30 August, 2007

Crown Lands

Constitutional Discussions 22: Disposal of Crown Lands. Opportunities for official corruption by local administrators in a colonial setting are limited. The External Auditor reports to the Governor and the House of Assembly on the spending of public funds. He ensures that it is difficult, if not impossible, for senior government figures to dip their fingers into the public purse and remain undiscovered. There is thus an external check on waste of public monies. Not so in the case of public lands. There are no checks and balances when it comes to wheeling and dealing in public lands. This lack has long been a cause of public ferment and distrust in Anguilla. It is a subject on which several representations were forthcoming to the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission during the public discussions leading up to its August 2006 Report.

Section 75 of the Anguilla Constitution presently provides that the Governor is the person who signs legal instruments dealing with Crown land. He is obliged to do so on the advice of the Executive Council, or cabinet. This two-step strategy ensures some degree of control. Most Anguillians believe that is not sufficient. It does not give the Anguillian public the full assurance that it demands. A Governor will not be sufficiently aware of local affairs to be able to question a dealing that is inadvisable but that is being pressed on him by Cabinet. One suggestion for reform found wide acceptance. It was to require all dealings in Crown lands to be the subject of debate in the House of Assembly. This strategy would act as an additional control on wasteful dealing in public land. The fear of public exposure would limit the temptation to deal improperly in public lands. The Commission recommended at paragraph 162 of its Report that section 75 of the Constitution should be amended to provide that all future dealings in public lands in excess of one acre be required to be approved by a Resolution of the Assembly.

It is a matter for regret that both the supporters of Government and of the Opposition meeting in caucus at Limestone Bay Café disagreed with the recommendation of the Commission. They all preferred that the present provision remain as it is.

We are left to wonder why!

1 comment:

  1. I must repeat my earlier comment that a Constitution is not an agreement between the elected members and the British on how to govern us.

    It is an agreement of the people, subject to the approval of the Foreign Office, on how we consent to be governed. What do the elected members have to do with this and what authority do they have to intervene in our discussions with the British?

    It is an agreement on the way forward into the future. Elected members come and go. The world turns; the Constitution stands firm. There are some 13,000 of us. Each of us have one vote. There are 7 elected members. Their one vote is the same size as yours and mine.

    We elected them to manage our affairs for five years, not to push us around and tell us what's best for us. I'm tired of the arrogance that seems to go with public office in Anguilla.


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