The problem is not with Anguillians running the various agencies of government. The question is, will the new Constitution contain all the checks and balances that the 2006 Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission Report recommended? Until I see that done, I am very concerned that we will give away our present liberties and be taken advantage of by greedy men with no real interest in the welfare of their people.
The second reason why we should not demand full internal self-government at this time is strategic. The British government has no objection to us asking for full internal self-government. We will get it anytime we ask for it. They have told us so repeatedly. What they insist on is that we must come with a timetable for independence when we want to talk about full internal self-government. Nobody in Anguilla, nobody with any sense anyway, is in favour of independence in the foreseeable future.
We all know how fragile Anguilla's democracy is. It is of such a short duration that we have little or no experience in the many mechanisms of democracy. All the Leeward Islands, except Anguilla, had Legislatures since the Seventeenth Century. We in Anguilla debated our first law in the Legislative Assembly as recently as 1976. We do not have a critical press. There is no transparency in government. Everything government does is a state secret. Promises of regular consultation with the people have not been kept. We do not have viable political parties which offer us a choice when we want a change in government. The proof is to check for yourself when last we voted out an incumbent member of the House of Assembly. We have seven elected members of the House. One, Hubert Hughes, has been there since the dawn of constitutional rule in Anguilla in 1976. Others, Kenneth Harrigan, Osborne Fleming, Victor Banks, and Albelto Hughes, have been there since before the 1982 Constitution. The only new ones, Eddie Baird and McNeil Rogers, have come in at the resignation of the incumbents. We have proven ourselves too timid to change our representatives. It is almost a case of, “Better the devil you know than the one you don't know.” We need to see our institutions of democracy grow and mature before we can hope that our leaders will be honest and dependable. Until then, better the devil you know . . .
We also know how fragile our economy is. We have one industry, tourism. The livelihood of everyone in Anguilla depends in one way or another in its continued growth and success. The fear is what is going to happen to that industry when Cuba opens up to the American market? Will we be able to fill all the hotel rooms we are presently building? We need to work hard, perhaps for another 40 years, to diversify our economy to the state that we can withstand a shock on any one sector. Even Cayman Islands, so much richer than us, are refusing to look at a timetable for independence at this time.
The destiny of Anguilla has already been determined by our geography and our history. It lies in a future independent West Indian State. None of us wants an independent Anguilla sending representatives to the United Nations, London and Washington. We will turn into a failed-state disaster like Grenada, St Vincent, and Antigua. When Tobago and Barbuda and Nevis are free of their colonial bondage, when the people of our islands are ready to come together as one country, we want Anguilla to be a Province in that country, the Republic of the West Indies. There is safety in numbers. We would be quite mad to expose ourselves to unrestrained rule by our clueless leaders and their crooked cronies.
A third reason for not clamoring about our right to full internal self-government is that we can get almost all the full self-government improvements that we can handle. The British gave it to BVI and TCI without their waving it like a red flag in the face of a bull. The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission collected and published the recommendations for change and improvement agreed to by Anguillians. If implemented, they would have amounted to full internal self-government. The Commission did not use the slogan, given the warning that the British Government has given us.
It is a pointless exercise. We are not going to get it, without a time table for independence. We do not have any timetable for independence.
Is the Chief Minister being led down the garden path? Or, does he have a plan?