31 May, 2007

Church and State

Rev Weekes’ Invocation. On Wednesday I was at the Webster Park for the annual Anguilla Day parade. There, I heard the most extraordinary, hard-hitting, to-the-point, on the ball, relevant, pungent, trenchant, invocation I have ever heard delivered by a Minister of Religion in a public forum. With Rev Weekes’ permission I reproduce it below as a kind of guest editorial for those of you who were not fortunate to be present and see the guilty squirm with embarrassment. Read it and imagine the scene:

INVOCATION, ANGUILLA DAY CELEBRATION, at the Ronald Webster Park on 30 May 2007 – Rev Cecil Weekes

Our Exalted Sovereign Lord and Triune God, all Honour, Glory, Dominion and Power be unto your matchless Name forever. Worthy are you of our praise and thanksgiving, which we give unto you on this 40th Anniversary of our Separation from the State of St. Christopher-Nevis.

Help us never to forget, Oh Lord God, that you are the One who stirred up and sustained the irrepressible spirit of discontent that filled the minds, and motivated the wills of those Anguillians, who at great personal risk rose up in the midst of their countrymen, and set about to free this island from the abuses of power, and the indignities being heaped upon us in those days, by those who immediate political responsibility for the affairs of this island.

On this day of treasured memories of the struggles and sacrifices of the Hon. James Ronald Webster, father of the Nation, and the other National Heroes and Heroines, and the Anguilla population of 40 years ago. Lest we forget, and be deceived, as Esau was, into giving up his birthright for a ‘bowl of soup’, lest we forget, and be likewise deceived into giving up the hard-won independence, freedom, and the attendant privileges, to those intent on dispossessing us of those very things Anguillians suffered and struggled and passed on to us: our land, our culture and privileges, for “bowls of soup”, therefore, Sovereign Lord, we bring before your throne those elected to govern and legislate the affairs of this island, both Government and Opposition, their advisers, the Nominated and Ex officio members of the legislature, the Hon Speaker of the House, and all Civil Servants:-

Give to each of them integrity and strength of character, dedication to the true interests of this island, and a discerning spirit to recognize the subtleties of the “Jacobs” who persistently approach them for favours. Give to them the moral strength to resolutely stand against all attempts at corruption and bribery.

O Lord God, in the Name of Jesus, we bring before you this island of Anguilla under siege by criminal elements. We humbly ask that you increase the mental and intellectual capabilities and skills of the law enforcement agents to effectively purge the Island of all who are creating the mayhem that threatens our social and economic stability and progress.

Inspire with creative vision, and deepen the dedication of all those who work with children and youth within and without the public and private education system. Inspire and deepen the dedication of those who work in the social development programmes of Government, and those involved in the many voluntary organizations on Anguilla, both religious and secular.

Prosper the work of the Agricultural Department and all those young people engaged in farming and food production on Anguilla. Prosper those engaged in business and industry, which have resulted in a better quality of life for the people of this island.

Bless and supply the needs of the care-givers in our public and private health-care facilities, and those involved in the foster care of children throughout Anguilla.

Sovereign Lord, our God, Bless us all, we pray, in Jesus’ Name,


No Minister of Religion in my experience in Anguilla has ever come so close to the bone in touching on some of the critical integrity-related issues in Anguilla. Thank you, Rev Weekes.

30 May, 2007

Environmental Priorities

Environmental Priorities. The greatest threat to Anguilla’s environment remains the unhampered discretion given by the Land Development (Control) Act to ExCo to overrule any decision of the Planning Department. That’s my opinion. It is a power that has been frequently used in the past, to Anguilla’s detriment. Developers have always found government most willing to brush aside the warnings and restrictions recommended by the Planning Department. This is because the politicians claim to see the “wider economic issues”. Our environment, they hope, will last at least until the next elections. That is all they care about. That is their definition of wider issues of every kind.

It is not as if no work has been done on detailing and prioritizing the most pressing environmental issues in Anguilla. The Anguilla National Trust has been producing some excellent work in this area. See for example, the report on the National Survey to Determine the Environmental Priorities of Anguilla: Results and Recommendations by Farah Mukhida found on the ANT website.

Besides the ANT, the agency most in the foreground in protecting us from hazardous waste is the Environmental Health Unit. The EHU is hampered by the almost total lack of laws and regulations to enforce environmental standards. That sad situation will only change if government can be persuaded to usher the planned new comprehensive Environment Protection Act through the Legislative Assembly, unaltered. My understanding is that it will give the Director of Environment a power to require cleanups. If this new law were to be enacted unaltered, it would give Anguilla the most comprehensive and effective environmental protection legislation anywhere in the West Indies. Of course, it would all be meaningless if government inserts a power for ExCo to overrule the Director.

I would be interested to hear what, in your view, are some of the most pressing environmental priorities in Anguilla at this time.

29 May, 2007

Environmental Hazards

World Environment Day. Clarence Pilgrim of the Caribbean Conservation Association reminds us that World Environment Day is commemorated each year on 5 June. This day is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The 2007 slogan is Melting Ice - a Hot Topic? This theme focuses on the effects that climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities, and the ensuing consequences around the world.

In time, we in Anguilla will notice the consequences of melting ice. Presently, there are a few more immediate concerns. They are going to be the topics of a few posts over the next few days. I don’t pretend to have any answers, only some questions. They include, in no particular order:

Is the Corito Dump safe, or is it an environmental time bomb?

Do you know what happens to the contents of your septic tank when you pay to have it emptied?

Do you have any idea where or how the public hospital disposes of hospital waste?

Do you care whether Anglec, mechanics’ garages, or gas stations dump waste used oil?

Do you know how to make a complaint to the Environmental Health Unit?

Does the EHU have the necessary laws and regulations to be able to enforce measures internationally accepted as necessary to protect the public health?

Is the major environmental hazard in Anguilla at this time the power of ExCo to override decisions of the Planning Department?

Can the Environmental Health Unit function effectively when the major polluters are the biggest contributors of “political campaign funds” to the politicians?

Why don’t we enforce the Litter Law?

If you have any ideas or complaints about any or all of these areas, please send me an email or telephone me. I am doing the research at present, but find some governmental agencies very reluctant to share information. I know it is probably paranoid of me, but it is almost as if everyone has something to hide.

28 May, 2007

Anguilla Health Authority

Anguilla Health Authority. The membership of the various Boards and Committees in Anguilla affected by a public trust is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. I have been writing on this blog a series of short exposees, so to say, of basic information on the membership of these Boards and their salaries. It seems to me important to make a statement from time to time of the more important issues that seem to affect these Boards and their programmes. We continue our series with a note on the Anguilla Health Authority. In its impact and importance, the AHA must be one of the most significant to us. Without health, it has been said, we have nothing.

The AHA was set up as a result of a 2002 study, the Health Systems Profile of Anguilla. Its function and purpose was described this way, “It is intended for the authority to be a decentralized model to deliver health care to the population. With the introduction of the Anguilla Health Authority, it is envisaged that there will be the most productive use of resources and a more timely response to the overall requirements of Health Services.”

A number of press releases and well-publicised public events preceded the introduction of the AHA. It would appear that great care was taken to keep the public informed of government’s intentions and plans.

The Authority is a statutory corporation. It was established by the Health Authority Act.

The organizational relationship between the Ministry of Health and the AHA has been described in this way:

The Ministry of Health will:
* focus on national policy formulation, regulations, setting standards, monitoring and enforcement;
* ensure that a national strategic plan is developed;
* ensure the enforcement of the Environmental Health Act;
* ‘purchase’ services from the Health Authority.

The Anguilla Health Authority:
* is a corporate body which will be responsible for all operational matters that promote and protect the health of persons;
* will also:
* provide integrated health services;
* operate, maintain, equip and extend facilities;
* ensure reasonable access to quality health services is provided to the public;
* routinely assess the needs for ‘personal care’ of persons

The Health Authority does not have its own website, and the government’s official site has very little on it. That makes it difficult to discover anything about the budget or governance of the Authority online. That said, someone, somewhere, is obviously impressed with its work. The government website contains a recent press release about the AHA receiving some sort of unexplained accreditation. Strangely, there is no indication of what institution did the accreditation, or what the award means in relation to our health services in Anguilla. But, then we do not expect much by way of real substantive information from a government press release, do we?

Inquiries made directly to Mr Dexter James reveals that its Board of Directors was appointed by the Minister of Health on January 1st, 2004 and in 2005. Three of the seven members' terms have come to an end, and the Minister has not filled the resulting vacancies. The current members are:

Dr. Phyllis Fleming Banks Chairperson
Mr. Fabian Proctor Deputy Chairperson
Ms Vernette Richardson Member
Mr. John Gumbs Member

They are paid a monthly allowance as follows:
Chairperson: EC $1,000.00
Deputy Chairperson: EC $850.00
Members: EC $650.00

These rates have been approved by the Governor in Council in 2004. It seems very little compensation for such an important activity as running our national health system. I wonder why have the three retired Board members have not been replaced? Surely, it would help to spread the load to have a full Board in place.

In addition, the Board has 4-standing Committees for which the Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons/members are each paid a monthly allowance of EC $400.00 and EC $300 respectively.

The Authority’s Budget for fiscal year 2007 in round figures is $20,700,000.00. That is an increase of 10% from the un-revised 2006 Budget of $18,800,000

In the event that any dispute should arise among staff, the authority has put in place a Dispute Resolution and Grievance Committee. Its members are Colville Petty OBE Chairman; Susan Harrigan, Carlton Pickering, Pastor Philip Gumbs, and Don Mitchell CBE QC members, and Denise Romney as secretary. The Chairperson and other members are paid a monthly allowance of EC$150.00 and EC100.00 respectively. In the event the Committee has to address substantive matters, the monthly allowance payable to the Chairperson and other members will be EC$300.00.

We all hope the AHA will grow in strength and that the undoubted improvement in health services since its inception will continue. Keep it up, Phyllis and company!

27 May, 2007

Banking Policy

Anguilla Banks’ Dirty Little Secret. A reader has sent me this heartfelt complaint. I am sure that at one time or the other we have all wondered about the same thing.

I had cause to question interest received from NBA recently. Let’s say that the hypothetical balances in a certain quarter were:

Day# ---- Description ---- Amount ------------ New Balance

0 ---- Brought forward -------- 0 ---------------- 1,000

1 ---- Deposit ------------ 99,000 ------------- 100,000

8 ---- Deposit ----------- 200,000 ------------- 300,000

My expectation would be that NBA (in this case) would calculate 1,000 times 91 days at the appropriate interest rate (say 3%) so $1,000 x (91/365) x 3%, then a further 99,000 x ([91 minus 1]/365) x 3%, then a further 200,000 x ([91-8]/365) x 3% - or something like that. In other words, if the bank has the use of your money for a period of time, it pays you interest based on the time it has the $ as well as the amount.

NBA replied that they calculate the interest based on the lowest balance in the quarter. In the above example, the lowest balance in the quarter would be $1,000, so you would get $1,000 x (91/365) x 3% - period. Does that sound right? Or is it a case of people being robbed by the pen rather than the gun?

And now, a song sung by, inter alia, Pete Seeger:

The Banks are Made of Marble

A Song by Les Rice

I've traveled round this country
From shore to shining shore
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw.

I saw the weary farmer
Plowing sod and loam
l heard the auction hammer
A knocking down his home.

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for.

l saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore
l heard the bosses saying
Got no work for you no more.

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seaman sweated for.

I saw the weary miner
Scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children cryin
Got no coal to heat the shack.

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miner sweated for.

I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
l prayed we'd get together
And together make a stand.

Final Chorus
Then we'd own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we'd share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for.

What about you? Do you think the banks are taking advantage by calculating interest based on the lowest balance, even if only for one day? I believe that the banks pay interest by the month. They would pay on the lowest balance in the account for the month, not the quarter, as suggested above. If I deposited $500,000 on 2 April and paid it out on 30 May the bank would have had my money for two months of April and May, less two days. But, they would not pay me any interest, as neither was a full calendar month? Perhaps, someone at one of the banks can tell us the rationale. I had enquired of NBA several days ago. Someone had promised a response. None arrived up to the date of publication.

26 May, 2007

Good Governance

The Official British View.

I am told that all Overseas Territories Governors were given the following white paper at the OT Consultative Conference in London in November, and instructed to implement it. Results have apparently been disappointing. We are asking our Governor what he's doing about it. Good governance is such a vital quality of government that it seems to me it would be worth publishing the paper in its entirety, as a sort of “guest editorial”.


1. Although it is a phrase that has gained currency in recent years, the concept of governance has been with us as long as there have been systems within societies which determine the process of decision making; and the process by which decisions are, or are not, implemented. Good governance is simply doing this well.

2. Good governance is part of the partnership between the UK and its Overseas Territories set out in the 1999 White Paper, which highlighted the importance of providing governance of a high quality. It is essential that the UK and its Territories subscribe to high standards of human rights, openness and good government. Good governance builds trust amongst citizens of a society in its institutions and assists social cohesion. It encourages domestic investment; promotes higher rates of growth; and enables a society’s development to be shared equitably amongst its citizens. And it also promotes greater confidence amongst potential external investors. Moreover, good governance is a key element in ensuring sustainable development, another important area highlighted by the White Paper. For without good governance, the potential for sustainable development is severely undermined.

3. This paper seeks to set out what is good governance. The best way to do this is to identify what are some of the most important elements. Perhaps the key element of good governance is the rule of law. Good governance requires legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. This means the full protection of human rights, and particularly those of people belonging to minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary immune from any external influence; and a police force which treats all individuals equally, without fear or favour. It also requires a public service free from political interference in its appointments, discipline and dismissals, which implements policy in accordance with the rule of law and internationally accepted standards. This provides the certainty, and sense of security, which are both essential for economic prosperity and social stability.

4. This leads on to the second element, which is transparency. This means that decisions by both the executive and legislature should be taken (and be seen to be taken) and implemented in line with defined rules and regulations. It also means that (subject to limited exceptions) information must be freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their implementation. It also requires the provision of an appropriate level of information, in an easily understandable form, by government and the public service to the public, and media.

5. The third key area is accountability. Not only Government institutions and the legislature, but also the private sector and civil society organisations, must be accountable to the public and, where appropriate, to their institutional stakeholders. Each organisation or institution should also be accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. This means that institutions should be subject to checks and balances, including scrutiny by the legislatures, committees of legislators, and other appropriate bodies. This also involves a well-developed civil society, with strong independent media free from political interference; and representative NGOs to defend the rights of individual interest groups. Institutions should in general be accessible, and open to the public and the media, so that confidence can be built up within society that these organs are functioning properly and in the general interest.

6. Crucially, these three issues are interlinked. For accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.

7. A further key element is the responsiveness of institutions. Good governance requires that institutional processes should serve all stakeholders within a reasonable time frame. And they should do so according to defined and acceptable standards. Another guiding factor is equity and inclusiveness. It is important that all those in a society feel that they have a stake in it, and that they do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society, or access to Government and services. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, to have the opportunity to maintain and/or improve their well being. But most importantly, it is about ensuring that there is equality of opportunity for all in society; and that services and benefits are made available on this basis, without either politicians or public servants giving preferential treatment because of family ties, friendship or political allegiance.

8. Another significant factor in good governance is effectiveness and efficiency. It is important that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society, while making the best use of resources at their disposal. This is particularly relevant in ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment. Political decisions need to be taken with the long-term interests of society in mind, to ensure sustainability. And it involves ensuring sound financial management. Good governance may mean taking on entrenched interests, and judging how strongly to lead from the front. And finally, good governance means participation, including an organised civil society; and ways to ensure that the views of the most vulnerable are taken into consideration in decision-making.

9. Good governance is important, therefore, because it is the basic foundation for a successful, prosperous, well-ordered and sustainable society. It is about ensuring that the resources of a society are used to the best and most durable effect; and to the benefit of the greatest number of the population. These are aims to which both the UK and the territories aspire. The FCO makes available finance from its OT Programme Fund to help promote activities to this end.

10. Achieving good governance poses a series of challenges for all involved. What has been described is a counsel of perfection. No country, including the UK, completely meets all the criteria. But it is something the UK and the Territories must strive to achieve. The White Paper makes clear the importance which the UK attaches to meeting its commitments, including the implementation of its international responsibilities; protecting itself against contingent liabilities; and ensuring good governance. Therefore, the UK Government will work with Territory Governments on these issues. Both the Overseas Territories and the UK Government recognise that Governors have a key role to play in this process. The UK is sure that, for the reasons outlined, Territory governments share the UK’s concern that these objectives and standards are achieved, and will work with the UK to achieve them.

25 May, 2007

Colonialism 5

Anguilla’s Future. Anguilla is a small West Indian territory of 36 square miles, and a population of just 12,000 souls. It is governed by a locally elected cabinet of ministers chosen from the majority party sitting in the House of Assembly. Cabinet meetings are chaired by an official of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who is titled “Governor” and who represents the head of the Executive, the Queen. Besides holding extraordinary powers to enact a Bill that has not been passed by the House of Assembly, the FCO holds ultimate power to legislate for Anguilla by way of an Order in Council. As such, Anguilla is a full colony of the United Kingdom.

According to the 1945 United Nations Charter and the 1960 Declaration on Decolonization, a full measure of self-government can be achieved by a Non-Self-Governing Territory, such as Anguilla is, through one of three procedures. These are (1) free association with another State; or (2) integration with the United Kingdom, or (3) independence. In my view, integration with Britain is out of the question. We in Anguilla have no ambition to be a County of the UK situated as we are some 4,000 miles away from Whitehall. Besides, we are neither Europeans nor Africans. We are a part of a new West Indian civilization that is in the process of coming into being. Nor do we in Anguilla have any ambition to have the power to declare war on another country, or to mount embassies in distant countries. Independence as a sovereign country is not in any of our minds. As one of the smallest micro-states, we would be even more at the margin than many of our bigger independent cousins already are. Nor have I detected any desire for Anguilla to become a state in free association with the United Kingdom or anyone else. Even if we did, the FCO has ruled such a development out of the question. I, for one, am prepared to take them at face value on this.

There is a fourth possibility not recognised by the UN Declaration on Independence. It is the one that I consider most likely and realistic. One day, Anguilla will take her place as an integral part of the independent and sovereign nation known as the West Indies. That is our destiny. It is the only realistic ambition that we in Anguilla can hold close to our breast. It is the most likely way that we will one day achieve full self-determination. The West Indies is a country that is coming into existence. It does not yet have a flag or a national anthem. One day soon, within the next 20 years, Anguilla will be a town in that country. My only regret is that I am not likely to be around to celebrate it.

In the meantime, our objective must be to obtain from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office representatives with whom we must negotiate in the coming weeks and months the maximum by way of constitutional modernization. This is necessary to prepare our people for the burdens of full self-determination. Let us hope that our leaders, and the representatives who will discuss our constitutional advancement with FCO officials later this year, will have both the aptitude and the fortitude to carry us forward towards this vision of the future.

24 May, 2007

Colonialism 4

Mutual Contempt. One of the results of Anguilla’s long history of internal self-government has been the complete absence from the Anguillian consciousness of any conception that the British are in any way superior to Anguillians. Unlike in more settled colonies of the past, there is no element in the society that instinctively believes in the superiority of the European over the Creole. It is exactly the opposite. We are so sure of our innate superiority in managing our own affairs that we consider that the FCO appointees should recognise what a privilege it is for them to be given an opportunity to live among us. We always express astonishment when, at the end of their contracts, they show a preference for going back to the UK rather than settling down for their retirement in the vastly superior atmosphere that Anguilla provides.

That is not to say that all is rosy in the relationship. There is a healthy sense of mutual distrust that guides the colonial discourse in Anguilla. The more junior FCO officials have a universal disregard for the unique and peculiar constructs of Anguillian society. Governor Robert Harris was the exemplar of this species just a few years ago. We all remember him, and how Hubert Hughes wore him down and brought him to his knees, eventually. The FCO for its part generally harbours no trust in Anguilla’s elected ministers or senior civil servants. There is a suggestion of an increasing willingness to interfere in local governance. There are the threats and pressures on our financial industry. There are restraints on our government's ability to borrow money. These all serve to highlight the disparity in the relationship between Anguilla and the FCO. Only a healthy mutual contempt keeps the balance even.

We do not know the names of or the agenda that the FCO visitors, who arrive in Anguilla in barely two months time to begin the discussion on constitutional reform, will bring with them. We do not know their emotional and cultural baggage. We can expect that it will not be in our favour. We do not know if they will be high-level officials, who are more likely to come with respect for our wishes and a genuine willingness to be our partners. Or, will they be arrogant low-level clerks, out to do a reconnaissance before the big boys get involved? If the first, we will get on quite well in an atmosphere closer to mutual respect. If the latter, the talks will inevitably be more difficult. Whichever it is to be, all of us in Anguilla must wish our negotiating team well in their preparations to argue for increased democracy and good governance in Anguilla by way of a more advanced Constitution to govern us in the years to come.

23 May, 2007

Colonialism 3

Strict Dictates. The argument usually raised by those commentators in demonstrating how out of touch the British are with our West Indian societies is their recent imposition on Anguilla of the legalization of homosexuality. So, what is homosexuality? Homosexuality is the natural inclination to be sexually aroused by a member of the same sex. It is a sexual preference. It is not an act as such. Nor is it a state of morality. It is a state of being, a state of nature. It is a minority state for sure. A significant proportion of all Anguillian men are homosexual, as is a significant proportion of Anguillian women. It is a state that is so natural that similar numbers of butterflies, dogs and cows share it. If you don’t believe me, research it for yourself.
Those who framed the topic of the British imposition of homosexuality on us in Anguilla were caught in an illogical trap of their own making. First, unlike in Britain, homosexuality has never been illegal in Anguilla. The UK created a specific crime of indecent acts between consenting adults of the same gender in private. That was the outlawing of homosexual acts. Anguilla never had this law. What we did have was the mid-nineteenth century offence of buggery. Buggery is not a specifically homosexual act. Nor is it necessarily the preferred act of affection between homosexuals. But, the British were determined to remove the offence of buggery from our statute books. The result was that some of us accused them of trying to force homosexuality on us. Nothing of the sort was happening.
The British government saw themselves at risk from Anguilla maintaining the offence of buggery. They were worried about their “contingent liability”. What does that mean? They were concerned that one day our police would pick up a rich male tourist and his boyfriend, and prosecute them. The possibility was that the rich homosexual would sue the local government for breach of his human right to be treated equally in his sexual orientation. Yes, whether or not we like it, that is a basic human right internationally recognised. The Anguilla high court would throw the human rights case out, as buggery was a valid offence on our books. The homosexual would bring his case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that Britain had an international obligation to force its overseas territories to modernize their laws to bring them into line with worldwide modern attitudes of fairness and unprejudiced behaviour. Britain would lose that case. It would have to pay out millions, all because Anguilla maintained an offence on the books that had been created in the time of Queen Victoria. The FCO boys asked our Chief Minister to bring up in our Houses of Assembly the issue of the need to modernize our laws on buggery. Our Chief Minister was horrified. He was too embarrassed to discuss the topic in his own homophobic society. It was our Chief Minister who begged the FCO to change the law by an Order in Council. He was not alone. All the other Chief Ministers made the same request. The British have repeatedly said that their preference is to have fundamental change in the law effected by a local Act. They are very reluctant to use an Order in Council, as it smacks of old-time colonialism. However, as we begged for it . . .
We cannot allow ourselves to get side tracked when it comes to our Constitution. We have to be ready with our arguments when the British team arrives in Anguilla in July. The 2006 Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission sets out the views and wishes of the majority of Anguillians who have expressed a view on the constitutional issues raised. Do we understand the issues? Are we ready to put forward our best team of negotiators to get the maximum improvement in our democratic institutions? Are we arming ourselves with the necessary arguments to convince them that we are ready for constitutional advance? Or, will we just tell them to go ahead and do what they want, as we have done before?

22 May, 2007

Colonialism 2

The British Challenge. Persons more learned than I have explained that the major quandary we in the remaining colonies find ourselves is the need to balance self-government with collaboration with the administering power, Britain. The persons who represent Britain in upcoming constitutional discussions are the officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In his article, Islands in Comparative Constitutional Perspective Ronald Watts commented, “The dual and seemingly contradictory pressures for both autonomous self-government on the one hand and for political partnership on the other are everywhere prevalent in the world today. But nowhere is the need to balance these two sets of perspectives more persuasive than in the situation of island entities.”

Roy Bodden in his The Cayman Islands in Transition adds that the major challenge facing us is the ability to balance our desired self-government with the UK’s version of political partnership. He views this balance as becoming more difficult to maintain since the administering power has been laying down strict dictates which preclude a full exploration of self-determination.

I believe that he is mistaken. The British have no interest in laying down strict dictates for the sake of laying down strict dictates. They have to protect their interests. We in Anguilla have our own interests. They do not relate to those of Britain. We have to gird up our loins and prepare to protect our interests.

Confrontation is inevitable. Are we getting ready to meet the FCO boys when they arrive in Anguilla in July for negotiations? As with most conflicts that are not fratricidal in nature, the outcome is usually to the benefit of all concerned. But, only if we are properly prepared!

21 May, 2007

Colonialism 1

The British are coming. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has announced that their team in the negotiations with Anguilla over constitutional reform will visit Anguilla in July. When they come, they will be prepared. They will have done their research. They will have analysed the Anguilla situation. They will have a perspective on who we are and where we are going. They will have a pretty good idea of what they think will be best for Anguilla. What are we doing to prepare ourselves to talk to them?

Anguilla is one of Britain’s last remaining colonies. Colonialism is new to Anguilla. In the period prior to Slave Emancipation in 1834, Anguilla was not officially treated as a British colony. Not that we were repudiated. We were simply ignored and left to rot by ourselves. With the coming of Emancipation, the British realized it was time to impose a form of administration on Anguilla. This was necessary if the Slave Registration and subsequent Abolition and Apprenticeship Acts were to be properly implemented. There was no administrative structure in Anguilla to implement the great enterprise. To achieve this, we were persuaded to give up our previous unlawful status and to accept administration from St Kitts. So, we might never have been a proper colony of Britain. We became a colony of a colony.

This unsatisfactory status lasted until 1967. In May of that year we threw off the yoke of St Kitts rule. We raised the rebel flag: the Union Jack. As St Kitts advanced into associated status with Britain, we opted for direct British rule. It was only in 1982 when St Kitts moved on to full independence that she agreed to give us up, and we were to finally able "achieve" full colonial status. The argument for such reactionary language is that sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward. Well, the British are coming to see how we are walking. Are we ready for them?

20 May, 2007


Environmental versus People Concerns: Guest Editorial. One of my readers has asked me to publish this note. It strikes a chord in me. But, I have some reservations. I am not sure about its premise.

Recently in Anguilla, and indeed further a field, we’ve noticed an upswing in the amount of emphasis being placed on matters pertaining to the sustainability of the physical environment. I cannot say, however, that I have seen a concomitant equivalent emphasis being placed on matters directly pertaining to people and people issues. While I am not anti environment, how about our government and other agencies placing greater emphasis on such matters as poverty alleviation and protection of the poor and other development strategies, thereby ensuring that people are looked after as well or better than the physical environment? I do not think that has been happening.

Well, it’s one point of view. What about you? Do you think we ought to be more concerned about where the trucks that carry the contents of Anguilla’s septic tanks empty their loads? Should we show greater interest in the question, where does Delta Petroleum dump its toxic oil waste? Or, how efficient is Cap Juluca’s human waste disposal? Do these questions deserve a lesser emphasis than alleviation of poverty or protection of the poor? What do you think? If the answer is yes, why do you think so?

19 May, 2007


Guest Editorial: What Is It about Our Uniqueness? The following question was asked by one of my correspondents. I thought it was worth a post.

I’ve heard it said many times that we are a unique people (and to some extent we are, but then so is everyone else) and at a recent meeting of the members of the House of Representatives at the Road Primary School a certain “eloquent’ young man kept using the expression when addressing the issue of the Ombudsman. He thought that even though it might be working elsewhere, he kept reminding you and others, we should remember we are a unique people. What exactly did he mean and exactly what do we mean when we use that expression? Where has that got us and where is it likely to get us in the future? I am curious to learn what people mean when they refer to us as “unique”.

It certainly cannot mean that we are not subject to the usual conditions of the human race! This includes a susceptibility to temptation. Greed, lust, envy, pride, covetousness, glutony, and sloth beset us on all sides. We lack the protective institutions that larger societies have. We are a small and fragile society, given our tiny size. We can learn from the usual precautions that other societies have found useful to take to protect themselves. Perhaps we should be researching them and implementing them, if we want to remain unique in a pleasant sense.

18 May, 2007

Administration Building

Guest Editorial. The following piece was recently received from a reader. It raises the interesting question, what has the most senior member of the opposition, Hubert Hughes, done to persuade our Chief Minister, Osborne Fleming, to agree to spend public money on renting Hubert’s building for government office space. Readers will know that the first thing Osborne did when he became Chief Minister in about the year 2000 was to move the Attorney-General’s Chambers from that building. It has laid closed up and unused ever since. The ostensible reason given at the time was to save public funds. Other offices rented out by government are in the old Caribbean Commercial Center and in the Social Security Building. There are probably others. Here is what he writes:

Time for Centralized Administration Building

I continue to be befuddled by the Government of Anguilla’s thinking and action as it relates to the continued rental of office space for government offices. What will it take to bring government to the realization that it cannot, must not, continue to give so much of the people’s money monthly to a select few landlords?

The practice is incomprehensible and is about to get worse with the impending transfer of several government offices into a building owned by opposition politician, Mr Hubert Hughes. It seems a case of one hand washing the other. It is a corrupt practice. Meanwhile, this building does NOT measure up to what is required of modern office space. It is very deficient.

It would be instructive to know just how much money government pays out monthly in office space rental. This must be an astronomical amount. Perhaps you, sir, can use your clout to find out.

The Government of Anguilla must as a matter of urgency move to erect a centralized Administration Building. This would allow for the monies presently being paid in rent to be used to service a loan. A centralized building would result in savings in utility costs, simplify important functions such as printing and IT management. It could serve to enhance punctuality and general human resource management. There are so many potential benefits that can be derived from this move that it is difficult to understand why this is not a priority project presently.

I understand that one of the government departments that will be moving soon to Hubert’s building is the Welfare Department, or Department of Social Development. That is where the Anguilla Legal Aid Clinic operates. Quarters are presently very cramped. Mrs Daphne Hodge kindly shares her office with the Clinic. It provides free legal advice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to persons who cannot afford the services of an attorney at law. I have the honour to serve in the Clinic at present. So, I have a conflict of interest. I want to assure all readers that I have had absolutely no role in engineering this fortuitous move!

Does any reader have the answer for out guest editor?

17 May, 2007

Community College

Guest Editorial. I received a letter questioning the manner in which the Community College was set up. It raises a concern that the writer feels ought to be discussed. I am sure that those in the know can answer the writer's questions and clear the matter up. I now publish it as a guest editorial. May we hear soon from those responsible for setting up the college.

Request for Ethical Review

Establishment and Staffing of Community College Development Unit

The manner in which the recently established Community College Development Unit was developed and staffed raises in my estimation certain questions of fairness, equity and indeed transparency.

I am therefore requesting that the Integrity Committee of which you are the chairperson investigate the matter with a view to reporting to the Anguilla Civil Service Association and the Anguilla Teachers’ Union as to the ethical nature of what transpired.

What is known is that Mrs Dawn Reid heads the Unit. This required her moving from her post as Education Planner to the newly created position of Director of the Community College Development Unit. This post (and it is not known if this is a public service position) was to my knowledge never publicly declared, so no one else got an opportunity to bid for it. A similar thing happened with regard to the other positions filled in the Unit.

My understanding is that the arrangements were handled at the level of Executive Council. This bothers me since the Honourable Deputy Governor, Mr Stanley Reid, the husband of Mrs Dawn Reid, would have presided over or would at least have had knowledge of this process. It begs the question, would this have been permitted had someone else been involved? Is there a case of nepotism here? Was anything unethical done? Were the rules of procedure as set out in General Orders and the PSC Regulations followed?

Please investigate and it would be useful if the results of this investigation could be published for all public officers to read. Thank you.

The Public Service Integrity Board, of which I have the honour to serve as chair, can only function as authorized by the House of Assembly in the statute that established the Board. Basically, the statute provides that the Board has to wait until the Governor sends a complaint of conflict of interest to the Board. Only the Governor can ask the Board to investigate a complaint. And, only a complaint of conflict of interest. And, only against a civil servant, not a politician or an officer of a statutory board such as Social Security or the Health Authority. A pity, really.

16 May, 2007

Politicians 4

Constitutional Reform. Cockroach na gat right near fowl house (Antiguan proverb)

Our Constitution is modeled on that of the British. The British constitution is said to be “unwritten”. The greater part of it is not in a law or statute. They have traditions and conventions that are binding on British government and society. These unwritten conventions are as legally effective as if they were in a written constitution. They have been at it for a thousand years. By contrast, our Anguillian democracy is forty years old. That is no time at all. Our Constitution is too new to have had the time to develop binding conventions and traditions. We have few if any conventions that can override or amplify a written provision. We need something fundamentally different from what we have at present. We need a Constitution with workable mechanisms in place that can be put into effect immediately one of our politicians is discovered in a high crime or misdemeanor. That is what the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commissioners recommended in their Report of 25 August 2006. Let us hope their recommendations can be improved on. Let us hope they are implemented. We need detailed protective measures in our Constitution. We have to have it all in writing. Nothing must be left to good sense and gentlemanly behaviour.

If Anguillians feel strongly enough about the need to provide for greater democracy and transparency and balance in the way we are governed, now is the time for us to insist on it. Do we want to continue with the same weak and spineless Constitution? That is the model found in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. They are all either failed states or states on the edge of failure. We would not want to live in any of those countries, would we?