07 June, 2008


Tell the People the Truth! There is a joke among lawyers. It is supposedly advice on strategy being given by an old lawyer to a young one. It goes like this.

When the law is against you, rely on the facts. When the facts are against you, rely on the law. When the facts and the law are against you, attack your opponent’s integrity.”

It is only partly a joke. It is a good description of the tactics frequently used by unscrupulous lawyers to confuse the adjudicator. The reason the tactic is used so often is that, transparent though it often is, unethical as it always is, it so often succeeds. Otherwise intelligent people fall for it over and over again. So, I was not surprised when someone anonymously posted a personal attack on me as a “comment” on my latest post below. He or she wrote in part,

“It is quite obvious that you are pro-colonialism. Are you suggesting that Anguilla will dissolve into chaos if Anguillians are Self-Governing? Is it that you believe that Osbourne Fleming, Victor Banks, Albert Hughes, Eddie Baird, McNeil Rogers, Kenneth Harrigan and Hubert Hughes are incapable, in any permutation, of governing Anguilla properly and in the Best interests of the People of Anguilla? Or is it that you are of the view that English people are more capable, by virtue of evolution, in the field of Governance?

It is a rhetorical question, of course. It does not expect an answer. Its purpose is to attack the loyalty and patriotism of the author of this blog. Accusing a West Indian of being “pro-British” is one of the easiest ways of condemning him in an uncritical public mind. Persons who look at skin-colour and stop thinking may be easily persuaded to believe the worse. The misrepresentation of what I have been warning about needs no comment. It will be transparently clear to anyone who has been reading my posts.

The Westminster-style Constitution traditionally places a minimum of emphasis on creating and installing institutions and mechanisms to secure integrity, transparency and accountability. That system has been described in the past with some justification, because of its lack of checks and balances, as a dictatorship of the Prime Minister. No matter how gentlemanly our present representatives are, we do not know who our government will be in the future. We need a system that will guarantee our freedoms if our future leaders turn out to be not what we expected. We must have a system where increased power in the hands of our ministers is checked by procedures to correct any mischief that might occur. Those twin objectives would have been achieved if the recommendations of the Anguillians contained in the 2006 Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission had been implemented.

It is noticeable that the BVI and the TCI have negotiated, just last year, new Constitutions that significantly reduce the power of the FCO to interfere in internal matters and transfer to local institutions most of the powers previously enjoyed by the Governor. But, they neither demanded nor received “full internal self-government”. They are enjoying the benefits of a modern Constitution and a modern relationship with the British. No doubt, when they are ready, they will seek full political independence. But, they recognise they are not ready for it. Cayman Islands have just published their constitutional proposals. They do not demand full internal self-government. And, they are even richer and more financially self-reliant than we in Anguilla are.

The British have said that we must not come to them with a demand for full internal self-government unless we are prepared to accept a short timetable for independence. Our representatives have repeatedly told us that they are not interested in political independence at this time. But, they will demand full internal self-government for Anguilla. The two positions are at odds with each other. They are on a collision course. They are incompatible. Something will have to give. Either it will be the negotiating team that will settle for something less than their maximum demand. Or, it will be the British who will force us into an unplanned and unprepared-for independence. Either way, we lose.

In 2006 the Anguillians said that it was time to reduce the powers of the British in Anguilla, but that that must be accompanied by checks and balances. They did not recommend that we confront the British with a demand for full internal self-government. Will the same Anguillians be stampeded in 2008 into accepting full political independence under a Westminster-style Constitution before the necessary mechanisms for the protection of our life, liberty and property are put in place?

Will our leaders come to their senses and negotiate for what amounts in practice to full internal self-government, without waving that red flag in the face of the bull? That is what the people said they want.

We patiently await the draft of the promised Constitution. When we see that, we will know whether our leaders are honestly preparing to negotiate in our best interests. Or, we will see whether they are selling us a pig in a poke that will only increase their own powers over us.

Either way, I’ll be sure to tell you what I think.

No more shallow thinking, please.


  1. The evidence that the countdown has begun is strong. Inside the country people are disillusioned with the movement to reform the existing order. The reformist project is clearly a pipe-drain. When they were supposed to have had vision, they led us a strayed. Now their eyes are glaucoma; the said that they can see tunnel’s light much clearer. The question is; why should those with impaired vision lead us through the dark.

    Where is our productive and educational institutions, our skilled workforce, our mature political system or sound economic and cultural systems after forty years? Should they be allowed to simply continue to soothe their painful failures by blaming an imaginary British; then in some mysterious autocratically hallucinating hollow exercise they want to demand full self-internal government from the British. In other words – dictators with nukes!

    Support for the regime is at a minimum and the dissent is explosive. The irony of repression, the last resort of those in power has lost its effect – all the elected officials colluded as power slipped our incumbents’ grip – “power concedes nothing without a demand”. As a result, there is a lack of ministerial responsibility and accountability – Parliament loses its bite; their teeth have all decayed.

    Yes we want change, but our wanna-be young politicians are mentor-less, disorganized, and divided – powerless to demand; they too are humiliating. It will take a scientist to chemistry the best from amongst them only to fail to ascertain the leader at the end of his hypothesis. For some, it’s sticking to this evil even if it meant death. The Court is our only honest broker but only to those who care and could afford. In Anguilla, in such circumstances, we called it progression - in the real world they called it reverse-democracy. We have evolved from a crisis of legitimacy to a crisis of control even through unconstitutionality. And yes, the world is watching, waiting and is concern about their little paradise Anguilla.

    Will the Anguillian people be able to finally crack the closed circuit of monarchical and self-interest elected officials and complete the task of a constitutional revolution? Or will we roll from one nightmare to another? In short, what is the alternative government? Who is the possible architect? And who will ultimately occupy it? Broadly, three distinct answers can be distinguished in the Anguillian political scene: one looks forward to a colonial rule; another to a liberal democracy, and finally one which aims for a radical democracy.

    We need to identify the existing potentials and from these draw a picture of the potential perspectives.

    But be mindful of the unconstitutionality of this whole process, for which will be deemed null and void on procedural and lack of majority participation on constitutional relevance - by the Court or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

  2. Don, I thought you'd banned the tiresome "realist" and his attempts to lead us "a strayed" with his strings of big words and nonsense flummery, claiming to speak for "us."

  3. The answers to your anonymous critic are surely these:

    1. Yes, you are suggesting that Anguilla will dissolve into chaos if Anguillians are Self-Governing WITHOUT THE CHECKS AND BALANCES THAT ANY SENSIBLE CONSTITUTON PROVIDES, regardless of racial considerations.

    2. Yes, I think you probably do believe that Osbourne Fleming, Victor Banks, Albert Hughes, Eddie Baird, McNeil Rogers, Kenneth Harrigan and Hubert Hughes are incapable of governing Anguilla properly and in the Best interests of the people of Anguilla WITHOUT THOSE CHECKS AND BALANCES. They have certainly demonstrated in recent years that they are willing to govern without consultation and without regard for the people's wishes or interests.

    3. No, you are not of the view that English people are more capable, by virtue of evolution, in the field of Governance. I guess that you are not making any distinction on the grounds of race. Following a similar remark by William Pitt the Younger in 1770, Lord Acton made the famous remark in 1887 that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." There have, so far as I am aware, never been any respectable (or respected) suggestions that this truism is race-related. It is universal.

    That is why your proposition that checks and balances are needed in the constitution of any self-governing nation is so blindingly obvious, and why the blandishments of your critic suggest only one thing - that he expects to lose from checks and balances and, as far as he is concerned, the devil take the less well placed people in whose favour those checks and balances would work. I hope that the people of Anguilla will treat such self-interested criticism of your eminently sensible approach to a new constitution with the contempt it deserves.


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