24 July, 2007

Postponed Talks

Interview with Ken Richards of the BBC. The Chief Minister appointed his negotiating team to meet with the British during the course of the week of Monday 2 July 2007. I first learned who they were when I met with other team members on Tuesday 17 July in our first planning session. Chief Minister Fleming made me sit next to him and act as spokesman for the Commission's recommendations. At this meeting, Dame Bernice Lake QC introduced our Ministers to the concept of “complete internal self-government”. They were quite taken with this phrase. The Chief Minister fell in love with it immediately. When our strategy meeting broke up that afternoon, it was with the determination to meet with the British on the following Monday morning to discuss full internal self-government.

As I drove away from the meeting, Bailiff Michael Fleming stepped forward from where he was lying in wait to serve me with a lawyer's letter threatening a lawsuit for libel if I did not tone down my criticisms of government ministers on this Blog!

By Thursday, two days later, the Chief Minister was announcing on radio that he had decided to hold a meeting of the House of Assembly on Monday morning. They would debate full internal self-government. Presumably, the British team were to be attentive observers and listeners. The first time I heard about this change of plan was when the Chief Minister announced it on radio.

By Friday morning, he had a new plan. I first heard it on radio again. He was announcing that he had decided to ask the Governor to completely postpone the meeting with the British. His new idea was for government to more thoroughly discuss the concept of “full internal self-government” with the Anguillian people. That morning the Concerned Citizens Movement led a demonstration on Government House demanding a referendum on any new Constitution. Over the weekend, I learned that the British team had been told to cancel their flight arrangements.

Thorough Anguillian consultation on measures for constitutional advancement is a good, indeed an essential, thing. The problem is that it should have started one year ago, immediately after the Report of the Constitutional Commission had been presented!

On Monday morning, I am sitting at home minding my business. The phone rings. It is well-known BBC "Caribbean Report" presenter Ken Richards. He is telephoning from London. Am I willing to talk about the circumstances surrounding the postponement of the constitutional talks with the British team? He had learned that this had been announced by the Chief Minister just two or three days before the team was due to arrive in Anguilla. It would have been extremely discourteous if it had been intentional. But, as I explained, it was only to be expected from a government made up of businessman-types, face-to-face talkers, apparent devotees of the ad-hoc system of government, men who appear to refuse to read a planning document, or able to study and adopt a strategy brief. Thank God for the postponement, I said, in effect. It might give government’s new advisers a chance to come up with a publicly acceptable programme for constitutional advancement.

To hear the broadcast, go to the Americas page of the BBC News website. In the right-hand column you will see the audio for “Caribbean Report”. Click on “Listen”. If you have the appropriate speakers, you should hear the interview. Or, if I have done it right, the last link should take you straight to the audio! [Sorry, late readers. By Tuesday evening BBC Caribbean Report had moved on to other stories. You will have to try to access the BBC archives.]

Do you think Bunton is capable of long-haul planning? Will he stick the course? Or, will he react to the next last person who speaks to him, as usual?

One of my concerns is that I do not know who the Chief Minister is now listening to. What will be his next announced “plan”? I learn he says that he is now a committed member of the Concerned Citizens Movement. No doubt, he will soon claim them as part of his new negotiating team.

No, I did not tell Ken Richards about all this confusion. It was too embarrassing to talk about it on the radio in front of millions of listeners!


  1. Justice Mitchell continues to expose the quality of leadership afforded the people of Anguilla. It is through leadership that a people succeed or fail. Oppressive “us vs. them” dictatorship creates animosity, inequity, and of course soul deadening apathy. Do not send to know for whom the bell tolls or why angry and disappointed people are marching and carrying signs. Look to the quality of the leadership we provide them.

    Management is a career. Leadership is a calling.

  2. “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

  3. The British have at least been viewed as a check on things going wrong here. If we are to have self determination we should design in new checks and balances. In an ideal institution even if 2 or 3 people were bad the system could prevent them from doing things that are bad for Anguilla.

  4. Don, are you sure the Chief Minister requested you sit next to him at the table? Any chance that you misunderstood? Did he kiss you on the cheek too? Did the Chief Minister deny knowing about the letter from the Bailif three times? Where ya say the Bailiff was hiding again? I should go and read the story of JUDAS and PETER again. Looks like Mary Magdalene kept things in order.

  5. " An administration without a policy is confessedly an administration without brains, since while a thing is to be done, it implies a known way to do it and he who professes his ability to do it, but cannot show how it is to be done, confesses his own imbecility. I do not undertake to say that the present administration has no policy, but if it has, the people have a right to know what it is, and to approve or disapprove of it as they shall deem it wise or unwise.
    Now the policy of an administration can be learned in two ways. The first by what it says, and the second by what it does, and the last is far more certain and reliable than the first . "

    Frederick Douglass, July 4, 1862.

  6. "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them." --Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in America


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