06 August, 2010
Service Commissions: The second guarantee of transparency in the government of a British Overseas Territory (BOT) is the existence of constitutionally guaranteed, independent, Service Commissions. In the smaller
BOTs of the West Indies, all appointments to the public service, the teaching service, and the police service, are by our Constitutional provisions in the hands of one person. That is the Governor. He delegates this responsibility to a local Deputy Governor. Both of them carry out their responsibilities with no accountability to anyone. In a properly regulated, democratic BOT the Governor or Deputy Governor would be required to act on the advice of the Service Commissions.
The reason for that constitutional development is obvious. A Governor whose powers of appointment to the public service is unrestrained will of necessity have to rely on his cronies and advisers. He will have no personal knowledge of the individuals and characters whose public service come up before him for a ruling. His local deputy will be related to half the local population and have grown up with most of the others. Under such a system, no matter how well-intentioned, the public will not accept that there is transparency and fairness in public service appointments. This is a classic case of government by man rather than by law. Such appointments and related matters should instead be constitutionally placed in the hands of a local, professional, and independent Public Service Commission, governed by appropriate laws and regulations.
It is unfortunate that the corrupt and perverse regime that has been permitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to run our sister BOT of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has given Kate Sullivan, the FCO legal adviser, the opportunity to recommend, in her recently-released draft recommendations, clawing back from that unfortunate BOT some of the elements of self-government that had only recently been granted, and repositioning them in the hands of either the Governor or the Secretary of State. No doubt, that reactionary step is well-deserved in the TCI. God knows they have blotted their own copy-book often and badly enough.
We can only hope that in the more sensible, better-regulated territories of Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat, no such retrograde step is contemplated. Such an undeserved development would be an outrage of unacceptable proportions.