Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 3 March 2011


Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Albena Lake Hodge Comprehensive School Debating Team for their splendid performance in the British Virgin Islands where they represented Anguilla proudly in this year’s Annual Leeward Islands Debating Competition over the weekend. While they did not bring back the gold --- they were strong finalists and fierce competitors to the very end. Obviously, the debaters did not achieve such excellence on their own --- congratulations are therefore in order for their teachers, parents, teammates, corporate sponsors and supporters as well. It was an all around stellar performance and we cherish their silver medal with a profound sense of patriotism. They deserve our praise both as a team and individually having captured the most best speaker awards.

I felt that the topics were both exciting and challenging and captured some of the more important issues affecting our region. It was indeed inspiring to hear the youth of this sub-region articulate so eloquently, during their presentations, various sides of the issues assigned to them. I felt, as I am sure did many other listeners, a great sense of hope for the future of our island and for the region as a whole. Obviously such events showcase the caliber of professionals and leaders that will secure and protect the heritage that successive generations have sacrificed to build and develop. If the performance of our team in the BVI is any measure of what we can expect as future leaders --- our island will be in good hands indeed. And speaking of legacy and heritage, I am honored to use this column to wish a happy and blessed birthday to the “father of our nation”, the Hon. James Ronald Webster for his outstanding and aptly celebrated contribution to this island we hold most dear. May continued health and happiness attend him for many more years to come.

The Anguilla United Front (AUF) decided to cancel its public meeting on Saturday to allow Anguillians to give our young people their undivided attention during the semi-finals on Saturday. It was therefore most rewarding that they won and went on to the finals the following day. But in the midst of this genuine and commendable gesture of solidarity by the AUF, a notorious “AUM supporter” made a most disappointing statement, characteristically loud and at public gathering place. He shouted that the real reason why the AUF cancelled their meeting was because “the AUM Government got their budget passed and therefore the Opposition (AUF) did not have anything to talk about!”. If that were in fact the case, the Parliamentary Secretary “the circus master” certainly corrected that situation with his usual disregard for procedure and proper governance.

I comment on the matter of the Parliamentary Secretary’s handling of the appointment of a Constitutional and Electoral Committee not only to highlight the matter of the premature issuance of a press release alone but also to demonstrate the continuing use of posturing and lies to make political points and as a consequence waste useful resources and lose valuable gains. For those of you who did not have the opportunity to hear or read the release from the Parliamentary Secretary it does the following things: - 1) Claims that the Chief Minister selected and commissioned a Constitutional and Electoral Reform Committee. 2) Claims that the Chief Minister sent a letter to the new Chair of the Committee. 3) Indicates who is the new Chair of the Committee. 4) Lists a number of persons selected to serve on the Committee. 5) Indicates that the Executive Council would be duly informed and expected to give its blessings.

What the issuance of this release has uncovered are a number of denials from many persons as to the authenticity of the claims in the document as well as the total disregard for proper procedure by the Parliamentary Secretary. Starting with the point number one above, that the Chief Minister selected and commissioned a Committee --- it has been reported that the Chief Minister denies any involvement in the selection of the Committee. Such denials are typical of the Chief Minister --- but if we may refer to the behaviour reported by Minister Baird in “his confessions”, namely, that the Parliamentary Secretary (Parlsec) selected a Board in the CM’s Ministry without consulting him ---it is highly possible that he did not do so on this occasion either.

On the second point the Parlsec claims that the Chief Minister sent a letter to the new Chairman of the Committee and in the third point he names the new Chairman. Both the Chief Minister and the designated new Chairman have been reported to deny any knowledge of any of these claims. First of all, the person in question reportedly said that he was not informed of being made Chairman of any such Committee. However, upon hearing the release he called the Chief Minister who also disavowed granting any authorization for such correspondence to be sent to him.

On the fourth point the Parlsec lists the persons who were selected to serve on the committee. Of the eight persons he claims were selected, five have denied being consulted; three of those have been very vocal in expressing their displeasure; two of which have committed those sentiments to paper.

And on the final point, the Parlsec states in a most indecorous fashion that “the Executive Council will be duly informed” of what, based on the foregoing, seems to be a committee selected by him. Again giving credence to Minster Baird’s statement in his “confessions” that “the Parliamentary Secretary is unashamedly exploiting his familial relationship with the Chief Minister to wield unprecedented levels of power over a range of matters. He started out pretending to be the Chief Minister; he is now pretending to be the Government”.

Some comments from the two “nominees” (for lack of a more appropriate terminology) who put their objections to paper are worthy of mention. The private sector lawyer who responded to the Parlsec’s release makes the following important points: a) her being named as part of the committee was brought to her attention via the media; b) at no time was she asked whether she was willing and able to be a member of the committee; c) that the simple act of consultation shows respect for those whose assistance is sought and creates a climate of goodwill and cooperation.

The public service lawyer makes equally important points regarding the nature of the release in particularly in the context of proper procedures in governance. She points out that:- i) to say that the Executive Council will be duly informed is alarming given the gravity of Constitutional and Electoral Reform; ii) the Executive Council first authorizes and then must give final approval for the process before any committee or commission on Constitutional reform can be launched; iii) a public servant should not be a part of any committee where the proper procedures have not been followed; and iv) the process the Parlsec followed “sets the cart before the horse” and does not represent good governance.

I have repeatedly stated in several of my columns that the Chief Minister is leading by bad example. I have also given examples of the “serial lying” which pervades the AUM governance style. This latest “boo-boo” by the Parlsec is an example “par excellence” of all of the above. It is obvious that when the Chief Minister sidestepped the requirement for EXCO approval in the matter of the voting of ANGLEC shares and when he admittedly willfully disregarded the need to obtain EXCO and Legislative authorization for borrowing two hundred million US dollars, these are bad examples that lead to the kind of misconduct exhibited by the Parlsec and the other inexperienced elected members of his team. On the other hand when one cannot verify who in fact selected the Committee because of contradicting stories from the Chief Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary --- you begin to realize the level of lies and half truths which dominates their political style.

But the Parlsec goes on further to show that he still has not grasped the essence of his error or perhaps his deliberate arrogance based on the content of his second release which is intended to be an apology. In that release he says nothing about the need for EXCO authorization for the launching of such a committee; he only apologizes profusely to the private sector lawyer while slighting over the other nominees including the public service lawyer; he still does not demonstrate an understanding of the disrespect implicit in simply assuming ones availability, and finally; having made the error of not informing persons of their appointments in the public media he proceeds yet again to compound that situation by a lame apology also in the public media. The appropriate thing to do would have been to make a public statement withdrawing the release --- send personal letters of apology to all the persons involved then further inquiring into their availability and willingness to serve on the committee.

The other part to this disaster is the raw politics. First of all the past government managed two processes of Constitutional and Electoral Reform one led by former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. David Carty and the other led by former Justice I. Don Mitchell. The findings of those groups came as a result of wide public consultations. Those findings were well documented and are in the process of compilation. Members of the present Government were involved in those discussions. The contextual framework for the reforms was based on the principle of full internal self-government. In essence what remains is basically the technical aspects of the compilation and drafting processes. And based on the AUF and AUM manifestos, in particular, there are no substantial differences on the main issues. Any posturing or politicking on the process will as a consequence cause us to lose valuable ground and waste valuable resources, unless of course, it is the intention of the Government to now draft an Independence Constitution as the Chief Minister has stated in the international media.

The other part of the “raw politics” is the fact that the Opposition was not invited to recommend anyone to the Committee. This has been a usual practice in all previous reform committees. While one can see the motive in the selection of Members nominated to serve on the Committee its composition does not reflect a clear presence of persons associated with the main Opposition Party. It does not, to quote one of the lawyers selected, “create a climate of goodwill and cooperation”. Indeed it speaks to blatant partisanship that this Government vows it detests and promotes divisionism that it claims to abhor.

So let me encourage the Parliamentary Secretary to muzzle his enthusiasm and put the issue of Constitutional and Electoral Reform in its proper perspective. During the former administration these were matters that encouraged wide public discussion and sought non-partisan support. To play politics and posture with this process would be infantile. A document that is to evolve into the Supreme Law of the land should not be treated like a child’s play thing. It must be considered a document for all the people by the people. Not a “winner take all” game of marbles.

And getting back to the witless “AUM loudmouth” who declared that: “the budget is passed so the AUF has nothing to talk about” --- he needs to be “told” of my comments, obviously hidden from persons like himself, in the bowels of my column in the Anguillian Newspaper. In my January 21, 2011 article I quoted from a New Years address by the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers because his views also reflect my own: “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 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.”

What we were saying in a nutshell was that the entire charade by the Chief Minister and his cohorts was uncalled for! What was required is to settle down and engage the British Government --- and the entire matter with the budget would be quickly put aside. Thus giving us the opportunity to move on to the many more challenging issues confronting us. The fact is we have lost valuable time by refusing to dialogue, by coming up with all kinds of nonsensical conspiracy theories and vacuous threats. Discerning Anguillians would have noticed that amidst the CM’s rants neither the Governor nor the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Officials have shown us any form of disrespect, insolent conduct or any form of retaliation. Even at the ludicrous march to the Governor’s Office where insolence and rudeness was blaringly evident ---- the Governor was extremely calm and courteous. Is the Chief Minister and his supporter’s incivility becoming an aspect of Anguillian politics? I sincerely hope not!

Again to those trusting AUM supporters who cheered obviously in relief at the forum that the saga of the budget seemed to be over, I do hope you recognize that our responsibility as citizens has just begun. We must now ask the serious questions: “ Will the unfair attacks on private investors (foreign and local) by the CM now stop? Will loose talk about an AUF/British conspiracy now end? Will the thoughtless cries for independence now be silenced? Will freedom of expression now be considered a right of all Anguillians regardless of party affiliations? Will the AUM talk show callers and hosts now wipe the tears from their eyes? When will the lies, innuendos and slander cease to be a part of the AUM governance style?

The fact that the budget has “passed”, or to put it more accurately received the prior sanction of the FCO, through simple dialogue and courteous engagement --- only goes to show in the words of Sir William Shakespeare that there was indeed “much ado about nothing!”

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
March 1, 2011

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