- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

LONDON Britain is facing protests over its plan to tax residents of a tiny island colony in the southern Atlantic even as it fights off anger over its decision to cede part of its control of Gibraltar to Spain.
Ascension Island is a 35-square-mile volcanic outcrop that was once home to a military garrison charged with ensuring Napoleon did not escape his exile on St. Helena. Today its citizens have taken up the battle cry of the American Revolutionary War: "No taxation without representation."
What has the estimated 850 islanders all of them British citizens up in arms is London's ruling that they have to pay income, property, alcohol and tobacco taxes to the British government even though they do not have the right to vote.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair already is engaged in a war of words with the residents of Gibraltar, who are enraged over attempts by his officials to negotiate an agreement under which control of "the Rock" would be shared with Spain.
The 30,000 Gibraltarians oppose the joint-control plan and are almost certain to vote it down in a referendum on the issue that London has promised. Mr. Blair's government is already showing signs of backing off the plan to the fury of Madrid.
On Ascension, the residents have taken their battle to London. In a petition sent to the British Foreign Office, 300 islanders said: "We, the undersigned, deplore the introduction of taxation without representation on Ascension and the failure of Ascension Island government and the British government to adequately consult, and take into account the views of, the people of Ascension."
They demanded that London and the local colonial government "introduce democratic representation without delay."
"We love Britain, and we love being British," Lawson Henry, personnel director of Ascension Island Services, told reporters, "but this colonial thing is shooting it down."
"Power should be in the hands of the people," he added, "but the officials are terrified of losing control. If we don't like who is governing us, we want to be able to kick them out."
Ascension is technically administered by the colony of St. Helena, 800 miles from the island. David Hollamby, the British-appointed governor of the colony, says the islanders are not ready for democracy.
"There's not a lot of experience of governance among the most vociferous," Mr. Hollamby said in an interview. "As they gain experience," he added, "they can take on more responsibilities."
In a sign that the islanders are getting a sympathetic ear in London, a junior minister in the Foreign Office, Valerie Ann Amos, said the government wants "to see democratic representation in place quickly."
But the Blair administration is yet to act on the recommendations of a 2-year-old Foreign Office study that warned of discontent on the island. Its report said that unless the government stepped in to help, Ascension faces a future in which its "population would be reducedfl the last semblance of community life would disappear and the island would become a single-person's work camp."
With no democratic rights on the island, it said, "The most likely outcome would be a rapid withering on the vine of existing employment opportunities in the civilian sector."

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