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Anguilla complains about recolonization

BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 12/13/2012, 1:06 p.m.

Early next month, a team of presidents and prime ministers from the Caribbean trade bloc is scheduled to travel to the tiny Eastern Caribbean island of Anguilla in solidarity with its government and people who say they fear its "mother country," Britain, is preparing to fully repossess the colony and impose direct rule from London, as it did in the Turks and Caicos islands in the past year and a half.

Yet to become a full member of the 15-nation community, Anguilla, once part of a tri-island nation with St. Kitts and Nevis, does not have full voting rights in Caricom. However, Chief Minister Hubert Hughes flew to the two-day Caricom leaders summit in Suriname last week to raise alarm bells about what he calls clear and dangerous signs from London that it wants full control of daily life on the island of less than 17,000 people. Anguilla is an associate member of the bloc.

Hughes contended that Britain has already made it clear that it has no plans to grant greater executive autonomy, like self-governance, to the island--much less full independence, as some islanders seem to want--because "they believe we have an abundance of oil, gas and fish life. They have deemed Anguilla now to be a valuable British asset that should not be let go of," he told Caribbean Life in Paramaribo.

His lobbying at the meeting resulted in leaders agreeing to send a fact-finding delegation to the country in early April to sound out the situation for themselves. Hughes said Britain recently banned his cabinet and legislature from naming high-ranking officials like permanent secretaries and heads of departments as it "gradually takes control of [their] daily affairs."

He argued that Anguilla's geographic position makes it the only island with enough marine space to have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone because "there is nothing else north of us until Bermuda," Hughes explained. "Other than Guyana, we have the largest fishing grounds available to any island in Caricom and that is another reason the Brits want to take full control."

Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of Dominica, said Caricom leaders are serious about the issue, having seen London retake full control of daily life in Turks and Caicos. "A delegation of heads of government will go to Anguilla in the first week of April because our fear is that we will have another TCI in Anguilla," he said. "We want to send a clear message to the governor that we are serious."