02 December, 2008


Chief Minister’s Committee meeting in secret on new constitution for discussions with the British. As we all know, the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission held a number of meetings and consultations with the Anguillian public at home and abroad in the period January to August 2006. After a transparent process that involved an evolution of background papers that were published on the web and on paper distributed widely throughout the island, including a draft Report that was published and submitted for comment, a Final Report was made to Government. This Report collected together the consensus in Anguilla on what the new constitutional arrangements with the British should be. Copies of it can be read on-line or downloaded from the government website by clicking on the link provided earlier in this paragraph.

It was clear to all the participants in the Commission’s exercise that Anguillians wanted more self-government. If the truth be told, it was clear that what we wanted was full internal self-government. What that means is that we wanted Whitehall and the FCO to be responsible only for our defence and foreign affairs. Everything else, including relations with our Caribbean neighbours, should be in our hands. Especially, we wanted more checks and balances on the power of our government and the ability of the bureaucracy to abuse us with impunity. That such full internal self-government is our right to seek when we are ready for it is not in doubt.

The Commission did not, however, recommend that Anguilla officiously seek full internal self-government. There were two reasons. First, a majority of Anguillians who spoke on the subject did not believe that Anguilla’s democracy was ready for that as yet. Second, the British had warned us publicly not to demand that right unless we came with a timetable for full political independence. Most sensible Anguillians would recognise that full independence at this time, with no proven leaders of stature to guide us into such rough seas, is too risky. That is not to say that we will not one day get there. We need time to see if the proposed checks and balances in the new Constitution would work satisfactorily. The downside at present just seems greater than the upside.

Government took the Commission’s recommendations to the public. The Chief Minister formed a Committee to lead the discussions. Some members of the Chief Minister’s Committee, who had refused to cooperate with the Commission’s 2006 work, suggested that it was time for Anguilla to demand full internal self-government. The government ministers and advisers who form the Chief Minister’s Committee took up the call. No doubt, it seemed to them a good plank on which to go into the upcoming general elections. It must have seemed like a political god-send. But, they wanted to see what such a constitution would look like before they recommended it to the public. Discussions with the public came to a screeching halt.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister’s Committee authorised Lolita Richardson to come up with such a draft constitution. Her instruction from the Chief Minister was to ensure (1) that it incorporated all the recommendations of the Commission; (2) that it included such amendments as the government had come up with, and (3) that it contained a clear provision for full internal self-government. At her request, and for her assistance, I prepared a draft Constitution incorporating all the recommendations of the 2006 Commission’ Report. Each member of the Chief Minister’s Committee was given a copy. I can email a copy to anyone who asks for it.

Over two years have passed since the Commission made its Report in August 2006. Whatever draft or “template”, as it is now being called, has been prepared is not yet known to the public. Does it incorporate the recommendations of the Commission? Does it incorporate the amendments suggested by Ministers? Does it go for full internal self-government? Does it include all the checks and balances? Or, does it instead branch out on a frolic of its own? Does it come up with its own ideas? Does it attempt to revive ideas repudiated by Anguillians during the Commissions exercise? No one knows. Members of the Committee have been given only a paper copy of Mrs Richardson’s “template”. No electronic copy has ever been made available to members of the Committee, far less to the public. Only members of the Committee have seen the paper copy of the “template”. It is all still highly confidential.

Meanwhile, we understand the Chief Minister has announced that the British are coming in January or February of next year to commence negotiations on the new Constitution. That is in two or three months’ time. No doubt the British will then be told that the draft they will be presented with is the result of full public consultation, and that the majority of Anguillians are in support of it.

God help Anguilla!


  1. If you were the Ministers, how would you silence Don Mitchell and keep him from exposing this undemocratic plot?

    If you sued him for libel, trying to coerce him into silence, and that didn't shut him up, what would you do next?

  2. Telling us Lolita’s draft is a template is no consolation. Everybody knows what a template is. We want to see a draft, not a template. A draft is something you can change and knock into shape until everybody is satisfied with it. If they are cooking up a template, we have a problem. A template is not the same thing as a draft. It is the opposite of a draft. A template is like a cookie cutter. You use a template to guide or force things out in a pre determined shape.

    A template is just what we do not need in place of a discussion document.

  3. Do the government ministers need all this time to cook up a template?

    Or, did these joker not know the difference between a draft and a template?

    Anyway, why are the government ministers and their assistants plotting for so many months over this secret new constitution?

    Why not put it out there for discussion? BEFORE they make up their minds what they are going to the British with?

    Are they suggesting that the procedure the ministers have been following can be described as public education?

  4. It is always a bad omen for the public when things suddenly become "secret" in Anguilla. That is when the hanky-panky is in full swing. Why can't there be openness? What does the government fear?


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