Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 2 June 2011


The 44th Anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution and Anguilla Day passed with a bang. It culminated with the “Around the Island Boat Race” which I had the privilege to enjoy, in living color, from the deck of my friend’s powerboat, on the beautiful waters around Anguilla’s breathtaking coastline, amidst what can best be described as a “Carnival at Sea”. At no point in the race was there any question who would be the winner. The “Real Deal” led the pack from start to finish. The race was therefore relegated to a “contest for second place” as De Tree, the Sonic, the Stinger and the Miss Anguilla “battled it out” for that position, ending up second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively. As a novice to the sport, I could not help but marvel at the strategies employed by the various captains many of which seemed counter-intuitive. In fact, at one time I questioned the sanity of one of the captains who seemed to be headed for Crocus Bay rather than Sandy Ground. Later I was amazed to see that same boat engaged in the battle for the finish.

The large party boats, the Mr. Ray and the Captain Chrissie with their huge crowds and festive atmosphere gave the distinct impression that the recession was on holiday. And up to the time of writing I received no information regarding any negative incidents in connection with the weekend as a whole. Meaning that we are again blessed with another safe Anguilla Day!

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate all the honourees for 2011 whose contribution to our national development received the attention of the Awards Committee and the approval of Executive Council. In this connection, the Honourable Evans NcNiel Rogers made a very significant point in his Anguilla Day Address this year. He commented that: “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.” Mr. Rogers focused his presentation on the need to celebrate Anguilla Day with reference to our complete history --- to include the struggles of our people before the Anguilla Revolution. He made the point that “every single generation exists and prospers because of the skill, enterprise and sacrifices of those that preceded it.”

The Governor in a very balanced presentation at the Ceremonial Parade also spoke directly to the need for unity. I must take the full excerpt from the Governor’s address because to do otherwise may dilute the quality and completeness of that exhortation. He said: “I would like to join the AUM manifesto’s call for national unity – not that we always agree with each other but that we always work together in a shared common purpose. That we avoid the easy path of attacking and blaming and take the sometimes more difficult path of co-operation! Co-operation between politicians, whatever their allegiance; co-operation between government and the private sector; co-operation that values the contribution made to this island by all who live in Anguilla, whatever their nationality or race! I certainly repeat the pledge made by Henry Bellingham during his visit that the British Government is ready to work in partnership with the Government and people of Anguilla. We need the path of co-operation and unity more than ever. The people of Anguilla need us all to show that unity, and to work together to lead our island through the present economic difficulties to better days and more prosperous times.

This exhortation by the Governor, perhaps more than anything else, established a practical definition for the term “a government of national unity” which the Chief Minister and his supporters continue to talk about. The Chief Minister always uses the term in the context of the evils of “party politics”. In fact, he has been successful in getting a number of persons to accept the view that political parties are bad. When confronted with the reality that he also has a “political party” I have heard him say (with my own two ears) that he does not have a political party he has a “movement”. What can I say? The man is a genius! Again another play on words that he uses so effectively to befuddle some Anguillians --- like the imaginary difference between an MoU and an MoA. But the distinction that flows from the Governor’s address, intentionally or otherwise, is not a condemnation of political parties as the Chief Minister tries to propagate for his own interest --- it is, that despite our differences political, physical, religious, and so on, we can still work together to achieve common goals. He uses the term “co-operation” almost as a synonym for the “national unity” to which the Chief Minister refers. This in stark contrast to the viewpoint widely held by AUM members that “national unity” means the suppression of the right of members of the AUF to express their views on any forum, particularly, when they are critical of the Government. And as for Hubert, the term “government of national unity” means an island wide political arrangement in which he is the Chief Minister.

Again, intentionally or otherwise, the Governor also caused many of us to reflect on the fact that the Chief Minister stood for election in 1961 on behalf of Bradshaw’s Labour Party. He said: “there was always a minority who supported Bradshaw’s aim of forcing Anguilla into an unwanted federation, as a distinctly junior member. Anguillian candidates stood for election on behalf of Bradshaw’s Labour Party in 1957, 1961 and 1966 and were always soundly defeated. It is tempting to suggest that they did so for their own political advancement. ” The Chief Minister’s scandalous defense of Mr. Bradshaw last year at the Anguilla Day Ceremonial Parade could probably suggest a continuation of his allegiance to that party. But the key point I wish to make is that it is hypocritical for the Chief Minister to condemn political parties as a source of divisionism when he has been and remains a member of political parties for his entire career as a politician. The existence of political parties in Anguilla need not be considered a hindrance to co-operation on issues with a “shared common purpose”. In fact, political parties should enhance co-operation in the nation because they organize and coalesce the views of disparate groups under one umbrella --- often referred to as “a big tent”.

As a former trade unionist, the Chief Minister understands the importance of structure in the advancement of the interests of particular groups. The economies in our region during the colonial period were labour intensive and as a consequence when universal suffrage (the right to vote) was granted to all citizens of mature age --- labour unions became the foundation and even the building blocks for political parties of the day. The key here being the ability of the unions to organize the interests of its members as well as other marginal groups in the society. Whereas, Bradshaw’s Labour Party did not reflect the views of the majority of Anguillians on the issue of the tripartite federation, the minority interests on Anguilla found expression in Bradshaw’s Labour Party.

The Governor also used the occasion, intentionally or otherwise, to make the point, the AUF has been making time and time again, that the big “call to arms” to achieve independence is not necessary. So on the first Anguilla Day after the big hullaballoo about the need for Anguillians to rise up and fight for their independence like they did in 1967 and the call by the Chief Minister for the rest of the community to emulate the prisoners and commit acts of violence --- the Governor reinforces the absurdity of such action. He said: “the UK is committed to the principle of self-determination which allows the people of Anguilla to determine their own future. There is therefore no need to talk of a “struggle” for independence in the way that the people of Anguilla did have to struggle for separation from the federation that was proposed for them in the 1960s”. It is clear that the timing of Independence is up to us --- there has never been any documentation from any department or agency of the British Government that gives any indication that this is not so. What exists on our end is the lack agreement on the timetable. While there are those who propose independence now --- others see a more gradual approach which involves a process of education and preparation on several fronts. Independence is ours for the taking when the required majority decides that is what they want. There is no need to create “smoke screens” to evoke sympathy for political incompetence.

The final point which I must lift from the Governor’s address is how he used the theme: “unity and cooperation at work” to point out that many of the complaints from the Chief Minister and his Ministers stem from bad governance. Intentionally or otherwise, he clearly used the principles espoused in the AUM manifesto to condemn them for the several occasions when they chose to avoid the cooperative discussion of Executive Council and the House of Assembly for advice given behind the scenes. The matter of the US$200 million loan and the planned hostile takeover of ANGLEC come to mind. While these issues have been discussed “ad nauseam”, what is interesting is the Governor’s example of “unity and cooperation at work”. He said: “More recently, after a few hiccoughs, the British and Anguillian Governments reached a co-operative agreement on this year’s budget – in which the British Government with their ultimate responsibility for the level of Anguilla’s borrowing respected the right of the Government of Anguilla and House of Assembly to introduce the revenue measures they considered appropriate, and to decide the right balance of expenditure and revenue measures.” It is interesting that the Governor should point to this as an example of “unity and cooperation at work” because this is an area which the Government considers a victory for their confrontational “style, approach and attitude”. In fact, the Chief Minister celebrates the statement made by the consultant that “this budget stands!” as a victory for his Government and actually made mention of it in his address at the JRW Park. It would be a blatant example of the Chief Minister’s naivety if he really believes that an independent consultant can make a statement that “this budget stands!” without the “complicity” of the FCO. And I would hope that listeners to the Governor’s comment quoted above would also understand what is meant when he said and I repeat: “the British Government …. respected the right of the Government of Anguilla and the House of Assembly to introduce revenue measures they considered appropriate.” It simply confirms that it is the Government of Anguilla that agreed the tax measures --- the British Government did not force them to put any particular tax in place. By the way, speaking of taxation I can now confirm for those persons who read my column last week that the Chief Minister paid up all the arrears on his property tax on January 6th 2011 and following his example the Minister of Works, Hon. Evan Gumbs also paid up his arrears in full on February 7th, 2011. Both these Ministers had refused to pay their property taxes for several years and for different reasons.

But perhaps the Chief Minister had the last laugh! After the experience last year many expected that he would deliver another lengthy presentation. However, even though he did not squander the glorious opportunity to attack and blame the “usual suspects”, the brevity of his presentation drew a tremendous applause of gratitude from the sparse crowd who braved that past experience to attend the Ceremonial Parade yet another time. However, I am certain that while he claimed to have been asked not to respond to the comments of the Governor and the Leader of the Opposition during their presentations, he will have his say at the next several available opportunities.

I took the opportunity that presented itself to clarify the nagging question regarding the correct wording for one of the verses in the chorus of the National Song since both composers were present to receive Anguilla Day Awards. My question to the composers Messrs. Alex & Ronnie Richardson was whether the verse should read: “with hearts and souls we’ll build a nation proud, strong and free” (which I am tired of hearing) or should it read “with heart and soul etc. etc.” Even though I knew I could “google” it --- I felt more gratified to hear the answer from the composer’s lips. The answer I received has strengthened my resolve to start a campaign to make sure that everyone sings the National Song correctly. And by next Anguilla Day let us all sing it out melodiously “with heart and soul”. A friend also pinched me that next year I might need to work on the correct tune.

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
May 31, 2011

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