State Capture thru Civil Servants
By Henry Shillingford, Attorney at Law
This article attempts to context the legal and existential implications to the public of the largest engineering project, public or private, as a colony or independent, ever initiated by the State of Dominica—the proposed (?) international airport at Wesley. Given the sheer scale of the implications and its likely adverse outcomes, I am appalled that this discussion is not front and centre in every house, corner and rum shop of the Island State. WHY? Is it because they have heard it all before (seven airport proposals over the last 35 years), or is it because the perpetrators, I mean proposers of this project, have failed to do even the bare minimum required by Law and manners? Hence by doing nothing, there is technically nothing to complain about, except the "idea: which is so vast and nuanced and therefore silenced.
How is this possible? This is so due to the terrible ignorance of the public who is exasperated by the disregard of every basic Law and governance tenet by the most senior civil servants whose trust of the public asset was put in them by the people and whose homes, position and success is solely based on that trust. They now seem that the abuse of that trust profits them more and ipso facto NOW bow to and accept abusers of all that is holy. This abuse unequivocally goes to the very core of this society's woes. It is herein submitted that the proposed "International Airport at Wesley is an excellent example of the TOTAL abuse of position; abrogation of duty; and malicious professional misconduct by senior civil servants…proverbially putting their head in the sand and backside up in the where?
No sustained government corruption is possible without the participation of civil servants
This is an example of a further proposition: I submit that no sustained Government corruption is possible in any constitutional democratic government without the active participation of senior civil servants, and sustained government corruption exists in Dominica.
The very duty of a State, a nation, and a Government is to act. However, whether it is a large one, like the USA or Brazil or small, like Dominica or Fiji, it can only work through its civil servants. The governing process is that the Government decides on an action, and the public servant must carry out those instructions. However, they only do so as a trustee of the Constitution on behalf of the public and ensure that the decision is carried out according to the Law. Senior servants such as permanent secretaries and directors are public trustees for the public goods under their particular area of concern, whether it is finance or health, land or fisheries etc. Upper civil servants, for example, the Cabinet and Permanent Secretaries and Directors, are very critical under our inherited U.K. system, for not only are they responsible for the 'public assets' in their area, but it is also they and not the politician who is expected to know the Law in respect their area of concern. The top civil servant in a Ministry or Division is expected to know the Law in the subject area that concerns that department, and if not, their responsibility is to seek the advice of the Attorney General to explain to their Minister or staff how the laws in their area are applied. They are then the first judges of government decisions. As first actors, they can ensure that decisions are carried out lawfully; they are in the position to know. Their critical importance in the practice & theory of the U.K. system of Government is demonstrated by their permanent character. So, they must be able to act freely, without fear of firing, in defence of the Law and State assets to protect the value of that public asset for the inter-generational beneficiaries of their public trust.
This was so as the framers of governments from the beginnings of Constitutions recognised that the pressure of political immediacies can cause governments to demand public servants to do things NOW in disregard of the future value of that asset. Hence Laws were enacted to assist the public servant in "curbing the government's enthusiasm" by demanding specific procedures and processes are followed. All to ensure that the value of public assets is maintained at the minimum and, at max, not destroyed by immediate political gratification. Again they insisted by the State Proceedings Act Chap: 7:80 that the Government is subject to the laws of the State, particularly the PL ACT Section 90: "This Act binds the State ."
Two most important senior civil servants
I state that in Dominica, the two most important senior public servants are the Director of Lands and the Chief Planner. The Director of Lands is responsible for all State land and the Chief Planner for approving ALL infrastructure development in the State. The importance of Ministries Divisions in each Government is subject to that State's vital resources and political position; hence, in Nigeria, the oil minister and its public servants are of critical importance.
I submit that Dominica's vital resource is land, as the title' Nature Island of the World" is not advertising fluff but an undisputed fact. Dominica is the most naturally endowed U.N. sovereign island State pro-rata of any State. Home to the most singular natural features of any such State in the world, with at least ten singularities; a few are phenomenal-the largest boiling lake in the Western Hemisphere; the only remaining indigenous Caribbean people; the largest remaining Amazonian Parrot, which is also endemic; the first terrestrial World Heritage Site in the Caribbean; the only year-round island home of Sperm Whales etc. This is on a land mass of 290 square miles in this vast Earth of over 190 million square miles. You do the math. Hence the rarity value alone gives Dominica ascendancy over all, and when such natural resource is the present basis of 80% of the activity, tourism, which the government states are the basis and engine of the economy. Then the maintenance job of its value (which can only mean its preservation) is the most critical and responsible job for a government and the public through its servants.
(To be continued next issue)