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
“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
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
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
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
So far as I am aware, that was the only time anyone in
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
On 3 December, Anguilla’s Hon Chief Minister appeared before the FAC in
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
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
“I and very many others (native Anguillians—not just expatriates) are deeply concerned:
(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.”
“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
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
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
They think they have an easy target by going after “outsiders” who they characterize as tarnishing
We shall see how many fall for that one.