30 November, 2007

More Ministers

Increasing the Size of Executive Council. I may have misheard. It was on the radio yesterday as I was driving back from a most strenuous walk. I was not concentrating. It was the Hon Chief Minister speaking. He was saying something about going to London. He was explaining that the burden on the existing four ministers is unbearable. There is a need to increase the size of the Executive Council to share the burden of government. He was saying that he was going to “ask permission” to have a fifth Minister appointed.

I could not understand what he was saying.

Then, I heard him say that he wanted this done “before the Constitution was changed”. I was dumbfounded! I could not believe what I was hearing.

As every Anguillian schoolchild knows, section 23 of the 1982 Constitution of Anguilla says that ExCo consists of the Chief Minister and “not more than three other Ministers”. It is in the Constitution! The Constitution limits the maximum number of Ministers to four. The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission has reported since August 2006 that a majority of Anguillians making representations to the Commission want to see ExCo increased in size. They also are clear that this is on one condition. The number of Ministers must never again exceed fifty percent of the elected members of the House. To do otherwise is to completely gut the House of Assembly and make it useless as a check or balance on the Executive branch of government. There are only seven elected members of the House. Most Anguillians want to see that number increased to thirteen. Then, there can be an increase of ExCo, or Cabinet, to five or six. See paragraph 37 of the Report [link here]. The correct balance will thus be maintained.

The Hon Chief Minister is no dummy. He well knows that no one can increase the size of ExCo without changing the Constitution. Not even the British Government can alter this. Not even the Queen can authorize such a change without changing the Constitution. The Constitution cannot be changed without the consent of the people of Anguilla. The people have spoken through the representations they made to the Commission during the year 2006. The only way that the number of Ministers can properly be increased is by following the voice of the people as heard in paragraph 37 of the Constitutional and Electoral Commission Report.



Of course, I may have completely misheard. Worse mistakes have happened!


29 November, 2007

Invasive Species

Goat’s Foot. Beach morning glory is called “goat's foot” in Anguilla, and erroneously sea bean, which is a different species often found growing on or near the same beaches. In the US, where it's commonly found on the Atlantic Coast, it's called railroad vine.

In 1999 the Anguilla National Trust commissioned a report on the ecology of Sombrero. The following is from the resulting 1999 report by Dr. Michael A Ivie, a conservation biologist who is a Professor at Montana State University:

"Ipomoea pes-caprae. The Beach Morning Glory is a very common beach plant, familiar to every naturalist with expertise in the West Indian region. It was not present when Ogden et al did their inventory in 1985, but was established by the time ICF Kaiser made their visit in 1998. In their report (ICF Kaiser 1999) it is misidentified as Sea Bean, Canavalia rosea, a member of the Fabaceae. The lighthouse keepers say the plant was introduced with sand from Anguilla used in the reconstruction after Hurricane Luis. This plant is a very large vine, highly invasive, and an aggressive competitor. It is currently beginning to spread out of the immediate housing area, and is a threat to the native species of plants to the north of the bunkhouse, and the large populations of natives in the southern pit we called the Hanging Gardens of Sombrero. No native invertebrates were observed utilizing this species".

Karim Hodge, then of the National Trust, agreed to see to its removal, which at the time might have required five minutes with a shovel or hand trowel. Dr. Ivie says he offered to remove it at the time, but was told it would make a great field trip for the National Trust and they would take care of it right away. By the year 2007, the goat’s foot has taken over the island of Sombrero. It now threatens to strangle the remaining native species that provide food for the lizards and insects living on the island.

Nothing that I know of eats or uses any part of the goat’s foot plant. If left alone it will completely take over Sombrero and strangle to death all forms of life on the island.

Dr Ivie has a website with some more revealing photographs. He writes,

I tried to send a power point file with 8 photos on 3 slides of the plant situation in 1999, but file was too large and got kicked back. Therefore, I loaded it on my server at [link here]

The left hand photo in the first slide is the total extent of the beach morning glory in 1999. The light house is to the right in this view, the "dock" to the left. The second page has views of the native plants in the pit to the south. The third slide shows the area infested in the 2007 photo without BMG. Note that the low angle of the top photo obscures the many native plants actually on the rocks, visible at the feet of the folks in the lower photo. These plants were the ones eaten by the Ameiva, and by several of the native insects that were also eaten by lizards. This might give some idea of how much has changed.
Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.

How many government officials have visited Sombrero in the ensuing eight years?

And, now we read of an initiative by the British House of Commons. Yesterday, 28 November, Joan Ruddock (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) stated in the House of Commons:

"On non-native invasive species, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, has undertaken a review of non-native species in the UK Overseas Territories. This review is being used to guide various projects relating to invasive species in Overseas Territories. In June 2007 JNCC also hosted a workshop on invasive species in the Overseas Territories bringing together a range of stakeholders to share information, and to discuss future collaboration in this area of work."

Why are they spending money sending people to invasive species workshops if we then fail to do the actual work?

If we can be this nonchalantly negligent over what might seem to be simple issues, can you imagine how careless we are over the important issues?

27 November, 2007

Environmental Education

Commitment No 9: Encourage Teaching within Schools to Promote the Value of our Local Environment (Natural and Built) and to Explain its Role within the Regional and Global Environment. This was the ninth commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here].

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. He called itMeasures of Performance by 2007 of UKOTs and UK Government in Implementing the 2001 Environment Charters or their Equivalents”. His Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. A copy of his 19-page Report can be read [link here].

According to his Report, Anguilla has not introduced any study of strategies for implementation of the Environmental Charter in the school system. Not that this is unusual. In this we are no different from most of the Overseas Territories. Only St Helena and the Falkland Islands can claim progress in this area.

We in Anguilla have, admittedly, had some involvement of environmental issues in the schools' curriculum. Anyone who has been listening to the environmental debates on Radio Anguilla over the past week would have experienced the most significant impact of the Environmental Department on the schools of Anguilla. It has been a truly eye-opening and enlightening experience. The head of the Environmental Department and his staff are to be congratulated. The young people have put the rest of the adults in the school system to shame! They had to do their own research, as nothing about the local environment and its role within the regional and global environment had been taught! They did their own research, and excelled at it!

Now, we need to live up to our commitment and put the subject on to the curriculum of every primary and secondary school.


25 November, 2007

Polluter Pays

Commitment No 8: Ensure that Legislation and Policies Reflect the Principle that the Polluter Should Pay for Prevention or Remedies. This was the eighth commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here] .

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. The Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. A copy of his 19-page Report can be read [link here]. He calls it “Measures of Performance by 2007 of UKOTs and UK Government in Implementing the 2001 Environment Charters or their Equivalents”.

According to this Report, Anguilla is one of the low performers among the UKOTs. We have no effective Acts in place to implement the “polluter-pays principle”. Unlike Bermuda and TCI, we have no record of any polluter ever paying. Unlike Cayman Islands, TCI and the Falklands we have in place no monitoring of pollution and adherence to planning conditions. Dr Pienkowski says that we have enforcement measures in place, but implementation is a problem. The result is that unlike Bermuda, Cayman, and the TCI we have no record of any enforcement cases having been brought.

Nothing happened with the Delta used engine oil spill of several months ago.

Nobody found out who brought the Cuban Tree Frogs on to the island.

The relatively recent introduction of the giant African snail has been unpunished.

No garbage collector dumping on secluded areas of private land has ever even had his wrist slapped.

No yacht emptying its bilge or toilet waste in Sandy Ground bay has ever been cautioned.

The unsanitary practice of the sewage collectors of dumping truckloads of the stuff onto other people’s land has silently been allowed to continue.

Since we do not do any monitoring for pollution, we only discover by accident when it happens.

And, I suppose, that since we do not clean-up there is no cost to pass on to the polluter to pay!

Or, is this all an unfair and mistaken perception?


24 November, 2007

Near Disaster

Dolphin Fantaseas. It was in June that I published the story about the illegal dolphin pens that were being constructed at the old long-abandoned Mariners Hotel in Sandy Ground [link here]. Readers will recall the story. The Dolphin Discovery or Dolphin Fantaseas people had been given notice by Viceroy to vacate the property which had been bought at Barnes Bay. Dolphin Fantaseas sold, but without making full arrangements to relocate.

They made an arrangement with the owners of the Mariners Hotel site to construct a new pen and display facility at Sandy Ground.


When the locals began to complain that they wanted to know the environmental impact such a facility would have on their health, the Chief Minister stopped the construction in mid-stride.


The pilings that had begun to be hammered into the sea bed were pulled out of the sand and piled on the beach.

They stayed there all during the hurricane season, a disaster waiting to happen. Now November is here. What we in Anguilla call the Ground Sea Season. Huge swells rise up in the ocean and fling ten-foot high waves onto the beaches. [For the peace of mind of anyone not in the know, if the waves make the beach impossible on the north coast, the south coast is usually placid as a lake, and vice versa]. Yesterday the inevitable happened.


About ten of the pilings were washed out into the bay.


This “bay” is the busiest port in Anguilla. There are over fifty yachts anchored in it at any time. Only one hundred feet away from the pilings is the main jetty. This is where the cargo ships that bring all our foods and construction materials dock. A ten-foot piling driven by a wave into the side of any one of these vessels might be expected to do some damage. We have all been holding our breaths to see whether the poles can be extracted from the water without anyone or any ship being damaged. Our Disaster Preparedness personnel secured most of them by last night. This morning they are scheduled to remove the last of them from the water. I can hear the surge from the north coat even from where I live. Let us hope that no one is killed or injured in the exercise!

Even if the poles are safely lassoed and removed from the bay, questions remain.

Was there no agency with the authority to order their removal before the hurricane season or the subsequent ground sea season began?

Did we have to wait until they were washed out to sea?

Would it not have been less costly to have moved them to a place of safety further onto the abandoned Mariners property?

If you or I left debris in our yard and it floated out to sea, would not the police be on our front step with a summons to appear in court?

If a tenant leaves a mess behind, is it not the responsibility of the landlord to clean up?

Who is going to pay the cost of the rescue exercise?

Who is providing this “investor” with the protection to be able to get away for so long with such deplorable conduct?


23 November, 2007

Baseline Data

Commitment No 7: Review the Range, Quality and Availability of Baseline Data for Natural Resources and Biodiversity. This was the seventh commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here] .

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. His Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. A copy of his 19-page Report can be read [link here].

According to the Report, Anguilla is doing about average in meeting its obligations in relation to this commitment. There are some taxa and natural resources for which base-line data have been collected and made available. [A taxon (plural taxa), or taxonomic unit, is a name designating an organism or group of organisms. A taxon is assigned a rank and can be placed at a particular level in a systematic hierarchy reflecting evolutionary relationships: [link here]]. Similarly, there are some taxa and natural resources for which there are, apparently, monitoring programmes in Anguilla. In this, we are said to be similar to such territories as Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos. But, we are said to have to do a lot to catch up with Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.

I would really appreciate it if someone in the Environment Department or the Anguilla National Trust could enlighten us as to what exactly it is that we in Anguilla have done to meet this commitment. Does it only mean that we have been counting iguanas? What about the rubbish dumps that are developing on the road to Cap Juluca Hotel? Or, on the dirt road through the Hughes Estate from Anguilla Trading to Long Bay? Do these count, or are they irrelevant to natural resources and biodiversity?


21 November, 2007

Implementation

Commitment No 6: Implement Effectively Multilateral Environmental Agreements already Extended to the Territory and Work towards the Extension of Other Relevant Agreements. This was the sixth commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here] .

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. The Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. His 19-page report is titled Measures of Performance by 2007 of UKOTs and UK Government in Implementing the 2001 Environment Charters or their Equivalents. A copy of his Report can be read [link here]. We have been looking at some of its findings off and on over the past couple of weeks. To continue:

According to the Report, Anguilla is not living up to this commitment. In other words, we have not been effectively implementing international agreements that we have invited the British to extend to us. One example is the Ramsar Convention on wetlands. We asked that this be extended to us. You would think we would do something to follow up. Unlike most of the other territories, we have not bothered to designate any sites as wetlands of international importance. Though we claim over 50 km2 of our 90 km2 island as qualifying as wetlands, we have not yet designated any wetlands under the Convention. In this neglect, we join such lesser advanced societies as Ascension Island, Tristan de Cunha, South Georgia, and Pitcairn Island.

Unlike most of the other territories we have not had the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species [link here] extended to us. I can bring any amount of endangered species into Anguilla, and I am not breaking any law. It is quite disturbing to me to learn that CITES has not yet been extended to Anguilla. That rare St Vincent snake that I had so desperately wanted to bring home, but had unnecessarily released in Chateaubellaire, would not have been a problem!

Unlike most of the other territories, we have not got around to having the Convention on Biological Diversity [link here] extended to us.

Nor the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species [link here].

Nor the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region.

We are the only territory not to have had the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter [link here] applied to us. No wonder we have to push aside the toilet paper as we swim among the yachts in Sandy Ground.

We have had the World Heritage Convention extended to us, as have all of the other Overseas Territories. But, we have not got a World Heritage Site of our own. Only Bermuda, Tristan da Cuhha and Pitcairn Island do, so we are not alone. We do claim to have two domestically protected cultural heritage sites. Not much of a boast. It compares to 7 for the TCI, and 55 listings in the Falklands.

Our record in the area of implementing environmental agreements that have been already extended to us can only be described as abysmally bad. Equally pathetic is our record in requesting the British government to extend to us other important agreements that will help us to ensure the protection of our environment for future generations.

It is all so short-sighted and unnecessary! That is what happens when our leaders only see the greenbacks and lack any vision!


20 November, 2007

Crime Factors

Appendix 3: Law and Order. I want us to take one last look at the recently published National Audit Office Report titled, “Managing Risk in the Overseas Territories[link here]. Then we shall return to the Environmental Charter and problems that have been indentified with how we in Anguilla are living up to our commitments. Appendix 3 of the NAO Report contains a part dealing with law and order. Most of it is not new. But, it is useful to see how we and our policing problems are perceived outside of Anguilla. It reads:

Anguilla is heavily dependent on tourism. Real or perceived increases in crime can have negative effects on the tourist industry, which trades on Anguilla’s reputation as an upmarket, low crime destination. In late 2006 and 2007, a spate of property offences and robberies caused concern among the expatriate community and nationals. While a number of offences were attributed to one man, some 186 crimes were recorded by the Royal Anguillan Police Force in the first three months of 2007 and led to the Chief Minister convening an emergency meeting in April 2007, establishing a Multidisciplinary Committee on Crime and pledging to increase the number of police officers to 100. Some 20 new recruits are now in training but recruitment remains a major problem.

Anguilla’s Prison was built in 1996 with UK funding. However, it currently fails to meet minimum standards of security and segregation. A serious assault led to the death of a remand prisoner in 2006. The prison’s town centre location and its basic perimeter fence enables contraband goods to enter the site. There have been three break outs in the last two years, with the latest, in August 2006, leading to the creation of a Prison Task Force, attended by the Head of the Governor’s Office, to review the security situation. Conclusion: The main problem for the Anguillan Police and Prison service is the ongoing difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff.

In March 2006, a Drugs and Firearms Task Force was set up with joint funding by the Government of Anguilla and the Department’s Overseas Territories Programme Fund. The aim was to combat a rise in drugs-related crime, including several murders, which threatened Anguilla’s status as an upmarket tourist destination (from a very low base; in 2005, there were only 16 firearms offences). During its first six months of operation, the Task Force arrested over 40 people, discovered 230kg of cannabis and 22kg of cocaine. With UK support, Anguilla has introduced a number of measures to prevent firearms from being imported, including training of customs, immigration and police officers to recognise suspicious behaviour, and installing an X-ray machine to scan baggage entering Anguilla.

The UK has provided funds for a Prison Officer to be seconded from the Cayman Islands. They have been instrumental in training local prison staff, and raising standards. However, the inherent inadequacy of the prison infrastructure remains.

I had only been vaguely aware that there was a recruitment problem with the police and the prison. I found it gratifying to know that they had confiscated such a quantity of drugs. It was the mention of the X-ray machine at Blowing Point that made me smile. I know there is one that checks baggage leaving Anguilla. It is conspicuously installed in the Departure Lounge. But, I thought everyone knew that there is no X-ray machine functioning in the Arrivals Lounge. I do not recall seeing even a non-functioning one. The French authorities in St Martin have insisted that we check the shoppers and day trippers going to Marigot. They on their part do not perform any security check on passengers leaving St Martin for Anguilla. Nor do we appear to have any concern for what persons arriving from St Martin bring back to Anguilla!


19 November, 2007

Financial Services

Appendix 3: Territory Issues. We are looking at the recently published National Audit Office Report titled “Managing Risk in the Overseas Territories”. Appendix 3 contains what John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, considers the most significant issues relating to Anguilla. It is always revealing to learn what others think about your performance. The revelations can either make you very angry, or they can encourage you to improve your performance. This is what he writes:

Anguilla’s financial services industry contributes some 15 per cent of GDP, making it the second, albeit minor sector in Anguilla’s economy, after tourism. Regulation of the industry remains the direct responsibility of the Governor under the Constitution, and so any failure could have direct implications as well as wider reputational impact on the UK. The financial services sector is small compared to that in Bermuda, Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands; it employs some 200 people and its licence fees are insufficient to finance substantial regulatory capacity. Currently, Anguilla has only four professional regulatory staff, which limits its ability to keep up to date with fast moving international standards and implementing recommendations from previous Reviews of the Sector. For example:

- Recommendations made by UK-appointed consultants in 2000 in respect of companies and credit union legislation have not been implemented.

- Anguilla has not created a separate agency to market its financial services overseas, freeing the regulator from involvement in this potentially conflicting activity.

- An International Monetary Fund Report in 2003 referred to the need to broaden the professional and managerial capacity of the Anguilla Commission, and to the absence of sufficient skilled persons to analyse and investigate suspicious transaction reports.

- There are doubts over the extent of compliance with “know your customer” requirements. The International Monetary Fund’s 2003 review of Anguilla identified difficulties obtaining customer information from overseas sub agents and recommended a tightening of procedures. When the Anguillan Regulator conducted on-site checks in 2004 most agents did not have copies of the code of practice issued by the professional association, and there were numerous instances of deficient or incomplete documentation.

- The Anguillan regulator’s policy towards non-compliance in anti-money-laundering practice has been to encourage raised standards through education, rather than to apply sanctions on the most deficient agents. It is not evident that this has been a successful strategy. Police and Industry sources in Anguilla expressed the view to us that there are still a minority of financial service providers in the Territory which they believed would accept “any business”.

NAO Conclusion: The Department, supported by other UK Departments, needs an integrated approach to addressing regulatory under-capacity in Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Montserrat. Options that can be considered include developing a shared regulatory resource across the three Territories, use of Governors’ powers to raise regulators’ licence income, and more placements of staff from the UK, focusing on industry compliance with anti-money laundering measures.

I thought it quite extraordinary that recommendations made by consultants since the year 2000 had not yet been implemented. The only conclusion can be that there was something quite objectionable in the recommendations. But, as we do not know what they were, we cannot be sure. I was astonished to learn that Anguilla still depends on the regulator to market our financial services overseas. When I was in practice over ten years ago, we urged the Ministry of Finance to bring this arrangement to an end. There is an intrinsic conflict between the functions of a policeman and those of a salesman. Can you picture this imaginary scenario? The regulator attends an offshore marketing conference in Miami and meets a lot of people. He encourages some of the attendees to visit Anguilla and to make it their home base for their offshore services. When he gets back to his office, he finds some of them have applied. He now has to put on his policeman’s hat and tell them that they do not come up to standard, and he has to refuse them! Either that, or he is so embarrassed by the quandary he is in that he approves their licence while doubting that they will perform creditably. What a joke!


18 November, 2007

Regulatory Capacity

Limited Regulatory Capacity Poses Heightened Risk in the Smaller Offshore Centres. We are looking at the UK National Audit Office Report published on 16 November 2007 [link here]. The Report is titled Managing Risk in the Overseas Territories. There was a useful summary of it published in the internet newspaper Caribbean 360 [link here].

At paragraph 1.32 of the Report there is an interesting comment on the failure of Anguilla adequately to perform its regulatory function. There is also useful information on the extent of the industry in Anguilla and the numbers of persons employed in it. The Report reads:

Regardless of the scale of activity in their area, regulators must discharge core responsibilities including keeping abreast with developments in international standards and their application in the local context; support for drafting of legislation and maintaining specialist investigative skills to respond to regulatory breaches and to deal with overseas requests for information.

Regulators in key centres of Bermuda, and the Cayman and British Virgin Islands have, thanks to fees levied on their flourishing financial sectors, achieved major improvements since 2000, with staffing rising to complements of around 100 staff each. The position in Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands is quite different. For example, in Anguilla, there are only about 200 employees in the financial sector as a whole, and the fees from the industry are insufficient to fund a fully fledged regulatory function. At present, Anguilla has just four professional regulators and has fallen behind with important actions. Regulator resources need to be broadly proportionate to the scale and nature of the industry that they regulate, but they also need a minimum critical mass to keep up with international standards. The Department has taken some steps to address limited capacity, by facilitating secondments and sharing of expertise, from Anguilla to the British Virgin Islands, from Gibraltar to Montserrat and from the British Virgin Islands to Jersey and the Isle of Man. It also held or supported various seminars or workshops in 2003 and 2005.

The point being made here, and at Table 7 of the Report, is a crucial one. Anguilla is one of the smaller offshore centres, with only 200 persons employed in the industry compared with over 4,000 in Bermuda, 5,400 in Cayman Islands, and 1,500 in each of the BVI and Gibraltar. The Cayman Islands is not only the world’s fifth largest banking centre, it is home to 80% of the world’s hedge funds. Bermuda is the world’s leader in captive insurance and a major competitor of London and New York in reinsurance. The BVI is the world leader in the provision of offshore companies, with over 600,000 companies on its Register. By comparison, Anguilla has little to boast about. The financial sector as a whole contributes not more than 15% of GDP and 7% of employment in Anguilla, well behind tourism. The sector is not large enough to sustain effective regulation. Yet, without adequate regulation, the industry poses a threat not just to Anguilla’s security and prosperity, but to the UK as well. More rough waters lie ahead.


17 November, 2007

Managing Risk

The National Audit Office. This is a UK institution, not Anguillian. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending on behalf of Parliament. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is an Officer of the House of Commons. He is the head of the National Audit Office, which employs some 850 staff. He, and the National Audit Office, is totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

The NAO has just published its Report titled, Managing Risk in the Overseas Territories. It can be downloaded or read here: [link]. There is much on Anguilla that should worry us. Most of the concerns relate to the International Financial Services Industry. In its early days, this industry was demeaningly described as “offshore banking”. It is much more than that. It is one of the principal industries enjoyed by the City of London and Manhattan. These are two of the major international financial centres in the world. But, we in the West Indies are players too. Cayman Islands is the fifth largest banking centre in the world. Bermuda is one of the largest reinsurance centres in the world. BVI is the world’s major incorporator of companies. Anguilla has hopes and aspirations of joining this elite group of British Overseas Territories who provide the City of London and Manhattan with its offshore corporate vehicles. There is just one problem. In the past, criminals have used the offshore centres to launder illegally obtained funds. The British government is wary of our efforts to grow the industry. They insist that we put precautions in place to limit the damage that we, and possibly they, can suffer.

When I was a practicing lawyer, I spent a lot of time and money developing a legal practice in this field. I went to the international and regional conferences to hone my skills and to make the necessary contacts. I devoted time to writing and speaking about the importance of the industry for Anguilla. The hope was that we would be able to diversify our economy. We need alternatives to the tourism industry. It is not safe for us to put all our eggs in that one basket. International financial services offered an opportunity for Anguillians who obtained the necessary qualifications and skills to make a good living for themselves and their country.

So, I read the Report with a view to seeing how Anguilla was faring. It is not all good. For example, I found,

3. Capacity limitations in the offshore financial sector have limited Territories’ ability to investigate suspicious activity reports, and, in the case of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat, resources are below the critical mass necessary to keep up with increasingly sophisticated international standards and products in offshore financial services. The Department, [the FCO] with the support of relevant UK agencies, (Treasury, Financial Services Authority, Serious Organised Crime Agency) should develop a strategy to ensure stronger investigative and prosecution capacity, bolster regulatory standards and support increased legislative drafting capacity.

What is our government going to do to make the necessary improvements? Are we even interested in seeing improvements? Well, now I am retired, I am well out of it and can contribute very little any longer. It is a worry for the new generation of Anguillian professionals. I wish them luck!


16 November, 2007

EIAs Again

Commitment No 5: Commit to Open and Consultative Decision-making on Developments and Plans which may Affect the Environment; Ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments include Consultation with Stakeholders. This was the fifth commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here] .

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. The Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. A copy of his 19-page Report can be read [link here].

According to the Report, Anguilla is not living up to this commitment. We are not alone. Only Turks and Caicos, BVI, Montserrat, Jersey, Gibraltar and Falkland Islands do better than we do. So, EIAs are generally not publicly available to community and peer review with time for comment before decision. There is no public enquiry system or decision independent of parties and government. The decision process is not open with reasons given. Any policy development is not open to public consultation. It is not unusual for the Anguilla administration to send its environmental expert an environmental assessment prepared by an investor’s tame consultant with a note on it to the effect that the project has already been approved, and no comment or recommendation he makes will be taken account of.

We can conclude that the Anguilla government has taken a deliberate decision to abandon environmental concerns in exchange for rapid over-development. The outcome is clear to all of us. Future generations will pay for the short-sightedness and greed of our present policymakers and decision makers.


15 November, 2007

NICA Progress

Requisitioning a Meeting to Vote on Winding-up. Great progress is being made with the National Investment Company of Anguilla Ltd. More and more shareholders are joining the group of concerned shareholders calling for a meeting to vote on winding up the company. At its last meeting held at the Upper Level, English Rose, in the Valley on Tuesday, the group discussed the need to requisition a meeting of shareholders to discuss the issue of winding up. The resolution that is being circulated for signature is as follows:

WHEREAS section 121 of the Companies Act, Revised Statutes of Anguilla, Chapter C65 provides that the holders of not less than 5% of the issued shares of a company that carry the right to vote at a meeting sought to be held by them may requisition the directors to call a meeting of shareholders for the purposes stated in the requisition:

WE THE UNDERSIGNED SHAREHOLDERS of the company hereby requisition the directors of the company to convene a meeting of the shareholders for the purpose of discussing and voting on the following resolution proposed by Mr John Rogers of Stoney Ground a shareholder in the company:

THAT the company be placed in voluntary liquidation pursuant to section 209 of the Companies Act upon the following terms:

  1. That Mr Avondale Thomas of Antigua, who in previous recent litigation carried out a forensic audit of the company and who is knowledgeable of the company’s accounts, liabilities and assets, be appointed the Liquidator of the company;
  2. That immediately after the resolution has been adopted by the shareholders the directors or the Liquidator apply to the court for the winding up to be placed under the supervision of the court pursuant to section 216;
  3. That the court fix the fees of the Liquidator to be a specific percentage of the assets of the company;
  4. That the Liquidator be given a agreed period in which to complete the liquidation;
  5. That the Liquidator shall file with the Court regular reports on the conduct of his winding up, a summary of which reports are to be published in a local newspaper so that shareholders may be kept informed of the progress of the winding up and make any appropriate representation either to the Liquidator or to the Court;
  6. That no sale or disposition of a major asset of the company be allowed to take place without full and comprehensive advertising in the local media and after such sale or disposition has been proposed in one of the said regularly filed reports;
  7. That the Liquidator will not commence any litigation on behalf of the company without first publishing information about such intention and obtaining the leave of the Court which must be satisfied that such liquidation is in the best interests of the shareholders who shall have an opportunity after notice to file any affidavit in support or in opposition to any proposed litigation.

We need your support to bring this sorry state of affairs to an end. If you are a shareholder who is ready to bring an end to the farce that has been NICA for the past eighteen sorry years, please contact Bob Rogers, Collins Richardson, or Don Mitchell, for a copy of the Requisition for signing.


14 November, 2007

Apology

Apology: Since I published the article of 4 July under the headline “Confusion”, the named Ministers of Government have complained that it is defamatory of them.

Readers will recall that at the time of the publication, the radio waves were filled with the story. The argument being advanced in the media at the time was that Anguillians were rising up in support of the Indians. There was no one addressing the issue of a group of opposition figures who were using the demonstration to call for the government to resign. The argument of this group was that government Ministers had sold out the country. The purpose of the story was to make it clear that there were two separate issues: support for the Indians in their dispute with their employer, and use of the resulting demonstration to call for the government to be brought down.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that at no time did I intend to suggest that there is any evidence that Government Ministers have ever been engaged in any corrupt act of any kind. I can honestly state that I have no reason to believe that Government Ministers have been corrupt in their handling of public affairs. I regret that Ministers have felt hurt by any encouragement that my posting may have contributed to such an allegation. If there was any such imputation in the story, I withdraw it unconditionally. I unreservedly apologise to the Ministers for any pain that my story may have inadvertently caused them.

13 November, 2007

Environmental Impact

Commitment No 4: Ensure that Environmental Health Impact Assessments are Undertaken before Approving Major Projects and while Developing our Growth Management Strategy. This was the fourth commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here] .

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. The Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. A copy of his 19-page Report can be read [link here]. We return to looking at how Anguilla measured up.

According to the Report, Anguilla is not faring very well in this area. Of the 10+ development projects studied by Dr Pienkowski he concluded that development projects had often been effectively approved prior to any EIA that might be required. He also found that any EIAs that had been produced were inadequate. He could only find two publicly available EIAs. He comments that Anguilla has no list of major potential and actual threats to the environment, detailing threatened species, ecosystems and landscapes prepared prior to proposed development schemes, so that these can be considered in context. Most of the other territories have such protections in place, even if there are problems in practice, or the position is actively under review.

A recent National Geographic survey [link here] points out that small island destinations like ours are just the ones most prone to tourism overkill. A combination of population pressure, climate change, storm damage, invasive species, and now tourism put our environment at risk. Resort development and multiple cruise-ship crowds have ruined St Thomas and Dutch Sint Maarten.

With development of large hotel resorts now rushing forward at breakneck speed the need for EIAs has never been greater. Yet, this is the very time in Anguilla when they are completely ignored by both the Planning Department and the Executive Council. Anguilla can be expected soon to lose the desirable position it has held for so many years as an exclusive, up-market destination. Without environmental impact assessments, we will ruin the very pristine and natural beauty that the most discerning visitors come here to experience in the first place.


09 November, 2007

Disaster Management

Public Convergence. A friend telephoned me yesterday. She was all worked up. She was in a state of agitation. Had I seen the latest edition of the Official Gazette? The one dated 31 October? No, I had not. What was the problem? The House of Assembly had gone and included ‘riots and public convergence” in the definition of “disasters and threats of disasters” in the Disaster Management Act. What does that mean? That the Governor can declare a state of emergency the next time the workers from a hotel or construction project march in demonstration of their disquiet over some aspect of their lives or work. That was her concern.

Well, it did not seem very likely to me. So, I went and got a copy of the Gazette. And, there it is. The Act is the Disaster Management Act, No 11 of 2007. The long title says the Act is meant to "provide for the effective preparedness, management, mitigation of, response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters, natural and man-made, in Anguilla”. I read the whole Act. It is 24 pages long. There are 47 sections and 2 Schedules. Anyone committing an offence under the Act faces a fine of $5,000.00 or two years imprisonment. Needless to say, the Act mainly deals with hurricanes and the like.

We already have an Emergency Powers Act. This empowers the Governor to declare a “state of emergency”. During the period of any state of emergency our fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to assemble and to march, can be abrogated for the period of the state of emergency. The state of emergency lapses after a maximum of 90 days. Every democratic country has similar legislation. A “state of emergency” is a condition well known and recognised in law. There is an extensive body of public law dealing with the proper way for such situations to be dealt with. It has in the past been used both in times of natural disaster and in times of civil unrest to give the police and other government agencies extended power to deal with the emergency. For example, the St Kitts government declared a state of emergency when Anguilla seceded from the Associated State in 1967.

What is offensive to anyone concerned with basic human rights is that this new Act permits the government (section 26(1)(b)) to simply broadcast on the radio an announcement that there is a threat of civil disorder (Schedule 2). Anyone not obeying government orders will immediately be in breach of the Act and risk incurring the penalty. Perhaps the most offensive aspect of the statute is that there are few or no definitions. Public convergence is not defined. There are no limits. The Act can be used to ban marching or demonstrating for an unlimited period of time, in the discretion of the government of the day. There are no restrictions. By necessary implication, the government is permitted to do anything it wants to any of us for any period of time it chooses under this Act. The Emergency Powers Act has been drastically amended.

This Act seems to me to conflict with our constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of assembly and of movement. It drastically increases the powers of the government to curtail freedom of expression. It goes beyond the limits normally seen in state of emergency legislation. I am not at all sure that a court of law would uphold this Act if it were to be used the next time the Indians decide to march. Or, the next time Anguillians decide to march. But, I submit, that was clearly the intention of the person who gave instructions for this Act to be drafted.