The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

Word has reached The Anguillian that many senior public officers are troubled by the level of micro-management they are currently experiencing. Reports suggest that Her Excellency the Governor is at the core of this heightened level of micro-management, and involvement in what would generally be regarded as minutiae now appears to be the norm. What appears to be even more alarming is the suggestion that this level of micro-management extends to matters that should normally command the attention of Executive Council. Whether a matter receives the collective attention of Executive Council appears to be determined by Her Excellency rather than by our elected ministers.

It appears that it is time to revisit the question raised in the Editorial published in The Anguillian of 13th December 2019 – Is Anguilla a true Democracy? It came shortly after the 2019 amendments to Anguilla’s constitution, and it appears the content might be even more significant today than it was in 2019. The editorial is reprinted in full below:

“Is Anguilla a True Democracy?

The recent Constitutional negotiations and the steady announcement of new candidates expected to vie for elected office in 2020 has brought into sharp focus, the need for a greater awareness of the Governance structure under which elected officials are required to operate. This has led me to wonder, how many of the persons seeking elected office have a real appreciation of the governance structure that will frame their decisions and actions, if elected.

A constitutional amendment now affords us the right to refer to our Leader of Government Business as Premier rather than Chief Minister. Sadly, no greater autonomy has been bestowed on our elected officials with that change in title. Significant authority continues to remain with the Governor, an appointed rather than an elected official. In such circumstances, can our governance structure be truly described as democratic? In many respects, our governance structure cannot be properly described as a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’

This is glaring when we consider the two constitutional provisions set out below, which appear to accord veto power to the Governor, in respect of executive and legislative matters.

“Governor’s reserved executive power

29. (1) In any case where the Governor is required by the last foregoing section to consult with the Executive Council, he may act otherwise than in accordance with the advice given him by the Council if in his opinion it would be inexpedient in the interests of public order or public faith to act in accordance with that advice:

Provided that he shall not so act against the advice of the Council without first obtaining the approval of a Secretary of State.

(2) Whenever the Governor acts otherwise than in accordance with the advice given to him by the Executive Council, any member of the Council may require that there be recorded in the minutes the grounds of any advice or opinion which he may have given on the question, and the Governor shall as soon as is practicable forward a copy of the resulting entry in the minutes to a Secretary of State.

Governor’s legislative reserved power

56. (1) If the Governor considers that it is expedient in the interests of public order or public faith (which expressions shall, without prejudice to their generality, include the responsibility of Anguilla as a territory within the Commonwealth and all matters pertaining to the creation or abolition of any public office or to the salary or other conditions of service of any public officer) that any Bill introduced or motion proposed in the Assembly should have effect, then, if the Assembly fail to pass the Bill or to carry the motion within such time and in such form as the Governor thinks reasonable and expedient, the Governor, acting in his discretion, may, at any time that he thinks fit, and notwithstanding any provision of this Constitution or of any other law in force in Anguilla or of any rules of procedure of the Assembly declare that the Bill or motion shall have effect as if it had been passed or carried by the Assembly either in the form in which it was introduced or proposed or with such amendments as the Governor thinks fit which have been moved or proposed in the Assembly or any Committee thereof; and the Bill or the motion shall be deemed thereupon to have been so passed or carried, and the provisions of this Constitution, and in particular the provisions relating to assent to Bills and disallowance of laws, shall have effect accordingly:

Provided that the Governor shall not exercise his powers under this subsection without prior written instructions from a Secretary of State, unless in his judgment the matter is so urgent that it is necessary for him to do so before having consulted a Secretary of State.

(2) The Governor shall forthwith report to a Secretary of State every case in which he makes any such declaration and the reasons therefor.

(3) If any member of the Assembly objects to any declaration made under this section, hemay, within fourteen days of the making thereof, submit to the Governor a statement in writing of his reasons for so objecting, and a copy of the statement shall (if furnished by the member) be forwarded by the Governor as soon as is practicable to a Secretary of State.

(4) Any declaration made under this section other than a declaration relating to a Bill may be revoked by a Secretary of State and the Governor shall forthwith cause notice of the revocation to be published by notice in the Official Gazette; and from the date of such publication any motion that is deemed to have been carried by virtue of the declaration shall cease to have effect and the provisions of section 16(1) of the Interpretation Act 1978 shall apply to the revocation as they apply to the repeal of an Act of Parliament.”

Clearly, persons appointed to serve as Governor in Anguilla are clothed with significant discretion in relation to Executive and Legislative matters and possess the authority to overrule decisions of elected officials. Do our political aspirants have a clear understanding of the playing field they will be playing on? Do they have a game strategy that will allow them to engage, on that playing field, in a manner that will successfully deny the Governor the use of his reserved powers?

The statement ‘Knowledge is power’ should not be treated as trite. Our elected representatives must make every effort to use our flawed democratic system to serve the best interests of Anguilla’s populace. One can only hope that all political aspirants are actively garnering unto themselves, the knowledge necessary to successfully utilise the Constitution to deliver any mandate handed to them by the populace.”

Based on observations over the past two years, many persons question whether our elected ministers are in fact equipped to ensure that they are allowed to assume the authority the electorate anticipated it was bestowing on them when they elected them to office. Has Anguilla been subjected to greater oversight without such a declaration having been publicly made?