National Youth Ambassador Corps. On Friday, I had the privilege of addressing the young people of the Corps on the need for checks and balances in any future Anguilla Constitution. On Wednesday 28 May coming, the Corps has organised a panel discussion. It is designed to educate young people about the process of Constitutional reform. The event will be broadcast live on Kool FM. Questions can be emailed to the Kool FM Chat Room on the night of the event. It has been widely publicised on the island.
At the Friday meeting, we discussed the need to ensure that any future Constitution of Anguilla does not set in place a dictatorship of the Executive Council. Executive Council has the power to do permanent and irreversible damage to Anguilla and its society. At present, the only check on ExCo is the overriding power of the Governor and the Secretary of State. None of us has ever heard of either of them intervening to put a brake on the mismanagement of our leaders.
We can't blame the British. They have bigger fish to fry. The Governor is not put in Anguilla to guide and advise Ministers, far less to lead them. He has traditionally got one instruction from the Secretary of State before he sets out to take up his appointment, “Just make sure that we do not hear of any scandal in the press!” Once the Governor succeeds in keeping his assigned country quiet and peaceful, he is considered to have done a good job. If the locals allow their government to create havoc with their freedoms, that is their business. The Foreign Secretary is busy arranging to help the US bomb Iraq, while trying to restrain them from doing the same to Iran. How could we expect him to even be aware of Anguilla's existence, far less be concerned about the state of our government?
So, we are going to have to take the issue of good governance into our own hands. No one is going to look after our interests if we do not do it for ourselves. The new Constitution is our opportunity. We have to persuade the Legislature and the Executive and the British government to insert a full raft of checks and balances in our Constitution. Then, we shall be able to sail into future waters of increased self-government with confidence. If we do not, then it will be a case of the same old, same old. Only, with worse consequences.
Most of the different oversight bodies that I have previously written about come out of the Recommendations of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. Some have emerged from the subsequent discussions that have taken place under the aegis of the Chief Minister's Negotiating Team. So, what are some of these essential checks and balances? The list, with a link to any relevant earlier post, includes:
National Security Council
Boundaries Commission: 3 April 2008
Public Service Commission: 7 April 2008
Teaching Service Commission: 7 April 2008
Police Service Commission: 16 April 2008
Financial Service Commission: 20 April 2008
Judicial Service Commission: 24 April 2008
Anguillian Status Commission: 22 April 2008
Mercy Committee: 28 April 2008
Human Rights Commissioner: 27 April 2008
Complaints Commissioner/Ombudsman: 15 January 2008
Police Complaints Authority: 16 April 2008
Crown land: 30 August 2007
Public Accounts Committee: 9 August 2007
Freedom of Information Act: 14 February 2007
Procurement: 26 February 2008
Integrity Pacts: 28 February 2008
This list is not exhaustive. The list is not necessarily the best. It may be too short for some. It may be too long for others. It may need compacting and collapsing. The functions are all important ones. It is not essential that there be a separate Commission or Commissioner to carry out each separate function. Given what a small island we are, one Complaints Commissioner may be able to handle the functions of the Ombudsman, the Police Complaints Authority, and the Human Rights Commissioner. It is not difficult for a legal draftsman to provide one body that will perform several quite different oversight functions.
Just let us not lose track of each of these functions.
I hope they come up on “Open Mic”.