Constitutional Discussions 16: Leader of the Opposition. Section 40A of the Constitution of Anguilla provides for this office. He or she is formally appointed to this office by the Governor. The Governor takes the instructions of the majority of the Opposition. They tell him who the leader is. The Leader of the Opposition is to be consulted by the Governor on the appointment of the second Nominated Member of the House of Assembly. He chairs the Public Accounts Committee. This is supposed to be the Assembly’s watchdog on how public funds have been spent. He has office space provided in the House of Assembly. He receives a higher salary then an ordinary member of the Opposition. For there to be a leader, there has to be an agreement on who is leader. If the Opposition consists of two persons, and they do not agree on which of them is the leader, then the Governor cannot appoint anyone. That is exactly the position we are in now. The Hon Edison Baird and the Hon Hubert Hughes have not been able to tell the Governor which one of them is to fill the office of Leader of the Opposition. The position remains unfilled.
Members of the Commission grappled with the problem. Various persons made representations on how it was to be solved. Should the Governor appoint whoever in his view was most appropriate to fill the office? Should they be required to toss a coin? Could there be a rule that would make sense? Should it be left as it presently is, so that, if the members of the Opposition do not agree, the post is not filled?
The solution that found favour with a majority of Anguillians who expressed a view on the problem was that it should be the member of the Assembly who had served the longest. If one member has served for 11 years and another has served for 10 years, and they do not agree on who is to be the leader, it will automatically be the one who has served for 11 years. People thought there should be a rule that the Governor can apply. It is not beneficial to our system of government to have the present situation continue. This was the recommendation of the Commission at paragraph 94 of its Report.
Regretfully, members of the House of Assembly meeting in caucus at the Limestone Bay Café did not agree. They prefer to justify and sanction the present imbroglio by arguing that the rule should not be changed. If this were a Greek tragedy, it might be described as demonstrating an element of hubris!