04 January, 2008


Chief Minister of Montserrat Embarrassed. There is, in my view, a lesson to be learned by Anguilla from a recent series of articles in the Montserrat Reporter. The Governor of Montserrat has, in effect, rejected a law passed by the Montserrat House of Assembly.

The Act in question was an amendment to the Legislators’ Conditions and Service Act. In Montserrat, Ministers of government receive a salary of EC$96,500.00, a housing allowance of EC$36,000.00, entertainment allowance of EC$10,800.00, duty allowance of EC$42,000.00, travel allowance of EC$16,800.00, and telephone allowance of EC$1,800.00 per year, or a total of EC$203,916.00 per year or EC$16,993.00 per month. Non-minister legislators receive EC$8,000.00. The pension is approximately two thirds of their emoluments. All in all, this is a very generous remuneration in a West Indian island with a population of perhaps 6,000 souls.

The amending Bill provided, among other things, that:

Where a person, who at the time of coming into operation of this Act, has attained the age of 55 years, is in receipt of a pension under this Act, and has served as a Legislator for periods amounting in aggregate to not less than 15 years, again becomes a Legislator, he shall be entitled to receive his pension in addition to the allowances payable during the period he serves as a Legislator.

Once a member of the House of Assembly has attained the age of 55 and has served in the House for a total of 15 years, he would be entitled to a pension. As a result of this amendment, if he became a legislator again after he had begun to receive his pension, he would be entitled to his salary and other perks, in addition to his full pension! The members of the House were voting to enable themselves to earn a double salary! It cannot be doubted that it is not right or normal for a person to receive both pension and salary from the one and the same employer. That is true even if we were not speaking about the people of an impoverished, volcano-devastated island such as Montserrat is. Compare that to the procedure followed recently by the House of Assembly of St Kitts-Nevis under the Dr Denzil Douglas Administration. There, the legislators appointed an independent, private-sector committee to advise them on increases in their salaries. The committee held public meetings, and made a report and recommendations. The House of Assembly acted on the recommendations and passed them into law. They did not just pick on a figure to pay themselves, and pass that figure into law.

In Montserrat, the amending Bill, when it had been proposed in the meeting of the House of Assembly, had been further re-amended in Committee Stage. The new amendment reduced the age at which the entitlement accrued. The Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Lowell Lewis, proposed this amendment. This was not what the Ministers had originally agreed to when they had discussed the Bill in Executive Council. The amended Bill was supported by the government members of the House. This included the non-elected, ex-officio members of the House, ie, the Attorney-General and the Financial Secretary. The four opposition members in the House spoke passionately against the measure. The government majority prevailed, and the Bill was passed.

A howl of protest went up in the press in Montserrat. In an editorial of 5 October, the paper accused the politicians of taking care of their income in a manner that was unacceptable. They were accused of just looking out for themselves and their friends. Governor Peter Waterworth had a different reason for objecting. His objection was the technical one that the amendment that was passed did not accord with what Executive Council had approved.

Governor Waterworth and CM Dr Lewis

In an article of 23 November we learn that the Governor had refused to “assent” to the Act. The Constitution requires him to do so to bring the Act into full effect. He had sent the Act on to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office seeking advice. This was the first time in the modern history of Montserrat that a Governor was refusing his assent to a Bill passed by the House of Assembly. The Chief Minister at first came out against the Governor’s delay. His position had been that the legislators had debated the Bill in the House. The government members had given their reasons why they wanted the Bill passed. He argued that under the Constitution they had not done anything unconstitutional. Then he goes on to say, “The next step really will be for that particular Bill to be amended by the Governor in such a way that he feels he can consent to it”.

Am I hearing right?

What nonsense is this?

No Governor of a British Overseas Territory in this modern era is to be permitted to unilaterally amend a law passed by the House of Assembly “in such a way that he feels he can consent to it” or in any other way. That is how it was done in the dark ages of colonialism and imperialism. That is a barbarism that I hope will never be permitted in Anguilla today. There are much more democratic and proper methods for getting an irresponsible or corrupt law changed. It has to do with public education, with public involvement, and with public protest. If the public, after they have been alerted to some impropriety on the part of the Legislature, do not demand that the law in question be changed by their own representatives sitting in the House of Assembly, then it is not for the FCO to intervene and to make alterations to an enacted law. For a West Indian Chief Minister to invite a colonial Governor to amend a Bill passed by the House in such a way that he feels he can consent to it is quite wrong.

The Constitutional improprieties of this episode did not end there. The Governor appears to have received instructions from the FCO. He indicated to the Chief Minister that he would not assent to the Bill. In an article dated 24 December in the Montserrat Reporter we learn that the Chief Minister has now announced that he accepts that introducing changes in Committee stage in the House of Assembly “was a significant variation from what was approved in Executive Council”. He invites the Governor to assent to the Bill “in the form approved in Executive Council”. He then requests that a Bill be introduced into the House of Assembly to repeal the Act once it comes into effect. According to the story, the Governor then writes back to him confirming that, if this were done, he would “assent to both Bills after they had passed through the Legislature”.

Let us accept that the Bill was corrupt. Let us agree that it was not proper procedure for Ministers to propose amendments to a finance Bill that would increase the burden on the public purse after they had agreed otherwise in Executive Council. The Governor of an Overseas Territory should not be admitted to have the power to amend a Bill that has been passed through the House of Assembly. This is entirely a matter for the citizens of the Overseas Territory to have sorted out for themselves. The Governor is entitled to bring moral and other pressure to bear. If British funds were at risk, the British Government might have withdrawn those funds.

Never again must a West Indian Chief Minister invite a colonial Governor to pass a Bill in a form “approved by Executive Council”. Executive Council plays no role in deciding on the final wording of a law. That is for the House of Assembly to decide. The Governor’s duty is to approve a Bill in the form passed by the House.

Never again must the Chief Minister of an Overseas Territory in the West Indies invite the FCO to interfere in the legislative process by refusing the Governor’s assent to a Bill that has been passed through all the stages in the House. If Members of the House abuse their position to provide jobs for friends, or increased remuneration for themselves and their associates, it is for the people of the country to be properly informed what has happened, and for them to be invited to take the appropriate action. It is not the business of the FCO to override the democratic process.

I don’t care what the Constitution says in this regard. The Constitution needs changing to reflect the modern reality.

At the end of the day, it was the FCO that behaved with impeccable propriety. They did not use the powers reserved to them in the Constitution. They did not accept the invitation of the Chief Minister to revert to a barbaric and outdated form of colonial legislative procedure. Instead, they did the right thing. They put pressure on the local authorities to correct their own mistake. It was left to the Chief Minister to eat the unmentionable and to propose a proper solution. He will see to it that a Bill is placed before the House of Assembly to amend the wrong things that were done in passing the previous Bill. It has been left for the Montserratian legislature to clean up its own mess!


  1. A brilliant Blog, Don.
    Keep up the AntiColonialism Fight!!

    Lead the Charge for Freedom for Anguilla and an end to Colonialism by whatever name!! And at least fight for Full Internal Self Government for Anguilla.
    Lead the way and we will be at your side.
    Continue the good work Don.

  2. The sad thing is that Monstrattians think of themselves as being English and relish being subordinate and subservient to the white Colonial Massa!!

    what kind of man is this so called Chief Minister who begs the Governor to amend the Bill to suit his liking and then assent to it?

    Doesnt that particular jackass know that the Governor cannot "amend" any Bill? That legislative functions are the sole province of the legislative Assembly??

    What is this man's doctorate in?? Theology??

    A shame for a black West Indian in tghis day and age. A goddamn shame. He should join the Army and volunteer to serve on the front lines in Afghanistan.

    SHAME!!! House Slave Mentality persists in Montserrat in 2008!!!!

  3. Dr. Lewis is a transplant surgeon. He was the only one elected from his political party, and heads a coalition government in which there's a great deal of internal conflict, coupled by severe problems of morale and productivity in the civil service. Transporation is dismal. There is no ferry. The economy is dead. Profiteering is alive and well. A lot of development aid funds have been wasted by the incompetence of DFID. Many people with ambition have left, and many dreams have been broken.

    Lewis has been forced to make a lot of compromises simply to hold the coalition together. The alternatives to the present government are dismal. This mess is not all his fault.

    Be glad you don't live there.

  4. What is happening in Montserrat can happen in Anguilla as well. Let us learn from this.

  5. This truly an alarming situation, however, it is lunacy to vote for a bill such as that to allow a member to be able to draw a pension and a salary at the same time. I am of the opinion that if one re enters the service of the Gov't then one's benefits should be suspended until one retires again. Aren’t pensions meant to pay for services rendered? If you are still serving then it goes to reason that your pension should be withdrawn.
    It is obvious that the CM of Montserrat has no idea of the proper procedures or protocol of the House, perhaps someone should inform him of them. That is a prime example of someone entering into a field where they have no knowledge of the operation of the system

  6. But isnt Eric Reid on full pension and receining a full government salary as an "advisor"??

    Whats the difference?

  7. Eric Reid on pension and gov salery? And who else?
    Well, darn.

    How about the raises the Ministers gave themselves, twice in one year.

    How about the plan that the Ministers are taking gov cars home on retirement?

    Well, darn.

  8. To the poster at 3:03 pm, who asked the question, "What's the difference?" I would suggest there is one major difference.

    I see Mr Reid's position as comparable to a civil servant on full pension earning a salary at a job in the private sector. Mr Reid is in receipt of a pension from his previous service in the Legislature, and is now employed by the Executive branch as an adviser. In my view, it would be different if he was in receipt of a pension from his service as a member of the House, and then got re-elected to the House and received a full salary in addition.

    The difference may be viewed as technical, as the funds are all public funds. But, the latter scenario somehow does not pass the "smell test" for me.


  9. Why would a retired person take on employment, unless he could earn more money than he could sitting at home?

  10. My feeling is that it was easy for the Governor to carry out that action with impunity for two reasons:

    • the particular piece of legislation was generally unpopular;

    • Montserrat is financially vulnerable; and contrast could readily be made between what the ExCo was asking for legislators and other national needs for which they were seeking UK's assistance. (Remember we are still in grant-in-aid).

    On the matter of writing, your article is timely and instructive and has elicited some provocative comments. Lewis is indeed in a difficult position which accounts for some of his awkward moves. He may not be fully seized of the relevant legislative details and procedures but he is a brilliant medical doctor with his heart in the right place. His very position as CM is a compromise.

  11. I share your views [on the use of the Governor's powers to refuse his assent to legislation duly passed by the Legislative Councils in the D.T.'s] absolutely and told the Governor that I disagree with him and he did not like it. The problem which we face in Montserrat is that the constitution merely states in part that when a bill is presented to the Governor for assent he shall declare that he assents or refuses to assent thereto. If he refuses we have no redress, except to protest.

    The Governor clearly intended to embarrass the Government. What is scandalous is that the bill passed through Executive Council over which a previous Governor presided and was approved.

    The power to refuse to assent has never been used in Montserrat within living memory. The practice which the UK Government followed for centuries is that the formal use of this power is avoided by communications in the preparatory stages of the legislation. Elizabeth Davis in her book "The Legal Status of British Dependent Territories" states that where a DT proposes to enact a provision which HMG could not (or does not wish to accept) - this would be communicated to the DT. HMG does so in the expectation that the offending bill will be withdrawn or amend. This was not done in this case.

    My view is that HMG sends Junior Civil Servants to the DT's who are not learned enough or experienced enough and sometimes they believe they have a divine right to rule.

    As I am on the subject I would like to ask you whether or not Anguilla has a similar provision to ours. Section 44 of the Montserrat Constitution, especially section 44(2) which states: Except with the approval of the Governor....

    The purport of the section is that even if the whole Council wishes to make an amendment to a money bill it cannot proceed to do so without first obtaining the approval of the Governor. We will seek to have this provision amended in our constitutional talks with the UK.

  12. I have had a look at your section 44, and it appears on cursory examination to be identical to our section 55. In practice, our Speaker of the House does not enforce the provision. Nor does a Governor make any protest, that we the members of the public hear about, at least. It is routine in our House for both Ministers and Members of the Opposition to suggest, in debating an Appropriation Bill, for example, increases of salaries and other "charges on the revenue" that have not been first discussed and approved in Executive Council. They are frequently approved by the House in spite of the Constitutional provision in question. Of course, as we in Anguilla are not on Grant in Aid, the British may not have any reason to instruct the Governor to object.

    Did I understand from the Montserrat Reporter story that what made the British upset was that the Chief Minister proposed alterations for the first time in Committee Stage that would have increased the charge on public funds, when this had not been previously discussed and agreed by Executive Council? Not that, in my opinion, this entitles a colonial governor in this day and age to refuse his assent.

    My view is that if a colonial legislature today passes legislation that in the view of HMG is not advisable, it is within the power and responsibility of the governor to use all his persuasive skills to encourage the Ministers to re-consider, and to introduce as early as possible, draft legislation correcting the mistake. If the undesirable measure is a burden on the British taxpayer then the British government would be derelict in its duty to its taxpayers if it did not refuse to bear the cost of the measure. If the governor's persuasive powers, and the threat of withdrawal of financial support for the measure, are not sufficiently persuasive, then it is for the members of the House to bear the political consequences of their hasty or ill-considered legislative measure. If our Ministers and Legislators are not encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, how will we ever develop our ability to govern ourselves? Are we to be treated like little children even into the twenty first century?

  13. Mr Reid’s pension has nothing to do with his employment by the Gov't as an advisor. Now, if he was employed by the Gov't as a civil servant, then his earning both salaries would be quite inappropriate and improper. While one can draw a second salary as an advisor to Gov't they certainly cannot as a re-employed civil servant. It would be foolish and wrong to pay someone for service rendered and they are still rendering service. There is a difference.

    As to the retired ministers taking their cars home, well that is downright misappropriation of Gov't property. Totally criminal. The CM has lost his mind with that one. What about all the other civil servant who enjoy the use of a Gov't vehicle as heads of Depts? Do they get to keep those cars also? Get where I'm going with this? Pretty soon everyone will be clammering for this privilege. It's not the way public officials need to behave.

  14. I don't support retiring ministers taking home their cars, but we have to try to be rational about it.

    How can doing something authorised by the House of Assembly be considered criminal misappropriation? The fanatical ranting of those who oppose Government has gone from deranged to just plain silly.

  15. FYI
    The Montserrat government had earlier in the year approved in Executive Council, a measure to grant Civil Servants already on Pension; the right to collect Salary and Pension if they were called back into the service. The only reason they went to the house with the Bill is because they couldn't amend their own conditions of service in the executive council.
    The Governor's salary and allowances were also to be increased by legislation.
    If the FCO and HMG were opposed to the measures, there was ample time to send an uniquivocal messsage to the CM and his Cabinet, before they went so far with the Bill.
    Could it be that the right signals were not sent to the Government because the then Governor, Debra Barnes-Jones wanted her backpay as well? or did her notorious incompetence mean that she did not relay the relevant details of the Exco meeting to her FCO bosses in time?

  16. Before you rush to condemn the Ministers for voting for Pension and Salary; ask yourself how many retired friends of DfID and FCO officials end up in Montserrat as Advisors and Consultants (read cronyism), and then continue to collect their UK Government pensions while raking in huge Salaries and Allowances from the Government of Montserrat, which are often handsomley topped up by DfID.
    When you frown on attempts at 'double-dipping' by the Lewis administration; look out for what may effectively be 'triple-dipping' by UK Advisors who are quite often tipped for the jobs by their 'old boy' network.
    I am not fooled by the Governor's fiegned rightous indignation.


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