Categorized | Opinions, Politics

Commentary: Row between Anguilla chief minister and governor intensifies

by Oscar Ramjeet

oscar Ramjeet

The row between Anguilla chief minister, Hubert Hughes, and the British governor, Alistair Harrison, has intensified so much so that Hughes wants no dealing with Harrison and is demanding independence from Britain for his tiny 35 square mile island.

The quarrel is over the governor refusing to give his assent to the budget, which was passed in the Legislative Council before Christmas 2010. Instead, Harrison wants the expenditure to be slashed by 30 percent, which means that the government will have to cut public servants’ salaries and wages and implement new belt tightening tax measures.

Hughes said that, if his government complies with the governor’s wishes at this time, it will have the adverse effect of plunging the territory into further financial difficulties and create previously unimaginable social hardships.

He added that London is refusing to allow his government to borrow any money “unless we do what they dictate”.

The portfolio for the civil service constitutionally resides in the governor and, as such, the governor and not the political directorate, which was elected by the people, is responsible for any action pertaining to the civil service.

Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that the chief minister added that there are rumours that the British want to call fresh elections although his government has only been 11 months in office — far from five years. He accused one of his own ministers of working against his duly elected government and by extension the people.

Hughes said that the British are setting up a situation to justify them suspending the constitution and imposing direct rule through the governor, like they have done in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).

I do not see how this can happen, since the circumstances in TCI were totally different. There was a Commission of Inquiry headed by a distinguished British jurist, which found gross irregularities and massive fraud.

If Hughes and the people of Anguilla feel that they can run the country without the British, they should not have much difficulty in gaining independence since, when the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 was introduced, a White Paper was presented, and in that document the then Secretary of State made it clear, and I quote, “that our partnership must be founded on self-determination, and that the overseas territories would be British so long as they wished to remain British. Britain has willingly granted independence when it has been requested, and will continue to do so when that is an option. I should like to reaffirm that this remains the position.”

The Secretary of State also said in his foreword that “partnerships are not always easy, and I recognise that we may not always get the balance right, but I believe that our relationship continues to evolve positively, in consultation with the territories, and that we have made good progress on White Paper issues such as financial regulation, human rights, the environment, constitutional reform and good governance.”

The 2002 Act formally changed the name of the territories to British overseas territories, and the term “British dependent territories citizens” to” British overseas territories citizens.” It is no longer appropriate to use the terms such as “dependent territory” or “colony”.

Clamouring for independence is not new in Anguilla and other British Overseas Territories and, I must say, in addition to the statement made by the Secretary of State it is not as difficult to gain independence at this time as it was in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Big and powerful India with a population at that time of 400 million had to fight the British tooth and nail. There were scores of protests, rallies, and demonstrations led by Mahatma Gandhi before it was achieved on August 15, 1947. Kwame Nkhrumah followed Gandhi and he gained independence for Ghana on March 6, 1957.

St Kitts and Nevis, with a population of 60,000, got its independence regardless of its size and small population.

Anguilla has a population of less than 15,000, but the biggest question is can that 35 square mile island stand on its own. Can it generate enough revenue to operate as an independent nation?

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean

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by Oscar Ramjeet

oscar Ramjeet

The row between Anguilla chief minister, Hubert Hughes, and the British governor, Alistair Harrison, has intensified so much so that Hughes wants no dealing with Harrison and is demanding independence from Britain for his tiny 35 square mile island.

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The quarrel is over the governor refusing to give his assent to the budget, which was passed in the Legislative Council before Christmas 2010. Instead, Harrison wants the expenditure to be slashed by 30 percent, which means that the government will have to cut public servants’ salaries and wages and implement new belt tightening tax measures.

Hughes said that, if his government complies with the governor’s wishes at this time, it will have the adverse effect of plunging the territory into further financial difficulties and create previously unimaginable social hardships.

He added that London is refusing to allow his government to borrow any money “unless we do what they dictate”.

The portfolio for the civil service constitutionally resides in the governor and, as such, the governor and not the political directorate, which was elected by the people, is responsible for any action pertaining to the civil service.

Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that the chief minister added that there are rumours that the British want to call fresh elections although his government has only been 11 months in office — far from five years. He accused one of his own ministers of working against his duly elected government and by extension the people.

Hughes said that the British are setting up a situation to justify them suspending the constitution and imposing direct rule through the governor, like they have done in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).

I do not see how this can happen, since the circumstances in TCI were totally different. There was a Commission of Inquiry headed by a distinguished British jurist, which found gross irregularities and massive fraud.

If Hughes and the people of Anguilla feel that they can run the country without the British, they should not have much difficulty in gaining independence since, when the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 was introduced, a White Paper was presented, and in that document the then Secretary of State made it clear, and I quote, “that our partnership must be founded on self-determination, and that the overseas territories would be British so long as they wished to remain British. Britain has willingly granted independence when it has been requested, and will continue to do so when that is an option. I should like to reaffirm that this remains the position.”

The Secretary of State also said in his foreword that “partnerships are not always easy, and I recognise that we may not always get the balance right, but I believe that our relationship continues to evolve positively, in consultation with the territories, and that we have made good progress on White Paper issues such as financial regulation, human rights, the environment, constitutional reform and good governance.”

The 2002 Act formally changed the name of the territories to British overseas territories, and the term “British dependent territories citizens” to” British overseas territories citizens.” It is no longer appropriate to use the terms such as “dependent territory” or “colony”.

Clamouring for independence is not new in Anguilla and other British Overseas Territories and, I must say, in addition to the statement made by the Secretary of State it is not as difficult to gain independence at this time as it was in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Big and powerful India with a population at that time of 400 million had to fight the British tooth and nail. There were scores of protests, rallies, and demonstrations led by Mahatma Gandhi before it was achieved on August 15, 1947. Kwame Nkhrumah followed Gandhi and he gained independence for Ghana on March 6, 1957.

St Kitts and Nevis, with a population of 60,000, got its independence regardless of its size and small population.

Anguilla has a population of less than 15,000, but the biggest question is can that 35 square mile island stand on its own. Can it generate enough revenue to operate as an independent nation?

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean