09 November, 2007

Disaster Management

Public Convergence. A friend telephoned me yesterday. She was all worked up. She was in a state of agitation. Had I seen the latest edition of the Official Gazette? The one dated 31 October? No, I had not. What was the problem? The House of Assembly had gone and included ‘riots and public convergence” in the definition of “disasters and threats of disasters” in the Disaster Management Act. What does that mean? That the Governor can declare a state of emergency the next time the workers from a hotel or construction project march in demonstration of their disquiet over some aspect of their lives or work. That was her concern.

Well, it did not seem very likely to me. So, I went and got a copy of the Gazette. And, there it is. The Act is the Disaster Management Act, No 11 of 2007. The long title says the Act is meant to "provide for the effective preparedness, management, mitigation of, response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters, natural and man-made, in Anguilla”. I read the whole Act. It is 24 pages long. There are 47 sections and 2 Schedules. Anyone committing an offence under the Act faces a fine of $5,000.00 or two years imprisonment. Needless to say, the Act mainly deals with hurricanes and the like.

We already have an Emergency Powers Act. This empowers the Governor to declare a “state of emergency”. During the period of any state of emergency our fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to assemble and to march, can be abrogated for the period of the state of emergency. The state of emergency lapses after a maximum of 90 days. Every democratic country has similar legislation. A “state of emergency” is a condition well known and recognised in law. There is an extensive body of public law dealing with the proper way for such situations to be dealt with. It has in the past been used both in times of natural disaster and in times of civil unrest to give the police and other government agencies extended power to deal with the emergency. For example, the St Kitts government declared a state of emergency when Anguilla seceded from the Associated State in 1967.

What is offensive to anyone concerned with basic human rights is that this new Act permits the government (section 26(1)(b)) to simply broadcast on the radio an announcement that there is a threat of civil disorder (Schedule 2). Anyone not obeying government orders will immediately be in breach of the Act and risk incurring the penalty. Perhaps the most offensive aspect of the statute is that there are few or no definitions. Public convergence is not defined. There are no limits. The Act can be used to ban marching or demonstrating for an unlimited period of time, in the discretion of the government of the day. There are no restrictions. By necessary implication, the government is permitted to do anything it wants to any of us for any period of time it chooses under this Act. The Emergency Powers Act has been drastically amended.

This Act seems to me to conflict with our constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of assembly and of movement. It drastically increases the powers of the government to curtail freedom of expression. It goes beyond the limits normally seen in state of emergency legislation. I am not at all sure that a court of law would uphold this Act if it were to be used the next time the Indians decide to march. Or, the next time Anguillians decide to march. But, I submit, that was clearly the intention of the person who gave instructions for this Act to be drafted.


  1. I have to wonder if any of our leaders who voted for this stupidness bothered to read it first.

    We love to blame the British for forcing these things on us. But I didn't hear any opposition in the House on this Bill before it was passed.

    Oh well, I wasn't using my human rights anyway.

  2. This sounds disturbingly similar to the patriot act that was passed in the states.

  3. That's why we need to get rid of these bunch of no vision politicians. They should have known when they bring in more immigrant labor than the population and law enforcement can handle that our security can be threatened.

    I Have no problem with marching for your rights and the Indians were quite right to march. But lets face it, it would not take much form them to hijacked our House OF assembly.

    DO they have photo IDs, immunization records and pertinent info on all the workers. The Blind leading the blind in ANguilla. Unless the policy comes form the UN, CAREC, WHO, OECS, England, etc nothing gets done in ANguilla.

    This is a repressive Act. The GOvernor and govermment already have powers to handle such matters. WHat is needed, is an Act to protect our elected leaders from threatning communications be it verbal or in print. Check out what's there in other countries.

    Again our leaders have no vision. They are an embrassment to Anguilla.

  4. The Immigration Asylum & Nationality Act 2006 was passed in Parliament and received Royal Assent on the 30th March 2006 and its many provisions took effect on 31 August 2006. These include the following, of interest to us in Anguilla:

    Section 40(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 empowers the Home Secretary to deprive a person of British citizenship if he is satisfied that that person has done something prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory. Such an order may not be made if the person concerned is thereby rendered stateless.

    What are the vital interests of Anguilla, how does one prejudice them, and who decides? Is NICA shareholding not sufficiently
    widespread that it represents a vital interest of Anguilla? If so, can we have some people transported someplace?

    Or how about our beaches? Few visitors would come here if we didn't have beaches, and few hotels could stay in business. Beaches are a vital interest of Anguilla. Sand miners who have sold our beaches should be sent away somewhere. I include not just the guys who drove the trucks but everyone who got part of the money.

  5. I wonder why it takes people online to give those occupying big officses ideas about improving the civil service in ANguilla. The Old Politicians are computer illiterate and have no idea how they can use information technolgy. Therefore, I would think thsoe who have all thsoe big degrees would have improve the system by now.

    Before the year is over, I want to see the following departments online:

    Health Authourity
    GOvernor and Deputy Governor
    Social Security (Functioning)

    And final please put the darn Oficial Gazzette online. We are stuck in the dark ages while these lazy Department Heads chitchat all day.

    Here is the BVI one:


    This law has nothing to do with the 'government of Anguilla'. It gives the GOVERNOR (an unelected Englishman)the power to rule by PROCLAMATION!

    NO one can honestly believe that the elected representaives of the people of Anguilla and the Honourable speaker of the house , properly informed of the effect of of a proposed law would pass such a law.

    The British and their agents need to stop their hypocracy.

  7. Instead of operating in secret, our Government needs to have a Public Information Officer for each Ministry, so they can all talk at the same time like they do in Cayman, where the Cayman Net News reported this week:

    "Last month, the government-run Health Services Authority issued a press release indicating that there were no cases of dengue fever in the Cayman Islands; however, a day later Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar reported that there was in fact one confirmed case and several suspected cases of the disease.

    "Mr Kumar added that there was a small number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, but that statement was contradicted that same week by Director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit Dr Bill Petrie who said there was a 1,300 percent increase in the population of the mosquito following Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The contradictions and corrections continued in the same week with Leader of Government Business Hon Kurt Tibbetts claiming that there was a limited number of the disease-carrying mosquito."


    Move over MUSHARRAF , move over THAN SHWE - here comes the DISASTER MANAGEMENT AGENCY!

  9. Dear Mr.Mitchell;
    This is an important development and you are to be commended for drawing it to the attention of the general public.

    However, we trust that, rather than thinking your job complete by doing so, you will now agitate on this medium and other media, to build a coalition of Anguillians to have this deplorable Act repealed Ex Post Haste.

    Anguilla has two Constitutional Lawyers and you need to rally them to the cause.

    You will get mass support.

  10. Don, the above poster makes it clear that this matter requires a constitutional lawyer, that you are unqualified in this area, and that it is your responsibility to go out, find two of these and drag them and their obstructionist political agenda into this discussion "Ex Post Haste." Rude and abusive people have always been with us, but now they have internet access.

    Ordinarily one would expect the opposition to handle this, but since ours is non-functional and the rest of us are too busy making US$160 a day as masons, you'll have to do it in your spare time.

    I hope you have a police permit for tomorrow night's NICA discussion on Bob Roger's front porch, otherwise the police may raid this unauthorised meeting, beat you with a piece of stick and arrest you all for illegal convergence.

    Feeling is believing.

  11. The poster made it clear that the matter requires constitutional lawyers i.e lawyer with an "s".

    There is nothing rude or abusive in the post. It is a very sensible suggestion.

    We all need to stop being so thin-skinned.

  12. Unfortunately the "above poster" is quite wrong. The intent was not that Mr. Mitchellis not qualified to fight the fight; it was that he rallies the troops. Mr. Mitchell no longer practises Lawand therefore will not take the litigation lead. Hence the suggestion that he seeks the assistance of those who do practice law.

    "Political Obstructionists" seem to be your Freudian self description; as is "rude and abusive.."

    You are right; it is sad that YOU have access to the internet to spew your vile unintelligent spiel.

    Do you not agree that Mr. Mitchell has done a good deed by bring this issue to Public discussion?

    Be constructive, o' simpleton, not destructive; lend Mr. Mitchell your support with constructive suggestions; he cannot fight this battle by himself, and your approch is destined, and perhsps intended, to quickly torpedo his effort.

    "Be still...you bleating Idiot!!"


    The 'feeling is believing"' poster did make one valid point.

    The NICA discussion on Bob Roger's front porch, can be an unlawful assembly if there are three (3) or more persons present!

    That is one of the 'Jim Crow' laws which violates our human rights.

    The Disaster Management Act NOW gives this muscle, so that the police or other disaster agents can beat,fine and imprison us if we hold a meeting on our front porch or demonstrate peacefully.

  14. The "litigation lead"? Lawyers are now promoting litigation by posting comments here? This is unseemly and quite possibly unethical. This is serious blog, not a rum shop.

  15. let all politicians disclose their bank accounts and financial status it will open the eyes of all anguillians.

  16. I am sure the concerned citizens will look into the Law. There is no need for Mr. Mitchel to rally anyone. The lawyers read this blog and other media just like most of us. This is not a one man issue.

    Just give them time and I know they will come forward with suggestions. Unless of course there is some sort of competition on who can bring an issue first to the public. If I didn't raise it, why should I discuss it. (AKA the Silent Majority)

    Then of course there is the other side where if I didn't raise it, I'll take it over and become to the loud mouth on it. (AKA the Hubert Voices).

    Here is hoping those who put Anguilla first will discuss it. (AKA the Concerned Minority.


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