10 July, 2009


Draft of New Constitution Creates Second-Class Status of “Belonger”. At present, all Anguillians are called “belongers” of Anguilla. There is no such word in the Constitution as an “Anguillian”. Some people find this offensive. The name “belonger” is not an Anguillian word. It is a concept taken from the British Nationality Acts. Anguillians don’t feel sympathy with the term “belonger”. They find it quite offensive. Everyone calls himself an “Anguillian”. Twenty years ago all Anguillians knew everyone on the island. You were either Anguillian or you were not.

As a belonger one has rights. You come to and go from the island without hindrance from the Immigration Department. You can freely acquire interests in land. You can vote. You can stand as a political candidate for election to the House of Assembly. None of these rights are held by “aliens”.

During the past twenty years Anguilla’s economy has boomed. Thousands of Jamaicans, Vincentians, British, Americans, and Santo Domingans have flooded into Anguilla. After a few years they have qualified to be naturalized under the British Nationality Act. Doing this in Anguilla has automatically made them “belongers” of Anguilla. They have all the rights of “native” born Anguillians. The status of being a belonger has become a bit confusing.

There is a process under the Anguilla Constitution for becoming a belonger. It is set out at section 80 of the 1982 Constitution. A “natural born” belonger, so to say, is one born in Anguilla of Anguillian parents. There are other ways of becoming a belonger. One can marry a belonger. Alternatively, one might qualify by living in Anguilla for fifteen years. A short cut is to become naturalized as a British citizen. As soon as the A-G’s Chambers gives an alien the okay, and the Governor swears him in, he immediately qualifys. Today you come across complete strangers in the supermarket talking loudly about how the Governor just made them into Anguillians. Many Anguillians are offended at the numbers of persons taking this short cut. There is general agreement that if this process continues, Anguilla will be swamped by crowds of strangers drowning out the Anguillians.

During the 2006 Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission hearings there was much discussion on whether or not there should in future be two classes of citizens. Some persons wanted “real” Anguillians to have a special status. The new Anguillians, those who came here lately, could continue to be called “belongers’. In future, they should never have the same status as “real Anguillians”. Only real Anguillians, ie, those with an ancestral connection to the island should in future be called “Anguillians”. This notion of different classes of Anguillian was soundly rejected by the majority of persons making representations to the Commission. There was widespread agreement that the practice of naturalizing foreign persons and automatically qualifying them to belonger status was wrong. The people of Anguilla wanted this practice to end.

The Commission recommended that in future the process of naturalization should be disconnected from the process of becoming a belonger. Anyone who wants to become a British Overseas Territories Citizen can go ahead and get naturalized. That will give one British rights, but no automatic rights in Anguilla. The process of naturalization should not automatically result in acquiring Anguillian status. Anguillian status should be reserved for those persons who had a connection by birth and ancestry with Anguilla. [Those from overseas who had in the meantime become Anguillians could not have their rights taken away. They would be grandfathered in as Anguillians.] All persons becoming naturalized in future would not have this benefit. The Chief Minister’s Committee subsequently studied the recommendations. The Committee supported the idea of removing naturalization as a method of acquiring full Anguillian rights.

The new draft Constitution up on the government website brings more confusion to the picture. It revives the status of belonger and adds the new status of Anguillian. Only an Anguillian can be Deputy Governor. Only an Anguillian can run in general elections. The bottom line is that this new draft constitution does exactly what a majority of Anguillians have already rejected. And it does it without the slightest prior consultation with the people.

Section 45(2) says who is an Anguillian. Who is a belonger is dealt with elsewhere. As if to emphasise the importance of the distinction, the draughtsperson has chosen to provide for the status of belonger in two different sections. Sections 20(5) and 105 contain conflicting definitions of who is a belonger. There are some similarities, but there are differences between the two definitions. There is no hint that these are alternatives open for discussion. They are put forward as separate and distinct definitions.

Check it for yourself.

How in the world did a competent draughtsperson make such an elementary mistake.

What confusion!

What embarrassment!


  1. Dear Mr. Mitchell:

    I have briefly perused the draft Constitution and I am obliged to say that this document, in its present form, is not in the best interests of the People of Anguilla.

    There are areas which require not only deep study by Lawyers, but full discussion and negotiation with the People of Anguilla. For example, the Office of Attorney General is entrenched in this draft Constitution which creates a fundamental problem for the Country if the holder of this Office proves to be incapable of the task. This situation would have an immense cost to the Country, both financially and administratively. Likewise, the creation of the Office of DPP, an equally entrenched Office. The same point applies. Additionally, the costs to be borne by the Treasury, read Anguillian Taxpayers, for the creation of this wholly new and unnecessary Department of Government will be prohibitive. In a Country as small as Anguilla there is no need for a DPP with all the concommittant burdens which that Office bring to Taxpayers. An upgrade of the Staff Structure in the Attorney General's Chambers, coupled with the necessary willingness of Government to fund that upgrade, while at the same time NOT Constitutionally entrenching any of the Offices therein, will achieve the same goal as seems to be targeted by the suggestion of a DPP, and this without the potentially severe consequences on the Treasury and Governance of Anguilla.

    There are, as you point out, many serious problems with the Belonger/Anguillian Clauses as well.

    The bottom line is that, before the Government decide to move forward with that document in its present form, there need to be open and wide negotiations with the People of Anguilla. After all, the Constitution is the Contract between the governed and the governors, and as such can only be valid if there are negotiations which lead to consensus ad idem.

    The Government must reflect on the recent Injunction granted against one of our neighbouring island's Government with respect to a procedure which is founded in their Constitution and Statutes. The essential point in that application was the lack of required consultation, and the attempt of passage without consultation. That would be the same situation we face here if our Government do not immeadiately put the draft to the People for negotiations and consensus. If they rush this through for their own purposes, they must do that in the full knowledge that there will be concequences at the Polls. Word is that they are asking the British to give them at large seats now so that they can run two incumbents island wide. If this is in fact true it may well be the fuel to push this unacceptable draft through without negotiating its contents with the People as elections can be called at anytime. While the Government can do that if they so decide, it would be nothing but Political expediency, and would not justify the long-term negatives passing this draft would visit upon the People of Anguilla.

    It would be in the best interests of the People of Anguilla if any Constitutional change takes place AFTER the next Election, and only after negotiations with the People have produced an Agreed Draft.

    The People of Anguilla must demand negotiations now. Failure to do so, and thereby enabling passage of this wholly inappropriate draft, will be the begining of the end of Anguilla as we know it. Prevention is always better than cure!

  2. I do believe that you may have mixed up the process. At present in most circumstances you have to be a belonger of Anguilla either through descent, residence or marriage before you can get naturalized as a British Overseas Territories Citizen. If you are granted a B.O.T.C. Naturalisation Certificate then you may apply for British Registration to obatin British Citizenship.

  3. Last week the Chief Minister said they were going to London and would be discussing the Constitution with the Foreign Office.

    This week the Minister of Finance said they will not be discussing the Constitution -- they are only going to the Foreign Office to deliver a copy to them.

    A hundred years ago mankind invented ways of getting a paper to London without having to walk with it. This good news has apparently not reached our leaders.

    It is not the architecture or the people riding on the backs of animals that make a Third World country. It is the beliefs and attitudes of their leaders.

    Welcome to the Third World.

  4. Your Honor,what do you think about Anguillians who head to San Juan or Miami to have their babies, so they can become American citizens? I've heard as many as 100 Anguillians each year are sworn in as American citizens.

  5. If you are born in the US you are an American citizen by birth. That is the law of the US. I think the point is that some people have been taking short cuts to acquire belongership. The short cut is to avoid the Anguilla law, the Constitution, by taking advantage of a loophole provided by UK law, the British Nationality Act.

  6. Allowing only native"real" Anguillians to have full citizenship would be disastrous to the long term future of the island. To succeed in today's very competitive global marketplace, Anguilla needs to build a culture based on merit and talent. Moreover, it must understand that it will not simply be able to breed that talent on its own but that it must attract it from wherever it might be found.

    The alternate is to (continue) falling down a hole in which even indigenous persons of talent & ambition find the need to move elsewhere. This leaves local leadership increasingly in the hands nepotistic idiots whose governing decisions are rooted more in their own fears & insecurities rather than the optimism and conviction of their merits.

    It shouldn't matter if someone is Anguillian, American, Jamaican, etc...if their you're neighbor and are intelligent and motivated to make Anguilla the best it can be, then why wouldn't you want them as a full citizen of your community? Likewise, native who are lazy, inconsiderate and possibly even criminal should be discouraged and possibly even locked in prison...not protected by members of the community who are unwilling to report them to authorities.

    This is a very important issue for the future of Anguilla and not just legally. It's a question of how Anguillians define themselves in their own minds...and how that will either undermine or aid their future success.

  7. "If you are born in the US you are an American citizen by birth. That is the law of the US.

    ....and that is not taking a "shortcut"? - Scotty

  8. having talent to the island does not mean that they should be Anguillian. they could come for four years and leave.

  9. That new change is good once the name anguillian not given to ev ery tom dick and harry. talent come and talent goes.

  10. it is all about race; no one wants to admit that. If you possess the blood of the Africans who were enslaved and ended up on our island, then you are given a free pass. If you happen to be a white person who has lived here since childhood, gone to school here, works here, and is married to a "belonger" - who has some small drops of the original African blood, you are still a foreigner. Personally, I agree totally with the poster who says that Talent Comes and Goes. Just because someone comes here who has a talent or skill which can be used, doesn't mean they should become a "Belonger". On the other hand, if they fully integrate themselves into our society, marry and raise children, participate in discussions, religions activities, Carnival, etc, then why should they be excluded. This whole thing with who is and who isn't is a jumby-man that we've been hiding from since the early 1980's when the first expat white people came here to make their lives amongst us.

  11. Well this is controversial. What about people who parents are from Anguilla? My both parents are "Anguillians" but I was born elsewhere. I travel there regularly and ALL of my family is there. Now they are saying my child can't get nelingers status unless I live there. Unfair because she loved Anguilla and that is where her roots are.


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