEM for Gladys Lavarello

It was announced on Saturday 15th June in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2013 that long-serving and much-loved retired Tristan da Cunha midwife Gladys Lavarello has been awarded the British Empire Medal by Her Majesty for her services to the community of Tristan da Cunha.

Congratulations to Gladys who is expected to be presented with her honour when Governor Mark Capes visits Tristan aboard the RMS St Helena later in the year.

Photo right shows Gladys with her daughter Judy on 16th January 2013

Alex Mitham appointed Tristan da Cunha's 22nd Administrator

Alex Mitham has been appointed Tristan da Cunha’s 22nd Administrator and plans to travel on SA Agulhas II with his wife Hasene to take over from Sean Burns in September 2013.

See the Administrator Page for more about Alex's appointment

Work starts to put over Tristan’s case for November Ministerial Meeting
Report from Tristan Government’s UK Representative Chris Bates

Tristan da Cunha has begun work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the other UK Overseas Territories at the suggestion of the Minister for Overseas Territories, Mark Simmonds MP, in preparation for the 2013 Joint Ministerial Council in London.
If that sounds dry and dusty, it's not: it's where Tristan (or those representing the island) talk in detail with the Minister and his colleagues and civil servants representing other UK Government Departments. It's an opportunity to work through with honesty and in great detail, the concerns, hopes and ambitions of the islanders and try to match them with the realities faced by those responsible for the whole range of what the Her Majesty's Government has to do.
Not an easy balancing act and at last year's Conference, Tristan's UK Representative, Chris Bates, urged the Minister and officials to start planning much, much earlier; so that remoter territories' communities could play a more involved role and prepare in detail.

Taking Tristan at its word, the Minister has already been in touch with Chief Islander Ian Lavarello and on Tuesday 16 th April, Chris began the planning preparations in the FCO.
Working to the Island Council's brief, he put the case for fewer topics to be discussed, but in greater detail. Specifically, these included a commitment to growth and jobs, pointing out that the difficulties of landing cruise passengers and finding berths for independent travellers mitigate against Tristan's ambitions to develop tourism; that there are real obstacles within international agreements to Tristan trading with third countries, saying the conference needs to address these complexities of international trade (not just with the EU). One suggestion Ian asked Chris to advance was that of professional advice and assistance from the UK in encouraging and developing new income streams and businesses for the island.
(The communiqué issued after the 2012 conference agreed “to support the development of entrepreneurship and growth of small businesses in the Overseas Territories”. Such a development might have considerable consequences for the wider community on Tristan and the structure of the island's economy – but it seems, there can be -funds made available from the UK Government for this to be explored by a seconded specialist working with communities).
The preparations will also flag up concerns on Tristan about poaching by illegal long liners, noting that the island now has EU funding for a fishing project designed to curb IUU fishing (Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated). There's also EU funding in place for a pilot project on renewable energy – something Chris has pointed out on which other territories such as the Falklands and Montserrat appear to be notably ahead of Tristan.
The meeting in November will look at developing support from the EU and Commonwealth and while Tristan has benefited from substantial EDF funding from the EU (a significant factor in Tristan's development of its infrastructure) the island has little if any opportunity to engage with the Commonwealth. The Council's note for the meeting raised the question of how exchanges with countries such as Canada and Australia (which could lead to real benefits for Tristan) could be instigated and financed and to explore the possibility of links with smaller territories such as Norfolk Island or the Bahamas.
The November meeting will discuss creating better Government in territories (something already occurring in Tristan's case with the Isle of Man training scheme financed by the UK Government) and ways of improving sporting facilities, more effective disaster planning, improving health and education.
Chris observed after the meeting: “Tristan's contribution was wholly positive: with serious discussions now under way for replacing the Camogli Hospital, major refurbishment of St. Mary's School under way through funding from EDF-9 funds and minds focussed on how the shortcomings of the harbour will be dealt with on a long term basis – not just an expensive patch-up. I felt we were able to demonstrate that the Minister's faith in our ability to make good use of what the British Government and the EU are investing in Tristan is well placed. There will be a lot more detailed meetings before this year's conference and I know Tristan's positive approach at these conferences works greatly to its advantage”.

Tristan represented at Lady Thatcher's Funeral
From Tristan Government UK Representative Chris Bates

Tristan da Cunha was represented at the funeral service held in St Paul's Cathedral for the Rt. Hon. The Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, on Wednesday 17th April.
Chief Islander Ian Lavarello agreed that Tristan's UK Representative Chris Bates should accept the invitation to represent the islanders at the funeral, which was attended by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and 2,000 guests. Chris took his place with representatives of the other UK Overseas Territories, the Commonwealth countries, international organisations and with members of the Diplomatic Corps.
He said: “I was very conscious of Richard Grundy's vivid description from his time as the island expat teacher of the joy felt on Tristan, when the British Forces defeated the Argentinean invaders of the Falkland Islands at the time of Margaret Thatcher's premiership. That made the service even more personal and poignant for me: I was conscious of what she had meant to people in the congregation – someone who was not just a politician, but a powerful force for change in their countries and their communities”.
Chris added: “To file out of St Paul's into the Spring sunshine in the company of people such as Henry Kissinger, with the world's most influential statesmen of the last half century from around the world and also, the entire UK cabinet, and prime ministers past and present, after such an emotionally charged, perfectly balanced service, was a truly unforgettable experience. I felt it was an honour for Tristan to be among that congregation and knew that the islanders' thoughts and sympathies would be with Lady Thatcher's family and friends and those whose lives she had touched”.

Report from Tristan Government UK Representative Chris Bates
Chris prepared the following report to present to the Tristan Association Annual Gathering on 6th April. Unfortunately there was not time in the busy afternoon schedule for him to deliver it so we publish it here, particularly for the attention of Tristan Association members.

Thank you for inviting me to tell you something of my work over the last year as the Tristan Government's Representative in the UK. The past 12 months have, by any standards, been extraordinary.
A primary part of the job is to raise awareness of Tristan: that it exists, that its people have a distinct way of life and a philosophy and – I have always believed – much to teach the rest of the world. They can only do that of course, if the rest of the world knows about them, so a substantial part of my work is devoted trying to make sure it does.
Working closely with the Administrator on Tristan, the Desk Officer at the Foreign Office and fellow UK representatives in the UK Overseas Territories Association, it has been possible to get know some of the MPs, members of the House of Lords, civil servants both here and in the EC and other decision makers, whose work and influence impact on the quality of life on Tristan. By being present at meetings, by putting forward the views of the Tristan Council, then it has proved possible to make people aware that Tristan exists and that it has distinct and identifiable issues, concerns and needs.
Thus, at the conclusion of the last Joint Ministerial Conference of the Overseas Territories in London, I was able to discuss with the Prime Minister in Number Ten Downing Street, the most outstanding needs of Tristan (that a new or revamped hospital and a new or greatly strengthened harbour are essential). I found him very well informed on Tristan, as I did, the new Minister for the Overseas Territories, Mark Simmonds, the MP for Boston and Skegness.
I'd enjoyed a friendly relationship with his predecessor, Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, who clearly had great liking for Tristan and was well informed about the island. Inevitably, ministers and officials change and it's encouraging that the knowledge and – not too strong a word – admiration, for the people of Tristan, is passed on.
Tristan is now represented at great occasions of state such as the State Opening of Parliament, the Commonwealth Observance Service at Westminster Abbey and is invited to meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Territories. It all helps to ensure that the voice of Tristan is heard among those of better resourced, professionally represented Territories.
Certainly the highlight was to be able to pass to Prince Charles, in person, in Buckingham Palace, the loyal greetings of the Tristan Islanders and their congratulations to his mother on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. Tristan's flag was flown on one of the vessels in the Royal Squadron in the Flotilla on the Thames – the Sapele.
Tristan was represented in the Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul's Cathedral and subsequent reception with members of the Royal Family; at the Concert outside Buckingham Palace and at the lunch given in Her Majesty's honour by the Foreign Secretary. I don't think I need to say what an honour it was to represent Tristan on such great and historic occasions – but the real pleasure lay in knowing that Tristan was not overlooked, that it was at the heart of the celebrations.
Indeed, it was the Chief Islander of Tristan, Ian Lavarello, whose voice was heard, on the day of the Queen's Jubilee Concert and the lighting of the beacons, on BBC Radio 4's flagship news programme – “The World At One” – being interviewed about Tristan lighting its own Jubilee beacon – of course, the most remote one in the world – filled with cut down vegetation from invasive species of plants. It was the islanders' initiative and it perfectly told the story of their commitment to their environment and prompted the presenter to observe after speaking to Ian: “What a splendid title to go around with: Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha”.
Not all the work is so public of course. Much time has been devoted to setting up the training scheme in the Isle of Man in which vocational training is being given to islanders with responsibilities crucial to the economy and future of the community: Iris and Martin Green are there at the moment and Warren Glass is due next month. I'd like to say a public thank you here to the many Manx people who have made this possible, including our members Ken and Fran Rogers whose warmth of welcome is remarkable.
I've been particularly pleased to be able to help the Tourism Development Officer, Dawn Repetto, source new items for sale in the island's gift shop and develop marketing of Tristan knitwear – and again I'd like say “thank you” in public to someone who has helped and worked with Dawn and her colleagues – the fashion journalist and marketing expert from the on line retailer, Dead Good Undies, Jane Garner, without whose patience and expertise it would have been difficult to make such progress.
Which really brings me to the main point: the job in the last six years has taken me from Greenland to New Caledonia, from Réunion, Ascension and Cayman to the heart of the EC and EU in Brussels; backwards and forwards to London and many other places. In every case, everyone I meet is fascinated by Tristan and the way of life of its people and they really do their best to be positive and helpful. That goodwill is the most valuable resource and asset for the islanders.
And in conclusion, I very much to want to pay tribute to the outgoing Administrator of Tristan, Sean Burns (and his wife, Marina) and to the Desk Officer at the Foreign Office, Ian Cramman (who we share with Pitcairn). He too will move to another posting this year but not before he gets the chance to visit Tristan and meet the people with whose lives he has been so closely bound up for three years. To all of them, to St. Helena's UK Representative Kedell Worboys, who is constantly supportive; to the Governor, Mark Capes without whose support this would not be possible; to our friends in the RSPB and conservation worldwide; to Richard Grundy and Michael Swales and the membership of this organisation; to my wife Julie whose patience with my Tristan duties makes them possible – your support is invaluable beyond words: a very big Thank You. Thank you.

Kobus Potgieter takes over as Acting Administrator

Administrator Sean Burns and his wife Marina left Tristan aboard the cruise ship Silver Explorer on 17th March 2013 for a period of leave and to attend business meetings in the UK during April and May.

Photo from Cynthia Green taken in the Council Chamber on 15th March 2013 shows Chief Executive Officer Kobus Potgieter
after being sworn in as Acting Administrator
with Administrator Sean Burns

New Administrator to be appointed soon

Sean Burns will finish his three-year contract later in the year and a new Administrator should travel out aboard
SA Agulhas II in September for a 3/4 week hand-over period.
We expect news of an appointment from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office soon.

MBE Awarded to MV Edinburgh Captain Clarence October
Announcement made on Friday 18th January 2013 as MV Edinburgh arrives from Cape Town
by Tristan Administrator Sean Burns

Captain Clarence October (left) with Thembinkosi (Enos) Hlongwane.

MV Edinburgh off MS Oliva
on 16th March 2011

Captain Clarence October
on the bridge of MV Edinburgh

Public Notice published on Friday 18th January

We are pleased to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has awarded an honorary MBE to Captain Clarence October, Captain of the MV Edinburgh for his services to the community of Tristan da Cunha.

Clarence is the master of the fishing vessel MV Edinburgh. He was previously the first mate and has been coming to Tristan since 1997. MV Edinburgh is the main supply line to the island and brings passengers and cargo to Tristan six times a year. The vessel also fishes for Tristan’s famous lobster at the islands of Gough, Inaccessible and Nightingale. She has a crew of 42.

It was MV Edinburgh that first learned that the MV Oliva had run aground at Nightingale in the early hours of 16 March 2011. Clarence and his crew were first on the scene and provided valuable assistance to the Captain to ensure the safety of his crew. The Oliva quickly broke up and sank. Nobody was injured.

Over the following weeks an environmental disaster unfolded as 1600 tonnes of fuel and 65000 tonnes of soya beans polluted the waters threatening wildlife around Inaccessible (a World Heritage site) and Nightingale. MV Edinburgh quickly transformed from a working fishing boat to a platform for volunteers to rescue the 3500 penguins and transport them to Tristan for rehabilitation. The hours were long, the circumstances challenging but Clarence showed excellent judgement and sound leadership throughout. The island would not have been able to respond to this disaster without the help of Clarence and his crew.

Clarence is deeply respected by the Tristan community and has built up a close relationship with many islanders over the years. We are all delighted that his contribution has been recognised by Her Majesty.

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