Books about Anguilla


Sunday, 7 November 2010

His Excellency…

The recent announcement that prisoners in the United Kingdom (UK) will be given the right to vote, for the first time in 140 years, simply represents a case of government bowing to the inevitable - the fact that a few decisions should be put beyond the reach of mere parliamentary majorities - as the Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper succinctly stated: "This is not a choice, it is a legal obligation."

In October 2004, the European Court of Human Rights declared that a ban on all sentenced prisoners in the UK from voting was discriminatory and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court emphasized that the right to vote should be withdrawn only in exceptional situations where the offence related to an abuse of a public position or a threat to undermine the rule of law. This means, that there needed to be a direct link between the offence committed and the decision to disenfranchise.

Since then, the British government’s lengthy public consultations serves nothing more than a delaying tactic in order to avoid taking the necessary steps to rectify such a breach, and failed to implement any changes.

The decision by the British Government to tell the Court of Appeal that the law will be changed following legal advice that the taxpayers could have to pay tens of millions of pounds in compensation may very well anger those who may see this as a step closer in politicizing the judiciary and overriding the possibility of government policy being made in the light of public discussion in the press and parliament, basically shutting down democratic debate - a decision which brings to an end six years of government attempts to avoid the issue while opening the possibility that even those facing life sentences for very serious crimes could in future shape elections.

In light of this development, and as a British Overseas Territory/Dependency - urgent action allowing prisoners to vote on Anguilla is inevitable. To act otherwise may see our taxpayers happening to pay millions of dollars in compensation for such breach of human rights, and further embarrass the UK Government - with potential sanctions include suspension or expulsion from the Council of Europe.

The Government of Anguilla must act positively now, even if thinking that the right to vote is not a human right issue, but rather a civil right, as has been the British tradition; or affirm their incompetence by an Order-In-Council.

And while we are at it - His Excellency must annul the mockery and FREE Mr. Paul Petty. After all, life sentence must mean: a defined period in a life time – not until death. Our prisons must be centers for rehabilitation rather than centers for chastisement rivaling capital punishment.

Mr. Petty has served with distinction and it’s time that we honour such… set him FREE.


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