25 September, 2010
Is the diplomatic spat between the Governor and the Chief Minister all a smokescreen? And, if so, who is it designed to protect?
Just to recap. The Governor and the Chief Minister of Anguilla have been publishing press releases accusing each other of misbehaviour. The Governor went off first. He claimed on Thursday that the Chief Minister had instructed him to remove the portfolios of Health and Social Development from the Hon Edison Baird and transfer them to the Hon Jerome Roberts. He says that he refused to carry out the Chief Minister's instructions because in his view they amounted to a negation of democracy. He says he considers that would amount to two people, the Governor and Chief Minister, effectively overturning the will of the people as expressed just seven months previously. The Governor's view is that the people had elected four members of the AUM to form a Government, and three other members to form the Opposition. This is so obviously nonsense that we in Anguilla have all been casting about for another explanation.
The Chief Minister followed on Friday by issuing his own press release. He accused the Governor of not telling the truth. He said that the Governor had asked him to dismiss two of his Ministers, or to resign and call new elections. This is so obviously impossible for the Governor to have said that no right thinking person could believe it. There are only 5 members of the government in the Assembly and 4 of them are already ministers. There is no one else that the Chief Minister could have appointed to replace the dismissed Ministers. The likelihood is that in the midst of a quarrel the Governor had said to the Chief Minister that he could always resign, or words to that effect, and the Chief Minister had interpreted these words as a demand that he resign.
Someone pointed out that on Thursday and Friday the House of Assembly had passed a raft of new financial laws. These laws had not been previously gazetted, which is very unusual. They had not been previously shared with the members of the Opposition. No member of the public had been aware that these laws were about to be passed. They had been kept secret. One of these laws set up a new Department of Inland Revenue under a new Comptroller of Inland Revenue with drastic, even draconian, powers to penalise anyone who did not pay his taxes. The suspicion was raised that this spat with the Governor was designed to throw a smoke screen over the hurried passage of the Acts in the hope the public would be distracted.
Another person pointed out that JB Turbidy had in the previous few days been circulating a series of letters and emails. These emails accused the Chief Minister's administration of having agreed to the Starwood purchase of Viceroy on terms that were much to the disadvantage of Anguilla's revenue. This correspondence appeared in the Thursday issue of The Anguillian Newspaper. You can read it for yourself. Included in these emails were tables and graphs. They demonstrated how much more revenue Anguilla would have got from a sale to Mr Turbidy's group of investors as compared to the sale to Starwood. Mr Turbidy claimed that the Chief Minister had invited him to put in his bid, but had then refused to consider his application. He questioned the motives of those in the administration with whom he had been dealing. The suspicion was that the spat with the Governor was designed to distract the public from reading this correspondence and coming to a negative conclusion.
A more far-fetched explanation for the spat was that it was an FCO conspiracy. According to this theory, the conspiracy had been designed to sabotage the warm relationship that had been growing between the Chief Minister and the Minister for the Overseas Territories, Mr Henry Bellingham. They had met repeatedly both in private and in public on the Tuesday and the Wednesday before Mr Bellingham left to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations. The suggestion was that the FCO repressives and their legal advisers were worried. The more open minded Minister might be getting too friendly with the natives. It was necessary to set off a hand grenade to bring any more fraternising to an end.
A final and contradictory theory is that the spat was designed to throw a smoke screen over the rumoured censureship that the Social Security Board and the Ministers had come into from Minister Bellingham for the alleged misuse of Social Security funds. You will recall that the local administration had been borrowing monies from the trust funds of the Social Security Board to pay civil service salaries. This borrowing had been in breach of the agreed borrowing guidelines. The suggestion is that the spat served to block anyone from asking the obvious question: what was the reason for Mr Bellingham's surprise visit to Anguilla?
Who knows what the truth is?