Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 21 July 2011


For yet another year the John T. Memorial Race was both entertaining and safe. I would like to congratulate the organizers (past and present) for continuing to improve the quality of the event and for a job well done.  It must be noted that for the main race, a rider with an obvious handicap emerged the winner. His name is Walter Grant Stewart of Guyana. And despite the fact that the national team participated it was obvious that a large number of Anguillan spectators were rooting for Mr. Stewart despite the fact that he was “not from here”. It demonstrated that cycling fans seem to have a great respect for exceptional sportsmen regardless of their origin.

I am sure that our local cyclists have also been inspired by the way Mr. Stewart proved that by practice and a determination to excel, any handicap could be overcome. Much respect to the winner of the race for his effort but to every single participant as well --- you are all winners by virtue of your participation in an event, which is bringing cyclists from all over the region together. I am especially pleased that the name of my friend the late John Oliver Thomas is memorialized by this event --- he was a pioneer in the development of the sport in Anguilla and the sub-region.  I am sure that he would have been proud to know how the passion, dedication and effort he instilled in the young cyclists whom he nurtured has been manifested in the staging of this prestigious regional competition. Like many other Anguillians I felt proud.

But my pride suffered a serious setback when on the very same day of the race I received a phone call from a friend of mine in St. Maarten, who is not a belonger of Anguilla, expressing concern as to whether my Chief Minister is of “sound mental capacity”.  I was unable to get the gist of what he was saying since he was in competition with Exodus and Pantha Vibes International whose new releases were dominating the airspace at the Hope Center booth, where I was being refreshed, during the race. I therefore told him that I would call him back. Whereupon I quickly proceeded to a more quiet location to call him out of a genuine interest in ascertaining the details of my Chief Minister’s well-being. My friend then explained that the Chief Minister was invited by the Minister of Justice for St. Maarten to give an address on the occasion of International Justice Day and instead used the opportunity not only to attack the Governor and the British Government but he embarrassed his hosts --- the St. Maarten government as well.

My friend went into detail to relate the incident but I told him that while I had some confidence in his recollection I would prefer a copy of the audio recording if he were able to avail himself of such.  Not to be deterred by my request my friend sent me an audio recording of the speech promptly the following day. You may be surprised to know that on this auspicious occasion your Chief Minister spoke for three minutes and twenty-one seconds flat. I have therefore decided that to ensure that the context of his comments is made clear I will quote the full text of his address as follows:

“Good Morning! For me this is a rare opportunity to be able to address the people of Anguilla, St. Martin and St Maarten. We are all one people. My cousin Denis Richardson was Lieutenant Governor of St Maarten and Albert Fleming’s mother was born in Anguilla. So we are one people! And over my years I have always wanted to be French or Dutch instead of being British. Not that I hate Britain. I admire a lot about Sir Winston Churchill he was the wartime leader and he was great! Harold MacMillan more modern did a lot for the liberation of Southern Africa --- the famous “Winds of Change” speech, in former Zimbabwe, Rhodesia. William Wilberforce fought for the emancipation of the slaves.

So there are a lot of great British people but unfortunately Britain has an undeclared war against the people of Anguilla. And justice does not exist in Anguilla. There is no democracy because we are governed by a British Governor’s dictator. Too much power in the hands of one man --- that cannot be a democracy.

The Governor interferes even with the justice system. He can order the Attorney General to take criminal cases out of the Court. And he manipulates every system in Anguilla. And therefore the only option for us is self-determination. It means therefore that Anguilla will have to do like all the other former British Dependent Territories in the region and seek total independence from Britain.

I want us to understand that we must maintain that European heritage. This is the heritage we knew and we were indoctrinated into as such. And we benefit from the European Union. The European Union is always clamouring for functional cooperation. I tried that but the British stalled it. I wanted functional cooperation especially with the French in terms of infrastructure, seaport and airport facilities, water and electricity. The British stalled it. The French was going to build an airport in Anguilla --- the British stalled it. Now we have to be struggling with Dutch St. Maarten and Juliana to get our tourists in.

So the British have undermined the livelihood of the people of Anguilla and I want the world to know that there is an undeclared war and we will fight until we are free. Thank you for the opportunity and good morning!”

My friend was concerned that the Chief Minister would decide to come to such an important ceremony where he was invited to speak on a specific topic and use it as a platform to continue his fight against the Governor. Furthermore, that he should even suggest in his remarks that his host the St. Maarten Government and Juliana Airport were in some way giving him a difficult time to provide access for tourists coming to Anguilla.

When I listened to the recording for the first time I realized that I am so immune to the effect of such tirades over the past fifty years, since Mr. Hughes ran for office in 1961 for Bradshaw’s Labour Party, that I did not react immediately.  It was only when I placed the speech in the context of the ceremony and the venue, that it dawned on me that Mr. Hughes has no real sense of what is required of him when he represents Anguilla and Anguillians abroad. Anguillians would have expected the Chief Minister to make a speech equal to the significance of the event and the honour bestowed on Anguilla by virtue of being invited to participate.

Let me make a few points about the Chief Minister’s remarks some of which I find inappropriate for such an occasion; totally sensational; inaccurate and inconsistent. For example:  

·       To say that the British has “an undeclared war against the people of Anguilla”, to residents of St. Martin-St Maarten could suggest that the British Government has a motive to keep us in a colonial arrangement against our will. While in truth and in fact the British Government has provided us with a clear path to independence if we wish to take it.  

·       To say that justice does not exist in Anguilla to an audience outside of Anguilla does not assist our efforts to promote our island as a premiere jurisdiction with a good environment for investors and tourists alike. To further exacerbate the damage in this statement he also goes on to say that the Governor interferes with the justice system and can order the Attorney General to take criminal cases out of court. 

·       While saying that he intends to seek total independence from Britain he encourages us all to maintain our European Heritage and pursue the benefits available to us by virtue of being a part of the European Union --- a status we derive from being an Overseas Territory of Britain. It shows that he does not understand our relationship with Britain as it relates to the European Union. 

·      He claims that the British stalled his attempts to develop functional cooperation with the French. In making that statement it is obvious that he confuses the European Union (EU) concept of “regional cooperation” with the term “functional cooperation”. “Regional cooperation” for the EU means formulating projects with reciprocal benefit to Overseas Territories, which can become eligible for EU funding. As a member state of the EU, Britain will support, not stall such projects. “Functional cooperation” in its common use in the region is more of a political/administrative arrangement.  The Chief Minister’s continues to persist in his naïve belief that the French Government is going to build an airport in Anguilla with no strings attached. This is ludicrous to say the least because such an arrangement could only be another business deal. 

·       On this same point about the French and his airport, the Chief Minister suggests that because it is his position that the British stalled the delivery of that facility he is now struggling with his hosts (St. Maarten) to get tourists to Anguilla. In making that statement he is in fact undermining the continued efforts by this Government and the former Government to facilitate more efficient passenger transfer arrangements from Juliana International Airport to Anguilla. It would be interesting to find out how the St. Maarten authorities would treat this comment. 

·        He ends by ramping up his vilification of the British by claiming that they have “undermined the livelihood of the Anguillian people” and then uses this as a point of departure to declare to the world that he is engaging the British in a fight for freedom. The same empty rhetoric, which he has been using to incite the people of Anguilla into an unnecessary revolution for independence. While in fact the British Government has already agreed a clear and unobstructed roadmap to that goal. Obviously, like his hero Sir Winston Churchill the Chief Minister seems bent on becoming a great wartime leader. 

I am uncertain as to what the Chief Minister was seeking to achieve by such a display of “washing his dirty linen in a foreign public”. Is it simply posturing? Or is it in keeping with this Government modus operandi, namely, rather than negotiate in an environment, which allows for respectful exchanges and deliberations they prefer to use any available “bully pulpit” or “puppet show”? 

Earlier last week it was all about the Deputy Governor, the Honourable Stanley Reid's transfer of Permanent Secretaries. On that occasion his audience was extended to the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the President of the Caribbean Development Bank; the UK Representative for Anguilla; The Foreign Secretary; the President of the Civil Service Union; the President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and the Governor. Again it escapes me what the Chief Minister and his advisors hope to achieve by appealing to such a wide audience most of which can in no way change the issue under consideration even in a Court of Law. 

In fact, they also took the matter into the public domain via one of their usual “puppet shows” and thereby invoked a number of vacuous threats from callers against our Anguillian Deputy Governor. Yet another time the usual “callers” ascended to the issue of birthright to construct their case against an Anguillian’s decision or action. They brought the entire team of Ministers (with the exception of Mr. Baird but with the inclusion of his “rumoured replacement” Mr. Roberts) to launch their spirited attack. It was a circus for real! 

Don’t get me wrong! The past Government has had its differences with appointments by the Public Service Commission never mind with the Deputy Governor. However, we have always restricted those disagreements to face-to-face discussions; written correspondence and Executive Council. This approach was available to the present Government and even more so since these transfers only become effective six months from now.  There was therefore a lot of time for amicable discussions and perhaps even reconsideration. Unfortunately this “broad pa” approach, which the Government has adopted and dubbed “transparency”, can be counterproductive. In fact, it may even make the parties involved become even more entrenched in their positions.  And any good points made in the Chief Minister’s ten-page letter may be sacrificed. Keeping in mind that every public servant may be transferred within the service for various reasons in the interest of the Public Service as a whole.  

But I am not here to comment on the transfers in question, I simply want to make the point, yet another time, that an adjustment of the approach, style and attitude of the Chief Minister, his Government and his advisors is requisite to achieve a more effective environment and conditions for dealing with the affairs of Government. After all! Every race must not be not about a fight to the finish!

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
July 20, 2011

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