28 April, 2009

Integrity Law

Just passing a law does not achieve much. We need integrity legislation in Anguilla. No thinking person in Anguilla doubts that proposition. An Integrity in Public Life Act is the law that would, among other things, require members of the House of Assembly, members of Executive Council, and other senior public officers, to state on oath their assets and liabilities. They would have to make regular filings and declare gifts given to them while in office. There would be severe penalties if they lie or fail to make the declaration. The Anguilla Constitution 1982 has set up a Register of Interests. By itself, the Constitution does not achieve anything to ensure integrity in public office. There needs to be a law to give effect to the constitutional provision, to set out the details of the mechanism.

The official explanation of the advantage of such a law is that it forces public officers to declare their interests when they meet to discuss policy, make decisions, and pass laws. That is, it makes people think of conflicts of interest. That is polite mumbo jumbo. The real reason for the law is that the assets of the public officer in question becomes public knowledge. If he acquires sudden wealth while approving licences and permits, questions are likely to be asked. The risk of public exposure and even prosecution will give the conscience a boost. Such a law is an aid to the personal integrity impulse, so to say. It is like the Vitamin B12 injection doctors give to the elderly. It boosts our resistance and inoculates us against infection.

So, it should be no surprise that Anguillians were nearly unanimous in 2006 when the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission sought their views on the subject of the need for integrity legislation. Paragraph 135 of the final Report contained the recommendation of the Commission. There must be strengthened anti-corruption provisions in our proposed new Constitution. An appropriate law, including severe penalties for any evasiveness or falsehood, must be put in place without delay.

With any luck, we will get the new law in due course. When we do so, that will not be the end of the matter. There is the little matter of how the Act is drafted, and how it is amended in the House of Assembly. It can be watered down to meaninglessness. Turks and Caicos Islands has such an Act. It has been a complete waste of time. The politicians have ensured that it is no use at all. I was reading all about it in a recent article in Caribbean Net News. This is the gist of the TCI integrity legislation story:

2006 September – The Leader of the Opposition presents in the House of Assembly an anti-corruption Bill. It is based on legislation that had been effective in Trinidad. This Bill is never debated. It is killed in the House by the incumbent party.

2008 January – The FCO provides a draft Integrity in Office Bill to the A-G’s Chambers. He is told to prepare it for passage through the House of Assembly. The draft duly goes to Cabinet and then to the House. It will provide that officials must periodically declare their assets. They must declare gifts of $5,000.00 and up. The Commission will consist of five members. It is empowered to investigate and adjudicate complaints leveled against government office holders. The Commission will have the power to enforce sanctions against an offending official. He can be fined, assessed jail time, and even be forced to step down from office. There will be a judge from a Commonwealth country on the Commission to ensure independence and impartiality.

2008 May – In Committee Stage, members of the governing party make amendments. These are designed to water down the Bill. The fines and jail terms are reduced. The value of the gifts that have to be declared are raised to $10,000.00. The requirement for a Commonwealth judge is replaced by a one for a TCI judge. The TCI House of Assembly passes the Bill. The Governor assents to it. The Commission is never put in place. Apparently, no TCI judge willing to serve has ever been found.

2009 April – The Auld Commission comes out with its scathing interim report on corruption in TCI. An amendment to the law is proposed at a sitting of the House of Assembly. It would revert to a Commonwealth judge. It would return to the $5,000.00 standard. The former Ministers who have now resigned oppose the amendments. But, with the support of the Opposition, the amending Bill is passed.

The same thing could happen in Anguilla. Without vigilance, an ineffective piece of integrity legislation could be drawn like wool over our eyes. It is only if there is a genuine and heart-felt demand by the public for integrity legislation that the politicians will be reluctant to sabotage it.

Are we up to the challenge?

25 April, 2009


Is it appropriate for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to continue to be the Department through which Anguilla relates to the British Parliament and Government? I read a transcript of the Westminster Hall Debate of 23 April 2009 with interest. The topic of the debate was the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Committee into the governance of the Overseas Territories by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

If you would like to read a short account of the debate, you can find it here.

The debate was three hours long. If you have the time to view a video of the entire debate, it is available here

The full text is available on the on-line Hansard here.

There were several aspects of the debate worth examining and writing about. The one I want to focus on today was an observation made by Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, and then to comment. He suggested that the FCO may not be the most appropriate British government department to have oversight of the British Overseas Territories.

This is what he had to say:

“This issue should not be under foreign affairs. They are not foreign; they are British. Why is it under foreign affairs? Why are British overseas territories — territories of Her Majesty the Queen — under the Foreign Office? They are neither foreign nor Commonwealth. They are not members of the Commonwealth in their own right. They are British overseas territories in the Commonwealth only via Britain, so they should not really be under the Foreign Office at all. They should be placed in the same Department, whichever Department that is, as the British Crown dependencies. Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and the British Overseas Territories should all be placed together under one Department, but not the Foreign Office.”

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Anguilla and the other colonies in the West Indies were overseen by the committee of the Privy Council entitled, The Committee for Trade and Foreign Plantations. At that time in colonial history we were all labeled as “America”. So, there was the governor of “New York, in America”. There was the attorney-general of “Antigua, in America”, and there was the executive council of “Bermuda, in America”.

The Colonial Office replaced the Privy Council committee in 1768. It ran the colonies in the West Indies until late in the twentieth century. In 1968, with much of Africa and the West Indies having gone independent, the Colonial Office was merged with the Foreign Office.

As an aside, it seems to me that the philosophy behind the merger was straightforward. Those were the days when, as it was said, “Wogs begin at Dover”. Anyone from overseas was not really British, and was by definition foreign, or, worse, a wog. The thinking in Downing Street then, no doubt, was, we may as well lump the colonials and the Commonwealth in together with all those other wogs. So was born the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

British attitudes have changed. They do not think that way or speak that way any longer. [I sometimes think that we in the colonies learned from them too well. Many of the older ones among us, those over 30 years of age, still hold tenaciously to our juvenile race prejudices and fear of the foreigner. We think it make us culturally superior to those mongrel British who now promiscuously treat with all those foreigners. Little do we realise that it is just old-fashioned and outdated British race prejudice that we are aping.] As is so often the case with mimic-men, as Naipaul calls us, the original source of the behaviour has long changed, but we remain zombie-like, our prejudices frozen in the colonial past.

But, back to the main point. It is time for the UK to face up to the fact that Mr Rosindell highlights. It is an insult for us in the British Overseas Territories to continue to relate to the British Parliament and Government through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. A more relevant and suitable British Government Department must be found to replace the FCO in managing Britain's responsibilities in relation to the BOTs.

And, as an aside, is it not remarkable that they have their parliamentary and committee debates up on their website on the same day?

Related posts:

14 September 2007 - UK Relations

23 April, 2009


There are two web pages I want you to read. One is a judgment of the High Court in Anguilla in relation to how the Attorney-General’s Chambers handled the case against Joe Brice. The A-G’s Chambers were representing Niguel Streete. He is the Director of the Anguilla Financial Services Commission. The Commission is the offshore industry watchdog for Anguilla. The judgment is only three pages long. Read it and weep. If you need any explanation for any part of it, let me know. After you have finished reading, tell me which of you would want the A-G’s Chambers representing you in a dog bite case.

The second web page, titled Undue Diligence, belongs to Global Witness. It concerns the case of Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso. He is the son of the President of the Republic of Congo. He stands accused of stealing the oil wealth of the citizens of Congo. He used an Anguillian company, Long Beach, to do some of his embezzlements. [This report is very long. Use the search feature to find the bits that mention Anguilla.]

Global Witness is an international NGO established in 1993. It works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide. This is a story of corruption in high places in Congo. My concern is how the events revealed affect Anguilla. The connection with Anguilla is the entities ICS Trust and ICS International. These are Hong Kong based company formation agents. Orient Investments is part of ICS. Orient Investments set up Long Beach in Anguilla. It held the shares in Long Beach in trust for Nguesso.

In addition to being the President’s son, Nguesso is also responsible for marketing Congo’s oil. He opened a bank account at one of Hong Kong’s largest banks. He had some of the proceeds of Congo’s oil sales deposited to it. He had his personal credit card bills paid from it. He stole millions. He squandered the proceeds on designer shopping in Paris and elsewhere. The UK High Court ruled in 2007 that Nguesso and his company were “unsavoury and corrupt”.

Up to now, the story is the usual one of private greed and public loss. An Anguillian company had been set up for the most despicable and corrupt of reasons: the rape and pillage of an impoverished nation’s resources. Anguilla’s connection might appear at most to be peripheral. The real shame comes when we learn that as far back as 2007 Global Witness wrote to Niguel Streete alerting him to this international fraud. We learn that Mr Streete assured Global Witness that he was dealing with the matter. It appears that it took a full year for Mr Streete to do anything at all. The best he could do, after repeated prodding, was to strike Long Beach off the Register of Companies in July 2008. This action is generally accepted as the administrative equivalent of sweeping the dust under the carpet while shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Nguesso’s exploitation of his people by the use of an Anguillian vehicle is a problem. The solution is for the local regulators and industry representatives to vehemently condemn this abuse of our facilities, and then to take whatever action they can to demonstrate that such conduct will not be acceptable.

Has Anguilla signed legislation making corruption elsewhere in the world an offence in Anguilla?

Anguilla’s company management laws make it compulsory for offshore providers to perform due diligence on prospective clients. Has there been a breach of this law? If there has been, what action needs to be taken?

Why did it take a full year from the time Mr Streete was alerted to the fraud for him to take even this lame and ineffectual action?

Does Mr Streete plan any further action against Orient Investments?

Will disciplinary action be brought against ICS if any is justified?

What is the Anguilla Financial Services Association doing to ensure that international bandits are not permitted to mis-use our jurisdiction?

How ready are we to confront and reassure the coming CFATF, and IMF, and Michael Foot’s review visits and assessments that will take place in the next few weeks?

Failure by Mr Streete’s office to proceed diligently and firmly in this matter will most likely result in further serious damage to Anguilla’s reputation.

Does Mr Streete have any other lawyer representing him besides the A-G’s Chambers? If not, I strongly recommend he find one. He needs competent legal advice.

Let me say that I have not researched Orient Investments. I have no idea who the local agent is. She might be my mother, for all I know. For the purposes of this post, it matters not.

And, finally, for any concern that this post will damage Anguilla’s offshore financial services industry, the answer is that the damage has already been done. These publications I refer to are out there in the public domain. It will only take one of our competitors, the financial services sectors of London or New York perhaps, to bring the story to the attention of Reuters or AP.

21 April, 2009


Some Governors have it easy. In the early days, when he was still talking to me, I asked Andrew George what he did before he became Governor of Anguilla. He told me he ran the health desk at the FCO. I understood by that that he checked the health insurance of his fellow department officers. Which goes to show what sort of grade the FCO chose for governor of Anguilla at that time. A clerical officer could only be appointed Governor of Anguilla if his superiors expected nothing positive of his administration. Nothing, except the traditional one of sweeping anything unpleasant that might crop up in the colony under the carpet. The main job of a Governor of a British Overseas Territory in the West Indies was to ensure that the Foreign Secretary suffered no embarrassment as a result of his overall responsibility for the island. It has been so for hundreds of years. Governor Smiley, as he was fondly known to us here, has gone off into retirement with a glow of success surrounding him. He was given a rousing send off and applauded by local Ministers for having done a good job of protecting them.

The FCO will not make that mistake again. Not since the Foreign Affairs Committee Report of last year showed up the bankruptcy of the previous “hands off” system of FCO governance of the Overseas Territories. That is why the FCO have announced they are “upgrading” the position of Governor. Anguilla’s new Governor comes with a distinguished curriculum vitae. He has immense diplomatic experience in some of the most difficult hot spots of British international relations. From this, I understand that there has been a considerable “upgrade” in the type of FCO officer sent to be Governor of Anguilla. I deduce from this that we can expect that Governors now will demand the highest standards of behaviour in public office from members of the Executive Council. Misconduct will no longer be tolerated, we can hope. Alistair Harrison CVO arrived in Anguilla on Sunday to begin his term as Governor of Anguilla. He will be sworn in today in a televised ceremony at the House of Assembly. He is in for a tough assignment over the next three years. I wish him every success, but he will face many challenges on this little island.

Elections are due next year for the latest, more likely in a couple of months' time.

And, then, there are the miscellaneous minor matters of a dysfunctional education system, a demoralized public service, a divided and paralysed governing political party; a mortally wounded Health Authority of Anguilla, the collapsing economy, and the proposed new Constitution of Anguilla that has not as yet been shared with the public.

18 April, 2009

New Constitution

Chief Minister announces he is to meet with the British to discuss new Constitution. I was not paying much attention this morning to what I was hearing on the news. Renford Kelsick was reading the news on Radio Anguilla in his own idiosyncratic way. That is why I cannot be sure that I heard right. I believe I heard him say that the Chief Minister was going to London to hold discussions with the "British constitutional committee".

They will hold discussions about what, I asked myself?

Is “discussions” not just another word for “negotiations”?

Has Lolita Richardson’s new draft constitution been published to the Anguillian public?

Has anyone in Anguilla seen a copy of this alleged new Constitution?

Are its provisions in line with the 2006 Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission?

Have the Members of the House of Assembly debated the draft before the Chief Minister commences negotiations?

I went to the government website to look. I searched the home page for a link or reference, but there was none. I searched Press Releases to see if there was anything there. As of 5:00 pm but there was nothing on the government website about the new draft Constitution.

How could the Chief Minister be going to London to discuss our new Constitution when none of us has seen what is being proposed?

Will the British permit him to discuss with them any constitutional proposals which have not yet seen the light of day in Anguilla?

Have we not been through this issue over and over before?

Please tell me I imagined it all.

Related Links:

Police Reform

16 April, 2009


The Police Press Conferences have been a major improvement in public relations. I have now written some 40 posts on this blog concerning the Royal Anguilla Police Force. Most of my posts have not been complimentary. It was just two years ago that the reputation of the Force in Anguilla was at rock bottom. No one in Anguilla knew what the police were doing to assist us in preventing and solving crime. I received a steady stream of telephone calls from frustrated victims and other members of the public.

On 21 April 2007, I wrote a column called Police 2. I described a meeting I had had with the Commissioner and some of his senior officers to discuss my disquiet with the functioning of the Force. Not that I have any right to be consulted. I just felt I had to put in my two cents worth about the need for the police to hold regular press conferences. There were other matters that I wrote about around the same time. I wrote this about my conversation with the Commissioner:

“I suggested the need for the police to improve the use of the press and other media. He explained that the RAPF is well aware of the need to improve in this area. They are considering training a suitable officer in PR work, either that or recruiting a professional. It seemed to me that it would take too long to wait for that process to be completed. I urged the Commissioner that all that is needed at the moment is to be more open with the public. I asked why not get a volunteer from the force and give that person the extra job of being public relations officer. Of course, it might not be as satisfactory as having a professional. Then, train someone in the meantime. But, why dilly dally and hesitate?

Giving the public the information it needs, in a way that does not harm the work of an on-going investigation, is something that, in my view, any intelligent police officer suitably motivated and encouraged can do in a way that would be an improvement on the situation we have at present. We all look at television. We see the way it is done in other countries. There is no more effective aid to the police than a well informed and alerted public. The Commissioner should be more active and imaginative in recruiting us in the effort to combat crime in our community.”

Some weeks later, the police began holding press conferences. They have continued to hold these conferences each week. They are not broadcast on radio and TV, but the radio journalists and the newspapers attend. They publish excerpts. The resulting rise in public confidence over the past two years has been little short of amazing. The police are now held in relatively high regard once again in the general community.

I have stopped receiving emails alleging incompetence and wrongdoing.

It is amazing what a cleansing effect a little sunlight and fresh air can have.

Related posts:

Police 3

Police 8

Crime Reduction


10 April, 2009


School Violence Monitor. The Report of the Task Force on School Violence is now some two weeks old. We in Anguilla are concerned to learn what the Ministry's response is.

Has every manager in the Ministry of Education read it?

Have they given their advice to the Minister?

Have they urged him to accept the Report, or has it been rejected?

Has the Minister tasked anyone to put together the Ministry's response?

Or, will the Report just be allowed to die from neglect. That, after all, is what happened to the School Violence Committee Report of 2005.

No doubt, it was in an effort to prevent this outcome that the Task Force made its first recommendation. This reads:

Immediate Action:

1. Form a committee, or identify an individual, that is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the progress of implementing these recommendations.”

Anyone who is exposed to our High School knows that in recent years we have lost a lot of students due to the present neglectful system. Without the implementation of a new policy of prevention, education and treatment in the areas of drug and alcohol use, conflict resolution and sex education, continuing generations of our students will be lost.

I would suggest that what the Minister has to do is to twist arms, berate his staff, until results appear. They must find the right person for the job. They must provide the appropriate resources. There is no need for any more committees. The period for hand-wringing and hair-pulling over the state of our secondary education system must be declared ended. This is the time for firm action.

The Report provides a plan of action.

Now, we need a School Violence Tsar to monitor and report on how well the Department is implementing it.

06 April, 2009

School Drugs

A total of 72% of Anguillian High School students feel that illegal drug use at school is a “serious” to “very serious” problem. That is the conclusion of the 2009 Report from the Task Force on School Violence. The Report was published at page 3 of the 27 March 2009 issue of The Anguillian Newspaper.

Anguilla has one secondary school: The Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School. So, we are simultaneously speaking about one secondary school and we are also speaking about the entire secondary school system, from Form 3 and upwards.

The figure of 72% relates to those students who feel that illegal drug use is either a serious problem or a very serious problem. If we knew the percentage of students at the school who feel that drug use at the school is merely a problem that figure would dramatically increase. I would expect the figure to be 100% of the students. A student would have to be blind, naïve, and willing to stand mute of malice to feel otherwise. That is my opinion, anyway.

Note that this figure of 72% is not a calculation relating to illicit drug use in the society in general. It is not a percentage of students who feel that students use illicit drugs at home or on the street. This percentage relates to drug use at school. That is, use of illicit drugs within the surrounding walls of the school itself. Students must daily come across activities or sights that cause them to express such concern. They must regularly witness incidents of drug selling, drug use, and the visible effects of drugs' use among their peers at school, to cause them to express such near-unanimous concern.

The Report recommends a number of simple and positive steps that can be taken to improve the situation at the school. These include:

2. Dramatically increase adult supervision at the school. It should not be an option for teachers to supervise the students, but an assigned duty. In addition, many parents who returned surveys indicated their willingness to help monitor and supervise at the school. Adult supervision is not just for enforcement; it can also offer many opportunities for positive interactions and good role modeling. This increased adult presence, along with a policy of assigning study halls during free time, will help ensure that there are no unsupervised students wandering the campus during class time.

3. An effective Drug and Alcohol policy needs to be created and enacted. There are many examples of these policies available. The new policy must address prevention, education and treatment. It must also have a provision for drug testing on campus. This process should be coordinated with other departments such as Judicial and Police.”

The cost of implementing these recommendations would be minimal. We do not have to re-invent the wheel all over again. There are many examples of programmes for monitoring illicit drug use in schools and educating students on the effects and implications of drug use available. A perfunctory Google search produced an avalanche of links.

Help can be obtained from the US Department of Educations' Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools programme.

Or, what about the web site of the Student Drug Testing Coalition website?

There are UNESCO programmes we can draw upon.

There is an Australian initiative we can look at.

There are journals on school drug education we can subscribe to, or at least read.

And, these are a small sample of what is available for anyone who is really interested in dealing with our High School drugs-problem in Anguilla.

For those of us interested in transparency, openness and good governance, I regret to report that a copy of the Report is not yet up on the government website. There is only the briefest of mentions on The Anguillian Newspaper website. A pity. The Report would have been more useful than many of the present offerings on view on both sites.

04 April, 2009

School Violence

Minister Evans MacNeil Rogers is to be congratulated. This Blog is not in the business of publishing “feel-good” articles about anyone. Especially not about a Minister of Government noted mainly for his overweening vanity and his noticeable lack of competence. That, at any rate, is how our Minister of Education usually appears to me in relation to his departments of health and education.

But, the publication of the 2009 Report from the Task Force on School Violence in last week's 27 March 2009 issue of The Anguillian Newspaper was different from what I have come to expect from him. Seldom before has a Government Minister, far less the Minister of Education, released or authorised the release of such a sensitive Report to the public. And, to have done it a mere matter of days after the Report was presented to his Government! I am stunned. Is there any hope that this radically new venture into openness, transparency and good governance can continue into the future? Dare we even hope that the recommendations will be accepted and put into effect without undue delay? We shall ignore the rhetoric and look at the actions that will be taken in the coming months before we answer that question.

The Report is to be found in full spread over three pages in the issue of The Anguillian Newspaper of 27 March 2009. It makes for fascinating reading. You have to hope that all Anguillian parents and adults will read it. It is very sobering in both its findings and its recommendations.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a link to the copy of the Report in the newspaper. I have searched the various sections, but cannot find it. It is not in the Front Page, News, or Local News sections. I did find a short article by Task Force chairperson, Peter Wolinsky. A short article is not as good as the actual Report, which is to be found in full in the paper version of the Anguillian.

I had hopes that I would find and link you to a copy of the Report on the government website. Hopes dashed! Not even a mention of it, though I gave the IT Department a full week to put a copy up on the site.

We can only hope that this ground-breaking Report will not receive the same treatment that the Minister gave to the 2005 Report of the School Violence Committee: relegation to the bottom drawer of the Ministry's collective filing cabinet.

If I get the chance, I would like to discuss some of the recommendations with you in future issues of this blog.