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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Anguilla Day Message - May 30 2011

Fellow Anguillians,

We are assembled on these grounds yet another time to celebrate our island home and the men and women who have contributed to its development in --- all its aspects. These celebrations mark the 44th Anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution --- a “punctuation mark” in the history of our country’s journey to where we are today. I use the term “punctuation mark” because Anguilla’s history did not begin or end with the Revolution --- but it is certainly better because of it. The Revolution was undoubtedly our finest hour.

There is much truth in the saying: “we are all dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants”. Indeed every single generation exists because of the skill, enterprise and sacrifices of those generations that preceded it. So truly speaking, today we should be celebrating Anguilla’s rich past even as we look to the future. In that context while I hail all those stalwarts in our community who will be receiving awards today as well as those who have been likewise acknowledged over the years --- it occurred to me that perhaps we should also pay tribute, posthumously, and not necessarily with awards, but with respectful mention of those Anguillians and groups of Anguillians who kept the flame alive, over the period before the Revolution, with their strong determination to “cherish the rock” through drought, famine, storms and diseases. Because they never abandoned their homeland in the height of adversity --- we can celebrate our homeland today.

It has been a good development that the Anguilla Day Awards now recognize the contributions of today’s stalwarts in our community inferring that we understand that the Anguilla Revolution is not over --- and that there is still a lot to be done and being done to make Anguilla “proud strong and free”. But it would be equally important if we now look back into our history and learn more about how we came to be who we are. Our rich culture and heritage must be our “true foundation” and the work of our historians like Don Mitchell, Colville Petty, David Carty, Dame Bernice Lake, Nat Hodge and others must be sought after, cherished and celebrated as they continue to memorialize highlights and high points of the Anguillian journey. Persons who come to live among us would then be more incline to then respect and adopt our Anguillianism rather than simply making it a flavour in their own culture.

The national pride to which we often allude would be strengthened by this demonstration of appreciation for the efforts of our forebears and the tendency to incivility and disrespect which seems to be creeping into our culture could be harnessed. Many of us tend to live in the moment, look for quick solutions, pursue instant personal gratification and therefore lose sight of the bigger picture. Our history teaches us that the Anguilla we have inherited was built on patience, sharing, and sacrifice. Today, many of us are inclined to ingratitude --- such that past deeds and kindnesses are dismissed by an attitude of “what have you done for me lately”.

Since last Anguilla Day, the situation in Anguilla has worsened. Our people have lost jobs, businesses are failing, bills are piling up, the banks have over-reached their generosity, and persons are losing homes, property and transportation. The economy continues to flounder and Government revenues are dwindling. The atmosphere is charged with a real sense of frustration and despair. These are ominous signs that things may get worse before they improve. And unfortunately, our Leaders seem to be at their wit’s end.

But the history of Anguilla has always been one of challenge. We have always survived by our wits and our stubborn determination to stay the course. There is no reason why we cannot do the same today. Just ten years ago the Anguilla United Front Government of which I am a part faced similar challenges --- but we drew on the strength and innovativeness that have driven our people over the centuries. We did not blame any one; we did not engage in confrontational exchanges; we did not denigrate our partners in the private sector, and; we did not fight among ourselves. We just did what Anguillians have always done “buckled down and got the job done”.

I am proud that during our tenure we contributed to the realization of the Anguillian dream and the vision of our forebears by real progress. Before this economic downturn we were able to deliver EC$ 70 million in road construction; 9 million in school construction; 13 million in seaport development; 50 million in training; 20 million in land acquisition for the future; 70 million in airport expansion and relocation; and 65 million in reserves just to name a few areas. That is a total of almost EC$300 million in direct public sector development. But in addition, we were able to attract almost a billion US dollars in foreign direct investment. Every single Anguillian shared in that prosperity.

Later today many of us will enjoy the “Around the Island Boat Race”. According to Mr. Bob Rogers very few of us will stop to think about how boat racing evolved as a part of our culture. According to Mr. Rogers, a celebrated stalwart of the Revolution, it was not because our people were idle and wanted something to do --- it was done as a response to the economic situation at that time. Our forebears needed fast boats that could travel between Anguilla and St Martin or Anguilla and St. Barths quickly and specifically overnight ----- or that could bring back the men folk quickly from Santo Domingo when the sugar cane crop was over. Fast boats facilitated their trade --- legal and/or otherwise. So what was a part of our struggle for survival --- has now become a part of our culture. Yet another reason why this rich past must be celebrated on Anguilla Day along side our revolutionary heroes and heroines and the outstanding citizens of today.

Our prescription for future success lies in leadership that adheres to the tried and proven approaches of our past. The Honourable James Ronald Webster, the father of the nation, said in his remarks on the National Day in his honor this year and I quote: “Seeking political office is an enormous national commitment. But only well-qualified persons in terms of education, dedication and integrity, and with the right leadership charisma, should be selected for public office at the highest level. This holds true whether it is by the ballot box or other forms of legal appointment”.

Through this powerful statement, Mr. Webster outlined the clear path to success for those who seek to aspire to becoming leaders of Anguilla. It is a path consistent with his earliest vision that he did not want us to become a “nation of waiters and bus boys”. The principles implicit in that statement remain the common thread that has sustained every generation of Anguillians. It is not about standing in line “head bowed” with the “begging bowl” at the community of nations --- but using our skill and intellect to achieve success.

By: The Hon. Mcniel Rogers, Leader of the Oposition on Anguilla.

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