Books about Anguilla


Friday, 21 October 2011


I listened with interest to the House of Assembly intermittently yesterday (October 17, 2011) whenever the opportunity provided itself among my several other preoccupations. I wanted in particular to hear the Chief Minister’s response to the issue of the Governor’s Statement to Executive Council on September 8, 2011 regarding the “ill-considered conduct of the Chief Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary” to conclude an MOU with the Starwood Capital Group on their stationery and “without authorization from EXCO, without the benefit of the advice of the Tourism Investment Committee and without having been seen or negotiated by the AG’s Chambers.” He made a response on “To the Point” last week, which I have transcribed from his own words --- but I was looking for consistency in his response. I got an earful and so did David Carty and Marcel Fahie, if they happened to be listening. As the “usual suspects” in most of the Chief Minister’s conspiracy theories I am sure we all expected it. Once the Chief Minister can avail himself of the protection of “parliamentary privilege” in the House of Assembly he uses that “cowardly route” to spout his vicious lies and propaganda. I have noticed that his leadership by “bad example” is “rubbing off” on his junior colleagues as well.

One thing has become blatantly obvious is that the Anguilla United Front’s public meeting of Saturday, October 8th “struck a nerve”. And as a testimony to that a number of the elected members in their responses in the House showed themselves to have been well versed in our presentations made on that occasion. I heard the Hon. Jerome Roberts not only comment on that meeting but our Town Hall Meeting on Sunday as well. I consider my Elected Representative, the Hon. Evan Gumbs, to be an “innocent bystander” so I will not respond to his comments even though I heard he spoke for a very long time about my twenty-eight years of service as an elected member --- an honour and privilege to which I would have thought both he and all the newly elected candidates would wish to aspire. His self-righteous proclamation of his Christian principles, which lesser mortals as myself would not dare to judge, should however cause him to understand that just like the God he serves ordained that he should be the elected representative for Valley South likewise that same God ordained that I should be “the Journalist” to report on issues affecting at least the 677 voters in Valley South who supported me --- and in truth and in fact all Anguillians. But like I said before why take advantage of an “innocent bystander”.

But I will repeat the point that I have made time and time again, namely, that the AUM and its supporters seem to believe that the concept democracy and freedom of speech or expression is a “preserve” to which only they are entitled. In fact yesterday this was reinforced by the comments made by the Chief Minister in the House of Assembly and Mr. Elkin “Larry King” Richardson (an apparent AUM sympathizer) on “ To the Point” last night. Let me demonstrate the inconsistency and ambiguity of their thinking through their own statements as follows: 
  • The Chief Minister said in the House yesterday “that in some countries political parties are prohibited from campaigning for a period after elections”. It is obvious from this comment that he believes that the Anguilla United Front is guilty of campaigning after elections. And secondly, that he has adjudged that any media that the Anguilla United Front uses to express its opposition to the actions of his Government, constitutes a campaign platform and should not be allowed. On the other hand, during the entire period of the AUF’s second term in particular, it was fine for him to use every available forum to express his political views because he is Hubert Hughes --- and, as is well known, “the rules” do not apply to him.
  • Mr. Elkins “Larry King” Richardson on his part tried to cajole Mr. Curtis Richardson on his show last night into agreeing with him that my column in the Anguillian is “dividing Anguilla”. The irony of this “sad” position by Mr. Elkin Richardson is that he is not in the “print media” but he is in the “broadcast media” yet he genuinely appears to believe that while he has the right to freedom of expression on his “show” I should not have the right to freedom of expression in my column. And even further, like other supporters of the AUM, he seems to want to determine the editorial policy for the “Anguillian Newspaper” also. Obviously, our “Larry King” seems to believe that the rules do not apply to him either.

But this attitude goes even further. A number of the members of the House yesterday made the statement that I am fighting to get back into the House. As a matter of fact the “innocent bystander” said that I should not be the Leader of the Anguilla United Front because I do not have a seat in the House of Assembly. Simply put it would appear that they want to run the AUM and the AUF as well. Our membership elects our party officials. The party officials do not elect themselves. If any member of the AUM wants to determine who should lead the Anguilla United Front let them join the party. The point I am making is that not only does the AUM and its supporters believe that “democracy and freedom of speech or expression” is a concept designed for them --- but also that only they, apparently, have the right to run for public office.

Every single elected member of this Government, including the Parliamentary Secretary, has lost a bid for public office before. Has Anguilla now elected the “Perfect Government” ordained by God, which it is sacrilegious to criticize or oppose? Maybe the AUM clerics have that view --- as one of them frequently declared during the election campaign. Someone once said that the will of the people is the will of God! However, one must never question or try to “divine” God’s will and purpose! Like the Children of Israel, Anguillians may also have to experience several manifestations of God’s omnipotence before the truth is revealed to them. But far be it from me, a lesser mortal, to make any boasts as those widely spouted by the “anointed ones” of the AUM in the House of Assembly yesterday.

But as I said earlier, it was my intention to analyze as a case study in poor governance, the Chief Minister’s response to the Governor’s Statement in Executive Council regarding the 18 million dollar fiasco caused by the July 27th Starwood Capital MOU negotiated by the Parliamentary Secretary alone. I will therefore have to fulfill that analysis albeit in an abbreviated form given the mother lode of issues now demanding my attention. First of all, I must commend the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers and the Elected Member for Island Harbour, the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool, for their questions and their stellar performance in the House today. Needless to say, as usual the Chief Minister avoided providing any substantive answer to most of his questions. However, with regards the 18 million dollar question he regurgitated what he said on “To the Point” adding a few political spins with his usual conspiracy theories, which I will ignore at this time. However, I will quote directly from what he said on “To the Point” on October 10th 2011, to expose both the lies and the examples of poor governance as follows: 

1) Mr. Hughes: “Starwood Capital came to us in New York last year June and told us that they were interested in buying the note from Citibank. … but they wanted to take our taxes on US$15 million because that is the amount the former Government agreed that they should pay their taxes on. But we said no!” My Comment: Starwood Capital Group did not negotiate taxes on the sale of the note from Citibank because when we were in Government the issue of the sale was never a subject of discussion. Starwood Capital was not even in the picture! We were preoccupied with getting the property open. The Chief Minister cannot produce any such agreement! It never existed. It is another one of his lies.

2) Mr. Hughes: “We had a lot of wrangling and most of this wrangling took place outside of EXCO. Because, as a matter of fact it is as if you go to EXCO for the Governor to decide everything. And even some Governors used to wonder why certain things come to EXCO.” My Comment: The Chief Minister is trying to justify why he did not take the matter to EXCO and to make the point that in EXCO the Governor decides everything. The fact is that the Governor is merely the Chairman of EXCO --- it is the elected members who make the decisions. And since EXCO minutes are now released to the public everyone will notice that all EXCO minutes report that: “members decided, advised, or agreed”. Not the Governor! If the elected members do not agree --- that matter cannot be passed. EXCO is to ensure transparency and proper procedures. It is where Government decisions are recorded. Actually, it also protects Ministers of Government by ensuring that their decisions have the support of the entire Government. Can you imagine what the Chief Minister would have been saying today if another Chief Minister and his son negotiated a US$500 million MOU for the people of Anguilla? Mr. Hughes good governance procedures apply to you as well! There is no justification for your misguided actions.

3) Mr. Hughes: “But the Governor in his conspiracy to mislead is saying that the Government of Anguilla would have lost 18 million dollars on that transaction. … The Governor fully well knows that even though, I signed that agreement in my office, I signed that agreement in my office because the people came in on a chartered flight and they wanted a signature before they leave.” My Comment: With whom did the Governor conspire? He made his statement in EXCO! It is on record. Mr. Hughes did not follow proper procedure! One cannot rush an agreement before due diligence is completed simply because an Investor has his chartered jet waiting on the airport. That is bad governance. There is no need in this age of technology to sign an agreement under such duress --- there is Fedex, UPS, DHL and electronic mail. What’s the rush?

4) Mr. Hughes: “But it was under provision. The proviso was that this must be approved in the EXCO. I signed it tentatively. My Comment: Where is the proviso? As soon as the MOU was signed on July 27th two days afterwards, before EXCO met or its members saw the MOU, he and his son were on the international media boasting that an MOU was signed and Viceroy was sold. One of his own Ministers admitted that it never came to EXCO. Obviously, the Chief Minister does not get the point that he and his son are not the Government. A signature of the Chief Minister cannot be tentative! It is either signed or it is not! Once you signed the document, the other party has legitimate expectations that you will adhere to the terms of the agreement. This is bad Governance!

5) Mr. Hughes: “There was an arrangement made between Starwood and the KOR Group … that they would declare bankruptcy so that it makes it easier for the KOR Group. It had nothing to do with us. That was an internal matter … this was to satisfy an American Court process.” My Comment: How could the Chief Minister accept that this arrangement between Starwood and Kor Group is a reasonable justification for fixing the market value of Viceroy for stamp duty purposes? As I predicted a year ago in my article: “So shall it be in the end!”, it would have been more appropriate to set a minimum rather than a maximum. The rushed MOU limited the negotiating capacity of the Tourism Investment Committee (TIC). This is bad governance!

6) Mr. Hughes: “We were mislead into thinking that we could get some extra money now --- but the lawyers --- our lawyers our Attorney General and their lawyers and the Developers and us had debate over whether we could draw some extra money. … We were told categorically that that was only a device to satisfy the bankruptcy.” My Comment: Who mislead the CM? It was he and he son who caused this situation! Not the Governor! The Governor did not sign the July 27th MOU. The CM did and that is the root cause of the problem! There can be no device to overrule the stamp duty assessment. It is paid on the real price! That is why the Government had to reduce its rate of stamp duty to fit Haydn’s negotiated maximum payable by the developer. That is bad governance!

7) Mr. Hughes: “Yet the Governor issued a statement sometime after without even discussing it with anybody in the EXCO --- without raising it as an issue --- you know something we could have gotten some extra money. We couldn’t because we all knew that he was not telling the truth about this --- 18 million dollars. That it is why he could not do it and that is typical of the Governor --- every now and then he will raise a particular issue with somebody to create a false impression.” My Comment: What is the Chief Minister talking about? The Governor’s statement is retrospective he is advising the Chief Minister to exercise better governance in such matters in the future --- because it could cost the people of Anguilla well-needed revenue. What can be wrong or misleading about that! But the Chief Minister is so caught up in never accepting responsibility for anything that he does not get the message. The Chief Minister must come to grips with the fact that he did not exercise good governance in this matter!

After hearing the responses of the AUM members of the House yesterday and Mr. Curtis Richardson’s performance on “To the Point”, someone declared with appropriate emphasis: “Dem could give --- but dem carn tek!”

By: Victor F. Banks
Victor Banks is a former Finance, Economics, Commerce and Tourism Minister on Anguilla. He is presently the leader of the Oposition Anguilla United Front Party, writer and author of a weekly political article for the Anguillian News Paper, lyricist, and a self-employed entrepreneur.

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