28 February, 2008

Integrity Pacts

Anti-Corruption Tools. In looking at the question of preventing future corruption in public contracting, we in Anguilla would do well to look at the Integrity Pact. This is a tool that has been developed by Transparency International. More can be learned about it on the TI website.

The IP consists of a process that includes an agreement (entered into before bids are invited) between a government agency and all pre-qualified bidders for a public contract. It contains rights and obligations to the effect that neither will pay, offer, demand or accept bribes, collude with competitors to obtain the contract, or engage in such abuses while carrying out the contract. The IP also introduces a monitoring system that provides for independent oversight and accountability.

Bidders should disclose all commissions and similar expenses paid by them to anybody in connection with the contract. Sanctions apply in case of violation. These sanctions range from loss of contract, forfeiture of the bid or performance bond and liability for damages, to debarment of bidders from future contracts. Criminal or disciplinary action against employees of government are assured. IPs encourage companies to refrain from bribing by providing assurance that their competitors will also do so. Governments and government officials also have the assurance of a clear framework that protects them from dubious offers.

Governments are able to reduce the high cost of corruption in procurement. Successful implementation on a major project can go a long way to restoring public confidence in a country’s procurement process.

The Integrity Pact has shown itself adaptable to many legal settings. It is flexible in its application. No new legislation is required for its introduction. So far, the IP process has been successfully implemented in about 20 countries around the world. Victor Hart reports in his speech of 15 February 2008 to the Institute of Structural Engineers that regrettably, despite lobbying by T&T’s Transparency Institute, the government of Trinidad & Tobago is yet to use the IP on any of its projects.

In Anguilla, no contractor or engineer has yet begun to lobby for Integrity Pacts. No one is even thinking about the issue. We would not be surprised to learn that the government of Anguilla is not contemplating using the Integrity Pact on any of its major, upcoming projects.

26 February, 2008


Master Plan for New Government of Anguilla Building. Like most of us in Anguilla I read with interest in this week’s Anguillian Newspaper of the consultative meeting that was held on 19 February. It discussed the planned new state-of-the-art government building. The meeting was led by architect Mark Raymond of Trinidad. The report is that the meeting involved six consultants and many heads of department and other senior public servants. Mr Raymond advised that there are four planned stages. The first is the consultation, which was the meeting in question. The second was an appraisal of the project and collection of information. The third will be a schematic presentation of options. The fourth will be the actual design work. You will notice that there was no mention of procurement of goods and services or of the construction itself. Yet, that is where most of our concerns lie. We are going to be spending a lot of money in the coming years on infrastructure development. This new building is not the biggest of government’s planned projects. The others include the new terminal and multi-purpose building at Blowing Point Harbour, the new road for the Valley, and the deep water harbour at Corito.

I was reading a speech of 15 February given by another Trinidadian. He is Victor Hart. Mr Hart is the Chairman of T&T’s Transparency International. His speech was to the Institute of Structural Engineers.

Mr Hart reminded the assembled engineers that procurement means the acquisition of goods and services. On construction projects it covers the entire process from needs assessment through the project preparation, design, budgeting, tender invitation, award of contracts, and execution of the contracts. We live in a time when coping with corruption is high on the agenda of all countries. It is therefore important that we take the opportunity to discuss transparency and accountability in procurement.

Much of Anguilla’s annual budget is spent through the construction industry. Our money goes on developing infrastructure, repairs and maintenance, in schools and hospitals, clinics and offices. Procurement offers the most attractive opportunities to those who wish to corrupt the process and illegally enrich themselves.

He reminded us that corruption damages our country by causing the undertaking of projects which are unnecessary, unreliable, dangerous and over-priced. This can lead to loss of life, misuse of funds, and resultant poverty, economic damage, and underdevelopment.

Corruption damages companies. It results in uncertainty and wasted tendering expenses. It increases project costs. It reduces project opportunities. It causes extortion and blackmail. It contributes to money laundering. It can result in criminal prosecutions, fines, blacklisting, reputation risk, and resultant job losses.

It damages individuals. It causes reduced morale, induces a sense of hopelessness in industry professionals. These face criminal prosecution, fines and imprisonment.

Transparency and accountability are the main antidotes for corruption. It takes our architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, building, plumbing and electrical contractors, and related professionals becoming conscious of the problem. We need them to come together to join the fight against corruption. As Mr Hart points out, the advantage for them is that they will not spend time dealing with the consequences of a playing field that is not level because of corruption in the procurement process. The result will be increased peace of mind, job satisfaction, and levels of productivity and profitability.

The building sector in Anguilla is essentially lawless and unregulated. The Building Code is a long-standing joke. It exists only in the minds of shameless members of the Building Board. There are no published standards or regulations. As with Barbados, the Code is applied depending on the whim of whichever functionary you are dealing with. My fear is that it might come to be so, also, with public procurement.

I trust that we are going to hear next of steps being taken to ensure that the procurement process for the new government building will be more transparent than it was in the airport extension project two years ago. From all reports, there are still unanswered questions connected with that project.

24 February, 2008


Colombian Exposition at LA Cafe. Rumza, otherwise known as LA Cafe, is in tatters. It has lain more or less abandoned the past couple of years. The fanfare surrounding the big “disco” openings have all turned out to be just noise and no substance. The structure itself is dilapidated, a shell of what it once was. The armed men patrolling the premises at all hours of the night are no more.

Someone has organised a “Colombian Exposition” on the premises. It is to last for 11 days until 3rd March. I went to visit it on Sunday. It cost me EC$5.00 just to get in. The items on sale are not cheap. But, the product at LA Café always was expensive! I saw containers in the yard, and about 30 sales people who might have been Colombians. The premises are divided up into at least 40 tiny counters selling product of one kind or another.

Every chintzy gadget you can imagine is on display. Imitation gold, flashy jewelry. Battery-operated gadgets. Pseudo-medical cures that would not be allowed into any country with proper regulation. A guy with a computer and a machine that looks at your retina. It can tell you whether you have any disease. It can detect everything from liver disease to “stress”. Devices guaranteed to enlarge various body parts. The most exciting find was the “Colombian snail slime”. It is being sold in cream and lotions. It is guaranteed to cure wrinkles and arthritis. I am so excited about the news that I hasten to share it with you!

There are unanswered questions. Are the containers of stuff in the yard also from Colombia? Does anyone know what came in them? Did the visitors pay duties on everything? Did they get special work permits, or were they exempted?

One has to ask who in government let these people in, and what is it all about?

Do you suppose the Colombians are giving money to the Ruthwill Auditorium?

22 February, 2008


Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In most of our islands, our Attorneys-General are political. Many of our countries have no Director of Public Prosecutions. The Attorney-General then decides who should be prosecuted and who should be excused. He is not supposed to show any favouritism. He is supposed to not maliciously prosecute those who oppose the government. The Constitution says he is to act independently of political influence. So is the DPP, where one exists. But, what is written and what happens in the real world have ever been two different things. It is not that our officials are necessarily biased. The real problem is lack of initiative and zest for the job. Most of us in the West Indies have given up on any expectation that our prosecutors will bring the full force of the law down on any public figure who breaks the law. We understand their problem, and shrug our shoulders. Our A-Gs sit in Cabinet and socialize with Ministers and Members of Parliament. They deal on a daily basis with, and develop ties to, other high officials in government. From Barbados to the Bahamas, the story is the same. Our officials just keep getting richer and richer, despite their limited salaries. And, our prosecutors sit on their hands and say it is nothing to do with them.

Relief may yet come from an unusual angle. Corrupt as much of the public administration in the USA is, they do have some good laws. And, they have some prosecutors who are not afraid of anyone in the West Indies. One of the US laws that we pin our hopes on is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This Act is enforced by the Department of Justice, which boasts some notoriously courageous prosecutors.

The Act is not new. It was originally enacted thirty years ago. It prohibits the bribery of foreign government officials by US persons and companies. The term “foreign official” includes people we do not normally think of as being an official, such as a foreign political party or a candidate for political office.

The history of this Act is well known to those of us of a certain age. The US Securities and Exchange Commission conducted investigations in the late 1970s. Over 400 US companies admitted to making questionable or illegal payments in excess of US$300 million to foreign government officials. The abuses ran the full gamut. They included bribery of high foreign officials to secure some type of favourable action by a foreign government. There were also so-called facilitating payments that were made to ensure that government functionaries discharged certain ministerial or clerical duties. The idea for the Act was to bring a halt to the bribery of foreign officials. This was meant to restore public confidence in the integrity of the US business system.

The FCPA has its own blog which you can access by clicking here. There are several cases discussed. They include payments made by a Westinghouse subsidiary in India, and a Hollywood movie producer in Thailand. Even non-US companies are caught by the Act, where their securities are issued in the USA. Prosecutions have been brought in the USA against Vetco Gray UK Ltd, Akzo Nobel NV, and Statoil ASA. Other targets have included such well-known international companies as Siemens AG, BAE Systems, AstraZeneca PLC, Total SA, Nordsk Hydry ASA, Alcatel SA, and Petro-Canada. One of the most recent targets has been Lucent Technologies Inc. In December 2007, it agreed to settle a case brought against it and to pay fines and penalties of US$2.5 million for having paid for the travel of Chinese officials to the USA. The offence it committed was to improperly record the travel expenses of the officials in question.

Not all corrupt payments are punishable under the Act. It is only an offence to bribe a foreign government official for the purpose of obtaining business. There are limits to its effectiveness. Not included are bribes paid to persons who are not governmental officials. In Anguilla, that might exclude health personnel and the public utilities. More worrying is that payments made to expedite the performance of routine government action also escape. This would include obtaining permits or licences, processing official papers, clearing goods through Customs, or providing police protection. Another available defence is to show that the payment is lawful in accordance with the written laws of the recipient country. You might also escape by showing that the payment is a reasonable expense directly related to promotional activities. So, giving gifts to a school or to a local hospital would not count as a bribe. Gifts of computers to the police force, or of a jeep to the Customs Department for turning the head the other way, would be exempt.

The FCPA is not perfect. But, until we adopt strong and effective anti-corruption laws of our own, and until we appoint courageous and independent prosecutors, we in Anguilla shall have to rely on foreign assistance of this type if we are to have any chance at all of stopping foreign companies attempting to corrupt our own officials.

21 February, 2008


Proposed New Public Accounts Committee for the Falkland Islands. We all know by now that we do not have a functioning PAC in Anguilla. There is no one in Anguilla exposing maladministration in the use of public funds. There is no one even looking at the way that the different government departments are spending public funds. Except the internal audit department and the external auditor. The internal auditors are professional civil servants just doing a job. No offence intended, I have no idea who they are and even less what they do. They do not report to us, so how can we know? The external auditor is no doubt very professional, but he would be mainly concerned to ensure that the government spenders look good. He would make suggestions for improvements. His concerns would not include exposing mis-spending when he finds it. Nobody wants to rock the boat!

So, it was with great interest that I read how the Falkland Islanders are planning to set up their PAC in their proposed new Constitution. Their discussions include some of the features that various Anguillians said they wanted to see in any new Anguilla Constitution. In particular, they plan to appoint three members of the public to sit on the committee, with two members of the Assembly, making a PAC of five persons. A majority will be from the public! Additionally, they plan to bring in experts to give advice in their own particular area of skill. They are considering giving this new PAC authority to scrutinize companies with government-sanctioned monopolies.

That would include in Anguilla such entities as ANGLEC, the new Water Authority when it comes on stream, and the Health Authority of Anguilla. These are all desperately in need of supervision of how they spend public monies. We already know we do not have a functioning health service in Anguilla. And, now the rumour is that we are about to lose the initiative to develop a Health Fund. The whole kit and caboodle of the Anguilla health sector appears to be collapsing. A lot of exposing needs to go on. No one in Anguilla is willing to take on the job.

The Falkland Islanders say they are going to look to see how the PAC functions in other overseas territories.

I only hope they do not take their lead from Anguilla.

19 February, 2008

Members' Interests

Registration of Interests. Section 60A of the Constitution of Anguilla was not there originally. It was specially introduced into the 1982 Constitution by a constitutional amendment made in 1990. Somebody thought disclosure of economic interests by members of the House of Assembly was sufficiently important a matter to go about amending the Constitution to put it in. Like so many of Anguilla’s laws, it promptly went to sleep and has never been awakened. It has been a dead letter since the day it was written. What does the section say? It is not long. It reads:

Registration of interests

60A. (1) The Speaker shall maintain a Register of Interests in accordance with this section.

(2) It shall be the duty of each member of the Assembly to declare to the Speaker, for entry in the Register of Interests, such interests, assets, income and liabilities of that member or of any other person connected with him, as may be prescribed by law.

(3) A member of the Assembly shall make a declaration under subsection (2) of this section—

(a) upon becoming a member of the Assembly;

(b) at such intervals thereafter (being no longer than twelve months) as may be prescribed by law;

(c) upon the acquisition of any interest, asset or liability which is not entered in the Register of Interests; and

(d) upon the disposal of any interest, asset or liability which has been entered in the Register of Interests.

(4) A law made under section 47 of this Constitution shall make provision for giving effect to this section.

You will notice that section 60A says that the Speaker shall maintain a Register of Interests. Every member of the Assembly is required to enter in the Register all his assets and interests, and those of his family members as well. The Assembly was supposed to pass a law regulating how this is to be done. This law will say, for example, that the declaration is to be made on oath. It will say that any member committing perjury will go to gaol for up to seven years. That is the penalty for perjury. Basdeo Panday of Trinidad, former Prime Minister, failed to disclose a bank account in a London bank held by his wife. In 2006, he was sentenced by the Magistrate to a term of two years imprisonment. He later got off on appeal to the Court of Appeal. We would expect that the Anguilla law will go on to say that the register is not to be secret. Any member of the public is entitled to see a copy of it. Any member of the Assembly who fails to file a declaration commits an offence and can be prosecuted. We have been waiting patiently for eighteen years now for this Constitutional amendment to be brought into effect.

In September 2007, last year, things began to change. The Hon David Carty, Speaker of the House, made a speech in the House of Assembly. He said then, “. . . a draft bill for a new law requiring members to register their interests with the Speaker’s Office as mandated by section 60A of the Constitution is likewise ready for circulation to members and I trust will appear in the next publication of the Gazette”.

Needless to say, no such Bill was ever published in the Gazette. No such Bill has, so far as I know, ever been circulated to the Bar Association for comment. No member of the public has had a chance to make suggestions before the members of the House firm up their minds on it. I wondered who had stopped the Speaker’s initiative all these months. What stopped the Bill from being published in the Gazette for all of us to comment before it goes to the House for debate?

So, I contacted a member of the House. We now learn that the A-G’s Chambers were working diligently on the draft since September last, five months ago. The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the Hon Keesha Webster, finished giving their drafting instructions to the A-G since early October. It took a lot of time to change “Trinidad” or whatever to “Anguilla”, and to cut out the Senate provisions in the original draft. Just last week the A-G finally got back to the Speaker with a revised draft.

Members of the House of Assembly finally have this draft in their hands for study. They will be making up their minds long before we the public get a chance to make suggestions. We will be lucky if we get an effective Registration of Interests Act before the next general elections when the present representatives all retire from the House as they have promised us. It is difficult to accept that there could be a valid reason why the Bill, a first draft of which was ready for circulation to the members since last September, has not yet been shown to the public.

I have a prophecy to make. Any politician who credibly takes up the crusade of Integrity in Public Office legislation before the next elections in any one of our islands is bound to win his seat. It is the one sure platform for success in elections in our West Indies today. Barbados proved it, if we needed evidence. The people of Anguilla, too, cry out for this matter to be taken seriously.

Which of our upcoming young politicians will make us a promise to publish and promote such legislation? That is one candidate who will gain all our votes.

And, if she fails to deliver, I hope she will be a one-term representative.

16 February, 2008


International Anti-Corruption Day. I suppose it was the house-full of guests over Christmas. I completely missed the anniversary date of 9 December 2007. That was the day I started this blog back in 2006. It commemorates International Anti-corruption Day. This is the day set aside by the United Nations for all of us to look at the state of governance in all our countries. The problem with corruption, and how it permeates the fabric of all our West Indian societies, seems almost intractable. It is easy to see how high-level corruption involves people in power. So many of our leaders at all levels of government get involved in terms of contracts, money laundering, health and education. But, it has often been pointed out that there is another, lower, level. It involves simple expediency. We give in to corrupting influences because it is the easy way out. Too many of us are coerced into submitting to the machinations of corruption. The hurdles that are put in our way have to be crossed. We give in because it is the easiest way to move forward.

Restaurants are the scene and source of significant amounts of corruption in Anguilla. The varieties of corruption involved in running a restaurant in Anguilla are numerous and ingenious. When you are a foreign owner of a restaurant, you have licences and permits to obtain that locals do not. There is the Aliens Landholding Licence to hold the lease. There is the Work Permit for your French chef. There is the Restaurant Licence itself. There are electricity and water mains connections. There are conditions that you have to satisfy to get some of these. Some of the conditions are legal. Others are not. Typically, the foreign restaurant owner is told that he has to have a “local partner”. There is nothing wrong, in theory, with having a local partner. Government’s insistence on it originated with the best of intentions. Partnership encourages Anguillians to get involved in business with international entrepreneurs. Anguillians can learn how to be successful in business from such associations. In return, the Anguillian partner contributes part of the start-up capital, and provides local know-how and contacts, so essential in business.

In practice, local partnership has not worked in such a straightforward way in Anguilla. Much of the time it is the cause of a great deal of corruption. I could tell you a dozen awful stories from the restaurant scene in Anguilla. Often, the “local partner” is purely a front. He puts in no capital, yet gets 10% of the equity and the income. Oh, he gives value all right. He “arranges” exemptions from the work permit regulations. He “arranges” for customs duties to be evaded. On occasion, he even “arranges” to appear on the record as the majority owner of the business, thus converting it into a “local” business for the purpose of evading all Aliens Landholding Licence requirements.

This business of insisting on a “local” partner is one of the most corrupting influences in Anguilla today. This corruption is pervasive and widespread. It makes many of the restaurants in Anguilla smell to high heaven. And, the practice of fronting does not only apply to restaurants. It reaches even up to hotel ownership.

So, it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I heard of one foreign restaurateur who refused to give in to the pressure. He had bought an existing restaurant. He had thought it would be straightforward to do business in Anguilla. The British flag, he was told, is a guarantee of integrity and good governance. Instead, he learned he would not get his licences unless he took a “local partner”. His chef and senior staff were on-island. They were ready to open the restaurant. They were stopped. They could not begin work in the restaurant until all the licences were in place. The licences would not be forthcoming unless he took a “local partner”. Months passed. A year passed. His restaurant remained closed. I am told he was adamant. He simply refused. Fortunately, he could afford to. He refused to enter into any corrupt arrangement. Eventually, good sense prevailed. His licences were forthcoming. The restaurant is now open. Without one of us fronting for him.

I shall enjoy dining there.

Very few of us have the resources to be able to do what he did.

Let us celebrate integrity when we meet it. It is rare enough in Anguilla to be considered of high value. Let us try to make every day in Anguilla an anti-corruption day.

09 February, 2008


What Does Full Internal Self-Government Really Mean? There are those who believe that it has to do with replacing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with our elected ministers. Those of you who read the blog regularly will know that I do not subscribe to such a simplistic theory. If that is what the meaning is, then I want to have nothing to do with it. Those British live far from us, and do not impinge on our liberties. At least, they do not do it much and they do not do it every day. Our elected officials are charged with charting our course and setting policies and programmes for the safe and controlled growth of our country in the future. They have their weaknesses and their faults. We see it every day. They live right here in our back yards. Every little weakness and fault immediately impacts on us. We well know the disaster that awaits us when we give them the discretion to issue licences and permits of every kind to whoever influences them the most. This is not just the dolphin circus. It includes dealing with some very unsavory characters over the years.

So, it was with much satisfaction that I read this comment sent to me by a correspondent, graphics included, a few minutes ago.

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.

I could not agree more, so far as they go. But, I believe we could add a whole litany of other essential constitutional ingredients if we are to live freely and prosperously with full internal self-government. The Chief Minister’s committee meets this Friday coming to discuss the way forward in dealing with the British government. Though he has sued me, I assume I am still a member of the committee. Until he dismisses me from his committee, I shall stay there, attending all meetings, and urging that these essentials be included in any new Constitutional proposals that we negotiate with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

03 February, 2008

Blowing Point

Dolphinarium Construction Begins at Blowing Point. I really am not focused on the dolphins. They are the national symbol of Anguilla. Their exploitation by a Mexican company, with the connivance of Anguillian officials, for the amusement and entertainment of hamburger-eating cruise ship passengers from neighbouring St Maarten, is curious at least. The general opposition to the project in Anguilla has not moved our government. Other than that, I have no interest in dolphins.

The three dolphins on the Anguilla rebel flag shown above stand for friendship, wisdom and strength, according to the website Flagspot. The three dolphins are coloured orange to represent endurance, unity and strength. The circle stands for continuity. The flag has a white background, for peace and tranquility, with a turquoise-blue base representing the surrounding sea and also faith, youth and hope. What irony!

The current official flag shown above, a blue ensign with a dolphin badge, was adopted on 30 May 1990 with much pride and fanfare. I remember the events well. As I recall, Colville Petty served as Chair of the committee, and I was a naïve and enthusiastic member of it. Little did I know at the time what use we were to make of these intelligent and friendly symbols not twenty years later.

The story that catches my interest is the report that the relocation of the dolphinarium from Meads Bay to Sandy Ground and now to Blowing Point has not been conducted within the rules and laws that govern Anguilla. Official approval and encouragement of wrongdoing is the real meat in the dolphin story. The Land Development Control Committee advising government has placed reliance on Environmental Impact Statements that have been described by the experts as mere “lobbying documents, insubstantial and shallow”. Their decision to approve the project in the face of all the evidence that it is of no advantage to Anguilla’s tourism plant, causes most Anguillians to wonder. The Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association is in the process of conducting a poll among its members. Preliminary results indicate that upwards of 90% are opposed to it, on the ground that none of Anguilla’s tourists and few Anguillian residents visit it. Placing a wild animal circus in a high-end city suburb has never been a town and country planner’s idea of how to add value and improve the environment!

This Saturday’s Daily Herald Weekender section carries a front page story by Suzanne Koelega detailing the whole sad chronicle of events. It is an eye-opener for anyone who is not familiar the story.

Here are some photos of the new construction under way. You can draw your own conclusions.

This shows one of the pens under construction.

This shows what I imagine will be the jetty out to the pens.

This shows the Anguilla ferries at Blowing Point harbour, moored not more than a couple of hundred yards away, up-current from where the dolphins will be caged. I understand the EIS reports hopefully that the diesel and gasoline and the noise of the engines will have no adverse effect on the captive animals.

The above photo shows one of the ferries darting out of the harbour, just a few yards up from one of the new dolphin pens under construction. You do not have to be a dolphin expert to imagine what damage this activity will do to the caged animals with their delicate echo-location equipment being assaulted twice every half hour in this fashion. Not to mention all the inevitable spilled fuel and oil. But, then we all know that dolphins like to swim in dirty water, and suffer no adverse effect from it.

I had thought that the new dolphin facility would be on the actual sandy spit at Blowing Point. We have been referring to it as the new dolphinarium “at Sandy Point”. However, the above photo shows it being constructed some distance to the east of the spit, and close to the business places and the ferry terminal just to the east and in the near background of the photograph.

Then, of course, there are the new homes that are going up to the west, down current from the dolphinarium. You can see one going up to the right of the above photograph. Heaven alone knows what it will be like to swim in all that rotting, uneaten, dead fish and dolphin excrement that will be flowing in their direction. And, where will the Anguillians who used to picnic on this pristine location go to enjoy themselves in the future? And, what is going to happen to these “fish” when the next, inevitable hurricane strikes?

I am told that one bus driver who has a lucrative contract to take the cruise ship passengers from St Maarten, who are the main users of the dolphinarium, and two ferry boat operators, who have similar contracts, were the only lobbyists in favour of the dolphinarium. Their alleged mortgages outweighed all the other interests in moving the government of the day to approve the project.

How will the Hon Hubert Hughes answer to his political constituents when the inevitable merde hits the propeller, I ask myself? As the Chief Minister has admitted in another context, “Mistakes have been made.”

Dolphin steak, anyone?

01 February, 2008


The Role of the Media in Exposing Corruption. I was very interested to read a recent speech by Victor Hart. He is the Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute. He was addressing the 27th General Conference of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. The meeting was held in Nassau from 23-26 January. The theme of the conference was Innovative Ways of Exposing Corruption – The Media and the People. Anyone wishing to read a copy of his speech, just email me.

He urged journalists to bring to their job more professionalism by proper checking of sources to ensure factual, legal and ethical content in their reports.

He asked them to show more balance in their reporting by eliminating all personal, political and other bias and challenged them to expand their areas of interest and to do more research.

He encouraged them to practise more investigative journalism.

Turning to the owners and managers of Media Houses, he urged them to give more support to their journalists by providing adequate resources and a work environment free from interference.

He asked them to reject the indolence of those reporters and editors who accept and publish 'set pieces' of news and press releases without searching to find the real stories behind the headlines.

They should make their journalists understand that quality and not quantity is what is expected of them and should encourage them to ask the hard questions without fear or favour.

It seems to me that we in Anguilla could have benefitted from our various media houses attending this conference. I sense that Anguillians would love to see any investigative journalism at all taking place. Anguillian media houses have made a science of accepting and publishing “set pieces” of news and press releases. We never search to find the real stories behind the headlines. We have no interest in quality, only in quantity. We never ask the hard questions. We only act from fear or favour.

Or is this an exaggeration?