09 July, 2007

Constitutional Reform

Anguilla’s Future. I had by now nearly given up on it. But, on Friday afternoon I got my letter. Friday was 6 July, though the letter was dated 4 July. It read:

Dear Justice Mitchell,

Re: Constitutional Discussions

Please be advised that the Government of Anguilla has nominated you to be a member of the Anguilla team for the first round of Constitutional discussions with the British in Anguilla on 23 July 2007, and the second round of discussions in London.

I should be grateful, on behalf of Government, if you would confirm your willingness to participate in these discussions.

The Chief Minister’s Office will be in contact with you as to the time and venue of the meetings.

Yours sincerely,

(sd) M Foster Rogers
Permanent Secretary
Chief Minister’s Office

Well, what do you make of this? I will tell you what first struck me. One, it is very late. I would have thought that the Chief Minster would have chosen his team months ago. But, maybe it is just me who was a late addition, and the others have been in position and preparing themselves for the discussions. It could be that it is just me who does not know what is going on. Two, he does not tell me who the other team members are. I would want Dame Dr Bernice Lake to be a member. I would really like her to be the lead member of the team, but I would settle for her being just a member. I am not happy being a member is she is not a member. I would want Lolita Richardson to be a member. She is very annoying to some persons, but she has the right ideas when it comes to the Constitution of Anguilla. I would want Joyce Kentish, the president of the Bar, to be a member. She will bring the perspective of a senior, active legal practitioner to the discussions. But, I have no idea if there is a single non-government lawyer besides me who has been invited to be a member. Three, the letter does not tell me about any preparations that are to be made to get ready for the visit of the British team. I do not know what the team is going to be negotiating.

The House of Assembly has not yet met to debate the recommendations of the Commission and to put on record their own conclusions and wishes. I would have thought that this was an essential prerequisite for any meeting with the British to take place. There have been private meetings between the government and the opposition representatives in the House. I was present at some of them. But, I do not count private meetings as being of any importance or significance. It is only the commitment made in public meetings that members of the Anguillian public are interested in.

Are the politicians going to adopt wholeheartedly the recommendations of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission? Are they going to improve on its recommendations? Or, are they going to dilute and fritter away the recommendations?

Are there going to be practice sessions, so that our team might be ready for the most outrageous pontifications of the UK team?

Who is doing the research into what has been adopted in the other territories, so we know which of our recommendations are mere formalities, and which others are going to take very hard and determined argument to push through?

Do we have an agreed agenda, a bottom line below which we will not venture?

Who is going to give the signal for us to walk out of the negotiations if the British are unreasonable?

What is to be the signal? Will it be a tug on the collar, or a fist pounding on the table?

All these matters have to be discussed and agreed!

This is not a joke. I am very serious. Taking part in these negotiations unprepared, like a bunch of amateurs, could be the worst betrayal of Anguilla. Taking part with a well-rehearsed team, who are all reading from the same script, could be a triumph for Anguilla.

What would you recommend I do in the circumstances in response to this invitation? Please let me have your views promptly. Although the Chief Minister’s office took a long time to invite me, they probably require a response from me pretty soon.


  1. I support all the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission. Your presence will ensure that the Ministers do not twist these recommendations to benefit themselves and their political influence. And, if these meetings are held in secret, your presence will prevent anyone from later misrepresenting what went down. I am very pleased with this news.

  2. If these meetings are held in secret, I suggest that you request that the print media be invited to attend, and the radio and TV media be invited to broadcast the meetings live. We do not need a repeat of the ridiculous stupidness that happened in St.Helena, where freedom of information was discussed in a closed meeting.

  3. More preparation is devoted to a pre-school graduation ceremony than to great events of governance in Anguilla. Women prepare for things. Men are macho and go boldly forward, making up our lines as we go. Results don't matter, as long as we look good.

    “Great causes cannot be won by doubtful men”
    --Norman Manley, Montego Bay Conference, 1947, which agreed upon a milk and water resolution to create the failed West Indies Federation

  4. As Albert Einstein said, "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be research, would it?"

  5. Mr. Mitchell:

    Even without adequate preparation, your involvement is welcomed. You will do whatever is necessary to get up to speed--for yourself and your team members (when and if you determine who they are). Godspeed in this most important endeavor.

  6. I was panicking, I kept wondering about the constitutional review and wondered if the government ministers had decided who would be representing us. I am relieved that Mr Don Mitchell, is one of the persons and as he suggested Ms Bernice Lake and Mrs Lolita Richardson, do not worry if some people have gripes with you, that is expected, because when you are stong and can think for yourself, then you are a threat. Dame Bernice Lake and Mrs Lolita Richardson are women of calibre and are very strong in their views and show their emotions regarding the issues at hand. I would be pleased if these persons make up the combination.

  7. I have much respect for Mrs Lolita Richardson, she is quiet by nature but is a stalwart when it comes to speaking out against wrong. She helps the oppressed and the down trodden. Keep up the good works, and may God continue to bless you in all your endeavours. No matter that it may seem like your voice is one in the wilderness. God sees and understands and he intervenes in the right time.

  8. So are they proposing some of the same people who were repsonsible for the 1982 Constitution to represnt us again? Very interesting. Last time time they represent us we went from Associate statehood to Colony. Iownder if this time we will now be integrating into the European Union. I would like to see three elected memebrs, two lawyers, and three non governmental reps.

  9. If you are confused and without answers to the many questions which you posted regarding constitution reform in Anguilla; imagine the understanding of the average Anguillian with respect to this process. Do you think Anguillians in general will have any say at all?


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