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.


  1. I have a friend who's a senior professor at a very large American medical school. He is an advisor to the President of the University and a very good and wise man. He says that when we on the outside look at the university, we see an organised whole, and assume there is something at its centre, that runs it. "Unfortunately," he says, "There's nothing and no one in the centre. Nobody's in charge."

    Just like Anguilla.

  2. What is not being acknowledged by the apologists for the British, and those who like the idea of being invited to Govt. House at Old Ta by a British Governor, is that Full Internal Self-Government, by whatever name called, still has the unacceptable spectre of the British mandating Legislation in order to meet their " International Committments" etc.

    The " Defence and Foreign/International Affairs" Portfolias which, in that Political relationship, Britain retains are, in the case of Defence, a non-issue, and inthe case of International Affairs, Anguilla's MOST IMPORTANT Portfolia.

    In other words, like it or not, if there is a Defence threat to Anguilla, the U.S and Britain, not to mention France, given our proximity to St.Martin, will respond to our calls, if even we have to call. So that in NOT going to be a problem.

    International Affairs defines Anguilla's relations with all other countries, and given that Anguilla DOES NOT exist by itself on the Earth,is in these times the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN ANGUILLA'S BEING!!!! Therefore, Anguillians MUST determine their own International Relationships.
    Not a bunch of foreigners with their own Agenda in an Alien country. Afterall, we did not want St.Kitts doing that for us,did we?


  3. I don't have to be an apologist for the evil British to prefer that the Queen sends us a Governor to watch over the kind of leaders we elect.

  4. What kind of foreign policy does the poster believe the British are preventing us from having? Our desire for the poster and his hate
    group to flog homosexuals who dare to appear in public, their very sight destroying the moral character of our pure and innocent children?

  5. Governors " watching" over our elected representatives??? That puts this Blog out to pasture because there is no corruption in Anguilla- since he is "watching over" them.

    The homosexual issue is a non starter. That is British DOMESTIC policy.


    Anguilla could benefit handsomely if it were able to conduct relations with, say Taiwan, as are so many other Caribbean Countries. But NOOOO, the British do not " recognise" Taiwan, it does not suit THEIR international agenda to do so.

  6. And, the present Leaders of Government were fully and materially supported by "The Queen" in 2000 and since, to rid them, 'The Queen" of Hubert Hughes who refused to pass legislation which was in the British Govt.'s interest and in keeping with THEIR International obligations, which their lackeys passed into Law within months of the Hubert Coup, WHOLSALE.
    You cannot therefore suggest that "The Queen" needs to watch over those " elected" leaders of Government unless you are saying that "The Queen" put in untrustworthy people for "The Queen's" own purposes.

  7. Equal rights for gays is British domestic policy, it's true. The poster spreads intentional ignorance by failing to mention that it's also part of the EU Declaration of Human Rights.

  8. Some of the fornicators, adulterers, thieves and criminals need flogging. (lol) WHat two consenting gay adults engaged in sexually in the privacy of their own home is not my business.

    All the Homosexaul Act did was decriminalise the act. However, it is still an offence if anyone is caught engaging in sex in public, gay or straight.

  9. Anguilla needs to act fact an adopt a constitution that actually gives them the necessary scope to operate in this chaning society and stop beig so reliant on the British for efverything.The British is obviously not concerned with what actually happens here.I agree witt the previous poster in that we need to control our own international affairs so thatwe can be able to form the necessary unions or relationships that are benificial to us as a whole.This should not be left to a foreign power who really dont give a damn about us.Changes to our constitution are badly needed to convey this role locally to the government.The position of the of the governor in this respect should be one of an advisor only.Our Attorney General ,who by the should always be Anguillian,should work with a leagl expert from the FOC to facilitate these matters.
    If we are to have full internal government aren't these issues important.How can we function ife UK is calling the shot as to who we associate with.How can we secure international assistance if we are barred or blocked from even dialouge with the other international players out there?
    We have to come to grips withthis stalk reality that the Uk is not helping our situation and that our relationship with them is only on their terms and to their benefit.Government need to recognise this deficiency and take steps necessary to correct it.Our people have worked hard to make Anguila viable but the majority are still entrusting this rresponsiblity to our scheming politicians who are not worthy of that trust.We need to have another revolution.tThis time of our minds and hope that the interlectuals assist in the process of making ready a constitution for the people by the people and where the roles of all the keys actors are clearly defined to avoid mass confusion.I know that we are capable of doing this for we have a highly intelligent community of lawyers,doctors,college grads and other smart and capable people etc.What are we waiting for ? THe British?I hope not.

  10. Its time we decide what we want and choose the most practical paths to getting us there.We need to present our goals in a definitive manner in order to be taken seriosly by the British and the entire world community.Please dont for a moment think that others are not aware of what is taking place in our little Anguilla.The time of colonial rule has to end some time why not now?Why hang on, why not cut the umbilical cord and be on the road to the status we so dearly want and need?

  11. Who cares about the gay act? we have our own problems and surely we need safe guards to prevent laws encated in Britian to automatically apply here.We should ahve the right to accept or reject them.We are some kind of zombies are we good God the least they can do is allow us ,no we sould demand this right,to adaopt what law are applicable or pertinent to our situation..

  12. The concept that we should pass anti-corruption laws and go independent and everything will be fine is nonsense. I ask those who disagree to name three countries that have gone independent since the end of World War II where this has worked to the advantage of the working people, and there is little or no corruption.

  13. "Our Attorney General ,who by the should always be Anguillian.." - many would disagree (and the same argument can be made for certain other top jobs, such as Commissioner of Police, Director of Lands, Director of Planning). There is always the possibility of too much family or friendly influences, whether knowingly intentional or not. Maybe better for there to be an arrangement where Anguilla's top people, qualified for these posts, rule it over places like BVI, TCI, Cayman & Montserrat, and likewise one of theirs is in that position over here.


  14. JR, that is exactly the arrangement used by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. This is the reason why, when Don was a judge, he served in St. Lucia and Antigua, but never in Anguilla.

  15. To the third from last writer:
    Isn't the perception of corruption prevalent here in Anguilla even though the British are responsible to oversee "Good Governance"?

    Is it not a red herring to ask for three countries which have attained independance since WWII which have not had a corruption problem??

    Why is it that we are so selective in our positions vis a vis " other" countries? When it suits us, we don't want anything to do with them, ( as in the case of the writer after you who advocates for Anguilla to set up its own Court system and Central Bank; obviously an uninformen person), and, when it suits our then position, we cite them as examples of what we should or should not do.
    The time has long passed when Anguillians should fully Govern themsellves. Anyone who says otherwise does not have the interests of Anguillians at heart, but are pursuing a personal agenda.

    At the end of the day Anguillians have more in common with, and a vested in terest in their own Caribbean People.
    That said, bring on the attacks!!


  16. It is fool hearthy to beleive that we can stamp out corruption in any society let alone Anguilla's,however ,we must and should decide for ourselves our own destiny.Why should we have to resort to having foreigners in positions such as the Attorney General,Chief of Police,Director of Planning or Director of Lands&Survey.If we institute appropriate laws and guidelines to curtail abuses of power and corruption we will achieve the goals we seek.There are many capable lawyers,interlectuals,scholars and others who are highly qualified to work in these position who are honarable,respectible and decent individuals.Are they susectible to bribery or corruption?ofcourse, most of us are.It's everywhere in all societies but there sre strict guide line and penalties or punishments to deter those who would be willing to circumvent the law.Our legal talent pool in Anguilla is outstanding and we need to tap into this for the true advancement of our country.We really do not need an outsider whose loyalties are to his our country and not ours-Anguilla.
    When we worry unnecessarily about the what if's we will never progress because our fears will keep us from taking that final step.It is time for All Anguillians to step out and wlak the walk to freedom where Anguillians govern,work and build Anguilla for all of us to enjoy.
    JR was on to something but I think he lost his vision when he suggest someone from Bvi Caymans etc to come here and run things.If that is so how much different is that from our present system of being governed by the Brits?He needs a reality check.You dont see America,Britian Russia or any of those countries allowing foreigners to run their gov't,courts or their financial affairs now do you?China dont have an American in charge of their court system neither do the Anericans a Brit in Congress.
    Every country has corruption issues and have to implement policy to effectively deal with them and Anguilla is not different.

  17. If "crying soul" is correct about foreigners, he is implying that when you served as High Court Judge in St. Lucia and Antigua, your sole interest was to advance the cause of Anguilla on those islands and all that you did and said there was dishonest.

    He also says we should go independent because the lawyers can prevent all problems. Children may believe this. The rest of us want to see these wonderful lawyers solve our present problems before we cause ourselves any more confusion.

    Independence should not be based on emotional nonsense and false pride.


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