28 September, 2007


The Right to Know. Today, 28 September, is International Right to Know Day. It was established to support global Freedom of Information legislation. The aim of Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of every individual’s right of access to government held information: the right to know how elected officials are exercising power and how taxpayers’ money is being spent. Freedom of information advocates have used the day to share ideas, strategies and success stories about the development of freedom of information laws and the goals of open government.

It is celebrated from Argentina to Venezuela, from Uganda to the Ukraine, and even in the United Kingdom. In these countries, it is secrecy that must be justified, not openness.

In Anguilla and other places with repressive regimes, no celebration will be required.

[Adapted from a letter to the Editor by London Reader published in today’s St Helena Independent.]

26 September, 2007


Public Relations. I don’t know how many of you heard the Chief Minister on Elkin Richardson's “To the Point” on Monday. I missed it myself because I was stupidly looking at a movie and missed the start time of 7:30 pm. I have been around town Tuesday morning. Everyone was talking about the show. Some of the comments are quite revealing.

One person told me, “I thought he acquitted himself very well. If he had done this once a week for the past seven years, and simply explained what they are doing and why, they could have prevented much of the criticism they've received. It is a mystery to me why all of the Ministers have such a poor understanding of simple public relations -- simple communication, actually. They should dump Curtis and hire Elkin to do their PR.”

Someone else told me that the CM commented that he doesn't like to come on the radio because he prefers to discuss issues with people face to face. In a community of 13,000 people this is either bogus or stupid. I don't know which is less worthy. The CM has to ensure that his plans, programmes, and activities are broadcast and widely publicised. It is simply not possible for him to have a personal chat with each person on the island.

It is not hard to give an example of what can go wrong if he fails to do this. I understand the CM said he was listening last week when someone [Haydn] called in to the radio programme accusing him of lying about working on the minimum wage regulations. According to Haydn, a committee had been appointed but had never met. Last night the CM corrected this and said they had met twice. But again, if the CM had told the people the committee had met twice, instead of keeping it a secret, this would never have happened. He isn't a victim of Haydn; he's a victim of his own secrecy. Meeting personally with a small clique of sycophants at breakfast at Nico’s Restaurant is not a substitute for talking openly and regularly to the people by broadcast on the media.

Congratulations are due to Elkin for prising the Chief Minister out into the public view. We all hope he can do it again soon. For the Chief Minister's own good.

25 September, 2007

Chief Minister

To the Point. On Monday 24 September 2007 Chief Minister Osborne Fleming was the guest on the radio talk show, “To the Point”. Host Elkin Richardson has scored a major coup. What a relief it was for most of us to hear the Chief Minister shine a torch in some of the darkest corners of the labour and environmental issues that concern us! If only he could have been doing this regularly! One of my correspondents described the programme in words that I cannot better. I copy him verbatim as follows:

The Chief Minister was on "To the Point" last night. He went through the history of the dolphins in Anguilla. Most of the story we already know well.

He stated that when Dolphin Fantaseas first applied there was quite a bit of opposition from the community. He was in the opposition at the time and had nothing to do with the original approval, which was Hubert's.

He said that at the time, unlike now, the economic and employment situation in Anguilla was not that good, so the application was favourably received. What I hope I heard him saying between the lines is that things have changed and we don't need low class circus sideshows any longer.

He confirmed that Viceroy and DF were in court last week and DF was ordered to cease doing business at their present location. He didn't say if or when they were ordered to vacate. Most or all employees were laid off. They came to see him. He told them this was a matter for the court, and he thus could not interfere.

This is true as regards to the dispute over possession, but probably does not apply to the application to move to Blowing Point. Strangely, he never mentioned this issue and was never asked about it.

Elkin asked him if there was nothing he could do for the employees. He said all he could do is try to use "moral suasion" to get Viceroy to change their position. I don't think Viceroy wants a low class circus sideshow in the middle of their five-star resort.

It seems to me that if it seemed likely or even possible that the move to Blowing Point would be approved, he would have made some reference to this, or at least to some vague "other arrangements." He did not.

Of greatest interest, he stated that the Mexicans he found building the pen at Mariners did not have work permits and were on the island illegally. So why did they continue to work there, and why were they used to removing the pilings? And they are still there? Why are they still there? Why haven't they been deported?

Elkin asked if DF hadn't misinterpreted Planning approval for final approval to move to Sandy Ground. The CM said no, the document from Planning said right on it that they still had to apply for a permit to use the foreshore.

It appears to me that DF may have screwed themselves by bringing in illegal workers and ignoring conditions of Planning. This is not a good way to get the CM's help.

More on the interview in my next post.

24 September, 2007

No News

No News Is Good News. Well, here I am back in Anguilla. Grenada was a revelation over the weekend. The entire Court of Appeal was there, together with the local judges. Following the official opening of the new Law Year on Thursday, there was the Third Annual Law Fair on the Friday. Sir Anthony Clark, Master of the Rolls, made an interesting presentation on the new Rules of Court. The di Mambro team was there to back him up. The Grenada government is so antagonistic to the legal and judicial system that they, in essence, boycotted the Law Fair. The PM did not turn up to any function, even the Governor General’s cocktail party. Nor did either AG, de jure or de facto. Those of you in the know will know what I mean. Those of you who don,t, don’t need to know. The Minister of Justice and of Education turned up for the opening of the Law Year. That was very brave of her. I fear that she will not gain any Brownie points with the PM. Anguilla failed to make an appearance at the Bar Council meeting held on the Saturday. Not for the first time in recent years.

Back in Anguilla, I have been through the email that has accumulated in my Inbox. Lots on the Chagossians, and on the Camanians, and the Saints. But, nothing new about Anguilla. Well, that is a good sign, I suppose. Things must be quieting down.

20 September, 2007


Interruptions. Today I am off to Grenada for a couple of days. It will be in many ways a sad trip. This is one of the most corrupt of our several failed Commonwealth Caribbean States. The public ethics situation there is even worse than in St Vincent or Dominica. And, those two are sorry States. Those are places you come from. No one in their right mind goes there. My heart always sinks as my 'plane lands at Point Salines Airport.

Anyone who wants to see what happens to a people, who are tricked into going for independence without having visionaries at the helm to ensure that the necessary protections and checks and balances are in place, should study Grenada. Start by reading any of the articles in the most recent edition of the Internet newspaper Grenada Today. Perhaps, you would like to read about the Prime Minister’s arrangements with his tame Registrar of Offshore Financial Services to collect “election contributions” from crooked offshore bankers? Or, perhaps you would like to learn about the government’s conniving in facilitating the most recent bank fraud? Every time I hear the name Grenada, my heart goes out to my poor, miserable, exploited cousins.

If I learn anything of interest to Anguilla, I’ll let you know first thing when I get back.

18 September, 2007


Full Internal Self-government: Members of the Concerned Citizens Group on the Chief Minister’s Negotiating Team have raised this issue of “going for full internal self-government”. They have argued that it is fundamental to their involvement with the Team. Members of the Team have shown a willingness to embrace the proposal. I have objected to the proposal as a mere cliché, meaning it is not really helpful to our present exercise for constitutional advance. On further reflection, I realize my objection is more fundamental. I want to set out some of my thoughts here.

Full internal self-government in a British colonial context means having the people be responsible for all aspects of their government, save, traditionally, for security, defence, and diplomatic relations. This was the constitutional relationship that we had when we were part of the Associated State of St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla in 1967.

Members of the CCG have argued that we cannot go to the British to negotiate unless we have settled the fundamental issue of the type of relationship that we want to have with them. They have suggested that the issue must be spelled out clearly first. Only then can we sensibly begin to design a Constitution that reflects our true needs. They have urged that, short of independence, the only realistic constitutional situation for Anguilla is full internal self-government. Their position, if I can paraphrase, is that the piecemeal approach in the Constitutional Commission's Report is flawed and needs to be abandoned. This can be called for short-hand, the Concerned Citizens' Group's position.

The Hon Chief Minister was motivated to postpone the planned discussions with the British. Not all of us were happy with this development. Some of us have major reservations about the postponement.

Some members of the team have argued that we cannot begin to draft a new Constitution providing for full internal self government unless we first put to the people the choices they have. Do they want to remain a full British Colony? Are they ready for full independence? Or, would they want to advance to an intermediate stage of full internal self government? This, for shorthand, can be described as the Hon Eddie Baird’s position.

Others on the Team have argued that since the government and the opposition are in favour of full internal self-government, and since the people have in the views reflected in the Constitutional Commission’s Report essentially expressed themselves in favour of this advance, it is appropriate that we draft a suitable Constitution and put it to the people in a referendum. This can be described as the Hon Hubert Hughes’ and the Hon Chief Minister’s position.

Others have urged that we cannot proceed further unless we see separate draft Constitutions for Anguilla demonstrating all the features of the various options. Only then will people begin to appreciate what the options are. This can be described as the Rev Dr Niles’ position.

All these different suggestions involve postponing the advances that were recommended by the Constitutional Commission’s Report. This postponement may last for years. This delay is not acceptable to some of us.

There are major problems with this idea of delaying constitutional advance until we have got full internal self-government enshrined in our Constitution. There is no doubt that Anguillians are ready for full internal self-government. That is what the Commission found. That is reflected in the Commission’s Report. What the Commission also found was that this advance will only be acceptable to the people if it is balanced by a complete plank of checks and balances on the powers of the government. This condition or reservation was deep-seated and widespread, and came up in one forum of discussion after another.

Full internal self-government does not just mean more power in the hands of Ministers. It also means that the people and their democratic institutions share power with Ministers in exchange for the British giving up their previous supervisory powers. It means that we will no longer rely on the energy and courage of an individual Governor to restrain Ministers. We have learned to our cost that does not work. We will replace that failed system by an improved one of increased accountability and transparency on the part of Ministers.

Full internal self-government does not only mean excluding the Governor from Cabinet. It also means:

1. Ministers having to expose their workings more to the people;

2. an independent Civil Service Commission, and Police Service Commission taking the place of the Governor’s discretion;

3. having a Freedom of Information Act so people can find out more easily what is going on;

4. putting in place anti-corruption and integrity legislation and institutions;

5. having an Ombudsman to help the people get justice when the administration behaves improperly;

6. making Cabinet meetings generally open to the public;

7. prohibiting sale of government land without a resolution of the House of Assembly;

8. making the Planning Committee independent of Ministerial over-rule, but with provisions for the citizen to appeal unreasonable decisions to an appeal tribunal and to the court;

9. entrenching the grant of work permits and Belonger certificates in professional boards and tribunals, and not subject to political influence.

Without these checks and balances, full internal self-government could result in increased abuse of the people. It has done so nearly everywhere else.

What is required is a trial period of effective internal self-government. The Report of the Constitutional Commissioners recommends a series of reforms that place practical self-government in the hands of Ministers and other Commissions and institutions. If it works for a period of time, then the people will almost certainly have developed sufficient confidence in our politicians. They may then be ready to entrust them with the responsibilities that go with full internal self-government.

It is not that Anguillians are not ready for full internal self-government. On the contrary, Anguillians consider that it is long overdue. It is that the people are not sure that Ministers are ready for the responsibilities that full internal self-government will bring. Anguillians have more reason to fear political abuse from their own Ministers than from British neglect or abuse. That is one of the reasons why neither the people nor the Commissioners advanced the idea of proposing “full internal self-government” in the Report. The Commissioners were satisfied that a majority of Anguillians want a reduction in the powers of the Governor, with more powers and responsibilities given to Ministers, but with checks and balances in place to ensure those powers are not abused.

This last can be called Rev Cecil Weekes’ and Don Mitchell’s position. I believe that is the position of all thinking Anguillians.

16 September, 2007

FCO Dilemma

Anguilla Is an FCO Dilemma. We all remember David Taylor, Montserrat’s Governor in the early 1990s. He has published an article recently on how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reacted to the volcano crisis in Montserrat. It is titled: British Colonial Policy in the Caribbean. The Insoluble Dilemma – The Case of Montserrat. It is published in The Round Table (2000), 355 (337-344). Anyone who would like to read a copy should email me.

For our purposes, we must read his comments with a view to better understanding how high British officials see our relationship with Britain. We can always benefit by reading about how others view us. There are things to be learned that will stand us in good stead. This is particularly so when we come to negotiate with the FCO in the coming months and years over our future. Given his background and experience, his views are entitled to be taken very seriously.

Mr Taylor makes some interesting points. He reminds us that when the West Indies Federation broke up in 1962, the smaller islands were de-federated. The Constitutions they acquired then were never intended to be permanent. The islands were on their way into independence. Britain had hoped to be well rid of us by now.

He discusses how come some of us have not yet gone independent. He argues that the persistence of Colonialism in our territories is usually explained in terms of viability. But, it is more complicated than that. He suggests that there has been a tacit agreement between the politicians and their electorates not to ask for it. In their heart of hearts, most politicians would like it. The people, he suspects, regard continuing dependence as a safeguard against weak or corrupt government. The inertia of history also plays a part. He is also perceptive to realize that the present constitutional arrangement suits our political leaders well. It enables them to take the credit for good things. It allows them to blame Britain when things go wrong. They can always fall back on Britain in times of emergency.

He argues that the Governor is halfway to being a constitutional monarch. He must act on the advice of Ministers in most matters. He can take his own decision only in those areas reserved for him. In practice, this means that the Constitution provides continuous opportunities for turf wars between the two. Political pressure is particularly exercised over public service appointments and dismissals. While these are constitutionally clearly matters for the Governor, they often involve hidden pressures and political loyalties.

He points out that there is inevitably and frequently a conflict of interest, or natural difference of agenda, between what Ministers want and what the British Government or the Governor finds acceptable or desirable. He pinpoints the rogue businessmen from the USA and Britain who jet in to sell Ministers plausible but dishonest or environmentally damaging development schemes. He demonstrates that it is not just corruptibility that makes our Ministers susceptible. There is also the pressing need to show results in terms of economic and employment opportunities. The British Government has a different agenda. It is more concerned about legality. They also need to demonstrate, particularly to the USA, toughness against money laundering. More ethereally, and less convincingly, he argues for a British concern for the long-term welfare of the islands, as against short-term political considerations.

His position is that this would not matter very much if the islands’ constitutional arrangements were indeed the prelude to independence, which they were intended to be. Instead, the Governor finds himself holding the line on behalf of the British Government. He must be careful not to set precedents which will make things difficult for his successor. He will be judged in London on what he has prevented from happening rather than on what he has made happen.

The islands are of marginal importance to the FCO. Perhaps this is because they sense their lack of ability to do much about them. They are a continuing potential source of embarrassment. The Audit Office, for example, focuses on progress made to minimize the risk of liabilities falling on the UK taxpayer. FCO communications to a Governor focus on concerns, not on suggesting opportunities. He argues that running a country this way does not prepare it to deal with emergencies. This form of government is ambiguous as to who is responsible for decisions.

The situation is further complicated when there is a division of responsibility at the level of the British Government between DFID and the FCO. In an emergency, there will be confusion as to who is responsible. Is it the Governor, the Ministers, the FCO, or DFID? Each one will have a different perception as to needs as well as to solutions. There will be resentments, differences of perception, and conflicting priorities. His argument is that the Constitution of a British Overseas Territory does not permit of prompt and efficient reaction to natural and other disasters.

Clearly, it is in Britain’s interest for it to be clear that locally elected Ministers of Government are responsible for their own country’s internal matters. The British role should be one of back-up and advice, when it is asked for. The present constitutional arrangement does not make this solution to Britain’s dilemma obvious. His solution to the dilemma is controversial.

He takes the official British position. Advanced colonial constitutions are unequal to the demands of emergencies. Overlapping responsibilities frustrate an effective response to a crisis. The delicate balance between the Governor, the local government, and the FCO, depends on consultation. The result is that there is no one with untrammeled executive control. He concludes that it would be an improvement for the Governor to be able to assume powers of direct rule.

He is wrong, of course. It would be better for it to be absolutely clear that the British Government and the Governor do not have the final say in what happens internally, even in time of emergency. And, this even if it means that the best decisions are not taken. Britain can solve her Overseas Territory dilemma by ensuring that the Constitution lays down that the UK government has as much responsibility for handling an Overseas Territory emergency as the Queen has in the same circumstances in Britain. That is the only solution that would be acceptable today.

14 September, 2007

UK Relations

The FCO. When I wrote my previous article of 18 August on the question of the suitability of the FCO to be the intermediary between Anguilla and Britain, I had no idea that there was an extensive existing literature on the subject. A kind person has now sent some of it to me. I have read with great interest a 7-page paper published in The Round Table as long ago as April 2000 by Thomas Russell. Russell was, at the time, the Cayman Islands’ representative in London. He presented this most informative paper to the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Conference. It is available online from the publishers Routledge for the outrageous price of US$31.97, plus tax. I have a copy that I am happy to email to anyone for the asking.

In this paper, Russell argues that there are deficiencies in rule by the FCO that did not exist under the old Colonial Office. I summarise and extract some of his most pertinent points below:

The old Colonial Service had recruited persons expert in the fields of Administration, Medicine, Education, Agriculture, Legal Services, the Judiciary, Audit, and other disciplines. [By contrast, the Foreign Office has no traditional interest in these areas.]

The old Colonial Service had struggled to promote decolonization. This required forward planning, regularly reviewed, to develop the economy, education, medical and social services. There were initiatives to complete manpower planning and localization schemes. The old Colonial Office struggled to establish a Civil Service, free from political control; an independent Judiciary and Audit; an efficient Police Force; and a competent Parliamentary structure. [None of these initiatives is within the purview or competence of the Foreign Office.]

After the break-up of the West Indies Federation in 1962 the British Government made it clear that it would never again countenance being placed in the Associated States type of situation where it still had responsibilities but no longer had power. The official policy is to give the people of the Overseas Territories the ultimate right to choose independence. This policy has developed a momentum of its own. Officially, however, the Constitutions of Overseas Territories are not supposed to advance further than a stage short of full internal self government leading to independence.

Where there was once an important Ministry, the Colonial Office, dealing with Overseas Territory affairs, there is only now a small Department within the Foreign Office. Few of its officers have direct knowledge of administering dependencies. Advisers with long experience in dependencies have long gone and have not been replaced. These included the Inspector-General of Colonial Police and the Auditor General. The old cadres of Colonial Service officers such as Colonial Secretaries and Financial Secretaries, with their own professional links in Whitehall, have long gone. Local officers in these positions, however efficient, have seldom developed the same linkages. Communication between Whitehall and the Overseas Territory is confined in practice to the Governor’s Office.

There is a perception that Governors appointed from the Diplomatic Service inevitably increase control from Whitehall. The Territorial Constitution takes the Governor out of line-management. Targets, outputs, and dates for achieving targets, are set in Whitehall. They may be difficult for the Governor to reconcile with political and legislative programmes. While the FCO wishes to reinforce the Governor’s position and influence, all too often he is seen in the Territory as the fulcrum with the FCO applying the leverage.

While the paper was not designed to promote any alternative UK Government Department as being more relevant than the FCO, the deficiencies are obvious. The history is fascinating in its own right. The points he makes are relevant to the Anguilla of today. More to the point, crunch time for Anguilla in her negotiations for Constitutional advance is nigh! I still think that, as part of the exercise, we ought to be asking whether there is not some other UK Department of Government that is more relevant to Anguilla’s needs in communicating with the UK Government than the FCO is.

12 September, 2007

NICA Meeting

Meeting of Shareholders. On Tuesday 11 September 2007 a historic meeting took place. There were seventeen of us shareholders present on Bob Rogers’ verandah. The meeting was called by Collins Richardson and Bob to discuss what action we should take to protect our investment in the National Investment Company of Anguilla Ltd. It had been struck off the Register of Companies earlier in the year, not for the first time. We had not heard that it had been revived. The directors had called no general meeting of the shareholders for over three years. There had been no news on progress on the preparation of the missing audits for the previous fifteen years. The new Board at the 2004 meeting had promised to complete the audits, and to call another public meeting. They had failed to do so. So far as we were concerned, their term of office had expired. There was no valid Board that we knew off.

We discussed the advertisement we had been hearing on the radio for the previous two days. It was for a clerk for the NICA bookstore. We all know the bookstore had shut down years ago for lack of books to sell or funds to pay staff. Why now the sudden flurry of activity to hire staff? What was the Board up to?

We checked with the Registry of Companies. It turns out that the directors had paid to put the company back on the Register. They had filed the missing Annual Returns. A return is filed after an Annual General Meeting. It is a legal requirement. It sets out who the new Board of Directors are. The directors had simply filed the overdue returns showing themselves as having been re-elected to the Board by the shareholders! Why had they done so? Why are they so anxious to get the loss-making bookstore back up and running? Where had they got the money to start hiring new staff? Had they sold some of the NICA land? Had they leased the Rum Factory? Worst still, could they have secretly sold it? We were full of questions, but had no answers.

The meeting agreed to demand that the so-called Board summon a meeting of the shareholders within fourteen days so that we could be told what was going on. We prepared a letter to the directors and agreed those of us present would all sign it. We also prepared a press release about our meeting so that all other shareholders could know about the actions we were taking.

This state of affairs cannot continue. It is time to bring the abuse of our investments to an end. It is time for the company to be wound up and our funds returned where they rightly belong.

11 September, 2007


We Will All Benefit from these Projects! I had always understood that one of the excuses for permitting hotel development on our Island was the consequential improvements that would come to the lives of Anguillians. These improvements were not only to be jobs in the hotels. We were going to benefit from ownership, if not of major hotels, then of the smaller ancillary services that add on to the tourist industry. So, we would own the car rentals, the water sports, the tour operations, the restaurants, and the rental apartments. I am particularly concerned about the rental apartments. We were told that, with the expansion in the hotels expected over the coming five years, there will be a need for lower to middle income housing for hotel staff.

The most expensive of the local investment initiatives has been the property development business. Ministers of government have challenged us to go into property development to take advantage of the coming boom. Young men and women have gone to the banks and mortgaged their properties to build apartments for rent. Rental apartments have been going up all over the island. The success of this endeavour depends on the apartments producing the income that will pay the mortgages. Few Anguillians have the income or the capital to afford to put up these apartments without borrowing.

If Anguillians cannot rent out these new apartments, they will lose them. In particular, if the major hotels are permitted to own their own rental apartments, then the many Anguillians who have taken up the challenge will be the losers. Their apartments will not be able to compete. They will remain empty. Anguillians will be deprived of their opportunity to benefit from the coming tourism boom. They will be unable to pay their bank loans. They will lose their properties, which will then be bought at distressed prices by the hotels to use for their staff.

Now, I hear that some of the major hotel developers on Anguilla have been given Aliens Landholding Licences to purchase land to put up apartments for their staff. The word I have is that one investor in particular has purchased land in the area of the West End Gas Station, but on the opposite side of the road. They plan to put up a hundred staff apartments on it. The Planning Department would have had to approve this project. Cabinet would have had to grant the licence. There has been no public announcement or explanation.

What, I ask, is the meaning of this? If it is true, then why has there been no debate in the community about this development? Is no one concerned?

08 September, 2007


Thievery and Constitutions. I had wanted to talk to you today about how important it is for the police to lead by good example. When a police officer arranges with a friendly cashier to let him pass without paying for supermarket goods, that is theft. The police officer thieves. The cashier aids and abets. It is the officer who is the main culprit. It is not right that it is the cashier who gets fired, but we do not hear of anything happening to the officer. It is said to have happened since last Saturday. It is now Saturday, a week later. What a thing! What sort of an example is this? What will the officer’s colleagues do about it? Why have we not heard anything official?

Instead, I want to tell you that I went to the Chief Minister’s Constitutional Reform Team’s meeting at Paradise Cove yesterday, Friday. It was a good meeting, I thought. Nothing of substance was discussed or decided. It was more of a strategy meeting. We discussed, for example, whether it was better to go for individual amendments to the Constitution that would have the cumulative effect of Anguillians claiming the right to full internal self-government. That was the way the Commission thought Anguillians want it done. Or, would it be better to come out and demand the right. Some thought one way and others thought another. In the end, it was the consensus that it would be better to establish the principle and let the individual amendments hang from the central column. The Commission was concerned that that would be mere flag-waving, and decided against it. We will see!

What the Chief and Hubert want us to do now is to look at a number of self-governing Constitutions and pick and choose what we think is best. Eddie is strong that regardless of what we think is best, it must be for the people to decide whether they want self-government or colonialism or independence. He wants a referendum on the choice first, and then the picking and choosing can come later.

We are to meet again in two weeks time to continue the discussion.

06 September, 2007


Get a Life! Does posting this Blog have to be the center piece of my life? A cousin recently asked me the question, “Don, isn’t it time for you to get back a life”? That was a criticism of this Blog, I guess. Is the Blog my main interest in life? No, it is not! I have other obligations and interests. Could it be that some of these have suffered due to my concentrating on the Blog? Should I be getting back to some of my other activities? Probably.

The Blog was started on a compulsion. It was a knee-jerk reaction to what I saw as our media’s complete ignoring of critical social issues. There are lots of them. Back in December, when I started to post, they were apparent to all. Yet, no one seemed to be concerned.

When you have a compulsive personality, as I do, things get started instantly. Things get stopped just as abruptly as they got started. I recognise the symptoms. That is how we compulsives live our lives. We develop overwhelming passions overnight. But, they fade away just as spontaneously and unexpectedly. There is a risk of this happening to the Blog. I feel it in my bones.

Being threatened with a law suite by the government ministers I voted for has not helped! It tends to have a depressing effect! On being a major contribution at this time to my enjoyment of life, I give the Blog a score of 2 out of 10.

Let me thank all those who sent in encouraging comments, to the last two posts especially. The one on the history of the average Blog was enlightening. The suggestion that I do not try to keep up the frenetic pace of the past was well taken. If you read the comments, I hope you will understand why postings are going to slow down and become more sporadic now.

05 September, 2007


Has the Blog Served a Useful Purpose? Has the exercise been worthwhile? There have been some successes, but more failures. Let us look at some of both of them.

Successes: The police have started to use the media more effectively. They have proven much more efficient and professional than we originally assumed when the Blog began. They have recruited highly trained professionals. They have made several arrests that they can justifiably be proud of.

The community has become more actively involved in protesting against injustice. Anguillians have learned again how to demonstrate to express their views.

The print and radio media are more confrontational now, as they should be. The Anguillian Newspaper has published its first editorials critical of government within the last six months. The radio call-in programmes “Talk Your Mind”, “To the Point”, “The Mayor’s Show”, and “Social Solutions” have all begun in recent months to tackle previously taboo subjects.

Failures: On the other hand, our government has not embraced transparency, despite frequent promises. Very few government plans or policies are published. Just a few short months ago, the government press office started sending out press releases on Cabinet meetings and other government initiatives and activities. We got the first summary of Cabinet discussions. The promise was that it would be a regular thing. Then, it dried up. Now, it seems the press office only sends out bland official releases prepared by various government agencies and long, boring ministerial speeches prepared by civil servants.

The environment is under increasing threat. Environmental degradation continues unchecked. Environmental Impact Assessments are still a joke.

Land development scams continue to flourish, without any discouragement from the authorities.

Conflicts of interest at high levels have not been confronted and dealt with.

Youth gangsterism continues to increase. US prison-based Hip Hop “don’t tell” culture reigns triumphant. Citizens increasingly are afraid to cooperate with the authorities when they have knowledge of crime and the perpetrators.

Human trafficking and exploitation of foreigners continues, and increases daily.

The Public Accounts Committee shows no sign of beginning to function. The Opposition is still disorganized.

Sometimes, it seems that no headway is being made.

And, then the main reason this Blog was started. The failure of our leadership to push for constitutional reform along the lines preferred by a majority of Anguillians as published in the August 2006 Constitutional Commission Report. The constitutional review process has remained essentially stalled. There was a promising but temporary revival of official interest in March, April, May, June and July, after some digging principally from the radio and press. But, a failure of vision at the highest levels continues unabated. As this was one of the main reasons for starting this Blog, it has to be counted a major failure.

Is this too pessimistic?

On usefulness, I give the Blog a score of 5 out of 10.

04 September, 2007


Any Targets Left? It is time to do an evaluation of this Blog. This is an unsettling time for the Blog. Are we going forward or backwards? It may pay dividends to strategise if we are to go forward. So, some thoughts on the purpose and value of the Blog follow in this and the next two posts.

We have dealt with a multiplicity of topics over the past several months. There is no need to itemize those issues that have been dealt with in past posts. They are all listed in the panel on the right under the heading “Labels”. By clicking on any label, you will immediately have every relevant item gathered together on one page for you to look at.

Are there any worthwhile targets left? It sometimes seems to me that I am running out of new subjects to talk about. The ideas no longer come flowing out of the keyboard without effort. It takes more discipline and application now to get the posts out regularly. I have tried to be equal-opportunity offensive in choosing targets for this Blog. Family and friends were not spared. Eventually, one must run out of even worthwhile family and friends to pick on. I have re-visited old topics where I thought they could benefit from a re-airing. I can only do that so often, and then it will appear to be just re-cycling used material. In recent months, there has been a falling off in contributions by new contacts. There is just the steady list of correspondents who were willing to contribute from the first days.

Are there any worthwhile targets left? Is there anyone who still wishes to begin making contributions, but has not done so as yet? Unless you convince me otherwise, I give the Blog a score of 3 out of 10 on the prospects for finding worthwhile new targets.

03 September, 2007

Identity Cards

Constitutional Discussions 24: Identity Cards. It is presently a matter of uncertainty who of all the residents of Anguilla are entitled to Anguillian status. This status determines who can vote and who can purchase land freely and without any restriction. You cannot be deported or declared a prohibited immigrant if you are an Anguillian. At present, one has to produce a Belonger certificate issued by the Belonger Commission. Or, you may have a passport showing your Belonger stamp in it. Or, you might have with you your a birth certificate showing your birth in Anguilla to apparently Anguillian parents. Better still, you may have gone to school with the young Immigration Officer who is checking you in at the Arrivals at the airport. It helps if she knew your parents. The result is that you can prove you are an Anguillian in a variety of ways. All of this was entirely unsatisfactory to a majority of those persons who made representations on the subject to the members of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission during the 2006 public discussions.

One representation that found favour was the requirement that all Anguillians carry an identity card. This would provide one standard mechanism for all of us to prove our Anguillian status when lawfully required to do so. Several concerned citizens pointed out that, with the recommendations for widening the definition of who is to be considered an Anguillian, there will in the future be many qualified persons who are not known in the community. At present, with its small village-like community structure, Anguillians generally all know who is who. In the coming years, the island’s population is expected to grow dramatically. It will become increasingly a matter of concern for the authorities to know immediately who is and who is not an Anguillian. Such a provision will go a long way to avoiding doubts. This was the recommendation of the Commission at paragraph 178 of its August 2008 Report.

It is a matter for regret that members of the House of Assembly meeting in caucus at the Limestone Bay Café in March did not agree with this recommendation. They were persuaded that it would be an excessive invasion of privacy. It was precisely because the members of the Commission recognised the intrusion into privacy that such a recommendation entailed that they thought it necessary to include the measure as a Constitutional provision. It is a matter for the law which will have to be enacted by the Assembly to give effect to the bare bones of the Constitutional provision to flesh out the protections for the public. It is difficult to see what the members of the Assembly want to put in place of an identity card. Or, do they not realise what a problem of identification the authorities are going to have in Anguilla in just a few years time?

This post brings to an end the list of disagreements that the members of the House of Assembly had with the recommendations of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. Subsequently, in July, the Chief Minister’s negotiating team met at Paradise Cove. They came up with some new ideas for discussion with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office team. Those discussions have now been indefinitely postponed. They will occur sometime in the next year or two. It does not look as if anyone in Government is going to tell the public what these ideas were. It will fall to me to do so, if I can find my notes.

As I write this, I am buried in the Public Records Office at Kew in London. I am researching Anguilla’s old colonial documents. I shall depend on you to let me have ideas for blogging for the next few weeks. As soon as I am back home, I shall look for my notes and let you know what I think.

01 September, 2007

Anguillian Status

Constitutional Discussions 23: Great-grandchildren of Anguillians. The question who is to be considered an Anguillian was the subject of much debate and disagreement during the 2006 public consultations of the Anguilla Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. The Commission eventually came up with a compromise recommendation that is contained at paragraph 174 of its August 2006 Report. I am not going to repeat it for you. It is long and complicated. It needs to be read in full to get its entire meaning. The members of the House of Assembly meeting in caucus at the Limestone Bay Café to consider the recommendations were generally in support of the changes recommended. There was just one small disagreement. It had to do with the great-grandchildren of Anguillians.

The Commission had recommended that children and grandchildren of Anguillians should automatically be Anguillians. It is not so now. Grandchildren of Anguillians are not legally Anguillian belongers. The Commission went further than grandchildren. They found that Anguillians in the main wanted their great-grandchildren to be included in the category of Anguillians. There was only one condition. It should not be automatic. The grant of Anguillian status to great-grandchildren should be tied to a proven connection with Anguilla. It would depend on proof of continuous residence in Anguilla for a period of five years prior to the application for a grant of a certificate of Anguillian status. This residence qualification would ensure that the many thousands of descendents of Anguillians who have long ago given up any connection with the island will not automatically be entitled. It is only those who reside on the island who would be so entitled.

Members of the House of Assembly were reluctant to go with this recommendation. They preferred the minority view. They would not include great-grandchildren, no matter how long they had lived on the island.

Quite what they were concerned about is still not clear to me!