Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 20 January 2011


Last week in my column I paid due respect to the “brilliant presentation” made by the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Evans McNiel Rogers, as he sought to bring Anguilla and Anguillians back to a state of reason and balance. Already the New Year began as 2010 ended with the Chief Minister continuing to “provoke panic, alarm, subversion and diversion on our streets and in our prisons”. Mr. Rogers’ comments demonstrated sound leadership throughout his speech but in particular he spoke with great wisdom and understanding when he said among other things:

“The situation in Anguilla calls for an atmosphere of patience, understanding, peace, partnership and mutual respect between ourselves and Britain. Not threats of revolution, violence and bloodshed. We have struggled long and hard and without bloodshed to reach the status Anguilla now enjoys. While we desire to press forward toward greater self-determination, we must do so the correct way so that our deeds and history would not condemn us in the final analysis. We need to look beyond the charges and denials of the past year in particular, to better days of collaborative partnership and the forward movement of Anguilla from its current state of affairs …… we need to engage the British Government in a civil, intellectual, respectful and mutual dialogue as it pertains to all aspects of the Anguillian situation. This I am afraid, will not be accomplished with the style, attitude and approach of our present Chief Minister.”

To my mind this admonishment by the Leader of the Opposition in and of itself gave us a clear indication of what needs to be done at this time to move Anguilla forward on a pathway to a successful resolution of the issues we now face. I was therefore shocked to hear the shameless response by the Chief Minister to that presentation as he again launched into an almost maniacal attack on his usual targets --- but most of all in a manner most unbecoming of his lofty office, he referred to Leader of the Opposition as that “poor little robot Niel”. He then proceeded in his usual indecent manner to question the decency of others simply because they oppose his overbearing rants on the public media. Even after that and other derogatory remarks, which I will not assist him to promulgate, he challenged the distinguished Leader of the Opposition to a debate. As someone remarked he must have been hoping to retaliate for the severe bruising he received during his last encounter with Mr. Rogers in the House of Assembly.

But despite all of the foregoing there have been some positive developments. These probably came as a result of the Opposition’s comments on several media about the behaviour of the Chief Minister and his cohorts as they continue to create an atmosphere of instability to advance their Independence agenda. It appears that the wider community is becoming aware of the absence of any real basis for the call to arms and for waging an “imaginary war of Independence.” Even some of the AUM supporters are calling for the Chief Minister in particular as well as some of his more boisterous supporters to tone down the rhetoric and get on with the business of governance.

I was particularly pleased to hear that a concerned grouping, comprising both clergy and lay persons from different walks of life, met separately with Government and Opposition requesting that they seek to deflate the level of hostility in the atmosphere because they considered it not to be conducive to the stability required to enhance the investor and customer climate. The group reportedly suggested that it would not be necessary to establish which side initiated the situation --- but that each side should agree to relax its aggression. The bad news is that immediately following these talks with the Chief Minister and his colleagues they then proceeded in their next public meeting with the same personal attacks on Members of the Opposition and their supporters. In fact, the Chief Minister himself made statements that are now being processed for libelous action.

It is also to be noted that in the last few days there seems to have been a shift in the strategy of the AUM party and they are now claiming that they are not considering Independence now --- but rather educating the people about the option of Independence. While previous actions and recorded statements by the Chief Minister and his colleagues in no way substantiates this claim --- I am extremely happy to hear this and would encourage my colleagues and our party to participate fully in this educational process. In fact we have been doing so long before this apparent reversal of strategy. Such a reversal however, reinforces our position that there was never any urgency or compelling reasons for the behaviour of the Chief Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to hurry the discussion on Independence in the first instance. Does it mean that the many points that have been made about their “style, attitude and approach” have forced them to reconsider their position or is it that they underestimated the intelligence of the Anguillian Community? In either event I will continue to use repetition to advance the educational process by quoting some more insightful comments from one of my readers as follows:

“Does anyone actually believe all those jets came here only for our beaches, architecture, cuisine or service when there are beautiful beaches and resorts all over the world? Whether we talk about “tranquility wrapped in blue” or “feeling is believing” the message is the same: the feeling of tranquility is the reason we have built a tourist economy. While we may be developing other sectors in the future, we must ask the Chief Minister how we could pay civil servants, at any number or salary, if accommodation tax, surcharges on electricity, duties on supplies, and the precious Social Security funds ceased to come from all the tourism and related businesses with thousands of unemployed hospitality workers --- if this instability destroyed that “feeling” and the confidence in safely coming to our shores? How exactly would independence replace those revenues?

Why is seeking Independence at this time such an urgent matter when other independent states in our region are facing the same and in many cases worse circumstances than we are now experiencing? There is clearly no inherent financial benefit to being an independent country. The whole world has seen how Greece and Portugal have struggled and nearly destabilized the entire European Union. The global banking system standards wouldn’t disappear with independence of Anguilla. The same financial standards would apply to our credit rating whether affiliated with the UK or not, and only a fool would expect that rating to improve for 14,000 people on an island with but one major industry that is dependent on the rest of the global economy. We are not in a financial crisis alone, and we cannot escape it alone.

Why do the rest of the Overseas Territories who also have service oriented economies like Anguilla continue to want to maintain their links with the UK? While the UK may not provide the financial grants and gifts that many have argued have been “due” to us for infrastructure and other developmental needs, those links continue to afford access to education, employment, and in some cases, health care -- in addition to confidence among clientele in Tourism and Financial Services. Nearly every line of every budget is linked, directly or directly, to our hospitality sector -- certainly in the period in which we’ve been asked to balance the budget. What the Chief Minister seems to be missing is that we are actually more independent as an Overseas Territory than if those ties were severed. Those links enable us to create our own wealth while avoiding the humiliation of dependence on foreign aid that has characterized so many newly independent nations.

Would independence be more conducive to attracting clientele in Tourism and Financial Services? With money laundering at the top of the watch list, and as yet, very curious questions surrounding the $200 million loan the Chief Minister approved from a nonexistent business somewhere in Texas, have we not already glimpsed the unsavoury possibilities of borrowing without attending to a balanced budget and developing a plan to adhere to global credit standards? All of that without mentioning the umbrella of global security in a new world since 1967, changed forever in September 2001.”

I am indeed grateful to readers of my column who make my job easier at times by providing such extensive “quotable comments”. Indeed, while I may not entirely agree with all aspects of the statements --- they present reasonable arguments for analyzing the “pros and cons” of the issue of an Independent Anguilla and enables readers to be more widely informed. If writing my column on a weekly basis provides such a platform it gives me another reason to resist the temptation to succumb to pressures from those persons who suggest (some genuinely) that perhaps my writing is an obstruction to the Government’s efforts to manage the affairs of state. In fact, one of the members of the concerned group that met with members of our party suggested that I should “cool out” on the writing for a time. My response, were I in attendance, would have been that even if that were a strategic move in a period of challenge such as this --- the personalities with whom we are dealing do not have a sense of the principles involved and would therefore misinterpret such a concession on my part. In fact based on their present behaviour they would be most likely to consider a request that I should not write to be a justification or proof of the correctness of their position that I should not be allowed to write in the first place. It is this “one-way street” approach to democracy which has been nurtured by a self-serving doctrine called “national government” that is being espoused by the Chief Minister as a launching pad for the “Chavez-style” leadership and that has been to some extent rationalizing the victimization, lack of civility and disregard for procedure which has characterized this Government.

But I would not want to leave the impression that there is no need for a greater level of autonomy in the internal management of our island. In fact, successive Governments have seen this as an ideal arrangement for a mature and modern Anguilla. And it is recognized that such an arrangement requires certain responsibilities as well as check and balances to ensure the preservation of certain fundamental rights of every single Anguillian. Dame Bernice Lake, our very own homegrown constitutional expert, set out that historic reality in a power point presentation she gave some four years ago:-

“The golden thread running through the history of our relations over the past forty years has been the unswerving assertion of our “right of self-determination.” The modernisation of the relations between the two peoples must be seen through the prisms of that persistence with such clarity as to signal the emergence of the status of full internal self-government as a meaningful expression of the spirit of partnership upon which that relationship is to go forward.

a) We were slated to enjoy full internal self-government under the West Indies Act 1967 and the Associated Statehood Status. Under the Act each state had full control over its constitution (and thus internal self-government), while the UK retained responsibility for external affairs and defence. The British Monarch remained head of state but the Governor now had only constitutional powers,

b) Lord Caradon said “Anguilla would not be forced to live under an administration which it did not want”.

c) The contractual arrangement made in 20th -23rd May, 1975, between the British Government in the person of Miss Joan Lester the Minister charged to negotiate a settlement with Anguilla and to steer the constitutional arrangements which could bring the revolutionary impasse to and end. The British government re-affirmed the position declared by Lord Caradon that ‘Anguilla would not be forced to live under an administration which it did not want’. Miss Lester and Sir Duncan Watson unequivocally agreed that “in the future Anguilla would have such constitutional advancement as and when Anguilla asked for it.”

The compelling desire for this status is demonstrated in our recent history by:

l.) The 1998 initiative undertaken by the Hughes’ Administration; There was a call for an “Autonomous State”.

2.) The Carty Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Reform had as its recurring theme the right to determine our status and the need to be fully responsible for our internal affairs;

3.) The Mitchell Commission found that ‘full internal self-government’ was the aspiration of the majority of the people who made representations to that commission.”

What this all points to is that there has always been serious discussion about “full internal self-government” in the context of Anguilla’s Constitutional development. However, it is important to highlight that our long history of struggle for “self-determination” has been constrained by a clear understanding of the need to advance with caution and care as we seek to navigate those precarious waters which threaten to toss us into a sea of uncertainty where our fundamental rights and freedoms are in peril of “human sharks” in “a feeding frenzy” for power and/or political hegemony.

By: Victor F. Banks
      Sachasess Estate
      January 18th, 2011

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