18 December, 2008


What is acceptable to the people of Anguilla. I read the Governor’s Christmas message with interest. It is published at Anguilla LNT. My eyes zeroed in on the bit about Constitutional reform.

We all heard one of the Ministers say in the House of Assembly yesterday in the Budget Debate that the Anguilla government will be presenting a draft Constitution to the British negotiating team in January or February of next year. It is now the end of December. No one in Anguilla, other than the Chief Minister’s Committee, has seen this draft Constitution.

We heard the Hon Hubert Hughes say in the same Budget Debate that he was upset that one of the members of the Chief Minister’s Committee had demanded and was being paid to prepare the draft. I asked him what he meant. He told me that the Hon Chief Minister had told him that the member had demanded to be paid for the drafting work she had volunteered to do. He said that the Chief Minister told him that she was being paid over $11,000.00 per month. I have some difficulty believing that story. I cannot imagine that she would do such a thing. It would mean that she was taking the risk of having people falsely accuse her of delaying the process so that she could drag out her salaried tenure.

The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission produced a Report in August 2006. This Report and its recommendations for constitutional and electoral reform were based on six months of exhaustive public exposure. There were innumerable public meetings and consultations. There were regular radio programmes and the occasional television broadcast on the topic. Members of the Commission met with Anguillians in New York, St Thomas and St Maarten to present the issues and to solicit further ideas. Meeting after meeting was held up and down the country, though some of them were not very well attended. Every person in Anguilla who had the slightest interest in constitutional reform was given the opportunity to contribute orally and in writing to the process. Hundreds of such contributions came in to the Commission’s website alone. The draft report went through revision after revision, all of which were published and widely distributed throughout the island. Since its publication, it has been available on the government website free to read on-line or to download to your computer and print out. [At least the part containing the recommendations should be read by every educated Anguillian.] The whole process was transparent and public. Contrast that with the present process, where no one has the slightest idea what is going on.

The Chief Minister commissioned one of the members of his Committee, in one of the last meetings of his Committee that I attended, to turn the Commission’s recommendations, together with the amendments agreed to by members of the House of Assembly, including the concept of full internal self-government, into a draft Constitution so that members of the Chief Minister’s Committee could see what the finished product would look like. He stated to his Committee that his intention was to take the draft to the public to get a public consensus before the British negotiating team arrived. This was important because the public were not aware of the amendments made to their recommendations as reflected in the Commission’s Report, particularly the idea of demanding from the British Government full internal self-government. His Committee’s negotiating hand would be strengthened if they could confidently assert that a majority of Anguillians had expressed support for the new constitutional proposals.

A draft Constitution has been produced for the Committee, but no member of the public has yet seen it. Has the draft taken on board the recommendations that came from the many Anguillians who contributed, or has it gone off on a tangent of its own? Have the amendments to the Report agreed by the Members of the House of Assembly been reflected in the draft, or have they been knocked to one side? If there are in the draft any major new proposed alterations to what was previously agreed, have the government ministers and supporters, who make up the present Chief Minister’s negotiating committee, accepted them?

And, now we hear on the radio that what has been produced is not a "draft", it is a "template". Not a draft, a template! It has been pointed out that a draft is something that I can present to you for your comments and suggested alterations. A draft is amenable to change based on our discussions. A template, by contrast, is something that forces or guides a process along a pre-determined line. It is a term used in engineering and in the arts to describe a device that makes the finished product conform to a design that has been pre-selected. Was this just an unfortunate use of language? Or, was the word deliberately used in all its malign sense, to give some indication of the attitude of some members of the Committee to the process of public consultation?

Will the Governor, before he departs in March next year, inform the FCO that as yet no member of the Anguillian public has the slightest idea what the Anguillian negotiating team will be presenting to them?

Will the Anguillian public accept a flurry of last-minute “public consultations” on the proposed template in the few remaining days before the British arrive as a suitable alternative to genuine public consultation on a draft Constitution?

Or will the Chief Minister stick to his word, and circulate the draft widely for public comment and input? Will he ensure that the British team does not come to Anguilla until he is certain that the majority of Anguillians have been consulted and agree with the proposals contained in the draft.

I shall observe it all with interest from the sidelines to which the Chief Minister’s abusive language has relegated me.


  1. Would the former Magistrate draw out the Constitutional "template-making" so she can get $11,000 a month?

    I know her from early. And in my opinion, yes, I believe she would.

  2. All members should have signed an agreement that their services was voluntary, then no one would have been able to demand a salary.

  3. Respectfully, there are too many people who are tasked with chores outside their areas of expertise.
    How come none of the two leading practically experienced Constitutional Lawyers in Anguilla is on that Committee?

    There we go again!!

  4. Whether or not she demanded a salary,the CM should have politely told her no.He should have told her it was a voluntary act and that her services would not be needed if she insists on being paid.Why did he give in to her?If that story is true, we have a lot to be worried about.


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