31 October, 2008


Public Service Integrity Board. My four-year stint as chairman of the Public Service Integrity Board has come to an end. Someone else will have to take over. I wish him or her every success. I was lucky in my colleagues. Pastor Cecil Richardson, Allister Richardson and I had a very cordial and cooperative relationship.

The Hon Stanley Reid's letter was very gracious.

I would like to thank you for your devoted and invaluable service. I believe that your task as a member has been demanding and possibly tedious at times but your commitment to serve has assisted in ensuring the smooth and proper functioning of the Anguilla Public Service.

The truth is that the task was neither demanding nor tedious. The work of the PSIB should not be too difficult for the new appointees. The job of the PSIB is a very simple one. The PSIB's functioning is prescribed by the Act of the House of Assembly that set it up. Its duties are limited to advising the Governor on those matters concerning alleged conflicts of interest of civil servants that the Governor chooses to send to the Board for its advice. Full stop. Period.

The PSIB does not deal with any real issues of integrity in the public service. No member of the public has the right to complain to the Board about a conflict of interest. No person may send the Board any allegation of lack of integrity discovered relating to any public servant. Members of the Board may not investigate any allegation that comes to its attention, except that it was sent by the Governor. In all those four years, there were only two that I can recall.

The result has been that the functions of the Board have been pretty mundane. The majority of the issues put to the Board for advice were comparatively trifling. A customs officer wants to help out his brother part-time, after working hours, in his supermarket. Will that be a conflict of interest? A secretary in the Ministry of Finance wants to do a part-time job in the evening as a manicurist in a hotel. Will that be a conflict of interest? Please communicate the views of the Board to His Excellency soonest.

What about the allegation that a driver of a public service vehicle is using it as a taxi? No, the Board has no concern with that.

What about the police officer who was caught red-handed shoplifting? No, the Board should not ask any questions about that.

What about the immigration officer caught taking sex and groceries in exchange for residence stamps? No, the Board would be out of its depth dealing with that.

What about the senior police officer forcing himself on the new women police constables in exchange for promises of promotion? No, the Board should leave those issues alone.

What about the teacher seducing the high school student? No, leave that to the proper authorities.

The problem is that in Anguilla the proper authorities have become experts in art of the cover-up. It is not in the interests of senior officers in any branch of the public service to prosecute or even to fire a junior officer committing crimes of immorality or dishonesty. That would stir up a can of worms. Much better to deal with the problem “administratively”. That has invariably meant shifting the offender to another job and closing the file as soon as can decently be done. No one is ever subjected to disciplinary proceedings, far less prosecuted.

The trouble is that the children are observing. The public are watching. The lesson being taught is that there are no consequences of wrong-doing. Once you are an Anguillian, there will always be someone looking out for you. When all discipline breaks down, when the young people enter the work force and demand to be paid without doing an honest day's work, what will happen? The growing numbers of them sitting listlessly under the trees in every village enjoying the stupifying effects of their ganja and crack are already there for all to see. The hypocrites in the churches and in the high echelons of society pretend shock and surprise.

We will all know that the rot started at the head.

The failure of Anguillians to demand the highest standards of those in authority and power over us will have been at the root of the problem.

If it is too late then, don't blame the PSIB.

24 October, 2008


Tourism Sales Brochures. I am too sickened by the results of the House of Lords decision in the Chagos Islands case to be able to write anything coherent on it right now. I'll come back to it when I am calmer.

The past week has been spent chain-sawing the forty-odd thirty-foot-high trees that were blown over on my property. The perimeter fence was damaged by falling trees in eight different spots. You have no idea how long it takes a sixty-two year old man to chainsaw forty trees and then to pull the branches and logs into heaps for burning. I figure I am about three-quarters of the way to restoring the yard to some semblance of normalcy. More on this, with photos, in a later post.

Instead, I thought I would share a light moment with you. A friend sent me three photographs taken at random from the sales brochures of two Anguilla tourism projects.

Meades Bay

Viceroy's brochure labels this as “Meades Bay”. Now, as every Anguillian school child knows, there is no Meades Bay in Anguilla. The Viceroy project is partly built on Meads Bay. It is mainly constructed on Barnes Bay beach. But, this photograph bears no resemblance to Anguilla's Meads Bay. Not the Meads Bay of today, nor of twenty years ago before it was spoiled by all the development on it, nor of fifteen hundred years ago when only the Amerindians lived here.

Point between Private Villas and Resort Residences.

That is the title given to this spot in the Viceroy sales brochure. We all recognise the scene. It is the idyllic look-out point that used to exist at Coccoloba Hotel. It is now buried under about 1,200 tons of concrete.

Altamer Brochure

The above photo is taken from the Altamer brochure. Altamer is built at Shoal Bay West beach. The buildings were designed by Myron Goldfinger. Note the Myron-type buildings shown in the background. Note also the topless girl. She does a great job of covering up the overlaps from Photoshop. The only problem is that there is no such beach at Shoal Bay West. Nor is there any such beach, or combination of beaches, anywhere in Anguilla.

As my friend says, and I agree with him, any connection between these sales brochures and the packages of goods on offer is purely coincidental.

18 October, 2008

Teachers Matter

Teachers Matter. On Friday of last week the annual general meeting of the Anguilla Teachers Union took place. I was asked to speak on the theme for this year's World Teachers' Day. A bit of research soon revealed that a lot of thinking and publishing has gone into the subject. I had no difficulty finding things to say.

While I was on the topic, it occurred to me that my experience with my arithmetic teacher might be relevant. So, I told the gathered teachers about Mr Rais. This was what I said:

  1. I want to tell you about Mr Rais. He was my arithmetic teacher when I went to boarding school in Trinidad at 9 years of age. This was a long time ago. The main teaching tool then was the chalk board and a wood-backed duster to wipe it clean from time to time. Mr Rais made me learn my tables. He taught additions, subtractions and multiplications. It must have been very boring for him. He used to pace up and down the spaces between the desks as we did our class assignments. He would peer over my shoulder at my exercise book. Every time he noticed an error, he would rap me on the top of my head with the wooden back of the duster.

  2. To this day, I cannot multiply beyond 5. The 10 times table was easy. You just had to add a zero to the figure. If I have to work out 8 times 8, I can only do it by adding 3 times 8 to 5 times 8. Or, for variety, I might subtract 2 times 8 from 10 times 8. I failed mathematics at O-Level twice.

  3. I loved physics and chemistry from Form 1. I asked for a chemistry set as a Christmas gift every year. I did well in those subjects right up to Form 5. Then, mathematics entered the picture. I failed both physics and chemistry at O-Level. When I think of that teacher, a special loathing rises in me.”

So, yes, teachers do matter. In more ways than one. And, yes, I joined the Union. I am now a fully paid up member.

If you would like to read the speech, it is available here.

13 October, 2008

FCO Minister

Meg Munn is Out. We have a new Overseas Territories Minister. Meg Munn has gone back to the back benches. Her place has been taken by Gillian Merron MP.

Gillian Merron MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

According to her webpage at the FCO website:

“In Gordon Browns recent Cabinet reshuffle Gillian Merron MP (LAB Lincoln) has been moved to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a post previously held by Meg Munn MP, who is now not part of the Labour Government, Ms. Munn resumed her position as a Labour Backbencher.

Gillian Merron was educated at Wanstead High School and Lancaster University, where she took a BSc in management sciences.

Gillian was elected Member of Parliament for Lincoln in 1997. Born on 12 April 1959, in Ilford, Essex, of Jewish origins, daughter of a factory storekeeper and a shop assistant, she was educated at Wanstead High School and Lancaster University, where she gained a BSc (Hons) in Management Sciences. Gillian has lived and worked in the East Midlands for many years, starting work in 1982 as a Business Development Adviser before becoming a Local Government Officer then a Trade Union Official for NUPE and UNISON.”

It will be interesting to see if she brings a more concentrated light to bear in the dark corners of “governance” in the Overseas Territories than her predecessor did. God knows, we need it.

Not that she will last for long. The Conservative Party has every hope and expectation of winning the elections due in a year. Then, we start all over again.

10 October, 2008

Child Support

Child Support Reforms Coming Soon to Anguilla? I have not had much time for the blog the past few days. On Thursday, I participated in a workshop on child support. It was the Staff Development Day for the officers of the Department of Social Development. That is the department of government in The Valley that houses my legal aid clinic. Some of the clinic’s clients are referred by these officers. It was, therefore, an honour and a pleasure to have been asked to research the topic of the proposed reforms for child support and to make a presentation on the reforms to the workshop.

The OECS family law reform project is now several years old. The result has been the production of several draft Bills that have been circulated to all the nine island states and territories of the OECS for consideration. The draft Bills in question are:

  1. The Child Justice Bill;
  2. Children (Care and Adoption) Bill;
  3. The Domestic Violence Bill;
  4. The Family Law (Guardianship, Custody and Access to Children) Bill;
  5. The Maintenance of Children Bill;
  6. The Status of Children Bill.

I am not sure to what extent this exercise has resulted in any practical legal reform in any of our states and territories. Certainly, none of the draft model laws have been debated in this island, far less enacted. All of the draft Bills contain excellent provisions that we in Anguilla, particularly the mothers of children, could well benefit from.

As I told the officers to whom I was speaking, none of these reforms will come to the front of people’s attention unless someone lobbies and agitates for them. There is no department of government more involved with these issues than they are. Unless the staff of the Department take steps to lobby with the Mothers’ Union, the Churches, the community groups, the politicians, and the public, it is not likely that these draft Bills will be looked at by anyone. It will be a hard task to get any reforms done.

If you would like to have an idea what I spoke about, you can read my notes for the speech by clicking here.

04 October, 2008

Cayman Islands

Stuart Jack, a governor with balls. It is not often that you see a British governor of a colony taking firm action to restore integrity in public office. I have written often enough about the FCO’s preferred technique of brushing the dirt under the carpet. But, Stuart Jack is a governor of a different breed. It will be interesting to see if he serves out his full term of appointment in Cayman Islands. I expect that an opportunity will be found soon enough to return him to London. He has had a series of extraordinary challenges with both the judiciary and senior officers in the past year.

Stuart Jack

On 28 March, Jack announced that he had sent Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon, and Detective Chief Superintendent John Jones on leave with immediate effect. He announced he was doing this to enable an investigating team from the Metropolitan Police Service led by Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger to proceed with enquiries. This followed earlier investigations into allegations made against Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis which resulted in Ennis’ complete exoneration.

Martin Bridger

On 23 July, the independence and reputation of the judiciary took a blow. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie was obliged by rumours circulating in the Cayman Islands to issue an unprecedented press release concerning Judge Priya Levers. Rumours were rife that she had been suspended or was about to be terminated. The Chief Justice assured the public that she was merely away on leave. That was his statement in its entirety. Hardly reassuring when you consider that persons about to be charged or arrested are frequently sent on leave. The only shorter comment that the Chief Justice could have made was, “No comment”. It would have been no less informative and not more reassuring.

Anthony Smellie

On 5 August, Dixon was charged with two counts of misconduct in public office and two counts of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice. Kernohan and Jones are still under formal investigation for possible misconduct in public office.

Rudolph Dixon

On 16 September, Governor Jack announced the appointment of a Judicial Tribunal to investigate allegations of misbehaviour in judicial office against Judge Levers. The allegations concern certain “financial irregularities”. The Tribunal will be chaired by Sir Andrew Leggatt QC, a former Justice of Appeal in the UK. Needless to say, the Governor has suspended Judge Levers while this process is taking place.

Priya Levers

Then, on 24 September, Jack announced the arrest of Judge Alexander Henderson on charges of misconduct in public office. He was held and questioned at the police station until his release the following day. It seems he was only arrested because he refused to be interviewed in the investigation into the activities of the suspended police officers. He had given a written statement, but refused to be cross-examined orally. So, they arrested him and questioned him for several hours. We all hope it was nothing more than that. The judge has an excellent reputation both in Canada and in the Cayman Islands.

Alexander Henderson

As a result, the rule of law in our sister British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands has taken some vicious body blows this year. But, there is a reassuring side to these developments. If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will show the same guts in Anguilla as Governor Jack has shown, we may even develop some respect for that Department and its officers. That would be a new and welcome development for Anguilla.

At present, no one in Anguilla can imagine the governor pursuing allegations against any senior police officer here no matter how serious they are. The official position is that you must present “evidence” before any action will be taken. The whole point of an inquiry is that it is designed to find out if there is any evidence. After that, the law takes its course. If you already have the evidence, there is no need to hold an inquiry.

I am quite confident that no judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court will ever find himself in a similar position. The magistracy is a different matter. We all remember the stories that were circulating about certain magistrates over the past twenty years. Not one of them was ever charged with any offence, far less arrested. They were all allowed to quietly depart from Anguilla and all possible charges were dropped. No names will be mentioned, but all adults living in Anguilla at the time will know who I mean. Where was governor Jack when we needed him?

As usual, all parties mentioned are innocent of any crime until they are convicted by a jury of their peers, the good men and women of the Cayman Islands.

01 October, 2008

Court garb

Judges stop wearing wigs in courts in England. The word wig is short for ‘periwig’. That word derives from the French ‘perruque’. The fashion for men to wear the powdered white wig we know so well came from the court of Louis XIV of France. It spread to English society during the reign of Charles II of Britain in the late 17 century.

When men wearing wigs went out of fashion during the reign of George III, judges and barristers continued to wear them in court. Judges wore the shoulder-length ‘full bottom’ wig until the 1780s. From that period, they adopted for civil trials the smaller wig with a tail at the back. From the 1840s the small ‘bench wig’, used by English judges up to today, took over for criminal trials. A judge’s court wig costs around EC$4,000, while a full-bottomed wig would set you back over $10,000.

Today, 1 October, is the first day for new judicial garb in the UK. Judges will appear in civil courts from now on dressed in a simple robe and without wigs.

The reform was not haphazardly done. There was consultation with the public, the bar, and the judiciary. The conclusion Lord Phillips, the Chief Justice, came to was that wigs make English judges look out of touch. Some even went so far as to say that the old horse hair wigs made judges look ridiculous.

Of course, we in the West Indies long ago gave up wearing wigs to court. We abolished the wig in 1972 for both the bench and bar. A few of the older lawyers still have them. My old barrister's wig only gets used when the High School has a play to put on that needs a borrowed wig.

So, in some ways, the English judges are only now catching up with our judges. But, in other ways they have gone further. Instead of the old fashioned stuff gowns and silk gowns that our judges and lawyers still wear, they will wear a simple European-style black robe fastened with Velcro.

They will continue to wear wigs in criminal trials. They say they hope it gives them a degree of anonymity should they ever meet a convict in the street!