Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 13 January 2011


Once again I have taken advantage of the opportunity to take my annual vacation but I still remain committed to writing my column and faithful to my loyal readership. Last week I was approached by a number of persons who commented: “You mussa got goat mouth!” Their conclusions were based on the fact that I was “spot on” in my predictions that the Chief Minister would use the slightest delay in the authorization of the budget by the British Government to “provoke panic, alarm, subversion and diversion on the streets and in the prisons”. I also suggested that “he and the Parliamentary Secretary will once again return to their comfort zone by attacking the British and calling for Independence”. In this context, the Chief Minister’s presentation on Up Beat Radio dubbed “Reflections on 2010” was scandalous. Let me congratulate the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Evans McNiel Rogers for his excellent, comprehensive and well-delivered Address to the Nation in which he exposed the Chief Minister’s lack of sound leadership over the past eleven months in vivid detail.

The Leader of the Opposition summed up the entire matter brilliantly in his address when he said; “Fellow Anguillians we should all hold our Chief Minister and his colleagues accountable to the people of Anguilla for the truth. No more tell tales, no more imaginary wars of independence, no more political destabilization of our Anguillian society to hide the inadequacies of his government and blaming his weaknesses and failings on everyone else”. He then went on to ask a number of pertinent questions regarding the Chief Minister’s behaviour, not the least among which is the absence of any kind of documentation or evidence to support the spurious claims upon which he is building the case for a revolution for Independence.

I have said before and I must again repeat that no military revolt or civil disobedience is necessary to achieve independence from Britain --- there is a clear path to that status outlined in our partnership agreement and subsequent policy papers from the Ministry for the Overseas Territories. In fact, not even a war of words and insolent exchanges is helpful. As the Former Speaker of the House of Assembly aptly put it: “You can almost get Independence by email!” Not a single territory of the former British West Indies have had the need to fight a revolution to achieve Independence over the last fifty years. Why then is Hubert inciting the people of Anguilla to the streets to fight a politically contrived battle for Independence? Who will be the enemy? The British Government has clearly indicated that it has no intention of standing in our way once it is the expressed will of the people. In fact our dialogue over the last twenty-five years has been to seek an advanced status within the colonial arrangements that the past Government posited as “full internal self-government”. No British Government has prevented Anguilla from pursuing the option of Independence --- neither the Labour Party nor the Conservatives. On the contrary the remaining British Overseas Territories have consistently argued to remain a part of Great Britain.

Just two days ago someone “half-humorously” sent me a text message advising me that I should be careful to ensure that my passport would still be valid when I return home. Further suggesting that the Independence Movement was gaining ground quickly and I may have to get time on my British Passport. My reason for even mentioning this obvious joke is to highlight the fact that people need to know what going into Independence will mean for the average Anguillian. What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? Therefore in essence what Hubert and his team should be doing is educating Anguillians rather than leading them into a fight literally blindfolded. Not knowing whom they are fighting and/or what they are fighting for. Indeed what we need is resolution rather than revolution. But the Chief Minister obviously is not concerned about resolving his differences with the British Government he seems determined to have a revolution for his own personal aggrandizement and glory.

The night before I left for my vacation someone called to let me know that there was a sign going up at the roundabout rallying Anguillians to unite to fight for their freedom as they did in 1967. Or words to that effect! The clear message being that there is cause to fight now! All this based on the Chief Minister’s unsubstantiated claims that the British Government would not authorize the Budget until Government agreed to significant layoffs and salary cuts to the public service. Supporters of the Government strongly believe the allegations made by the Chief Minister that the British Government through the Governor is intent on bringing down his Government. Hubert has further led them to believe that there is collusion between the Opposition and the British to achieve this objective. And the justification to incite revolution and civil disobedience is that the only way for the Government to deal with the real economic challenges that face us is to go into Independence. It seems that it is on this false premise on which the Chief Minister and his colleagues are selling the notion of Independence to the Anguilla people.

It would be most instructive to hear some of the many questions asked of me by a number of Anguillians just over the last two weeks. For example:

• If we were to go into Independence would we then be able to borrow as much money as we want?
• If we were to go into Independence would we still have to pay taxes?
• If we were to go into Independence could we still have the privilege of getting a European Passport?
• If we were to go into Independence who will be in charge of the civil service and the police force?
• If we were to go into Independence who will be responsible for defending our 200 mile economic zone and our shores?
• If we were to go into Independence will Anguilla get more foreign aid?
• If we were to go into Independence will we still have a Governor and will he/she be able to provide the checks and balances necessary to prevent political victimization and ensure good governance?

While these are just a few of the questions one thing is certain, that is, that the wider Anguilla population does not know enough about what Independence means to make an informed decision in the event that there is a referendum to determine the wishes of the people. The Chief Minister’s approach is to use fear tactics to achieve his objectives. The Leader of the Opposition puts it rightly when he says that such an important national decision requires, indeed, demands the transparency to which this Government has been paying a significant amount of lip service over the past eleven months. In fact, their brand of transparency has been “selective” serving only to contribute to lies, misinformation, victimization and slander of all who are perceived to oppose them.

While the Chief Minister is calling for unity at this time after having incited many to violence just about a week ago--- he still continues to suggest in the whispering campaign that there is a conspiracy between the Governor and the Opposition to bring down his Government. And despite his irresponsible threats of violence and insurrection --- to date there have not been any overt actions taken by the Police Force. In fact, in my estimation, the hostile expressions of the Chief Minister and some of his less seasoned colleagues have not provoked any retaliatory response from the Governor’s Office --- all the aggression has come from the Chief Minister himself. If there is an enemy out there standing in the way of the Chief Minister as he seeks to deliver on the promises for which he was elected --- it can only be he himself. He continues to go to Executive Council! He continues to have meetings with the Governor! But he has not addressed any of the important questions raised by the administering power in a civil and professional manner. He prefers to govern from the streets. Where emotions and passions can be manipulated by the irresponsible and baseless utterances of this egotistical leader whose reputation for lying has been well documented over the years.

While the Chief Minister talks about Revolution and a fight for Independence the most important challenges facing our economy are placed on the back burner. In fact, he seems intent on advancing the theory that Independence will fix the situation. Get rid of the British and all our troubles will be over! But while the Chief Minister persists on creating this “smokescreen” a number of perceptive Anguillians are questioning the wisdom of creating an unstable environment while we are seeking to attract both investors and tourists to our shores. How can we fix the economy when we are scaring off investors and visitors alike by inciting violence? 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? Why are the rest of the Overseas Territories who also have service oriented economies like Anguilla continue to want to maintain their links with the UK? Is our present status more conducive to attracting clientele in Tourism and Financial Services?

I was particularly moved by an email I received from one of my loyal readers entitled: “To What End?” I have no choice but to include it in its entirety in my column and you will understand why! It reads as follows:

“Dear Victor, I confess I missed the rally on radio on Saturday night and only saw some of Niel’s presentation on television Sunday, but enough to hear him make the remark that the current CM has asked you to lay down your pen. Please, please don’t! Your courage, focus and clarity seem to be all that stands between us and a reckless determination to be “free” to borrow from drug lords or terrorists --- who else would want to lend Anguilla an untenable amount of funds? It seems we only need a reasonable plan to satisfy the British regarding the budget. But back to the questions: Who would come to our aid to maintain our security if beholding to unscrupulous creditors like the ones from Texas? Who would protect us when we can barely keep young boys from aspiring to gang memberships and to manage a constant crime rate, much less potential fanaticism? What ultimate health care protection would we have? Which country could we hold accountable to help educate our youth? (To what other end?) What Dr. Frankie Hughes said at the tourism gala is so true: it seems that we can only dig out of this hole by optimizing out tourism product --- to what further depths would we plummet if this instability continues to take down the Union Jack and sends the last few tourists and investors scurrying away to unpredictable climes? Do we return to exporting salt? Learn to make goat cheese? What could possibly restore our economy if those last vestiges of confidence were removed? I am sure that I am saying what many others are saying --- and likewise hoping you will continue having the courage to speak out, but please educate me if I am wrong, Victor! To what end? If I thought for one moment we’d actually be better off being apart from any global power in the post 9/11 world, I would be the first to rally --- but does the “independence” voice call out with any vision to strengthen tourism, investment, our banks, or protect us from becoming a haven for drug lords and terrorists wanting to launder money? If I missed something, please tell me! You know I sincerely respect your judgment and appreciate even a few moments you might spend in a reply (and in confidence). With kind regards.” To what end? Indeed!

I thank this Anguillian observer for the insightful observations. And I close my case with the remarks made in the letter from Mr. Bellingham the Minister for the Overseas Territories: “I hope that the GOA will choose cooperation over confrontation and that we can look to a future where the UK and Anguilla Governments can discuss a mutually supportive relationship which reflects the needs of Anguilla and protects the UK’s interest”. I find no trace of highhandedness by the Minister in any part of this letter. In addition, the Chief Minister should take the time to note that the Minister deliberately mentioned that he was sending a copy of the letter to the Minister for DfID --- who is, by the way, the Minister responsible for British Financial Aid and Technical Assistance. Could there be a subtle message in there that they are keeping a window open for more substantive financial and technical support?

Why are we? And why is the Chief Minister and his supporters following this unnecessary and destabilizing course of action? According to the children of my generation when faced with a frustrating situation: “Lord have mercy! Send down Percy!”

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
January 11, 2010

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