June 2, 2006

Montserrat gets new coalition government

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuters) - A new coalition
government took office in Montserrat on Friday, two days after
the volcano-scarred British Caribbean territory held a general
election that failed to produce a clear winner.

The coalition was formed of the previous ruling party, the
New People's Liberation Movement (NPLM), the Montserrat
Democratic Party (MDP) and an independent candidate and sworn
in by the island's governor, Deborah Barnes Jones, the
government said in a statement.

A lush, pear-shaped island in the eastern Caribbean,
Montserrat has lost two-thirds of its population since its
Soufriere Hills volcano began erupting in July 1995. It
eventually destroyed the airport and buried its capital in mud,
and a major event in 1997 killed 19 people.

Much of the 39 square mile island was left uninhabitable,
but a new airport has opened and a new capital is being

Lowell Lewis, a medical doctor, was named chief minister
and minister of finance in the new government. The former chief
minister, John Osborne, was named minister of education, and of
health and community services.

Election results showed that 76 percent of the island's
3,230 registered voters cast ballots on Wednesday. The
opposition Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) won four
of the nine seats in the legislative council but could not
secure a majority.

The volcano erupted again just under two weeks ago, sending
an ash plume 60,000 feet into the air and forcing regional
airlines to cancel flights. Heavy ash fell on the island.