Call to cut ties
Chief Minister Hubert Hughes has called on citizens to seriously consider seeking political independence from Britain after the Governor of this 35 square mile island Alistair Harrison refused to sign off on the 2011 budget.
“We have come far enough and fought hard enough to have an Anguillian Governor or Governor General, an Anguillian flag and being identified to the world as ‘Anguillians and not “Belongers”,” Hughes said in a national radio broadcast here.
Hughes and Harrison have been at loggerheads over what the Chief Minister says is an attempt to undermine his 11-month old government.
But Harrison, under instructions from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, has declined to give his assent or approval to the 2011 budget passed in the Legislative Council just before Christmas 2010.
Britain wants the Hughes administration to reduce the public service by 30 per cent, cut public servants salaries and wages and implement new tax measures.
Last December, the Office of the Chief Minister issued a statement indicating that “the Minister for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham has been insisting that the Anguilla Government commit to further taxation and a cut the size of the civil service workforce by at least 30 per cent and also make further cuts to the civil service salaries. “
“Chief Minister Hubert Hughes and his Government have taken the position that to comply with those directives at this time will have the adverse effect of plunging Anguilla into further financial difficulties and create previously unimaginable social hardships.
“In addition, the Chief Minister has also maintained that the portfolio for the Civil Service constitutionally resides in the Governor and that as such it is the Governor and not the Political Directorate who is responsible for any action pertaining to the Civil service and any decision to do what is being demanded must take the human element into consideration,” the statement said.
In his radio broadcast on Thursday, Hughes said that when his administration came to office last February, it met a deficit of almost EC$90 million (US$33.3 million). He said the deficit has since been reduced to EC$70 million (US$25.9 million).
“Independence and this lingering issue of the budget are not issues that we ought to consider lightly nor are they the only considerations this government has for 2011,” Hughes said, adding that he had already drawn up a list containing the names of persons who would serve on a constitutional committee with a view to construct a document within a short period ” on which we can seek a referendum.”
Hughes also indicated that he has sought technical expertise from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to assist the constitutional committee once it has been formalised.
The Chief Minister said that London is refusing to allow his government to borrow any money unless “unless we do what they dictate”. (CMC)