Submission from Mr Harry Wiggin, Anguilla
1.1 This submission is made by Harry Wiggin.
1.2 I qualified as an English solicitor
in 1965. I was admitted as a solicitor in Anguilla in 1995.
1.3 I am a Belonger of Anguilla, having
married an Anguillian.
1.4 In terms of the time it will take to
read this submission, please note that the body of this submission
is six pages only. The rest of the pages are Annexes.
2. REASON FOR
I and very many others (native Anguilliansnot
just expatriates) are deeply concerned:
(a) that Anguilla's birthright is in the
process of being destroyed on the altar of short-term gain;
(b) that there are no adequate controls in
place designed to ensure good government; and
(c) that the recommendations of the Anguilla
Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission, which were painstakingly
and expertly assembled following a wide-ranging consultation process,
are being sidelined for political purposes.
3.1 The Anguilla National Environmental
Management Strategy ("NEMS") of 2001 amounted to a commendable
roadmap for sustainable development. It was published in October
2001, some 18 months after the elections of 2000, when the present
government first came to power.
3.2 While much of the detail of the NEMS
was lost or forgotten, and to this day has not been implementedin
many respects quite the reverseit quickly became a welcome
"given" that the Government would not, as a matter of
principle, give approval to any single developer for more than
one project, and would certainly not permit any developer to become
3.3 In April 2006 this summary of Anguilla's
position was reported on Caribbean NetNews:
HAMILTON, Bermuda: The Eastern Caribbean island
of Anguilla will continue its commitment to "low volume,
high value" tourism, says Dr. Aidan Harrigan, Anguilla's
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development, Investment,
Commerce and Tourism.
Speaking at this month's Caribbean Hotel and
Tourism Investment Conference in Bermuda, Dr Harrigan said that
neither rapid development nor over-development present a winning
formula for a small 35 square mile island with a population of
"Anything we do, we have to be able to
absorb the level of development, so that's why we have opted for
a more gradualist approach (and) it has worked dividends for us",
said Dr Harrigan, who notes that Anguilla continues to maintain
the image of an up-and-coming, upscale, luxury destination.
"You can earn just as much money from
that approach as from mass tourism," said the Permanent Secretary,
who notes that capturing the high yields also mitigates negative
environmental and social impacts. "It's not to say that it's
the approach for everybody ... (but) it makes sense for us,"
3.4 But all of that (apparently quite suddenly)
has changed, and the reason for that change gives rise to grave
3.5 The most convenient and authoritative
account of the headlong sellout is contained in a report of a
talk given in June 2007 by the same Dr Aidan Harrigan, Permanent
Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development (but, significantly,
speaking in his private capacity).
3.6 It will be noted from the table accompanying
that press report that a single developer has been granted approval
for no less than three developments, with a total room capacity
amounting to 1,525 rooms or some 35% of the total new room approvals
at that time.
3.7 It will also be apparent that the number
of workers required (a) to construct these developments; and (b)
to service them once constructed, is enormous. Very serious social
consequences for Anguilla have already resulted from the large
numbers of immigrant construction workers now on the island, and
it cannot be doubted that much worse consequences are to come
when it becomes necessary to bring in even more foreign workers
than are already in Anguilla, to provide service in the finished
resorts. Problems of percentage immigration which may affect the
UK pale into insignificance beside the percentage that will be
needed in Anguilla.
4. WHAT IS
4.1 There are mixed views as to the motives
of Government for following this course.
4.2 The view of the Chief Minister is expressed
in his address of 11th July 2007.
4.3 A particular concern was articulated
but, as was apparent from the item as originally published, not
necessarily personally shared by Don Mitchell QC, CBE on his blog.
4.4 Since this item is currently the subject
of a libel suit brought against Mr Mitchell by the four Government
Ministers named, it has now been removed from the blog website
and is not reproduced in the Annex to this submission.
In the libel suit, the Ministers have claimed substantial sums
of money from Mr Mitchell, notwithstanding his publication of
an apology, his withdrawal of the piece from his blog website,
his acknowledgment that he had no evidence of any wrongdoing and
his offer to make donations to charity. In view of these circumstances,
the writer expresses no opinion as to the merits of the item that
appeared on Mr Mitchell's blog, except to record that it is symtomatic
of a lack of confidence in the present system of government in
4.5 It should be noted, however, that Mr
Mitchell is a highly respected individual and is currently the
Chairman of the Anguilla Public Service Integrity Board. He is
a former Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, a belonger
of Anguilla, and lives amongst the people of Anguilla. He is also
dedicated to the well-being of Anguilla and Anguillians and spends
a large proportion of his time in devoted public service, including
the provision of free legal aid clinics.
4.6 The Government has had, but has not
taken, the opportunity to answer straightforwardly the very simple
question: why have they placed the country at the mercy of a few
dominant investors? The fact that they have refused to answer
perfectly reasonable questions, and have said only (to use the
exact words of the Chief Minister) that they have "made mistakes"
but they will "make amends", serves only to raise more
questions. This is not good for them and it is not good for Anguilla.
4.7 The same lack of transparency manifested
in connection with this issue pervades throughout almost everything
the government does. The Government website (http://www.gov.ai/)
is a monument to this lack of transparency. Implying that its
purpose is to inform, the Chief Minister's introduction rings
hollow when one considers the almost complete lack of information
concerning government deliberations (as distinct from public relations
announcements) the website carries and the fact that such information
is not provided by other means either.
4.8 Nor, when the Government is under an
obligation to hold public consultations (eg on major planning
matters), do they do so properly. If they do so at all, the relevant
meeting is usually called at extremely short notice, with the
minimum, if any, publicity, so that it amounts only to a pretence
at consultation. When ministers are determined, for whatever reason,
to approve a project, it seems that formalities go by the board
and favoured developers appear to be allowed to do more or less
what they like (including non-compliance with any permissions
actually given without any formality or adherence to regulations).
4.9 In my view the Ministers should be strongly
encouraged by the UK Government to institute an official and authoritative
independent enquiry into the events that have led to these troublesome
questions, in the best interests of Anguilla and its people. My
view that this is needed does not stem from any conviction that
culpability is involved. But it does stem from a conviction that
it is thoroughly unhealthy and corrosive that suspicions have
been widely aroused and that those who are suspected apparently
see no way to allay those suspicions. If, as I sincerely hope,
they are innocent, then it should be seen as in their own best
interests no less than the interests of Anguilla as a whole that
an official independent enquiry should resolve the concerns which
the explosive economic upsurge in development activity, and its
adverse consequences, have engendered. The suspicions will certainly
not be allayed by a libel claim against Don Mitchell QC, CBE,
which risks doing little or nothing more than to enable the claimants
to enrich themselves personally. A measured, reasoned and explained
upsurge in development activity would have been acceptable. As
it is, it has all been accomplished behind closed doors and with
no adequate or rational explanation.
5. THE FUTUREWHAT
THE FCO TAKE
5.1 In the United Kingdom, good governance
is achieved not only by legislation. There are conventions, understandings,
best practices, concepts of honour, dignity and propriety, that
are cultural. In some ways, they do not need to be reflected in
legislation because it is felt that they are stronger left unwritten
but deeply and culturally understood. So the UK has managed its
affairs, for the most part, by operating under an unwritten constitution.
5.2 Not so in Anguilla. This is a frontier
state. Emigration takes away the best educated and trained. Lessons
learned are soon forgotten. The press is weak and wholly ineffectiveit
is too timid to risk offending the government of the day.
5.3 Opposition politicians are unfamiliar
with parliamentary tools for keeping government straight. Some
will openly say that they do not even want to do so, because they
can secure the best political advantage by letting a government
get up to mischief and then haul it over the coals. Opposition
politics are based on bringing down the government, not on opposing
it in order to put it on the right path.
5.4 There is an urgent and crying need to
insist that government be held to high standards in public life.
The entire gamut of anti-corruption and good government mechanisms
known to law can no longer be left either to good sense or to
the local parliament to enact into law. This has not worked.
5.5 After 40 years of constitutional government,
Anguilla has yet to enact the legislation anticipated in the Constitution
and designed to ensure good government.
(a) There is no Public Accounts Committee.
(b) There is no law requiring legislators
to declare their assets and those of their immediate families
to the Speaker. This despite the fact that it is mandatory under
section 60A of the Constitution and despite the fact that section
61 mandatorily requires that "A law enacted under this Constitution
may determine and regulate the privileges, immunities and powers
of the Assembly and its members, but no such privileges, immunities
or powers shall exceed those of the Commons' House of Parliament
of the United Kingdom or of the members thereof".
(c) There is a legally established Public
Service Integrity Board. But it is limited to matters concerning
civil servants and can function only when requested to do so by
the Governor. There is need for a mechanism to be put in place
to investigate allegations of corruption and improper behaviour
among Ministers of Government, parliamentarians and Boards of
statutory corporations, all of which are presently exempted.
(d) There is no Boundaries Commission to
redraw the electoral boundaries from time to time.
(e) There is no Ombudsman law or "whistle
(f) There is no Freedom of Information Act.
(g) Crown Lands can be disposed of without
any discussion in the House of Assembly.
(h) In contrast to the good intentions expressed
in the NEMS, Environmental Impact Studies are not required for
major developments, and when requested are not effectively published
or discussed at meetings that are well advertised. Furthermore,
government experts are, it is widely understood, often presented
with requests to report accompanied by notifications that their
report will be just for the record as the project in question
has already been pre-approved (ie without regard to the environmental
impact, or whatever else the report may contain).
5.6 Such provisions and a score of other
measures could, with advantage to good government, be placed in
5.7 But it would not only be an advantage
to good government. It would, it is to be hoped, restore trust
in government and thereby eliminate, or at least drastically reduce,
the present cancerous cynicism much of the Anguilla public currently
has towards its public institutions.
5.8 Drafts of any necessary supporting law
and regulations should be prepared and published at the same time
as any new draft Constitution, with an undertaking that they will
be enacted according to an agreed timetable.
5.9 In addition to writing into law provisions
for ensuring good government, no governor in Anguilla in recent
years has been known to use moral persuasion to insist on good
government. On the contrary, Governors have been known to permit
and endorse actions that are publicly known or recognised to be
improper. An example of this is the extraordinary circumstance
that members of government occupy commercial positions involving
mind-boggling conflicts of interest. The most conspicuous of theseand
there are many other examplesis the fact that the Chief
Minister retains his chairmanship of one of the leading commercial
banks in Anguilla. A former Governor implied that this was not
as inappropriate as common sense would suggest. This has not,
I believe, brought credit to the Foreign Office in the minds of
6.1 The Government of Anguilla appears to
be bent on disregarding the views of the Anguillian people as
reflected in the Report of the Anguilla Constitutional and Electoral
Reform Commission, of which it is assumed the FAC already has
6.2 If the FCO fails in its duty to ensure
that any constitutional change does, indeed, reflect the properly
informed views of the Anguillian people, Britain may well, in
due course, have blood on its hands if, as could ensue as a consequence
at some time in the future, the rule of law ceases to run in Anguilla.
6.3 The key to securing a successful future
for Anguilla will be to ensure that proper checks and balances
(of the kind described in paragraph 5.5 above) are written into
any new Constitution that emerges from the current reform process.
It will be wholly inadequate, and indeed counterproductive, for
Anguilla to have a new Constitution that not only merely tinkers
with these issues, but which further erodes such safeguards as
currently exist (inadequate though they are), as the present government
apparently wants, by placing yet more power in the hands of the
elected representatives without accountability.
6.4 It is vital that, as in any civilised
democracy, accountability should be underpinned by oversight and
compliance measures. Whether these should merely be local (in
the sense that they are enshrined in the Constitution and are
therefore enforceable at law by those whom they affect) or whether
they should also be international (in the sense that the FCO would
have additional oversight powers), is a wider issue. The important
point, however, is that if unfettered powers are transferred to
the elected representatives, without the normal and proper checks
and balances being improved and strengthened, the change will
be worse than a missed opportunityit will be a catastrophe.
31 January 2008
256 Please note that Annexes are available at www.parliament.ukfacom. Back
See www.parliament.ukfacom. Back