28 July, 2008

St Lucia

Exploitation of St Lucian Technically Trained Workers. In November 2005, Anguilla expressed an interest in attracting technically qualified St Lucians to become engaged in the construction industry in Anguilla. We told Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony so. He responded with the hope that the St Lucian workers would build bridges of friendship when they came to work in Anguilla. He obviously thought it would all be done above board.

Shortly after, Anguillian contractors began to telephone technically qualified persons in St Lucia inviting them to come to work in Anguilla. From reports from my contractor friends, I thought the system was working well. Until now.

I have been receiving a disturbing number of reports about what appears to be a systematic scheme of exploitation of these St Lucian workers in the construction industry in Anguilla. It is also a fraud on the government revenue.

If it was only one person complaining, it might be discounted as a personal disappointment. But, two complaints, and confirmation of the essentials of the story from an independent source, are impossible to ignore.

The specific complaint is that certain Anguillian building contractors, one of them with a lot of influence, specialize in importing technically qualified St Lucians to work for them in Anguilla. The contractor pays for them to come to Anguilla. They are encouraged to come in to the island as tourists. They are categorized as “Caribbean visitors”. The Anguillian contractor introduces them to a senior officer in the Immigration Department. He applies for an extension of their visitor’s visa. He tells the workers that work permit applications are in the works. He puts them to work on his site on the assurance that he is permitted to do so. He can usually keep them illegally at work for about six months.

The scam is officially called a “one-month extension”. It is comparatively inexpensive. It can supposedly be renewed for a total of only three months, after which the worker has to go home. In theory, the Caribbean visitors are supposed to return, and start another three month period. None of this is properly explained to them. They continue to work in a sort of legal and ethical limbo.

The St Lucians in question are literate, technically qualified, and hard workers. Best of all, when they complain, they can be easily got rid of.

When they become insistent about getting properly paid, and their status in Anguilla regularized as promised, he then has them deported. The local authorities go along with this scam. After all, these workers are here illegally, aren’t they?

My enquiries indicate that the official line is that government has adopted a policy to “help our Caribbean brothers”. There is a dirty underbelly to this policy. The way it is implemented is to avoid the time consuming process of applying for work permits. No work permit application is ever made. You avoid the expense of paying for the work permit. You do not have to put up a large deposit for the return of the workers. No social security payments are ever deducted. No workmen’s compensation insurance ever covers them. They receive a cash payment in an underhand sort of way, trying to entrap them into complicity with some unmentioned sort of illegality. They initially go along with his scheme. After all, the contractor is a very important person in Anguilla.

This scheme, naturally, is only for the favoured friends of those with influence in Anguilla.

The Governor’s Office has been made aware of the exploitation. We do not know what, if anything, they have done about it. The Immigration Department and the Labour Commissioner’s Office, must have been aware of an immigration scam since it is at least two years old. Russel Reid, the Labour Commissioner, never sees these workers. He doesn’t usually hear about them. When he stumbles upon them by accident, he claims not to know what they are doing here. He is not known to have ever proceeded against any of these exploiters. Laureen Bryan, Chief Immigration Officer, has never been known to initiate prosecution of any Anguillian employer of illegal immigrant labour. They must accept responsibility for the public perception that they are turning a blind eye to it. At any rate, my information is that none of them has done a thing to put a stop to these activities, despite having received numerous complaints.

The way the contractors use the policy defrauds the government revenue of work permit fees. It unlawfully avoids paying social security contributions on wages and salaries. It is an evasion of regulations requiring police clearances and medical checkups. It deprives the workers of disability and other social security benefits. It turns them into unwitting criminals. It is a clever way of avoiding the announced moratorium on the granting of work permits. You simply do not apply for one. And, our public service authorities, at least suspecting all these details, have kept quiet.

You may say that we need not feel sorry for the St Lucians. What is happening to them is no worse than happened to thousands of Anguillian young men forced to work illegally in St Thomas in the old days. What is objectionable is that the fraud on the work permit policy is being facilitated by people at the top of government. The main perpetrators are the very men who helped to set the nation's policy. And, the regulators and law enforcement authorities turn a blind eye.

I have made enquiries of the officials. The Governor’s office’s response is that it is not true that they are doing nothing about the complaint. All other responses have been equally evasive.

If Dr Anthony only knew what was really going on, I wonder what he would say now!

When the same Anguillian youth we wonder about look at how rotten this whole system is, from the top to the bottom, is it any wonder they explode into violence?

They cry out, “Bun fiyah pon Babylon!”

I wonder, why would they say such a thing?

24 July, 2008


New Legislation to Promote Integrity Planned for Barbados. One of the major complaints against the new David Thompson administration in Barbados has been that, although it won power mainly by promising to do something about the entrenched corruption in the previous Owen Arthur administration, it had appeared to have forgotten the issue. Last month, Thompson announced a new initiative. We can only hope that it will result in major improvements in that West Indian territory.

Prime Minister Thompson has set up a Governance Advisory Board to make up for lost time. The Board consists of ministers of religion, lawyers, and university professors.

Among other matters, we learn that the Board is looking at a Freedom of Information Act. As we know from the previous post on this blog, this law is needed to make it possible for all citizens to access government-held information. Specific matters, like national security and some forms of personal data, are usually excluded from public access. There will be a Commissioner of Information who will make a determination where there are grey areas on what is allowable and what is not.

The Board is considering a new Defamation Act. The current Barbados legislation does not allow persons to freely express an opinion. If you voice an opinion, and it cannot be proved to be fact, even if you have no malice, you will be liable for any defamatory meaning. The reform proposed is to make a person expressing an opinion on a matter of public interest liable only if malice can be proved.

It will make recommendations on Integrity in Public Life legislation. It will require ministers of government and senior public servants to disclose their assets and private interests in an effort to demonstrate integrity. It will also look at persons outside of the public service. In negotiating contracts and dealing in public assets, there will be multiple parties involved. They all need to be looked at. We in Anguilla are demanding similar reform.

It will examine the role of the Ombudsman. In Anguilla, the United Front political party has promised this ever since their manifesto was published at the start of the campaign for the general elections in 2000. Nothing has happened since then.

The Barbados Governance Advisory Board is examining a proposed new Contractor General. Procurement has always been a soft spot for corruption in all of our islands. The complaints in Barbados have been long and earnest.

Recently retired Professor Albert Fiadjoe has been retained to draft the legislation. The Bills are promised to be ready by the year’s end.

Professor Fiadjoe is an eminent jurist. With him on board, there is hope for Barbados!

What about the rest of us?

22 July, 2008

Inquiry Coming

The Question is, What Good Will the Inquiry Do by itself. Last month, according to The Anguillian Newspaper, the Governor spoke at a conference of Deputy Governors held in Anguilla. He observed that the principal focus of the conference would be the role of the public service. This, he described as a key element in the process of ensuring good governance in all of the territories. “While the Public Service must evolve and adapt to face many of the different challenges we are dealing with in the years to come, there will be elements that we must always ensure that we preserve,” he said. He reported that, “Among those elements, in particular, which the Deputy Governor had been working on, were the ethics of the Public Service in preserving integrity, impartiality and a commitment to ensuring the proper use of public monies, and ensuring that the public interest was always at the forefront.”

But, what about persons appointed to Statutory Boards and Government Committees? What about Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Department? What about public servants of ministerial rank? Has any one of them ever participated in a workshop on ethics and integrity? Has any PS ever read the Constitution, far less been instructed in its implications? Have they any idea what are the rights of our citizens under the Constitution? Have they ever been guided in the principles of 'natural justice' and the ‘legitimate expectation’ rules? From some of the personal stories that are emailed to me, I doubt it.

One can argue that a knee-jerk reaction to the odd occurrence of petty avarice or cupidity, if such should be found, on the part of one or two individuals will not solve the systemic problem of poor governance in Anguilla. The real problem is an absence in our political culture of any awareness of the principles of integrity, transparency, and accountability. The illness that we should be addressing is the absence of a sensitivity to conflict of interest and good governance issues. In such a culture, no matter how often you change the personalities, the new ones will always succumb to the pressures of public office and misbehave. It is almost an inevitability. They will not be acting unethically in their own eyes. They will just be doing the generally acceptable thing. And, we will smile and wink at each other as we do now.

Look at what happened to the Turks & Caicos Islands twenty years ago. The Premier, Norman Saunders, was arrested trying to import cocaine into Florida. The British suspended the Constitution and ruled TCI directly for some two years. They did nothing to change the TCI culture of bad government. No educational courses for politicians or public servants were given. We all watched the opposition get elected. The wrongdoing in TCI just got worse. As soon as he got out of prison in Miami, the electorate re-elected the nice Mr Saunders back to the House of Assembly. It is Saunders’ party that is back in government now.

In Anguilla, we have a tradition in government. Every time the government changes, the new ministers divide up the appointments to all the Boards and Committees among themselves. One takes the Anguilla Development Board. Another takes the Health Authority of Anguilla. Another the Social Security Board. Another the Anguilla Tourist Board. Another gets to appoint the government board members on Anglec. Another takes the Summer Festival Committee. Another, the Belonger Commission. Another, the Poor Law Board, and so on. And, these appointees receive absolutely no vetting or training. They are expected to be exemplary public servants imbued with grace and purity from the moment of their appointment. Mostly, their public business, proper and above-board as it may be, is done in secret. They frequently do not publish their accounts or reports. Yet, no one in Anguilla considers this odd. This is the way we have always done it.

You may say that the systemic lack of transparency and accountability has gone too far. That it won't be changed by educational seminars. That all that's left is enforcement and prosecution. That we need to hit people with a piece of stick to get their attention. That later, we can have seminars. To a certain extent, I agree. One of the aspects of systemic, institutionalized surrender of standards in Anguilla is our refusal to prosecute criminal acts by civil servants and persons of influence. Each one of us knows of three or four examples of public servants charged with serious crimes of dishonesty and immorality who have been quietly sent home and the charges dropped. The officials explain this aversion to enforcing the law by saying that they do not wish to “criminalise” Anguillians. Yet, we know that all it takes is to make an example of one or two influential persons. Prosecute one or two, and you will not have to prosecute another one for twenty years. Everyone will behave properly after an example has been made.

The long term solution comes down to a matter of education, I feel. The British public service has a National School of Government . They teach good governance, not just to junior public servants in the UK, but up to the highest levels. How come they do so little in the Overseas Territories? I had the privilege of being involved in two workshops organised by Karen West. The first was in Antigua for one or two senior civil servants from each of the West Indian Overseas Territories. We shared our experiences on lack of standards in our individual territories. The second workshop was in Anguilla. There, we had a cross-section of public servants. They designed a Code of Ethics for the public servants of Anguilla. I subsequently read that Stanley Reid went off to Montserrat to help them with a similar exercise. That was years ago. What has happened since? More importantly, what has been done to educate the Anguillian public on what we should expect in terms of good government from our public servants?

I blame the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for encouraging all the rumours and ill feeling that there is in Anguilla today. They did it by neglect rather than by some deliberate act or policy. By their lack of attention to the need to inculcate notions of high standards of government in the territories under their care, they may be said to have incited the feelings of doubt and suspicion that exist today in the minds of our citizens. Now the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament has recommended an Inquiry into allegations and rumours of maladministration in Anguilla. The Inquiry can be expected to be announced shortly. But, you may ask, what good will such an Inquiry do by itself?

Should not our ministers be schooled in the techniques of good government? Not only when there is a change of administration, but throughout the term of government? I believe that the National School of Government should be giving all Overseas Territories parliamentarians regular courses on the principles and practice of good governance. Members of the House of Assembly should attend workshops on how to handle the day to day temptations that will be strewn in their path to trip them up. Just because you start off in power as a principled and ethical human being does not mean that you automatically know how to handle the ambiguous situations that you will, perhaps for the first time, find yourself in after you are elected.

This applies not only to the National School of Government and members of the House of Assembly. Our Public Administration Department should be organizing courses on integrity and good governance for all Boards and Committees, as well as public servants, on a regular and on-going basis.

When all that happens, I will close down this Blog. The mission will have been accomplished.

19 July, 2008


Freedom of Information Act. Last Monday, Elkin Richardson hosted the Hon Chief Minister on his radio call-in programme “To the Point”. He treated him with all the respect that is his due as the head of our government. At no time did Elkin or any of the callers challenge the Hon Chief Minister, even when he said the most outrageous thing.

One particular exchange caused me concern. It is the subject of this post. Elkin asked the Chief Minister if he did not think it was time for the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act. The Chief Minister sounded as if he had been stunned by this question. He eventually replied with words to the following effect. “But, Elkin, you know that my government does not censure the news. Any radio or any newspaper in Anguilla is free to publish anything at all that they want. We do not need any Freedom of Information Act”. From which it became apparent that the Hon Chief Minister did not have the slightest idea what a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is. I have kept quiet on the issue up to now. I wanted someone else to do the necessary explaining. However, I have not seen any newspaper, nor have I heard any radio station, attempting to clear up the matter. So, I am obliged to do so now, at the risk of appearing to pick on the chief minister.

The first point is that an FOI Act does not guarantee freedom of the press or freedom from censureship. That freedom is already guaranteed by law. The Constitution contains in section 11 all the guarantee of freedom of expression that we will ever need. We do not need an FOI Act to give that to us.

Freedom of information legislation is also sometimes called “open records” law. In the US it is described as “sunshine” law. The FOI Act is a law which sets rules on access to information or records held by government. Such laws define the legal process by which government information is required to be available to the public. Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 is thought to be the oldest of such laws. Today, over 70 countries around the world have it. Each State of the United States has its own law governing access to public documents of state and taxing entities. That is in addition to the FOI Act which governs records management of documents in the possession of the federal government. Other countries, particularly British Overseas Territories, are working towards introducing such laws.

What FOI legislation does is to alter the burden of proof. Any citizen can find out what is on any file in which he is interested. The burden of proving that the matter should be kept confidential rests on the person who argues that it must be kept confidential. The assumption is that the public has a right to all information kept by government. You have the basic right to ask for and to obtain the information. You do not even have to give a reason why you want the document. But, if the information is not disclosed, a valid reason has to be given. If the reason is unacceptable, you can take it to court for the court to rule on it.

In many countries with FOI legislation, “privacy” or “data protection” laws may be part of the freedom of information legislation.

A related concept is “open meetings” legislation. This allows public access to government meetings, not just to the records of them. In some British Overseas Territories, meetings of the Land Development Commission and even of Executive Council are open to the press and public, within reason. In Anguilla, by contrast, everything done by every government agency is shrouded in secrecy.

Under our present system, each public servant swears an oath under the Official Secrets Act on becoming a public servant. It is this oath which is probably the cause of the problem that this legislation seeks to cure. By this oath of secrecy, the civil servant essentially swears never to reveal to anyone any matter that he or she learns about in the course of his or her duties. Everything in government becomes secret. This secrecy is then used as a cover for committing acts of prejudice and injustice upon the ordinary citizen. A public servant can put a false and prejudicial note on anyone’s file that will forever stop that person from progressing, in the sure knowledge that the victim will never get to find out about it. The result is that the island is overrun by half-crazed theories about what is going on in government.

I hope that the next time Elkin asks about the Freedom of Information Act, he will not be satisfied with an answer that is completely unrelated to the question.

Related previous posts:

Freedom of Information: Guest Editorial 5

Land Development Control Committee

Open Government

Too Much Information Can Be Dangerous for your Health

15 July, 2008


Has Don Mitchell Accused Ministers of Bribery to the FAC? Well, the Chief Minister was on a roll in the House of Assembly this morning! He stated, with all the passion in his voice that he could muster, that Don Mitchell has accused him and his ministers of bribery before the Foreign Affairs Committee. The reason, he suggests, is because Don Mitchell hates Anguilla and Anguillians. His explanation for this alleged hatred was two-fold.

One, was because Don Mitchell wants to stop Anguillians achieving full internal self government. He wants to continue the present colonial regime, because of his colour. He is wrong in that. Don Mitchell’s paternal grandfather was the same colour as the Chief Minister. Don Mitchell, like his father before him, has always considered himself a man of colour.

Besides, Don Mitchell believes that Anguillians are fully capable of handling full internal self government. We Anguillians just don’t trust the politicians of the future, any politicians, to be able to handle all that power. There are various reasons. One is that we have no tradition of good governance. All government in Anguilla, since self-government started in 1967, has been based on doing favours for friends and blocking those who are not subservient to you. That worries all sensible, thinking Anguillians. Another is that there are no checks and balances in the law or in the Constitution. We think full internal self-government would work fine with plenty of checks and balances.

The second reason, he suggested, is that Don Mitchell has no children of his own. Anyone, he said, who chose not to have children is incapable of love. Well, he is wrong there. The consequence of not having children of his own is that all Anguillian children belong to Don Mitchell. He does not need to get greedy to pass on wealth and possessions to biological children. He is happy with the little he has. The friends he has need nothing from him. They greet him in the street with no hidden agenda, no favours to seek.

The Chief Minister knows the coming recession is going to hit the development projects in Anguilla hard. People are going to be laid off. Mortgages will not be paid. Properties are going to be sold. This unfavourable situation is going to last until well after the appointment of the new President of the USA in 2009. It is only then we can expect the economy to revive. The politicians will have to shoulder a lot of the blame. There must be someone or something, other than government’s short-sightedness, to deflect the coming accusations. Don Mitchell is conveniently located nearby for that purpose.

Never mind, Don Mitchell intends to keep on doing what he has been doing up to this point. That is to demand that the highest standards of government must always be striven for.

And, the extraordinary thing is that, other than the post on 4 July 2007 [that the Ministers have Don Mitchell in court for], when he was commenting on what people were saying about the Indian workers’ march, it is only the Chief Minister who keeps repeating over and over again that Don Mitchell is wrongfully accusing government to the FAC for bribery!

Don Mitchell has done no such thing.

His letter to the FAC, as anybody who can read can easily find out by clicking here, was to send them a copy of the 2006 Constitutional and Electoral Reform Report. He has had no other contact with the FAC.

Politicians need to have a convenient whipping post nearby. It helps to put spin on the situation.

I am continuously amazed at the Speaker’s relaxed attitude to the Chief Minister’s abuse of the privilege enjoyed by members of the House to slander and defame persons who cannot defend themselves. In parliamentary procedure this is not normal.

10 July, 2008

Under Attack

What is Anguilla doing to prepare for the coming assault on our financial services industry? Management Consultancy is a website published in England. It represents the interests of UK accountants, financial managers, and consultants. They have absolutely no interest in Britain’s overseas territories as such. Perhaps, they think, the territories serve some minor purpose when they present business opportunities for their members. Other than that, so far as Management Consultancy is concerned, we can happily sink below the rising tide of global warming.

So, I was not surprised when I read their latest article on the coming Commons Treasury Select Committee investigation into the offshore financial services industry. The article is dismissive of our interests to an extreme. They seem to think that we are responsible for destabilizing the global economy!

Still, it is useful to familiarize yourself with the rhetoric of your opponents. That way, you know in advance what is coming.

The Commons Treasury Select Committee is similar to the Foreign Affairs Committee, whose Seventh Report is presently so much under discussion in Anguilla at the present time among the better informed of our citizens. It is a political committee. Its members consist of Members of Parliament. It is not a committee of bureaucrats. It does not represent the interest of the British Treasury Department. It represents the oversight of the Treasury Department, and Britain’s financial interests, by UK politicians.

So, we learn that the committee plans to call witnesses from the overseas territories as part of its inquiry. Additionally, members of the committee are visiting Jersey and the Isle of Man this week. The Isle of Man government has already announced that it has submitted information to the committee. These UK domestic offshore financial centres have professionals who are well able to represent their country’s interests. They, in consequence, are bound to have their interests taken account of in the final report.

What about us? Will anyone from our private sector attempt to protect our industry. Has AFSA surveyed its members to ascertain what percentage have ‘know your customer’ procedures? Will anyone in the public sector attempt to defend their role and function? What is the Anguilla Financial Services Commission doing to prepare? What briefing papers have the staff in the Ministry of Finance prepared for the assistance of the Minister when he comes to answer questions?

Will we point out that there are at least two reasons why there are so few suspicious activity reports filed in Anguilla? One is that there is, perhaps, not that much suspicious activity in Anguilla to report on. The other is that the UK has done little or nothing to provide us with the resources to upgrade our investigative capacity. The FAC Report contains extensive comment on this criticism of the FCO in its supervisory role.

Or, will Anguilla just sit passively, and wait until it is too late? Then, no doubt, we will blame the foreign oppressor as usual for the damage that our own inactivity has caused.

The two main stories on the home page today relate to fraudulent complicity of UK financial institutions. One is the case against Ernst & Young for failing to detect fraud at the wholesale drug distributor CBI Holding Co. The other is a story about Grant Thornton’s recent international business report. This reveals that only one third of UK companies seriously try to detect fraud, compared with 45% worldwide and 59% in the US. In the UK, only 7% of businesses said they had increased staff involvement in fraud prevention in the past 12 months, one of the lowest rates in the world.

And, they have the impertinence to accuse us!

09 July, 2008

FAC Fallout

Mitchell and Wiggin unjustly accused of being traitors to Anguilla. The Foreign Affairs Committee has recently published its long-awaited report into the governance of the overseas British territories by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The FAC makes a number of recommendations for Anguilla. One of them is:

“We recommend that the [British] Government should encourage the Anguillan government to establish an independent inquiry into allegations that Anguillan ministers accepted bribes from developers in the Territory. We also recommend that the [British] Government should urge the Anguillan government to use the opportunity of constitutional review to introduce stronger anti-corruption measures in the Territory.”

The Hon Chief Minister and the Hon Minister of Finance have given a press release. They have said that Harry Wiggin and Don Mitchell are responsible for the allegations of corruption. The suggestion has been made that Mitchell and Wiggin do not have the best interests of Anguilla at heart.

So, my question is, what justification is there for Harry Wiggin and Don Mitchell to be accused in this way?

Just for background, the FCO is a department of the British Government. It is responsible for appointing governors of the overseas territories, and generally for keeping an eye on how the islands govern themselves.

The FAC, on the other hand, is a committee of British politicians who report directly to Parliament. It is the committee of the British legislature that keeps watch on the Foreign and Commonwealth department of the British government. It is similar in some ways to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the US.

The FCO and the FAC are, so to say, on the opposite sides of the fence from each other. One is part of the executive branch of government. The other is a part of the legislative branch of government. In any system of good checks and balances, one branch of government keeps watch on the other. It criticises as necessary. That is what the FAC was doing when it invited persons to make submissions, and later produced its report.

Before we come to the recommendations about Anguilla, a little more background is necessary. On Tuesday 26 June 2007, some of the Indian contract workers at the Viceroy project at Barnes Bay laid down their tools and went on strike. I published a story on their complaints over pay and working conditions. The Anguillian Newspaper published a story on it. The Indians and their Anguillian supporters were still demonstrating outside the Labour Department Office the following day. Many Anguillians joined in the demonstration. They brought them water and food as the Indians sat in silent protest. Questions began to circulate in the island about who had authorised slave wages and conditions in Anguilla.

At the end of the second day of protest, the Chief Minister announced a settlement. We thought the grievances of the Indians had been met, and the trouble was over.

Then, on Tuesday 3 July the Indians marched on the Chief Minister’s office in protest again. The Anguillian Newspaper published a story about this march on 6 July. Emotions were running high. Maclean Webster published a very stern letter on the subject. Ijahnya Christian published a biting commentary on it. Colville Petty made suggestions for immediate improvement in the governance of our island.

Meanwhile, on 4 July, I had published on the blog a follow-up story on this latest demonstration. That posting has landed me in hot water. I have been sued for libel by the Ministers over some of the things I said in it. I am not denying that the letter went too far, and I should not have repeated what I did. I have apologized, offered to make a payment to charity, and withdrawn the piece from the blog. They are still pursuing me for damages!

Then, on Friday 20 July 2007, an almost unprecedented demonstration of Anguillians took place. They marched en masse on government house. The members of the Concerned Citizens Group met with the governor. Merlin Duncan read out a letter signed by Percy Thomas on behalf of the marchers. I published a story about the march on 22 July. The Anguillian Newspaper published a story on the march and the letter on 27 July. Their photographs give a good flavour of the mind of the marchers. The final paragraph of the letter, as read out to the governor, says:

“Anguilla’s reputation has been tarnished as a result of these reprehensible events and coupled with the fact that the Anguilla Government has on numerous occasions sought to bring into effect legislation which is harmful to the wellbeing and security of the Anguilla public. The People of Anguilla have lost confidence in the Anguilla Government’s representation of their interests and in the interest of good governance, transparency and accountability we hereby request an independent Judicial Inquiry comprising of an impartial body to investigate these and other matters of ethical conduct between Government, Foreign Investors and the extent to which it impacts on individuals and entities in this country.”

So far as I am aware, that was the only time anyone in Anguilla made any representations to the British Government concerning specific claims about lack of ethical conduct between government and foreign investors. [Unless you count the failed attempt of the Hon Edison Baird to raise the issue of the serving chairman of one of Anguilla’s premier indigenous banks, the CCB, serving contemporaneously as the Chief Minister of Anguilla. Only to be rebuffed by the Governor. Gov Peter Johnstone shamefully replied to Mr Baird saying there was nothing unusual about this. Can you imagine Gordon Brown being permitted to be Chairman of Barclays Bank while being Prime Minister of the UK? In what way does Anguilla deserve lower standards, you might ask?]

Meanwhile, back in London, On 5 July 2007, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee announced on its website that it was about to begin its first investigation in ten years into the management of the overseas territories by the FCO. The FAC invited persons interested in the good governance of the overseas territories to make oral or written submissions to the committee.

On 11 July, I published a story about this new development on this blog. I encouraged persons who had a complaint to write. I wrote:

“Anyone can volunteer to submit evidence to the FAC, either orally or in writing. The FAC can request or send for UK government officials to attend sittings of the committee to answer questions. The FAC can also consult any individual or organization on issues relevant to their inquiry. The committee decides what use to make of any information it receives. For more information on submitting evidence, visit the committee's website.”

On 3 December, Anguilla’s Hon Chief Minister appeared before the FAC in London. He and other Chief Ministers were there in response to a FAC invitation to make any representations they wanted to make. On 15 December, I read his testimony to the committee. It was fatuous to an extreme. I was so upset at his testimony that I published a story about it on the blog.

I became concerned that no one in authority might show the FAC a copy of the Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. This had been presented to government since August 2006. Since its delivery, it had lain dormant and ignored by the local authorities. The plea for stronger anti-corruption measures in the process of constitutional review had been one of the principle elements of the Commission’s Report. Most persons in Anguilla, even the Ministers of Government, agree that these should be included in the checks and balances proposed for the new constitution. My fear was that the FAC would produce recommendations concerning Anguilla without being aware of the Report.

So, on 23 January 2008, I wrote the FAC a letter. The contents are published in full on their website. You can read it for yourself by clicking on the link at the beginning of this paragraph. In it, I enclosed a copy of the Report. I referred the members of FAC particularly to the historical section and to the section with Recommendations. I nowhere mentioned the word ‘corruption’. That letter was the sole contribution of Don Mitchell to the FAC process. I wrote no other letter, nor had any other communication either to or from the FAC whatsoever.

On 31 January, Harry Wiggin made a submission to the FAC. This submission calls for an independent inquiry into allegations of corruption in Anguilla. It is one of the most restrained of the many submissions made to the FAC that I have read. Mr Wiggin gives his reasons for making his submission. They are:

“I and very many others (native Anguillians—not just expatriates) are deeply concerned:

(a) that Anguilla's birthright is in the process of being destroyed on the altar of short-term gain;

(b) that there are no adequate controls in place designed to ensure good government; and

(c) that the recommendations of the Anguilla Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission, which were painstakingly and expertly assembled following a wide-ranging consultation process, are being sidelined for political purposes.”

Who in Anguilla can honestly protest at what Mr Wiggin says above? He complains, as we all do, about the lack of transparency in almost everything the government does. He repeats the complaints made by the Concerned Citizens Group, and almost every other person calling in on the many radio talk-shows, over the past year:

“The Government has had, but has not taken, the opportunity to answer straightforwardly the very simple question: why have they placed the country at the mercy of a few dominant investors? The fact that they have refused to answer perfectly reasonable questions, and have said only (to use the exact words of the Chief Minister) that they have "made mistakes" but they will "make amends", serves only to raise more questions. This is not good for them and it is not good for Anguilla.”

Mr Wiggin then goes on to recommend that there be an independent inquiry. He makes it clear that he is not meaning to suggest by this that there is any question of culpability:

“In my view the Ministers should be strongly encouraged by the UK Government to institute an official and authoritative independent enquiry into the events that have led to these troublesome questions, in the best interests of Anguilla and its people. My view that this is needed does not stem from any conviction that culpability is involved. But it does stem from a conviction that it is thoroughly unhealthy and corrosive that suspicions have been widely aroused and that those who are suspected apparently see no way to allay those suspicions. If, as I sincerely hope, they are innocent, then it should be seen as in their own best interests no less than the interests of Anguilla as a whole that an official independent enquiry should resolve the concerns which the explosive economic upsurge in development activity, and its adverse consequences, have engendered.’

I entirely agree. The main purpose that a public enquiry will serve is to clear the poisonous air that our Ministers have created around them. By their secrecy, their lack of consultation, and their having so frequently in the past ignored proper procedures, particularly in planning and work permit applications, they have caused all kinds of unhealthy suspicions to wash up around them. They should welcome the inquiry, not fear it.

Of course it is never possible to know how accurately the press have reported an issue. If the Wednesday July 9 edition of The Daily Herald is to be believed - and I have no reason to disbelieve it - The Chief Minister continues to labour under the impression that simply saying that his Government "is prepared, as it always has been, to address these issues transparently and effectively" is a substitute for actually doing so. Promises of explanations are worthless if the explanations are never forthcoming. So far they have not been forthcoming. Is this a lack of intelligence on his part? Or is it his political calculation that the Anguillian people lack the intelligence to recognise that what he is dishing out to them is nothing more than empty promises?

I have confidence that Anguillians are intelligent people. They will know cheap politics when they see it. They will recognise ‘politricks’ when they meet it. They will be aware that, in Anguilla, politicians regularly blame “foreigners” when things go wrong. They are unwilling to attack the Anguillians who organised the march of 20 July calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the allegations of unethical conduct. They are not brave enough to pursue influential Anguillians who stand up for what is right.

They think they have an easy target by going after “outsiders” who they characterize as tarnishing Anguilla’s good name.

We shall see how many fall for that one.

06 July, 2008


Commons Select Treasury Committee. The Labour Party has been in power in the UK since 1997. Since then, it has restricted the freedom of Anguilla and the other Overseas Territories to offer international financial services, even though we are some of the world's leading tax and asset protection havens. For decades before that, British governments promoted these offshore havens, encouraging their growth and expansion. Now, the UK has forced 'reforms' on us. They have made it clear that the intention is to end financial privacy.

They demand total bank and investment account surveillance.

They have made foreign tax evasion a criminal offence.

They have forced disclosure of previously confidential information about true ownership of international business corporations.

They have imposed the EU savings tax directive.

They are insisting that we sign Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the United States.

They have imposed new 'international standards' against money laundering.

They have demanded that our financial systems become more 'transparent'.

We are obliged to cooperate with foreign law enforcement and tax authorities.

Thus was the Labour Government's policies imposed on us without any chance of appeal on our part.

As a result, we have adopted strict anti-money laundering, and know-your customer rules. It makes opening a bank account in Anguilla a nightmare of bureaucracy and technicalities.

Then, in March 2008, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee published a report on Financial Stability and Transparency. In it, the Committee indicated that it intended to undertake further work into International Financial Centres in the context of their ongoing scrutiny of financial stability and transparency. They would seek to ascertain what risk, if any, such entities pose to financial stability in the UK.

On 30 April of this year, the Committee announced its inquiry into Offshore Financial Centres and invited interested parties to submit written evidence.

All of the submissions can be found here.

Why are the international financial centres under attack again? I am not entirely sure. It seems likely that we are to be collateral damage arising out of the Northern Rock debacle in the UK. The question then must be asked, what, if anything, are we doing to protect our own interests?

Guernsey is one of our sister financial centres. They have come out fighting in their own defence.

Jersey has been quick to respond to the urgent need to meet with the committee to defend Jersey's interests.

I have not heard of any initiative sponsored by either the Anguilla Financial Services Association or the government of Anguilla. The governor's office has not produced a single release on this inquiry. The Ministry of Finance has not made any response. Are they all being too complacent?

Is AFSA even aware of the serious challenges it faces as a result of this inquiry?

Is this another case where we in Anguilla will ignore all that is published, all that is swirling in the air around us, and then complain later that nobody told us anything, and how abused we are by the foreign oppressors?

05 July, 2008

FAC Report

Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament Report. The FAC Report on the administration, expenditure and policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its associated agencies has finally been published. You can read your own copy here. Be patient with the downloading. The Report is 3.17 MB in .pdf format.

04 July, 2008


Name and Shame. I do not know if you were as astonished as I was today. In the police report published on the "Radio Anguilla" news, the police have actually, for the first time, named – no initials – named – five recently charged suspects. The police press release will, hopefully, be published in the next edition of “'The Anguillian” and "The Light".

This was probably some terrible mistake. It has always appeared to me that the police and media are there to protect the privacy of alleged criminals, not call their names. [I can't give you the link to the page in the newspaper. It has not been published as of today.]

Perhaps if we commend them publicly for their courageousness it would encourage this new openness.

Look out for the Foreign Affairs Committee Report due to be published on Sunday. What will it have to say about Anguilla?

02 July, 2008

Day One

Chagos Case, Day One. The case began in the House of Lords on Monday. It is now Tuesday evening in London as I am writing this. I don't have the most up-to-date information. There have been some reports on day one of the hearing. See, in particular, the interesting account, written by Dr Sean Carey, of the proceedings: [link here]

The Liberal Democrats have been scathing in their comments. I particularly liked Shadow Foreign Secretary Edward Davey's comment,

The spectacle of David Miliband's lawyers invoking 19th century colonial laws to defend the indefensible is frankly sickening.

This is not a legal matter, it is a matter of principle. The Chaggosians must be allowed to go home.

Together with the scandal of secret US renditions from Diego Garcia, the abuse of these islands is a shameful stain on Britain's global reputation.” [link here]

Photographs of the peaceful picket outside the House of Lords published by Peter Marshall at Indimedia can be seen here.

Duncan Campbell's article in yesterday's Guardian newspaper is short but gives a good feel for the cynical and cruel case for the appellants as put to the Law Lords by the FCO's attorney.