Bertrand Osborne, the Chief Minister of Montserrat, has resigned after losing the confidence of his ministers and his people.
Mr Osborne has come under severe criticism from politicians and demonstrators alike for being too pro-British, and for failing to negotiate firmly enough with the Government over an aid package.
Clare Short, British Secretary for International Development, has announced details of a £10m aid package to help people fleeing volcanic eruptions on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, but local people see the offer as a sick joke.
A new constitution for Montserrat came into force on 27 September 2011. This was the culmination of a long process of consultation and negotiation which started in 2001. The new Constitution gives more power to the GoM in the field of international relations and strengthens and expands the fundamental rights and freedoms of those living in Montserrat, reflecting the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Until recently, Britain had done little to help. The previous government waited until April 1996 to allow Montserratians, who as residents of dependent territories do not have full British citizenship, to come to Britain to work. Even then, it refused to pay their way, ensuring that only 1,500 took up the offer. Both the previous and current governments have boosted aid to the island, to £41m ($65m) this year—too little to compensate the majority of islanders who have lost their jobs and possessions.
The agriculture sector continued to be affected by the lack of suitable land for farming and the destruction of crops. Prospects for the economy depend largely on developments in relation to the volcano and on public sector construction activity. The UK has launched a three-year $122.8 million aid program to help reconstruct the economy. Half of the island is expected to remain uninhabitable for another decade.
A major eruption occurred on 10 February 2010 following a collapse of a dome. Heightened volcanic activity between October 2009 and February 2010 resulted in temporary evacuation of some unsafe areas. The volcano is currently in a state of 'pause' but there could be little or no warning of a resumption in activity.
After a quiet weekend, Montserrat's volcano exploded again Monday morning, emitting a massive cloud of ash 10,000 feet high. It was just the latest in nearly a week of eruptions from the Soufriere Hills volcano, and a minor one at that.
Eruptions from the volcano have left a layer of ash about an inch thick on nearly everything on the tiny Caribbean island. Hot ash and debris blow out of the mouth of the volcano every 10 or 12 hours.
Despite the mess, there are no plans for total evacuation of the island anytime soon, a government official said Monday.
The tiny island has suffered grievously. Since the volcano roared back to life in 1995, Montserrat has lost its capital and nearly all its housing. The population, 4,500, is half what it was.
The people of Montserrat are stoically building a new life in its northern half, but the area at risk of being vaporised by new flows of lava and gas, reaching temperatures as hot as 500C, is growing.
Tourism was once the lifeblood of the economy. However the destruction of the capital and the closure of the island's airport halted much economic activity. Montserrat has relied heavily upon British and EU aid to rebuild; a new airport was inaugurated in 2005.
Named by the voyager Christopher Columbus in 1493, the island became an English colony in 1632. Most Montserratians are of African descent.
But of course, the phenomenon that really put Montserrat on the map was the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano. Long dormant, it began to stir in the early Nineties and erupted in 1995. There have been regular ash falls and pyroclastic flows ever since, burning then burying Plymouth, the capital city, as well as the island's only golf course, its beach resorts, its docking harbour and its old airport under many feet of ash, mud and stone.
Nearly half of Montserrat's population has emigrated since that first eruption; of those who remain, many thousands had to abandon their homes and relocate farther north.
Called the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,’’ Montserrat is known for its scenic and rugged coastline, as well as for its Irish heritage. St. Patrick’s Day, a national holiday, is a weeklong celebration culminating in a parade to the Heritage Day Fair, where people sell local specialties (including goat water, the national dish) and enjoy live entertainment.