18 March, 2008

Politics and Money

It is not Asking too much for Ministers and Members of the House of Assembly to Disclose their Assets and Income to the Public. This obligation exists in the law of every advanced democracy. In the West Indies it remains a touchy area. Few West Indian countries oblige Ministers and parliamentarians to fully and publicly disclose their assets. Our Constitutions usually suggest that laws will be passed to regulate such disclosures. Our Constitutions say that Ministers must disclose to Governors and such. Members of the House must disclose to the Speaker. But, only after a law is passed regulating how it is to be done. And, nowhere is there a hint that the disclosure will be published to the people. It will be kept secret by the Governor and the Speaker. Not that this secrecy matters in practice. Parliament usually forgets to pass the necessary law. The provision remains unenforceable. The Constitution remains an empty promise to the people. That is what happened in Anguilla.

No one knows how many sources of income exist for our elected officials. We leave it to their “honour and integrity” not to accept improper payments. We make no noise about the absence of disclosure and oversight. We accept the risk of abuse and impropriety. In my opinion, that makes our democracy not very advanced. It means that we Anguillians are Third World in our attitude to the need for the highest rectitude required of our representatives. I use the term “Third World” in the sense of meaning “backward, inept, lacking transparency, and subject to despotic rule”.

I read a recently published opinion on The Huffington Post. It was written by Thomas B Edsall. Quoting from his bio on the page, Edsallis the . . . Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism”. Those are high qualifications indeed. He knows what he is writing about. This is what he says about the recently disclosed contribution by Hilary Clinton of the sum of $5 million to her presidential campaign expenses:

. . .the Clintons have earned over the seven years between 2001 and 2006, as documented in Mrs. Clinton's United States Senate and presidential financial disclosure reports -- a sum in excess of $45 million, not including the couple's earnings in 2007 or 2008.

Disclosure reports? Yes, US senators have to disclose their earnings and their assets. And, not just to the Speaker. The disclosure is to all the people. By clicking on the underlined words “disclosure reports” above, you can examine the reports for yourselves. So, in the USA, the figures are published for anyone to see. And, if you lie about it, you go to gaol. That is how seriously a democratic country takes the issue of rectitude in high public office. Does that mean that the US has eliminated all improper receipts of donations by elected officials? No, of course not. But, the US has made it much more difficult. And, risky. We in Anguilla have taken no steps at all to protect the public interest from the venality of our elected officials. Are we going to continue in the same pathway? Or, will we insist on proper safeguards in our new Constitution? Only the people can force the issue.

The politicians have no interest in safeguards.


  1. In their blatant lack of action on all things evil in Anguilla - including the repulsive abomination of dogfighting - see post 17 March - and the danger posed to Anguilla's children by the existence in our midst of Pit Bull Terriers, the present government ministers demonstrate themselves to be either monumentally stupid, or monumentally cowardly or downright corrupt. Likewise their lack of openness on the issue of a register of interests could either be the result of monumental stupidity or it could be the clearest signal yet of corruption. The two issues march hand in hand as do so many other tragic issues in the catalogue of misgovernment that Anguilla has suffered during the past several years. Which is it - stupidity or corruption? Will they tell us? Will they hell.

  2. "The real danger [in Grenada] nowadays is not that there is widespread corruption, official dishonesty in matters of public interest, and a reckless lack of responsibility and forthright accountability by those in authority -- the frightening danger is that our people generally are beginning to take it for granted."

    Lloyd Noel, former Attorney General of Grenada

  3. gone unopposed and unquestioned, then gone unsaid. from secrecy blooms antipathy. sadly, those intelligent or motivated enough to challenge the status quo can be counted on two hands. the majority only plow their reticence.


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