29 January, 2008

Business Licence

No, there Are No Licences Required in Anguilla for Doing Business. I cannot believe it. A civil service friend of mine contacted me recently. He had been told that he had to get a business licence to continue to do his photography business. He has a good camera. He tells me that he has been taking photographs for years. He has started to earn some money from his hobby. He does not have a photo studio, just his home. He does not have a sign outside his home advertising that he is doing business from there. He has no studio in his home. All his advertising is by word of mouth. He has got some real lucrative commercial work recently. Word has got back to the Inland Revenue. Someone in his department tapped him on his shoulder and told him that questions were being asked. Did he have a business licence? If he did not get a licence he was going to get in trouble! So, he had gone to Inland Revenue and paid for and obtained the licence. It cost him about US$1,000.00. He has been told he has to renew it annually.

He asked me the question. Did he need a business licence to do what he was doing? The answer is a resounding NO! There is no licence required for doing business as such in Anguilla. There never has been.

About 20 years ago, Lawyer Fred Kelsick tested the law. Fred Kelsick was a St Kitts lawyer. He has died now. He used to come to Anguilla to represent his clients in court and give advice and other legal services. Charlie Gumbs of the Quarter was his agent. You made appointments by contacting Charlie to find out when Mr Kelsick was coming next to Anguilla. Mr Kelsick interviewed his clients outside the court house, under the loblolly tree that is still there. That was the old court house, which we now know as the “Statistics Department”. The police served a summons on Mr Kelsick. It had been approved by the Attorney-General. The charge was for working as a lawyer in Anguilla without a business licence contrary to section 3 of the Trades, Businesses, Occupations and Professions Act. I do not remember who the Magistrate was. He threw out the charge. The Magistrate ruled that you don’t need a licence to do business in Anguilla.

You do not have to be a lawyer to see why he threw out the charge and told the police not to harass Mr Kelsick. You only have to be able to read a simple sentence. Section 3 of the Act reads:

Obligation to obtain licence to carry on certain trades, businesses, occupations and professions

3. Every person carrying on any trade, business, occupation or profession set out in the Schedule shall take out an annual licence in accordance with the provisions of this Act in respect of each premises or place where such trade, business, occupation or profession is carried on, and shall only carry on such trade, business, occupation or profession from such premises or place.

It should be obvious. The licence is in respect of “each premises or place where such trade, business, occupation or profession is carried on”. If you set up an office in your home, advertise it, and have customers come to your home to conduct the business, it is arguable that your home is a place of business. But, if you only practice your profession in a public place like a courthouse, and interview your clients under the loblolly tree, then you do not have a place of business that can be licensed. Nor do you have to.

The late Clement Daniels used to have a retail business called Galaxy Shoppe. It had two outlets. One was at Wallblake. He had another branch at The Valley where Brodie runs his retail outlet. He had two places of business. He had to obtain two licences under the Act.

My friend does not have a place of business. What he is doing does not require a place of business. He goes out on assignment to take photographs. He is photographing a wedding at a hotel one day, at an event of one kind of another at a different place the next day. The Act goes on to say that if you do have a licensed place of business, you cannot open additional branches all over the island. If does not say that you cannot carry on a business without having a licensed place of business. Do you think that my friend needs a licence?

Well, do we need an Ombudsman in Anguilla, or do we not?

I told my civil service friend I hoped he had permission from the Governor to be doing an outside business. But, that is another story.

27 January, 2008


Illegal Exploitation by Anguillians of Cheap Foreign Labour. So, what’s the latest scam in Anguilla? Come on! If you do not give me the information, I cannot be expected to go and ferret it all out by myself. There must be lots of interesting scams going on in Anguilla right now.

I mean, in addition to the contractors who go down to West End every Sunday before dawn and fill their pick-up vans with Chinese labourers from the Ashtrom project. The activity is done out in the open, even if admittedly a little early in the morning. No one from Immigration does a thing to stop them. You don’t believe me that any Anguillian contractor could be so greedy and careless? Why not do like I did? Stand at the intersection of the road to Great House Hotel and the South Hill Main Road for half an hour early on a Sunday morning. I was on my exercise walk at about 7:00 am. You don’t have to torture yourself like me. Just stand there for a half hour. I saw seven contractors’ pick-ups pass me filled with Chinese. They seemed to be in a hurry. The Chinese were laughing and looking around them. Some even made a feeble attempt to hide behind the doors of the pick-up. That was difficult to manage with six of them squeezed in the cabin. Mostly, they just looked happy. Happy to be out and about and earning some real money.

I checked with one of my contractor friends. This illegal practice has been going on for months now. The Chinese are paid US$60.00 for the one day’s work. The contractor charges the owner of the house he is building the usual US$100.00 to US$150.00 per worker per day for supplying such expert labour, and on a Sunday. And, they are expert labour. I am told that they do in that one day, Sunday, working from dawn to dusk, as much work as the average West Indian worker would do in a week. I feel bad about writing this. They are so earnest and so hard working, and so deserving of their pay. Working four Sundays a month they take home as much as they earn working for Ashtrom six days a week for the entire month.

But, should our sympathy for the plight of the Chinese allow this illegal activity to continue? Should we allow these contractors to flout the law with impunity? These Chinese may be here in Anguilla legally to work for Ashtrom. But, they are not permitted to work on outside jobs. If we say nothing, when the next contractor starts importing cheap illegal labour to be able to compete, what are we going to tell him? When you and I start employing our own personal illegal cheap labour, who will be the first to get prosecuted? Is it that we don’t care if we turn into another St Maarten development madhouse?

Has somebody been paid off?

Where are the ethics in all this confusion? Who is in charge here? Do our laws mean nothing? Come on, tell me what is going on!

24 January, 2008

No News

I Have Very Little News: Perhaps, the headline is more accurate. I practically have no news. That is why I have not updated the blog for several days.

Unless, you think that the news of the relocation of the dolphins to Blowing Point is news!

Planning and Executive Council permissions and leases have been granted, in spite of the criticisms of the people of Blowing Point who will now have a circus in their midst! In spite of the nuisance that this development will cause its neighbours! In spite of the realization that this relocation must ensure that the Blowing Point taxi-drivers will never again earn a penny from the business! Dolphinarium customers will simply walk there from the ferry!

Yes, that is the public access to the beach. This development will inevitably destroy one of the public's last accesses to a popular beach and picnic site!

Yes, that pretty white building you see in the background, behind one of the newly installed pilings, is the ferry terminal. The dolphins will love breathing its spilled fuel and fumes! Their echo location sensors will just have to learn to put up with the ferry engines!

The lease and permits were granted based of one of the most idiotic “environmental impact statements” you have ever read in your life. It was written in a semi-literate style, but was no doubt well funded. This report should have been all the evidence government needed to tell these people to go away. The other EIS was very well written, but by a notoriously pro-dolphin-circus engineering company. They are a reputable company, but they build dolphinariums, for Heaven’s sake!

And, government does not subject these two reports to expert scrutiny of its own?

Nor hold the sort of public consultations they promised in signing the Environmental Charter?

But, then, I hate to say, “I told you so!”

18 January, 2008

Nothing More

Time for Written Submissions to the Foreign Affairs Committee has been Extended to 31 January. There has been no announcement in Anguilla. Not by government. Not in the local press. Not on a single radio station. There has been a deathly hush all over. No, it is neither a conspiracy nor fear. It is pure indifference. We Anguillians have it good. Financially, at least. We have no time for concerns about where our island is going. We are busy earning a dollar. We have not a moment to give a thought for the island our children will inherit. After all, we do not have the time to give them breakfast or a lunch package in the morning when they set off to school. We give each of them a hundred dollar bill, and tell them to buy breakfast and lunch on the road. You cannot expect more loving care from us than that!

The British FAC is making an inquiry into how our Overseas Territories are governed. They have invited written as well as oral submissions. Any one of us can write to the Committee. We can express any concern we might have about some matter of good, indifferent or bad governance. I seriously doubt any of us in Anguilla has written in. Well, we have until January 31 to do so. That is the new, extended, closing date for making written submissions to the FAC.

Compare our situation to that of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The TCI have a transparent system when it comes to tenders. So says Premier Michael Misick.

In TCI, there is a process in place at ministerial level for the allocation of Crown land. Parliament has a register of interests. The government is in the process of putting anti-corruption legislation in place to ensure that corruption does not rear its ugly head in that Territory. The police are within the ambit of the governor. There is an independent non-political Attorney-General responsible for prosecutions. Belonger status is given by the entire Cabinet, and not by one person. The Governor is the chairperson of Cabinet, and does not have to accept the advice of Cabinet. Our Anguillian public service and elected officials have much a greater autonomy than the government of TCI. Most of these checks and balances found in the TCI do not apply in Anguilla. Belonger status is given in Anguilla by an expert committee set up by a law. Our governor is obliged to accept the advice of our ExCo. Our parliamentarians do not have to disclose their assets to anyone. We could do with some of those TCI provisions in Anguilla.

Yet, in spite of these safeguards, accusations from TCI citizens continue to pour into the FAC about the poor level of governance in the TCI. According Mike Gapes MP, chairperson of the FAC, over one third of all written submissions received by the FAC from all the Overseas Territories put together have come from the TCI. This suggests an extraordinary degree of concern among the citizens of that Territory. Compare that with Anguilla, where there is no hint that any person has made any written submission to it. That, in spite of the many problems with governance that we all know about.

There is still time for you to change your mind. It is all our duty to be concerned about integrity in public life in Anguilla. You might try accessing the FAC website. There you will get all the information you will need on how to make a written submission to the FAC. You have until 31 January.

A report on the Overseas Territories will be produced at the end of the Inquiry, for submission to the House of Commons and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It would be sad to read in it that no one in Anguilla had anything to say.

Me? I made all my contribution when the Constitutional Commissioners delivered their report to government on 26 August 2006. I have nothing further of value to add!

17 January, 2008

Crime Solved

Ditherers and Platitudes. I am sure we all remember with pride and a sense of accomplishment the news from April 2007. The Hon Chief Minister, in response to near panic in the community at the rise in the numbers of burglaries, rapes, murders, and youthful drug-fuelled mayhem, set up a Multidisciplinary Committee on Crime. The purpose of the committee was to “design a strategy and the development of an action plan to facilitate the prevention and correction of crime on Anguilla”. If you want, you can read all about it here on the government public relations website. In case you are overwhelmed by a sense of the futility of reading press releases and would prefer not to visit the website, I extract the important part of the press release here:

"As part of the efforts to address the recent upsurge in the incidents of crime, the Honourable Osbourne Fleming, Chief Minister convened an emergency meeting at his offices on Wednesday, April 11, 2007.

In addition to members of the government and opposition member the Hon Hubert Hughes, present at the meeting were Dame Bernice Lake, QC, Commissioner of Police, Keithley Benjamin and Sergeant Rudolph Proctor, Superintendent Minister of the Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Clifton Niles, Chief Education Officer, Mrs. Rhonda Connor, Commissioner of Social Development, Mr. Stanford Richardson, Director of Tourism, Mrs. Amelia Vanterpool-Kubisch, Chief Immigration Officer Ms. Laureen Bryan, Executive Directors of the Anguilla Hotel Association and the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as other representatives from the Department of Education and the Anguilla Hotel & Tourism Association.

[Zealous puffery about what we all "must do" omitted.]

The purpose of the committee established by the Government of Anguilla is to therefore assist with the designing of a strategy and the development of an action plan to facilitate the prevention and correction of crime on Anguilla."

I am sure the families of Stacy Ann Brooks-Laurent, shot to death on 3 August as she sat in her car, and of Randy Audain, shot in the head on 10 August, must be reassured to know that this committee was established. All Anguillians expected much from it.

The meeting appointing the committee was well publicised.

The Anguillian Newspaper did a story on it in its 13 April 2007 issue.

In an article published in Anguilla Guide entitled “Reclaiming Our Paradise”, the anonymous author showered high accolades on government for setting up this committee. This article was written after the famous 16 August “Day of Mourning, Repentance and Prayer”. The author wrote then, “What I would say, though, is that if it is business as usual after all the mourning, repenting and praying, then the “Day of Mourning, Repentance and Prayer” would have been in vain.” This was to be prophetic.

I have checked with three people in Education, Social Services and the private sector who are working directly and effectively with young people. Not the young people who want to become dentists, accountants and proctologists but the boys we are all concerned about. Like me, all of them heard of this important initiative in April of last year. And none of us has heard a word about it since then.

What has it accomplished? Has it met once since it was set up?

Did it ever design a strategy? Did it ever come up with the promised action plan?

And, how many young Anguillian men have been shot, stabbed or murdered since April 2007?

How do we put up with such ditherers and their platitudes?

16 January, 2008


Land Development in Anguilla Clicks into Overgear just as the World Economy goes into Recession. It is great to see that Anguillians are getting in on the land development act. We were all afraid that only foreign developers would receive the benefits of government’s light hand when it comes to matters of the environment and planning. When Flag at Cove Bay was given the green light to do more or less what it wanted, we were all a bit shocked. Then the Kor/Viceroy boys at Barnes Bay were given the green light to do whatever they wanted, regardless of the environmental implications. Some persons even said that it was only because these were foreign corporations that government was not insisting that they build according to the strict standards that previous developers had been subjected to. Now, we know better. Even local developers are to benefit from government’s liberality.

The Minister of Finance in his recent Budget speech pointed to a very active tourism construction period involving millions of dollars. The new projects that have been approved and are going to come on stream include the following. The KOR Group Meads Bay project of 350 rooms on 18 acres is scheduled to open in January 2009 with a build out period of 10 years and with a projected investment of US$250 million. The Gumbs’ Family Rendezvous Bay redevelopment and expansion project will consist of up to 450 rooms on 40 acres with a build out period of 10 years and a projected investment of US$300 million. The Lake & Kentish family’s Conch Bay project will consist of up to 730 rooms on 361 acres with a build out period of 12 years and a projected investment of US$475 million. The Harrigan Family’s Shoal Bay development project of up to 100 rooms on 7 acres will have a build out period of 3 years and projected investment of US$50 million. The Cap Juluca Maundays Bay development and expansion project anticipates up to 360 rooms (including the existing 98 rooms) on approximately 95 acres, and with a build out period is 10 years and projected investment of US$400 million. Needless to say, all these will take thousands of Chinese and Indian construction workers to complete on time. But, then as my friend the contractor said recently, “I shall never employ an Anguillian worker again for as long as I live”, so that should not be a problem.

I recently came into possession of the proposals for the Conch Bay Project, and I thought I would share them with all Anguillians. This project is not something that we should keep quiet about. Actually, it is very well advertised. A Google search for “Fairmont Anguilla” came up with 831 results.

These are some of the artist’s renditions. Clicking on the photographs will enlarge them for better viewing.

The Fairmont project is certainly the biggest and most ambitious of all those planned for Anguilla. It will transform the south coast of Anguilla.

There will be a golf course.

There are plans for the beaches and coastline.

The Overall Site Concept Plan gives an idea of the magnitude of the project. It may be my eyesight, but I seem to have lost the public road to Forest Bay and as far as the government jetty. Has it all been given away?

Beaches will be recreated where they do not exist.

Another interesting concept is to blast out the rock and to create a new swimming area.

A residents’ beach club will be created.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by government in January 2007. The MOU provided an extremely liberal planning regime for the developer. An Environmental Impact Assessment was called for. But it was not to be taken seriously. Government assured the developers that they would not be bound by anything negative disclosed in the EIA, nor be subject to any control by the Land Development Control Committee. And so it should be. Why should only foreign owned developments be permitted to ignore the recommendations of the Planning Department? Why should any one be concerned about something as ephemeral as the environment? Anguillians, or some of them anyway, have to get their slice of the pie! The Anguilla National Trust was shouting into the wind when it wrote:

The performance of an EIA almost seems like a process in futility since the Memorandum of Agreement, as signed between the GoA and the developer restricts the application of the results in as far as the recommendations contravene what the developer deems to be significant alterations. This term is not only subjective, but it leaves very little room for remedial or alternative measures to be employed even if it is the best interest of the communities to be affected, the country and the project as a whole. The ANT therefore suggests that the LDCC recommends to the Executive Council that in the future all DRAFT Memoranda of Agreements should at least be commented upon by the LDCC before finalization and signing.

Of course, nobody will be paying any attention to this type of reasoning. Damien is going off to work in the private sector. And, we don't need any public beach to be left in Anguilla. We can all use our swimming pools.

15 January, 2008


Why Do We Need a Complaints Commissioner? I was reading through the Cayman Net News this morning. I saw that their Complaints Commissioner, Dr John Epp, has released a report. I found it instructive. We all have our favourite complaints about the Anguilla Public Service. There are the goods that were shipped from overseas and held in the Customs warehouse. When you returned to pick them up, they were gone. No one in Customs could tell you what happened to them. There was the Immigration Officer who was rude to you when you claimed you were an Anguillian. She told you that so long as you showed her a US passport, she would give you a limited time to stay on the island. There was the Planning Officer who would not permit you to build as you wanted. You had to go to the Minister to get him to tell Planning to stop harassing you. Indeed, in Anguilla almost the only remedy we have when we come upon a stubborn public officer is to go to the Minister and ask him to tell the officer to keep quiet. It is how we do it in Anguilla. We are not alone, many other islands function in this way. It is not the right way. It is a perversity. It undermines the public service. But, we needs must find a remedy when we believe that a public officer is not performing. That is where the Complaints Commissioner, or Ombudsman, comes in. He is the one to whom we take our complaints. He investigates and tries to fix the problem. He is paid by the House of Assembly and answers to no Minister. He is paid to be independent and fearless. We in Anguilla need and want such an institution. It was recommended at paragraph 181 of the2006 Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. It reads:

181. Complaints Commissioner. Anguilla has no Complaints Commissioner or Ombudsman. The only remedy for administrative abuse at present is an action for damages in the High Court. High Court proceedings are not only expensive but are often not the best remedy for improper conduct on the part of a public servant or government department. Representations have been made to the Commission that it is time that such relief be provided to citizens who have a complaint of oppressive or unfair treatment by any government officer. The Commission is satisfied that it is appropriate for Anguilla to have an Ombudsman at this time. The Commission recommends that there be provision in the Constitution for the office of Ombudsman, to report to the Assembly and to be regulated by an appropriate law.

In his report, Dr Epp gives some examples of the types of problems the Office of the Complaints Commission (OCC) had to deal with in the Cayman Islands last year. Let is look at some of them, taken directly from the Cayman Net News story. We will find that they are not so different from the types of complaints that we in Anguilla would like to make.

Case 1: Oil spills at the landfill – Investigation completed 10 November 2006
The OCC is still monitoring the outcome of one complaint that raised Environmental concerns at the George Town Landfill.

In February 2005, a complainant accused the Department of Environmental Health of failing to store waste oil drums from the George Town landfill securely and contaminating the surrounding area. He reported that leaking drums were littering the Harquail Bypass after being displaced in Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, and although the department was aware of the problem nothing was being done.

The OCC investigation found that drums had not been properly sealed or stored. While the DEH was taking action to clean up the contamination at the time of the complaint, the OCC considered the complaint justified. Poor storage and the excessive number of waste oil drums that had accumulated at the land fill during hurricane season had evidently contributed to the problem.

The DEH had also failed to keep accurate records of the waste oil it received. The OCC made seven specific recommendations to address storage and record keeping. At the time of publication almost all the recommendations had been implemented so the OCC continues to monitor the situation closely.

Case 2: Refusal of a Work Permit – Investigation completed 29 August 2006
Evidence revealed that the Work Permit Board (WPB) had made the right decision over a work permit renewal complaint which, was not upheld.

A work permit holder came to the OCC complaining that his renewal had been refused because his employer did not have a satisfactory training programme in place but, he believed his employer did indeed have a programme and other factors had influenced the board’s decision.

Investigations by the OCC and consideration of the evidence, including several resignations and contradictory submissions to the WPB by the firm, indicated that whatever training may have been in place was less than genuine.

The OCC decided that the WPB’s process and deliberations which led to the conclusion that the company had failed to meet the requirements regarding a proper training programme for Caymanians was sound. As a result the OCC found no case of maladministration.

Case 3: RCIPS fails to resolve complaint in time – Investigation completed 8 September 2006
Some five recommendations were made to the RCIPS Complaints and Disciplines Unit, (CDU) after it failed to properly act on a complaint made to them by an alleged victim of car theft.

Ten days after logging a complaint surrounding the details of the reported theft to the CDU, resident made a complaint to the OCC. After conducting an investigation this office found that although the CDU was hampered by the Vehicle Licensing office’s delay in supplying documents pertinent to the case, it was still at fault. It failed to contact the complainant about the progress of his case until the OCC began its investigation.

This case included input from the Governor and the Attorney General as it also raised issues about the OCC’s jurisdiction.

Importantly, however, it led to a greater understanding by the RCIPS that its internal complaints system needed to be reviewed and action to improve it.

Case 4: RCIPS follows procedures - Investigation completed 13 April 2007
The Office of the Complaints Commissioner was established to investigate complaints that government departments fail to resolve. When one complainant reported that the RCIPS had confiscated his belongings when he was arrested and given them away, the OCC discovered that the RCIPS Complaints and Discipline Unit police had investigated the accusations.

After the OCC met with the CDU it was apparent the case was being addressed properly and in accordance with procedure. The CDU was ultimately resolved in favour of the complainant, and the OCC decided that proper action had been taken by the CDU so the complaint was unfounded.

Case 5: Wastewater and the Turtle Farm – Investigation completed 30 August 2006
A complex complaint in April 2005 accusing the Water Authority, (WA) of failing to monitor the discharge of wastewater from the Cayman Turtle Farm, (CTF) revealed environmental concerns, but indicated the authority was not at fault.

When a concerned citizen reported that the discharge of effluent water from the CTF into the sea was not being regulated the OCC began a long investigation that involved a number of organizations and expert reports. The investigation was further complicated by the potential impact of a proposed dolphin facility at the same site.

Over 16 months the OCC watched the WA watch the turtle farm and found that the WA complied with the WA Law and was calling the CTF to account. As well as hearing evidence from the Department of Environment, the OCC considered expert research and an impact study. In the end it found that the WA was doing all it could within its regulator parameters. (After writing to the CTF with its concerns the WA deferred CTF’s license and warned of prosecution.)

In a case dragged out by the CTF’s failure to meet all the WA requests in a timely manner, the OCC concluded that the complaint against the WA was not founded.

Case 6: Trade & Business License Board to explain decisions – Investigation completed 13 December 2006
Regardless of the reasons for a deferral the Trade and Business License Board should explain its decisions to those directly affected was the conclusion of one investigation following a complaint against the board.

When an application to operate a small business was deferred in order for the board to collect evidence from the National Roads Authority, (NRA) the OCC discovered the board had not informed the complainant.

It said this was because of their concerns that an explanation would have caused the complainant to call the NRA, which they believed would have been inappropriate. The OCC concluded however, that the board need only have said it was waiting for information from an unnamed government office.

The OCC found in favour of the complainant and recommended that more detailed explanations of the decisions made by the board are given to applicants.

Case 7: The DEH and notification over a garbage skip – Investigation completed 13 September 2006
A poorly placed garbage skip led to a resident’s ill health and a complaint that involved the DEH and the Central Planning Authority, (CPA) being upheld.

When a resident found a skip some 20 feet from his bedroom window as opposed to at the opposite side of the development site as expected, he registered a complaint with the OCC.The subsequent investigation revealed that while the complainant was led to believe the skip would be sited in a given spot according to the original plans, a later meeting of the CPA granted permission to the developer to move it without offering the complainant a chance to object.

The timely involvement of the OCC ensured that the skip was moved to the original location, and that new processes were adopted to ensure proper notification.

Case 8: Public Transport Board improves procedures – Investigation completed 20 June 2007
A letter of apology and the establishment of a secretariat were two of the recommendations made by the OCC to the Public Transport Board, (PTB) after the commissioner found the board had failed to respond in a timely manner to a complaint.

Following the submission of an application for a specialist transport service, the applicant came to the OCC complaining that the PTB had failed to provide him with the correct information and was slow to respond to enquiries. An investigation by the OCC discovered that administrative and communication problems within the PTB had led to a delay in response.

The OCC concluded that while the PTB had provided accurate information it had not done so in an acceptable time period and the second part of the complaint was well founded. The case also resulted in a promise from the Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce that flaws in the administration of the PTB would be addressed.

Case 9: Child and Family Services to provide assistance - Investigation completed 13 December 2006
One parent was approved to receive school lunch assistance for her children when the OCC found a case of maladministration at the Department Child and Family services. After receiving a complaint from a parent who had been refused assistance, the OCC discovered that certain conditions had been imposed on her.

However, under the Poor Person’s (Relief) Law the department did not have the authority to do so. Moreover, there was an evident lack of Regulations in the current framework guiding the department’s decisions.

The OCC was therefore, concerned that arbitrary decisions could lead to injustice and discrimination. It was recommended that until relevant regulation was in place temporary relief should be given to children without (illegal) conditions.

Case 10: License deferrals by the EBE – Investigation completed 14 November 2006
A local contractor complained to the OCC that the Electrical Trade Licensing Board of Examiners (EBE) had undermined its right to a timely appeal by twice deferring license applications for its wireman and electricians.

During its investigation the OCC found that because the EBE were unable to ascertain independently information about the electrician’s qualifications it twice deferred the contractor’s applications.

After a refusal and then a resubmission the board finally granted the licenses. The delay of over three months however, caused by the deferrals was significant and the contractor was prevented from following through with a right of appeal.

As a result the OCC recommended that there should only ever be one adjournment to allow for more information before a decision is made, other than in exceptional cases.

The Aim of the OCC is to investigate in a fair and independent manner complaints against government to ascertain whether injustice has been caused by improper, unreasonable, or inadequate government administrative conduct, and to ascertain the inequitable or unreasonable nature or operation of any enactment or rule of law.

It is pathetic that we in Anguilla have no similar remedy. We are obliged to go running to some fixer to do us the favour of calling on the offending public servant to do his job. Then, we worry what favour we will be asked to give in return. As my Dominican friend likes to say, “You can do anything you want in Anguilla, so long as you have a Godfather”. What kind of a way is that to live? The answer is that we live as close to the jungle as it is possible to get in this day and age. We can only read and wonder at how luck those Camanians are!

14 January, 2008

Mid-Term Report

Cayman Islands Government Publishes Mid-Term Report. I was impressed when I read that the government of the Hon Kurt Tibbetts of Cayman Islands has published a report on what it has accomplished and what it still plans to do [link here] . Mr Tibbetts calls it his government’s “Mid-Term Report” [link here] . His government took office two years ago with a pledge to the people that it would embrace a style of government that was open, honest and transparent. As he says, such a report is an ideal vehicle for delivering on this commitment of openness. Copies of it have been left at places all over the country for members of the public to pick up and keep.

Hon Kurt Tibbetts, Leader of Government Business

Of course, his government is still brand new, and full of energy and good intentions. Most governments in their first term, when they are not yet burned out and jaded, make gestures like this. As the years go by, and the pressures of holding high political office take their toll, one of the first attributes to go out the window is transparency and openness. Ministers become worn out and reluctant to discuss what is happening in the country. After that, it seems always to be the same old, same old.

What about us in Anguilla? Have we ever had a Mid-Term Report? If so, when was the last one? Isn't one due?

11 January, 2008


Do Bloggers Really Make any Useful Contribution? I am not the only one who has been asking myself this question. Recent developments with bloggers in Bermuda show that others are asking themselves the same thing.

Bermuda is a tiny British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic, just off the coast of North Carolina. It enjoys the world’s highest GDP. The PLP, the ruling political party, has recently been re-elected to power, despite a crescendo of evidence of misdeeds at the highest levels of the party and government. Revelations of shenanigans on the part of Premier Brown were frequently published prior to the election in the courageous mainstream press such as the Royal Gazette.

Premier Brown

Yet, the PLP won power for the third straight time in a row, with increased voter turnout.

Blogger Dennis Pitcher raised the level of political commentary on Bermuda in his blog 21 Square Miles. The resulting personal attacks on him have made him tired, saddened and disillusioned. He is now bringing his blogging to an end. He has concluded that the government representatives and their supporters prefer to shoot the messenger rather than discuss the message.

Software developer Phillip Wells, an Englishman married to a Bermudian, started his blog, Limey in Bermuda in August 2003. He regularly criticised the actions of the PLP government. Now, he has decided to close his blog. He has come to believe that by continuing his criticism, he will only make things worse. If you are white, you will be accused of being a racist. If you are black, you will be accused of being a race traitor. If you are a journalist, you will be accused of being in league with the opposition. If you are in the opposition, you will be accused of wanting to take the country back to slavery. If he is right, our system of politics is truly dysfunctional.

PC Allan Palmer is an independent thinker among the Bermuda Police officers. I knew him as a police officer in St Vincent. He used to take me climbing the Soufriere Volcano.

PC Palmer

He transferred to the Bermuda Police Force. He started a blog, Crushing Fools in December 2007. He challenged his readers to take back the island from the criminals on the street. He called on the community to “be courageous” and to unite against violence and crime. He came in for high praise in the media. After his first article, he published nothing more. He loves writing. He would not have stopped without pressure. I expect he was shut down by his superiors. Never mind he was asking the public to cooperate with their police. Independent thinkers in the police force are usually considered a dangerous threat to those in power. That is true not only of Bermuda.

Bloggers do not exist simply for the purpose of criticizing a government or a particular political party. The most they can do is to offer an alternative perspective and ideas about how to make their island a better place. If you are trying to make a difference, it does not take long for the realization to sink in that blogging does nothing to really achieve positive change. After all, no politician is lying awake at night worrying about what is published about him on any blog. Blogs are usually read by people who agree with the blogger. This is little more than the case of a preacher preaching to the converted. If all the effort put into blogging and commenting is designed to make a change, you have to ask yourself what is the use?

Then I answer myself. You go on blogging because you enjoy the writing. You like expressing your views, no matter who agrees. You do not expect to make a difference. That would be a mistake.

09 January, 2008

Dolphin Risk

Government to Approve Dolphinarium at Blowing Point on Thursday. We would all have heard by now that the Ministers have agreed to give the “swim with the dolphins” company a licence or lease of part of the proposed national park at Blowing Point for as their new facility. Its approval by ExCo on Thursday is expected to be a mere formality.

In the past, concerns have been expressed over a number of issues. These have included on the “pro” side such matters as the need to provide visitors to Anguilla with more amusements, and the need to keep those Anguillians employed by the old facility at Meads Bay in their jobs. On the “con” side we have read of concerns about the pollution problem and its consequences, including damage to reefs and other marine life, risk of infection to humans, and the impact of fuel and oil from the Blowing Point harbour on the health of the dolphins.

Silently lying in the background has been the unspoken issue of the impact of this type of circus activity on the values of the multi-million dollar homes built in recent years along that coast.

Now, comes word of another factor that should be thrown into the equation. Are the visitors and participants safe when swimming with the dolphins? Are these really tame animals that love to hug and to be hugged? Marine Connection is a UK charity dedicated to protecting dolphins and whales worldwide. Reading through its web-pages, I came across a story about a recent incident in Curacao. A captive dolphin apparently deliberately dropped itself on three volunteer participants in a game. The dolphin was supposed to jump over a stick they were holding. Instead, it landed on three of them, seriously injuring one of them. If you are interested, you can read the story and look at footage of the incident [link here].

Dr Naomi Rose is a marine mammal scientist with Humane Society International [link here] . She has expressed interest in the dolphin activity in Anguilla. When approached, she provided an insight into the significance and meaning for us in Anguilla of this incident in Curacao. She writes:

"The Curacao incident is not as rare as the swim-with industry would have the public believe. Many people every year receive minor injuries from these animals, such as bites or bruises. The vast majority are never reported, mostly because the facilities behave as this one did (try to suppress the information) or because the people themselves believe they must have done something wrong to provoke the dolphin (and they are encouraged to think this by the facilities). More serious injuries, such as broken bones, lacerations requiring stitches, and so on, do occur but more rarely. Then there's this sort of thing: an unusual interaction - certainly rare, but nevertheless as significant a risk as, say, a plane crash - that could potential lead to permanent injury. I don't know the current condition of the woman in the middle of the three people who received that body blow, but she could easily have been paralyzed by what happened.

It was almost certainly not an accident either, no matter what the facility called it. Dolphins are very aware of their position in the water and when they "porpoise" or jump out of the water, even more so when they are in a confined, completely familiar space such as a tank. We must remember that the water is their element - we are the awkward, tentative, clumsy ones in it. Annie, the dolphin who did this, did it on purpose - I can say that with very high confidence, even without viewing the video clip but certainly after doing so! Why she did it is another question - she might have meant absolutely no harm by it, because to another dolphin, such a body slam wouldn't have caused any permanent damage, but could have made a point within the dolphin social hierarchy of this facility. She might have even been playing. But my guess is that she meant to make a dominance point. She was no doubt quite surprised when the people she hit didn't respond as dolphins would.

Captive swim-with encounters are at least as dangerous as some recreational sports, like skate-boarding. Generally speaking you don't get injured, but you might end up with bumps or cuts. When you do get injured, it could be serious. Some people might think that's a reasonable risk and so it may be - but the difference with swim-withs is 1) with its rhetoric, the industry misleads the public into thinking it's completely safe (just go to any facility's web site - there may be fine print somewhere about the risks of injury, but the big print is all about how lovely and gentle and happy dolphins are); and 2) the industry is not transparent when injuries do occur.

For what it's worth, some former customers who got injured by dolphins have filed lawsuits - I think most are settled out of court, precisely to keep the information confidential. The industry is *not* transparent - any authority permitting this activity needs to recognize that."

Members of the public are entitled to ask some questions about the proposed approval of the dolphin facility at Blowing Point. One is, do these people carry insurance against incidents such as this? How common are incidents such as this? Is there any liability on the part of government and the public purse if such an incident should occur at Blowing Point? Are our health and emergency agencies ready to deal with this sort of incident if and when it occurs?