from The Essential Paradise, series sourcebook

Doc. 2.02. A self-governing possession Edit

Overview Edit

As a dependency of the British Crown, the British Paradise Islands are administered under the auspices of the Colonial Department. However, unlike the colonies during the heyday of the British Empire, the territory is essentially self-governing and makes and passes legislation for its own welfare with only limited intervention by the home government.

The territorial government consists of the Governor-General, appointed ministers of the Territorial Cabinet, and members of Territorial Parliament in which there are two houses. The upper house, or House of Peers, is made up of hereditary nobility representing the geographical subdivisions of the territory. The lower house, or House of Delegates, is comprised of elected representatives from 38 electoral districts of the territory. Each of these houses elects a Speaker from among their ranks and each Speaker represents his house in regular meetings with the Governor-General.

The Governor-General Edit

Taking office in 1950, Sir Harvey Headley was effectively a viceroy in the old vein, appointed by George VI to maintain the British military's claim to the territory and with broad authority to oversee civil development and modernisation. Since that time the position in the Paradise political strata has been diluted into more of a conventional governor-general, appointed at the pleasure of the sovereign to supervise legislative process through a capable territorial parliament and to convey royal policy as directed by the sovereign and Privy Council. The current Governor-General stays at Florida House, the official residence in New London, Avon Township.

The Cabinet Edit

The Territorial Cabinet is comprised of nominees by the Governor-General and confirmed by, in turn, the HD and the HP. The Cabinet are appointed to Territorial Ministries, where they administer policies for the public good, such as in education, utilities, immigration and agriculture. As each ministry is unique, so the terms, conditions stipends and relationships with the members of the two Houses vary greatly amongst the ministers of the Cabinet.

Office suites are provided for each ministry and its dependent departments, most of which are located in the Paradise Almshouse office building in Avon, although each minister must maintain his own home within the territory.

Territorial Parliament Edit

The Peers Edit

The House of Peers (informally called ‘The Nine Old Men’ though, as of 1994, two are women) traditionally preside over foreign affairs and relations with the home country, although their primary responsibility is in counselling the House of Delegates with regard to royal prerogative. The Peers do not vote in legislative proceedings; but when their opinion is formally requested they are required to reach a consensus and to provide their response to the House of Delegates in general session.

(In practice the Peers often meet individually with Delegates from the electoral districts and thus incline Territorial Parliament indirectly.)

The Peers elect a Noble Speaker from among their number who shall attend sessions of Territorial Parliament and act as counsel with the consensus of the Peers. (In practice the Peers float this responsibility among themselves as a rotating session-by-session assignment.) Each Peer holds the position for life, receives no salary and maintains his own residence and local office. They meet in a suite of offices in New London borough; their formal meeting chamber is a Neoclassical elliptical room known as The Ellipse.

The Delegates Edit

The stated aim of the House of Delegates is ‘To establish and uphold territorial policy in the best interests of all taxpaying registered voters and their dependents.’ Each delegate’s term is for two years, during each of which are held three sessions of Territorial Parliament, the first convening at the start of the electoral year (September through August). They meet at Cook House, a diamond-shaped office building in New London borough.

Any registered voter in good standing, having attained the age of twenty-one, may run for Delegation office. There are no formal political parties permitted in the territory and so all nominees must be named to the ballot by popular petition. (In practice some candidates may run unopposed.) The position pays a modest salary as for a civil servant and is held for two fiscal years; elections are held in early May for the session commencing the following September. Delegate members’ salaries are based on 36 weeks of service and 4 weeks’ holidays.

Seats in the House of Delegates are awarded to electoral districts based on popular vote; as of 1990 the representation is calculated to be between 1:700 and 1:1399. Candidates swear an oath of allegiance to the islands’ population as a whole.

(In practice the smaller hamlets and boroughs generally enjoy united slates, as the entire district votes on each seat; whilst the larger, diverse populations of townships and cities often have factional representation.) The Delegation Members must at the opening of each fiscal year elect a House Speaker from their ranks, who then must resign his Delegation post, excusing himself from all but tie-breaking votes, and appoint a successor to represent his electorate. (In practice this often places the Speaker’s constituency in good favour with Territorial Parliament.)

The House Speaker has no certain autonomy over the Delegates who may always vote independently. The House Speaker’s primary role is to preside over sessions, mediate disputes, ensure due process and meet with the Governor-General much as a Prime Minister confers with the sovereign. The Speaker receives no increase in Delegation salary but is provided with the use of the official residence in New London borough.

The process Edit

All Territorial Parliament measures which have pertinent bearing on relations with the home country must be submitted to the Governor-General for approval and are thus either signed into law or considered defeated. The Governor-General can also interrupt, intercede, cancel or override sessions of Territorial Parliament in the name of the sovereign in the event of extreme emergency such as a natural disaster or some military or terrorist action.

(In practice this prerogative of the Governor-General has never been invoked.)

The first annual session of Territorial Parliament begins with the election of the Speakers and deliberation on the subsequent year’s budget, lasting from early September till the middle of December. The budget report is then published to all registered resident voters by early February. The second session, from mid-January till the Festival season or mid-April, typically resolves issues of territorial policy and home-government relations. The third session is held from April through July and frequently deals with issues of a ceremonial, cultural or purely local nature. Legislative sessions are typically held from 9.30 till 12.00 each day and, when needed, from 13.00 till 15.30, Monday through Thursday, beyond which times which individual delegates are expected to keep office hours for Delegation business or meeting with the public.

The electorate Edit

Suffrage is the right and responsibility of all Paradisian belongers and naturalised residents of adult status who have been legally resident in the territory for the preceding twelve months. A full vote is attributed to all voters over the age of eighteen; a two-thirds vote is attributed to those between fifteen and eighteen who have willingly registered to vote and who have completed a citizenship examination (usually through their schools).

The earldom Edit

The territorial earldom was established in 1993. The earl serves as the islands’ official representative to the Commonwealth peerage and also as envoy to the House of Lords. When this hereditary position was bestowed upon Sir Jonathan Cavaliere, a resident of Eden Island, it was also made a permanent third seat for that island in the House of Peers. Sir Jonathan, Lord Paradise, resides at his own private estate on Treasurers’ Cay.

The baronetcies Edit

Regional baronetcies were organised in the 1950s, each providing for a central figure to unite and represent mostly-rural areas that tend to be large in land area but sparsely populated and so the specific interests of farmers and estate holders are often underrepresented in Territorial Parliament. The baronet’s role is to serve as a kind of junior governor-general for his region, an emissary who interprets and influences policy between Territorial Parliament and his constituency. The position is a title of bestowal by the sovereign and carries no salary or other remuneration nor any special voting influence in either territorial house.

(In practice, the regional baronetcy being a life position, a region may have a baronet with whom the landowners and other residents do not agree and cannot be rid of but, as the baronet may not veto his constituents, landowners and taxpayers may determine many issues independent of the baronet’s will.)

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Doc. 2.02; b.1995.0824. ©Jonnie Comet Productions Ltd. All rights reserved. Edit
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