28 March, 2008

Commissions and Commissioners

What are the Commissions and Commissioners that Are Recommended for our New Constitution? During the six-month public consultation exercise in early 2006, members of the public recommended a number of Commissions for our new Constitution. People in Anguilla expressed concern about the need to increase public participation in government. Too many matters were being left to the Governor’s or the Ministers’ discretion. A number of Commissions and Commissioners were urged. The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission adopted many of these submissions and made them recommendations in their final Report of August 2006. These Commissions were designed to do three things.

The first was to democratize government. A number of matters of internal self-government had to be taken out of the arbitrary control of one person and put into the hands of competent members of the public. Because you are the Minister of Planning, should not mean you have the power to approve planning applications. Because you are the Minister of Immigration should not mean that you or your officers make the decision on work permits.

The second was to increase transparency. Anguilla is still governed like the UK was in the nineteenth century, secretly and arbitrarily. The UK has moved on, and introduced institutions and processes designed to open up government. We in Anguilla have no less right to be treated with respect and fairly. The public have to be given a right to information if they are to be able to make informed choices. Transparency is a process intended to make government fairer and society more just.

The third objective was to increase integrity and accountability in public office. When persons in power do not have to answer to an independent watch-dog, they begin to feel they can get away with anything. The downward spiral begins with small abuses. It grows to major problems. We do not have to give examples. We know bad behaviour when we see it.

I propose to look at some of these recommended Commissions and Commissioners over a series of posts in the coming days. The Chief Minister's Committee is working on a draft of the proposed new Constitution. It is my hope that this Committee will ensure that these recommendations are included in any new Constitution for Anguilla.

No matter how much internal self-government we get, if we do not have the checks and balances in place, no progress will have been made. The more self-government there is without the checks and balances, the more abuse will be heaped on us. The Englishman may not be our preferred leader. But, at least we know that he has no private agenda in Anguilla. The risk of modernization without democratization is that we will turn out like Antigua or St Vincent after they went into independence. The locally-grown leaders will abuse us even more than the colonial ones did.

None of us wants to go down that route!


  1. Don, to a fledgling gov't, these rudimentary commission findings should only seem daunting or threatening to elected officials that enjoy the "good 'ole boy" system that empowers or enrichens them beyond their inherent abilities. To those of us who care, these 3 principles are necessary in any democracy to ensure, or at least minimize corrupt gov't. - Scotty

  2. please insert transparency after "ensure", thanks scotty

  3. The British have their own agenda, Don, as you well know, and it is as heinous as any other.

    You appeared to have yet again slandered the local politicians.

  4. This is the very area why government revisited their decision and critically analyzed suggestions made by this commission. To be quite frank, ‘certain’ suggestions made by this Commission clearly threatens Parliamentary Supremacy and puts Anguilla back further towards colonial status - a department of the UK.

    The term: “to democratize government” is clearly, as said before, an insult to our democratic institutions, the people and their values, and Government of Anguilla - liken a Mugabe's Zimbabwe's style government. Need not to mention that Anguilla is a tentacle of one of the world’s leading democracies.

    You said: “It is my hope that this [government] Committee will ensure that these recommendations are included in any new Constitution for Anguilla”.

    The issue of recommending a number of Commissions and Commissioners is clearly political and unconstitutional. Whereas Constitutions may identify ministers’ portfolios, it never places limitations on their management systems. This clearly lies in the competency of Parliament’s legislation.

    Whereas, suggestions made are clearly to improve transparency, accountability and good governance, they are to be implemented by the works of a competent Parliament through the legislative process and not imported to be used draconically from a constitution.

    A good way to start is by educating the electorate on selecting competence in Parliament.


  5. Please change:

    The issue of recommending a number of Commissions and Commissioners is clearly political and unconstitutional to:

    The issue of recommending a number of Commissions and Commissioners is clearly political, undemocratic and irrelevant in a constitution.


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