Books about Anguilla


Saturday, 28 August 2010


Let me take this opportunity at the outset to commend and congratulate the students, teachers, education managers and parents of the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School for the exceptional results in the recent CXC and CAPE examinations. In this challenging period it is good to know that there is cadre of young people being “well-equipped” to secure our progress as a nation. And let me send a message to the author of the Social Security Report read by the Chief Minister in the House of Assembly: One can never spend enough money on training ones people!

At the last House of Assembly, the Elected Member for Island Harbour, the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool asked a question to the Leader of Government business and the Minister responsible for Social Security as follows: “How much of the Social Security Funds have Government borrowed since coming into office and for what purpose?”

Under the Legislative Assembly Procedures Part 1 Section 5 it states: “A question may be asked in the Assembly with the idea of obtaining information on matters relating to the affairs of a Government Department or some matter of public concern. It has the effect of bringing the matter into public focus and thus checking wrongs or irregularities which may arise from governmental action.” Obviously the Elected Member for Island Harbour was within his right to ask such a question.

Replies to questions are also dealt with in the Statutory Rules and Orders of the Anguilla (Constitution) Order, section 23(2) as follows: “A reply shall be confined to the points contained in the question, with such explanation only as will render the reply intelligible; and with the consent of the Assembly be taken as read.” In this connection the response given by the Leader of Government business should have simply been to state the amount and the purpose for which the funds were borrowed. But he went on to talk about the past Government leaving the Treasury literally empty; about the former Government wanting to provide benefits for NBA to the detriment of the Treasury and the people of Anguilla; and that the former Chief Minister was the Chairman of the Board of CCB --- while such comments do not fit the rules of procedure it is expected he would play a bit of politics.

It would have been consistent with the spirit and intent of questions in the rules of procedure if the CM had given the various amounts borrowed from Social Security which based on his figures comes to a total of 49.5 million dollars; stated why these monies were borrowed, and; then based on the many statements he has made over the years about the dangers of milking the Social Security Fund, use the opportunity to explain his plan for ensuring that the funds are replaced. For example, I was hoping to hear him say that he would use the Policy Based Loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to pay back Social Security immediately and protect the fund for its contributors and beneficiaries. Instead he went into his normal attack mode to basically blame the whole thing on the past Government.

Unlike his earlier reply, the Chief Minister’s answer to the second question was in keeping with the rules of procedure. The question was: “What future projects have the Government of Anguilla approved for which they are contemplating the use of Social Security Funds and what are the estimated costs.” The Chief Minister’s reply on this occasion was “rule-perfect” and I quote: “The Government of Anguilla has not approved any projects for which they are contemplating the use of Social Security funds.”

But while the Chief Minister was “rule-perfect” many persons would have heard the several statements by the Chairman of the Social Security Board about office buildings and other commercial developments and as a consequence of that could consider the reply to be less than accurate. In fact it was concerns about such proposals that prompted the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool to ask the question in the first place. The precise nature of that reply goes to show that the government is deliberate in its use of the rules to achieve its well-planned objectives. What followed next is a testimony to that fact.

It must have been a surprise to many that the Elected Member for West End, a Minister in the Government would rise to ask a question of his own Chief Minister. But again this is allowable under the legislative assembly procedures Part I section 6 which states: “Every member has the right to ask a question”. The question was stated as follows: “Can you inform this Honourable House of the State of Affairs at Social Security?” The Speaker of the House allowed this question in her full authority under section 25 of the rules of procedure which states: “The Speaker shall be the sole judge of the propriety or admissibility of a question and may disallow any question which in his/her opinion is an abuse of the right to ask questions.”

But despite the foregoing, the Speaker in carrying out her function of allowing or disallowing questions is governed by section 22 of the rules of procedures which clearly describes eight forms of questions that may not be asked and that must be disallowed. And which by extension should also govern the kind of replies that should be given. So that although a question is worded in a particular way to cause it to be allowed --- the Speaker in his/her management of the House should ensure that the reply does not compromise any of these restricted forms.

I hope that in the development of this presentation you have noted that I have highlighted the following facts:

• The Elected Member for Island Harbour asked proper questions in keeping with the rules of procedure.

• The Leader of Government business is well acquainted with the proper format for a reply when it suits his purposes --- as demonstrated by his response to the second question.

• The Elected Member for West End, though a Member of Executive Council has the right to ask a question of his own Chief Minister.

• The Speaker of the House has strict guidelines governing the form of questions to be allowed in the House.

• The Speaker of the House has the authority to manage any reply --- the substance of which when presented would have the tendency to compromise the intention and purpose for restrictions on the forms of questions.

As a Member of the House of Assembly for almost thirty years I cannot recall any Speaker of the House allowing the abuse of the privilege of asking questions in the manner in which it was done on Wednesday August 11th 2010. The Chief Minister from the outset launched into a vicious attack on past Boards, Chairpersons, The Director, staff, consultants, service providers, the Anguilla Community Foundation, NBA, CCB, NCDS, the Anguilla Music Teachers Association, the Anguillian Newspaper, the Tranquillity Jazz Festival, Senior Officials in the Ministry of Finance and quite naturally his favorite “whipping boy” the former Minister of Finance.

In defense of the Chief Minister allow me to suggest, that based on the uneven flow of his presentation one may justly conclude that he was reading it for the first time. It was obvious that there were a number of words and phrases that were not typical of his oratorical style. In my view the content of the reply was for the most part not what you would expect of a politician who presents himself as someone who supports the development of Anguillians and Anguillian entities. It was thirty pages long, disjointed and rife with libelous, abusive, misleading, inaccurate, malicious, cowardly, unkind, uncaring, and downright nasty statements. And again in my irrepressible sense of fairness --- I cannot accept that the Chief Minister or anyone with the slightest strain of Anguillian blood flowing in their veins could have written such a document.

But I do not intend to sully the columns of this paper by responding appropriately to statements made for example:

• Like: “the affairs of the Social Security Board were run as if it was a private corporation owned by the Director”. Because I might be tempted to ask the question and describe who is running it as a private corporation now.

• Like: “it cannot be contested that (the salary exercise by Mr. Marcel Fahie and Mr. Kenn Banks) was a waste of Social Security Funds from the outset”. Because I might be tempted to explain why Anguillian consultants deserve the same respect for their work as “professionals” from other places and climes who would seek to discredit them.

• Like: “Sadly, it cannot be said that those monies expended to provide Social Security Board (SSB) employees with diplomas and degrees in any way benefitted the SSB, its fund or the people of Anguilla whose money it is.” Because I might be tempted ask the question: Who determines how much training Anguillians deserve and who must benefit? Or: Where and how did the author get his/her training and where is he/she now?

• Like: “It is noted that the then Minister of Finance travelled first class on this and other trips paid for by the Social Security Board to China and other exotic destination”. Because I might be tempted to suggest a suitable compartment for the present Minister and his constant traveling advisor when they travel on Social Security Funds.

So let us ignore all of those possible responses and come back to the important point of governance that I wish to make. The questions in the House of Assembly are not intended to either generate or provoke debate. Their purpose is to seek specific information from the Minister on a specific matter. That is the reason why the person asking the question is only allowed to ask one follow-up question. Plain and simply a question is not a motion! It should not be debated!

I do not intend to list the eight forms of questions not allowed to be asked as outlined in section 22 of the rules of procedure --- but I must draw your attention to those three forms that I believe are relevant to the reply made by the Chief Minister as follows:

22. (1) A question shall not contain arguments, inferences, opinions, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions, or hypothetical cases.

22. (3) A question should not be asked for the purpose of obtaining an expression of opinion, the solution of an abstract legal case, or answer to a hypothetical proposition.

22. (7) A question reflecting on the character or conduct of any person whose conduct can only be challenged on a substantive motion, may not be asked.

So as we draw this discourse to its logical conclusion the Speaker of the House in my opinion has allowed a breach of the rules of procedure not necessarily by allowing the question --- but by the latitude that she allowed the Chief Minister to introduce issues which other members were deprived of the privilege of debating. Obviously, the restricted forms of the question must also govern the forms of the answers --- otherwise the intention and purpose of the restriction in the first place would be compromised and effectively breached.

To take it a step further I consider this to be an attempt to muzzle the debate on the serious matter of the present Social Security Board and the many high-handed actions it has been taking in recent times. Ranging from the “planned hostile take-over of ANGLEC, the recent hiring practices and reported incidents of victimization of staff members, to name a few. The question posed by the Elected Member for West End would never have been allowed by any Speaker with a sense of the controversy which that response could evoke and the detriment it could cause to the proper governance of the House. Her most appropriate ruling would have been to suggest that the question be put in the form of a motion. It would then have allowed democracy to prevail in the House of Assembly and destroyed the “un-Anguillian” designs of the author of the document.

I believe that if the Speaker hopes to earn respect she would be well-advised to draw on the expertise of former Speakers of the House who have indicated that they are willing to assist her in her very challenging job. Of course she must first recognize her responsibility to impartiality and good governance. As for the author of this report --- who it is believed triggered this abuse of the privilege of questions in the first place --- my friend Sam Kelly sagaciously declared: “Long rope for mawga goat!”

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
August 24, 2010

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” – MLK.