Politics of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

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politics and government of
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

The politics of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha operate under the jurisdiction of the government of the United Kingdom.[1] The three parts of the territory—Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha—effectively form an asymmetric federacy and collectively constitute one of United Kingdom's fourteen overseas territories.

Structure of government

Because of the islands' status as a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, they are currently ruled over by Elizabeth II and her government in the United Kingdom, with the Governor of Saint Helena serving as the monarch's representative to the territory as well as the territory's executive. This position is currently held by Mark Andrew Capes, who took office in 2011. Island Administrators serve as the representatives of the Governor on Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, which are distant from Saint Helena island, and are permanently resident on those islands. These roles are presently filled by Colin Wells and Sean Burns respectively. The territory's Governor and Attorney General reside at Jamestown on Saint Helena.

Formation and Constitution, 1922–present

In September 1922, Ascension Island became a dependency of Saint Helena, followed by Tristan da Cunha in January 1938. The three islands were held under this flagship as "Saint Helena and Dependencies" until they were collectively changed to equal status in 2009, becoming Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

A new constitution, the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009,[2] replaced a previous constitution drafted in 1988, providing a Bill of Rights for citizens and details outlining balanced provisions for the islands.[3] It confirmed the allegiance of the three islands to the United Kingdom, its Government and the Crown and that the islands now formed a single, territorial grouping. The constitution also placed restrictions on the governor's power, forming more of a union between the Governor and the two Resident Administrators.[4]


Each of the islands offers radio stations and local newspapers. While there are no locally operated TV stations anywhere in the territory, overseas programming is broadcast via satellite in St. Helena. Cable and Wireless Communications, based in the UK, operates its telecommunications infrastructure.[5]

The BBC Atlantic Relay Station transmits radio programs to Ascension Island but television service is limited to the British Forces Broadcasting Service. A radio station operated by the US Air Force, "Volcano Radio", also carries locally produced programming.[6]

On Tristan da Cunha, Atlantic FM carries local broadcasts. BFBS TV is also available. The island's first internet cafe opened in 2006.[7]


The territory has four courts of its own:

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in London, is the final court of appeal for the territory however, as is the case with all other British overseas territories.

Legal profession

Although there are no private practice lawyers on St Helena, there is a Public Solicitor that is supported by legally-trained lay advocates. They provide legal advice and assistance to residents, as well as offer court representation whenever appropriate. Depending on the severity of the case, a lawyer from the United Kingdom might be sent for to represent a defendant.[8]


  1. ^ "Profile on Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha" CIA - The World Factbook
  2. ^ http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/1751/contents/made
  3. ^ "Enhanced status and a Bill of Rights in Tristan's new constitution" Tristan da Cunha website
  4. ^ "New Constitution for Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha" The Tristan Times, 2009
  5. ^ "St Helena" Cable and Wireless Communications
  6. ^ United Kingdom - Ascension Island" Commonwealth Secretariat
  7. ^ "Communications on Tristan" Saint FM
  8. ^ Steiner, Sue; Liston, Robin; Grundy, Richard (2007). St Helena: Ascension, Tristan Da Cunha. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 9781841621982. 
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