07 August, 2010
Other committees and commissions: The 1982 Constitution of Anguilla contains provisions that offend against transparency. In particular it provides for the arbitrary and one-man execution of some of the processes that in a democratic country should be handled by independent local institutions.
Let us take the absence of a Mercy Committee as an example. At present section 76 gives the Secretary of State acting through the Governor the sole power to grant a pardon, either free or subject to conditions, to a convicted person.
Anguilla is not unique in this respect. In most of our territories, the Governor has the Constitutional power to function without any local Mercy Committee to advise him on what to do. Whenever the prerogative of mercy is exercised in the fashion prescribed by the Constitution, legitimate doubts will arise as to its propriety. The question will be asked, what does a foreign politician or diplomat know about who in our prisons should have his sentence shortened or commuted? The suspicion will be that he has relied on the advice of some unknown advisers lurking in the darkness around him. The result is that no sensible Governor is likely ever take the risk of exercising the power, even in the clearest of situations. It is either that or be prepared to face personal doubts and attacks over his motives if he ever does exercise it. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The absence of a Boundaries Commission to ensure transparency in the placing of electoral boundaries to the various political constituencies is another vexed issue. In some of our islands there has been no Boundaries Commission appointed for centuries. As demographics have shifted, some of our electoral districts have become a small fraction of the size of others. Good government demands that our people have more or less equal representation in the House.