This Commission is the one which decides who is and who is not an Anguillian under the relevant constitutional provision. There is in existance just such a Commission. It was appointed under the Anguilla Constitution 1982. The provision is short. It reads:
“80. (1) There shall be an Anguilla Belonger Commission . . ., the composition and functions of which shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be prescribed by law.”
The law in question is the Anguilla Belonger Commission Act c A60. This may fairly be described as a most unsatisfactory law. The complaints made against it include: (a) it is a stooge of the Chief Minister from time to time, implementing his policy moods as they change, depending on the side of the bed he wakes up on; (b) its members have no security of tenure, so they had better follow the Chief Minister's instructions, or they might all be fired; (c) even the Governor can remove the members without cause; (d) it is difficult to find out how to apply to the Commission for your rights to be determined, as it has no website or other publicly published information about it; (e) it seldom meets to do its work, and if it does meet, this is a state secret. It does not release any information about its decisions. How much of this is true is hard to determine. In theory, the function of the Commission is simply to apply the definition of belonger status under the Constitution.
Needless to say, this type of amateur arrangement does not find approval with most Anguillians. The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission did not make any specific recommendations for upgrading the Commission when it presented its Report of August 2006. However, the entire tenor of the Commission's recommendations was directed to improving independence, transparency and integrity in the work of all Commissions, including this one.
Commissions exist to apply government policy, while ensuring that the guarantees of the Constitution are not infringed.
Commissions remove important decisions affecting the rights and property of persons from the political decision-making process.
Commissions ensure that the Constitution and the law are followed by the administration. Such a dichotomy is a necessary guarantee of our liberties. Anguillians recognise this. The British Government recognise this.
It will not be impossible for us to frame a new constitutional provision that will ensure that this objective is achieved.
One, the new Commission must not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority in the exercise of its functions.
Two, the Governor should appoint the Chairman after consulting with the Premier, not acting on his advice.
Three, no person who has been a candidate for election to the Assembly should be qualified to be appointed.
Four, security of tenure should be enhanced by making their term of appointment five years instead of the present three. Also, the Governor must not be able to remove a member without cause. And, the emoluments of the members must not be subject to government approval.
Five, the Commission should report annually to the Assembly, not to any Minister or the Governor. The Report must be widely published within a specified time. This will not be expensive. It can be done by a novice IT person free of charge on the government website.
The Constitution sets out who is to be an Anguillian and who is not. It is not appropriate for persons close to the Chief Minister or the Governor to have a final say in such an important matter.
It is fine to say that an aggrieved person can always sue.
Have you checked out the cost of litigation in Anguilla recently?