26 February, 2009

Barnes Bay

Government has not done its duty to the public and instructed the Attorney General to bring an action in the High Court to protect access to Barnes Bay. Barnes Bay has always had a public road leading from the main road to the beach. It used to be the public road to the old, demolished, Coccoloba Hotel.

Coccoloba Hotel

It has been used from time immemorial, in a West Indian sense, by members of the public. Section 138 of the Registered Land Act provides that peaceable, open and uninterrupted use of a private road for 20 years creates a prescriptive right. The old Barnes Bay road has been used as a public right of way since I came to live in Anguilla in 1976, and that is more than 30 years ago.

Barnes Bay Beach 30 years ago

The original public access to Barnes Bay has never been blocked off or otherwise treated as a private road during all that time.

Barnes Bay Beach as no Anguillian schoolchild will ever know it in the future

Of course the road is not and probably never has been marked as a public road on any map. But, every Anguillian, particularly those from West End, remembers being able to access the Bay by vehicle along that road since vehicles came to Anguilla. Very few public roads in Anguilla have been registered as public roads. That does not stop a public road from being a public road. It just means that the relevant authorities are being cowardly negligent in protecting the public rights of way.

Viceroy's new 'private' entrance

When Viceroy began construction, they blocked the original public road. With government’s permission, they provided alternative public access to Barnes Bay at the western end of the project, just before the Mangos Restaurant entrance, with parking provided.

The substitute public access to the beach just east of the road to Mangos Restaurant

As of a week ago, Viceroy has begun denying the public access to this road to the beach. The road block, guard, and guard house is down the road, behind the grey SUV parked on the left in the photo below.

The only other possibility for accessing Barnes Bay is to use the Mangos private parking lot designed for customers of the restaurant only. Or, you can always charter a boat.

Mango's car park

The Hon Belto Hughes, long-time campaigner for preserving public rights of way in the West End of Anguilla, cannot bring an action in the High Court to enforce the public right of way. The law says only the Attorney-General can bring a court action to protect a public right of way. The Hon Dr Wilhelm Bourne, A-G of Anguilla, will not act unless he is instructed to do so by Executive Council. Executive Council cannot give instructions to the AG, except on the basis of a paper presented to it by the Minister of Lands. The Chief Minister and Minister of Lands, the Hon Osborne Fleming, cannot produce a paper by himself, he depends on his Permanent Secretary and his other technocrats to do it for him. PS Foster Rogers cannot produce a paper out of thin air, he depends on his subordinates, Mr Vincent Proctor, Director of the Planning Department, and Mr Gifford Connor, the Registrar of Lands and Director of Surveys, to help him to prepare the necessary paper for ExCo. And, since all of these gentlemen are fast asleep on this issue, we can well expect that nothing will get done.

I feel bad for the children. They will never be able to enjoy what we once had.


John Githongo. If you think we have problems in the West Indies, listen to the BBC’s Outlook story on John Githongo, anti-corruption commissioner of Kenya. Turn on your volume.

25 February, 2009


We lack both the vision and the administrative capacity to mine our resources. There is a thread on Anguilla Forum. It consists, as I write this, of three posts enquiring about the possibility of donating children’s books to Anguilla. No one has responded with advice.

There used to be a number of book projects, all uncoordinated with each other.

1. Teacher Art was getting books at the West End School, and sharing them with other schools. He, alas, is gone, and so is the project.

2. A lady in Canada with publisher connections was getting new books for Anguilla. She treated people who were sending down used books as if they were garbage collectors, and wanted nothing to do with their rubbish. I do not know what happened to her project.

3. We used to have an energetic and enthusiastic young national librarian. He is now, to his sorrow, our Labour Commissioner. His replacement is still too new for us to know what sort of vision he has. If he has one, he will not yet have had enough time for his plans to have been put into effect.

4. The Anguilla Community Foundation was providing reimbursement funding for those who sent books via the Post Office’s Home Shopping scheme. They had no rules. The Post Office charge is the same for one book as for a cubic foot of books.Well-meaning people were shipping single used books with a US yard sale value of 10c or 25c, paying postage to Miami, and then the Community Foundation were reimbursing people EC$14.00 for ocean freight. It was a waste of resources, and the initiative soon came to an end.

5. The Seven Seas Cruising Association shipped books to Anguilla. Tropical Shipping donated the ocean freight. A couple of truckloads of good books, mostly for children, found their way to the Library. That project ended successfully.

6. Four years ago, the Rotary Club of Anguilla made an effort to bring in used books from closing-down schools in Canada. The books were rejected by the librarians when they arrived as they were “old and dirty”, ie, they had been previously used. The Club would never attempt such a project again.

Such initiatives sometimes uncover a single donor who provides a massive amount of good stuff. It also sometimes happens that people send all their rubbish to Anguilla, thus adding to our landfill problem at Corito. There is no doubt that care and supervision is needed.

It is the Librarian’s job to co-ordinate this. He could be coerced or insulted into doing this job. But, does he have the staff with the ability to do it right?

This is the tip of a large iceberg of visitors who have a genuine interest in the people of our island, and the means and interest to help in some way, but who don’t know what to do or who to trust. They are an untapped possible source of membership of our voluntary organizations. But, we lack the administrative skills to marshal the potential. None of us outside the tourism sector makes any real effort to communicate with visiting philanthropists who could provide nearly unlimited assistance for the education of our children.

That should not be surprising. If the standard of a country’s public library is a barometer of the nation’s learning, then Anguilla is at the centre of a storm of illiteracy. Our public library’s resources are pathetically inadequate. There are so few paper-based educational and research resources on the shelves that it is a laughable institution.

My Trinidad High School library had the works of Cicero, Josephus and Julius Caesar, of Homer and Plato, the seven surviving plays of Sophocles, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of Pope, among many thousands of other “old” and “new” books. By the time I was fifteen, my school-mates and I had dipped repeatedly into the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary, the Encyclopedias Britannica and Americana, all while playing and fighting as boys are wont to do. The shelves were over ten feet high. A stepladder was needed for the higher shelves. The works with the rude passages, such as Chaucer, were kept behind lock and key. Not that that was any obstacle for ingenious boys. The books on the top shelves were frequently borrowed, perhaps for the same reason. From Form 1 onwards, every boy had to hand in once a week at an English language class a “book review” or be punished with the removal of privileges.

Check out for yourselves the shelves of the public library of Anguilla. There are very few of them compared with a real library. They are about five feet high, half as tall as they should be. There are very few interesting books on them. The place is mainly used by schoolchildren to hang out in between classes and to get free access to the internet.

Don’t even ask about the library at the High School.

You should not be surprised if I tell you how few of our Form 6 students have the ability to write at a standard above that expected fifty years ago throughout the West Indies of Form 2 pupils.

23 February, 2009


How to destroy the tourism sector and go back to raising goats. Rendezvous Bay has a limited amount of public access to the beach. Most roads go as far as a hotel, and then you must access the beach by foot through the hotel grounds. Not that that little encumbrance will stop the most enterprising of our entrepreneurs from getting their stock and trade onto the public beach when they want to do some hustling.

My attention was caught by a recent post on the Anguilla Guide Forum.

The post suggests that there is a beach bar built on the beach. That is illegal, as every Anguillian school child knows. It is illegal so long as the relevant government officers do their duty. Of course, with sufficient of an incentive they can always wink an eye and look the other way. Just to find out what was going on, I decided to take a drive down to Rendezvous Bay and find out for myself. This is what I found:

It was midday, but the Sunshine Shack was closed up. There was no one I could find to ask the most obvious questions. Who gave you permission to trespass on the public beach? Are you licensed? I could see they were selling drinks. There was a cooler and the post above said so. Their drinks were said to be very good. You are not allowed to sell any drinks at all unless you have a restaurant licence or a liquor licence. I could tell they were serving food. There was a grill securely chained to the beach chairs.

So, I turned around and looked about. Were my eyes deceiving me? Were those tyre tracks in the sand? That is a complete no-no. No one is permitted to drive a vehicle on the beaches of Anguilla. So, I enquired from passers by. Had they seen a vehicle driving by? Yes, they said. There is a white jeep that comes to the Sunshine Shack every day bringing supplies. Unbelievable! Where did it come from? It came onto the beach from the public road to the beach next to the Anguilla Great House, was the reply. So, I went to have a look.

Sure enough, I could see the tracks of a motor vehicle passing and re-passing in front of the hotel. You can see it for yourself. What in the world, I wondered, did Mr Fleming think about that assault on the sensitivities of his guests? I decided to come back to Sunshine Shack when there were people around.

On my way out, I discovered the road that must have originally led to the shack had been cut off by boulders. No wonder the entrepreneurs were using the public beach. But, who had given them the right to do so?

I decided to ask Vincent Proctor of the Physical Planning Department and Karim Hodge of the Environmental Department what they knew about this trespass. They are our guardians of our public beaches. We depend on them not to slack off. So, I wrote:

“A friend of mine sent me this link to the Anguilla Forum . . . It would be useful to know if the Anguilla Forum post is true that a shack has been permitted to be built on the public beach at Rendezvous Bay. It would also be useful to know, if it has planning permission, who gave it to them, if it has a restaurant licence, who gave it to them, if it has a business licence, who gave it to them, if it has public health permission to handle food, and who gave it to them, if they have access to the site along a right of way, and if so what kind of right of way it is.

We all want to encourage local business. But, not if it is illegal. I class operating a beach bar to serve food and liquor to the public without a liquor or restaurant licence in the same category of activity as selling cocaine. No doubt that is just my obsession with things being done legally.

Grateful to know if you knew about this, and what your position is on the question.”

Needless to say, after several days of waiting there has been no response, far less any explanation for this outrageous new development.

On Saturday 21 February, I finally caught up with the proprietors of the beach shack. Three fierce young men approached me. They were not at all happy that I was photographing their establishment.

I could see the liquor bottles on the shelves behind the bar counter. Then, I made out some sort of official-looking government licenses tacked to the wall behind. Somebody had evidently given them some kind of permission. I could not get close enough to the licences to see what they were for.

“You are not allowed to take photographs here!” That was all the encouragement I needed to high-tail it out of there. I guess that must have been one of the friendly proprietors, Garvey, Perry or Leon, speaking.

I do feel bad for the children. They will never be able to enjoy the rights that we once did.

22 February, 2009


The failure of successive governments to place on the register all public rights of access to our beaches is a ticking time bomb. There are a lot of unregistered public rights of way in Anguilla. Most public roads in Anguilla have never been declared to be public roads. When you drive on a road to the beach in Anguilla, you never know if it is a public or a private road. The public roads have, in many cases, not been registered as such in the Land Registry. Some of the signs, fences, and gates, that indicate a right of way is private are in fact not true. If you make a search in the Land Registry to discover if a particular road is private or public, you will, in most instances, get no assistance at all. It is as if there exist very few public roads in Anguilla, particularly those leading to the beach. Nothing could be further from the truth. They have just never been registered by the government as public roads. It was not for lack of opportunity or of the necessary tools.

There is a procedure in the Anguilla Roads Act to declare public roads.

There is a procedure in the Registered Land Act to register public roads for the avoidance of doubt.

There is a procedure in the Land Acquisition Act for government to take over private land and make it a public road even against the wishes of the landowner, paying compensation as is usual.

There was a procedure that existed in 1974, under the now-abolished Land Adjudication Act, for government to claim the public roads and accesses. Back then, government could have had all existing public rights of way registered under the land adjudication process that was under way at the time. Instead, they took the cowardly way, and ducked their responsibility. The government was afraid that it would become unpopular if it claimed public roads or footpaths over otherwise private land. So, they decided only to claim the most obvious public roads, not those that might be controversial. Ninety percent of the public rights of way in Anguilla were ignored by the registration process. They were left for some future government to sort out.

That is the situation that the public users of the beaches of Anguilla find themselves in now. We are being increasingly barred from accessing the public beaches. All because of the neglect and cowardice of every government back to the time of Ronald Webster. As a result, unnecessary problems are being stored up for future generations of Anguillians.

I feel bad for the children. They will never be able to enjoy the rights that we once had.

21 February, 2009


The Government of Anguilla has surrendered one of our most precious rights to "investors" and “developers", both local and foreign. The West End Community has fought a valiant battle to preserve public access to Shoal Bay West, Maundays Bay, Barnes Bay, Meads Bay, and Long Bay. They even got the Ministers to climb out of their lethargy and come down and check out the beaches.

The Chief Minister boasted at his subsequent press conference that he had warned the management of Cap Juluca that they must remove the security booth on the public road. It’s only obvious function is to stop the public from accessing Maundays Bay. That was it, a boast. There was no substance in it. As soon as the members of the West End Community left, it is as if he turned back to management and said to them, “Don’t worry about those idiots. Keep on as before.”

It is almost as if we have no Access to Beaches Act.

I feel bad for the children. They will never be able to enjoy what we once had.

19 February, 2009

ExCo Secrets

Anguillians are not entitled to know what ExCo is doing on our behalf. Someone has pointed out to me why our Chief Minister has taken up giving his press conference on Tuesdays of every week. The Anguillian and The Light newspapers are published on Thursdays. The Cabinet of Anguilla, also known as the Executive Council, or ExCo, meets on Thursdays. The deadline for getting an article published in the local press is Wednesday at midday. If the Chief Minister is to meet the publication deadline, Tuesday is as good a day as it gets for holding his press conference.

At his press conference, he could address, as we have been demanding, the issues dealt with at the previous meeting of ExCo. But, he avoids telling us anything about what any meeting of ExCo has discussed or decided. Instead, he attempts to grab the headlines with empty rhetoric and patriotic posturing. Shameful propaganda. But, we understand his reasoning.

Anguillians are not entitled.

Why tell Anguillians what ExCo is doing on their behalf? We already know that it is none of our business, don’t we?

Hell, we aren’t even interested enough to have asked for this information before.

Anguillians have never previously asked to be let in on the secrets of ExCo.

Why start informing us now?

Besides, Anguillians are such dummies we won't even realise that his press conference is not about what government has been discussing at ExCo, but about what he thinks will make government look like they really care.

16 February, 2009


The Coming General Elections May Make this Blog Redundant. Elections are coming by spring of 2010. That date is just around the corner. Seasoned politicians and members of the opposition in the House of Assembly, the Hon Eddie Baird and the Hon Hubert Hughes, are coming out of the darkness of the past four years into the light. They have announced their press briefings on Wednesdays. They too are just in time for the Thursday editions. They wasted the last four years. Not a peep out of them during all that time. Not a single meeting of the Public Accounts Committee since the Constitution of 1982. Not a single public official dragged in front of the press to answer questions on the mis-spending of public funds. But, now that elections are around the corner, we are beginning to hear from them. Now, they begin to raise issues and to demand answers from government. A bit late, I would have thought.

Aspiring parliamentarian and experienced politician, Haydn Hughes, is an exception. He has always been good for expressing his views and asking the odd pointed question on his radio programme and on the gossip columns on the internet. He does not, in my opinion, attack the really important issues. But, then, we all have our own peculiar bees in our bonnets. I should know. I have been the one running around in circles these past three years wearing my bonnet, and lashing out at bees.

And, now Brent Davis and his young politicians have begun to publish their APP website. They are holding town hall meetings around the island. They are making their presence known. The criticism that they are all too young and inexperienced is, in my opinion, pure stupidness. Civil servants do all the hard work of government anyway. Political leadership is supposed to lay down national policy, not be experts in administration. Youth and inexperience is no disadvantage. In a parliamentary democracy the politicians do not do the day-to-day work of government. Public service experts do that for them. That is why they are employed. Inexperience is no reason why a bright young leader with vision should not be elected in every constituency in Anguilla come March-April 2010. President Obama never ran a company or government department before he was elected. Prior to becoming a Senator, he was a community worker. What experience did he have to become President, I ask myself. And, did it matter that he had none?

Time for spring cleaning is coming. Anguillians will soon have a chance to sweep out the dust. We will take this opportunity to go for change. Nothing could be worse than what we have had for the past four years. The smell of old age has been overpowering. It is time for the broom to be put to work. Sweep them out. Sweep them out.

14 February, 2009

Mad as Hell


Admiring the view from one of Anguilla’s most scenic drives. The dirt road from Anguilla Trading at South Hill Village to Long Bay Village passes through the old Hughes’ Estate. If you stop at the old sugar works, you can examine the remains of the smokehouse not twenty feet from the side of the road.
The old smokehouse designed for smoking fish and meat in the days before refrigeration
It is a delightful drive, so long as you take it slowly. The road surface is better than my driveway, so I really mean it is a delightful drive.
The old main road to Long Bay Village passing through the Hughes' Estate
From time to time, you get a view of Sandy Island and the Prickly Pears.
Pleasure sailing yacht coming in to Sandy Island
Every now and then you get a glimpse through the scrub of the boats in Road Bay, Sandy Ground.
View of the boats anchored in Road Bay, Sandy Ground
In the distance, you might spot a tug pulling a barge into port.
Delightful view of a barge being towed into port
Eventually, as you drive further west, you are able to look back East and see Sandy Ground itself in all its morning glory.
Romantic view of Road Bay, Sandy Ground
In the early morning, you get a good view of the boats anchored in the Bay.
Boats anchored in Sandy Ground Bay

There is really nothing to beat nature at its best. The view for anyone living on this road just serves to enhance the quality of their life.
Enhancing the quality of life along the old main road to Long Bay Village
Not to mention adding to the value of the properties alongside.
A final, admiring view of the roadside at the Hughes' Estate

Truly, a scene worth coming back for.
The public health authorities are to be congratulated by all of us on a job well done.