Colonies Rebelling over British Rules

Article excerpt

Britain's new effort to modernize a holdover from the days of empire -- laws that its colonies have kept unchanged for more than 100 years -- is firing up a rebellion among some of the queen's not-so-loyal subjects.

In a formal proposal in March, London said its 13 remaining colonies must scrap the death penalty, drop laws against homosexuality and end secretive banking rules if they want the prestige and security of remaining British.

"The churches will have an uproar," Chief Minister Ralph O'Neal of the British Virgin Islands says of the demand that the colonies scrap laws making homosexual sex a crime.

And rather than dropping the death penalty, which hasn't been used in years because of Britain's resistance, he wants to extend it to include drug traffickers.

"Those are the people who have no regard for life," he argues.

London's demands smack of "a form of imperialism," O'Neal says.

The strongest reaction has been in Bermuda, where some people suggested the island might be better off going it alone.

"We need a referendum to decide whether or not the country wants to be tied to the United Kingdom," former Premier Pamela Gordon says. "If not, then the only choice would be independence."

It's the first time in years such a notion has been given serious thought in Bermuda -- the oldest colony since it was settled in 1609 by Britons headed for Virginia and thrown off course by a storm.

But the most populated colony, with 60,000 people, has grown wealthier per capita than Britain by encouraging "offshore banking," locally based banks that offer foreigners secretive refuges for their money. …