Thursday, 17 November 2011
As a consequence of the amount of rumour, speculation and accusations spreading around Anguilla in the wake of the breakdown of the business arrangements between the principal owner of Cap Juluca, Mr. Adam Aron and a major creditor and former owner, Mr. Charles Hickox, our party met in an emergency session on Sunday afternoon to decide on our approach to the issue. We believe that it was our responsibility as the main opposition party to show our solidarity with the workers at Cap Juluca and their families. And to indicate our willingness to support the Government in dealing with this matter professionally, despite the unsportsmanlike behaviour, which the Chief Minister and his colleagues have exhibited over the last week.
The fact that our only source of information to date is what the Government has released to the media and in light of the negative statements made by the Chief Minister and his supporters which implicate our party --- we felt it wise to make a short press statement. Even though it has been on radio and the print media I will include it here in my column for ease of reference as follows:
“The Members of The Anguilla United Front stand ready to support the Government of Anguilla in any “well-thought out” approach, which is designed to ensure that the Cap Juluca Hotel remains open. Cap Juluca Hotel has been the flagship of Anguilla’s Tourism Industry for more than twenty years and its closure would be a serious blow to the Anguillian economy especially at this time when we can ill afford to bear any further stresses to our economy. But even more serious is the impact it will have on the over 400 workers and their families, many of whom have been employed at Cap Juluca for most of their working lives --- as well as a number of other businesses that provide services to the hotel. It is not an issue that should be used as a “political football”.
Ownership disputes are not new at Cap Juluca. As a matter of fact the present owner purchased the property in the midst of a legal battle. The Government’s role in this must be professional and in the face of the limits to its legal position, must also use moral suasion to bring the issue to a conclusion that is in the best interests of the workers and Anguilla. Because of the delicate nature of the issues involved confrontational politics can only lead to a serious breakdown in the negotiations.
Of serious concern are a number of statements made by the Chief Minister and some of his advisers that seem to imply that this is the fault of the past Government; that there is a conspiracy between the Governor and the Opposition to bring down the Government; that the Attorney General is advising him wrongly; and more of the usual conspiracy theories and the blame game. At a time when the people of Anguilla are hurting and the outcome of this matter is uncertain it is irresponsible for the Chief Minister to be playing politics as usual. In fact, it is an extremely dangerous game to incite workers to believe that a particular individual or group of individuals are responsible for their plight, knowing full well that it is a lie.
There are not a lot of facts in the public domain on this matter --- only rumours and speculation. However, one fact is certain and that is, that this situation has nothing to do with MoA’s or MoU’s. It is about a dispute between the parties who were involved in the legal battle over Cap Juluca. Cap Juluca is operating on an MoU signed by the Hon. Chief Minister, Mr. Hubert Hughes more than a year ago. Like many of us Cap Juluca Hotel is a business facing financial stress. A breakdown in ones personal financial situation or that of a business is not a crime.
About eleven years ago one of the parties to the present arrangement lost the property because of a default on a financial commitment and today the other party seems to be heading in a similar direction. About eleven years ago that change of ownership occurred without the need for Cap Juluca to close. Less than two years ago an ownership change also occurred without the need for Cap Juluca to close. There is no reason why we should not try to negotiate a similarly smooth transition for the present situation at all times recognizing that each party has rights to be protected. But our chances of success will be seriously limited by the accusations; the name-calling; the blame game; and the “politicking” that is taking place. There is no need for rancour and incivility. We should be trying to bring all parties to the table to forge a positive way forward.
In many ways we believe that the Chief Minister is showing helplessness and appears to be abdicating his responsibility by encouraging the workers to march to the Governor’s Office. It is our Government that must play the leadership role in protecting the interests of the workers in particular but the people of Anguilla as a whole in this matter --- not the Governor. The Anguilla United Front is prepared to support the Government fully in ensuring that Cap Juluca remains open but will not be a party to an approach that appears to be nothing more than trying to hide behind “someone’s petticoats”! We await the Chief Minister’s polite request for any assistance we may be able to provide in taking this serious matter forward to a positive conclusion.”
The host of “To the Point” in his hunger for ratings, and in a most irresponsible manner, tried to bring the Cap Juluca issue to his program. In pursuance of this he sought out the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Evans McNiel Rogers to be a part of a panel discussion on Cap Juluca. Mr. Rogers, quite aptly told him that he did not have adequate information to comment on the issue and was not prepared to accept his invitation without being armed with the facts. Apparently, Mr. Richardson proceeded with his show without panelists and used my press release to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition may not have been forthright in his statement because his Party leader seemed to have the facts. Listeners to the program have told me that one of the usual callers, was ranting and raving that I should come on the radio and talk about what is happening at Cap Juluca --- obviously he did not know that on the basis of that statement he was in fact insulting the Chief Minister and the duly elected Government.
Having made the point in the foregoing release that my party is ready to assist the Government in finding a positive way forward on this issue, I believe I have the right to explain why our party insists on a “polite request” from the Government to get our support in pursuing an objective strategy to achieve a positive solution. The overarching reason is that it appears as if the Chief Minister is at his “wits end”. In other words he does not seem to have a clue about how to resolve this issue in the least damaging way. In the circumstances, he has resorted to his “comfort zone”, namely, blaming everyone else and using the workers to threaten social unrest. There has never been a Chief Minister in the history of Anguilla or the Overseas Territories who has organized more protests against his own Government by falsely blaming other persons for situations, which are clearly within his scope of authority. We believe that the CM has to abandon that approach because it does not promote cooperation and goodwill.
This approach by Chief Minister and his colleagues has led to more questions than answers on the Cap Juluca issue. I will therefore list a few questions which have been raised to me --- so as to provoke answers that may, perchance, help to unravel the tangled web of misinformation and suggest a probable pathway to the truth.
1. Why does the Chief Minister continue to suggest that the reason for the present dispute at Cap Juluca is as a result of the MoA signed by the past Government, when in fact he signed a new MoU just over a year ago, which replaces that MoA and is now governing the relationship?
2. After claiming in the House of Assembly and other media that his Government signed an MoU to protect the workers jobs at Cap Juluca. How does the Chief Minister now claim that the possibility of closure at Cap Juluca is the fault of the past Government?
3. Why is the Chief Minister picking sides in the dispute between Adam Aron and Charles Hickox when that matter can only be handled within the legal framework of their agreement? Is the Chief Minister not exposing the Government of Anguilla to legal action by this reckless behaviour?
4. Why does the Chief Minister believe that he can remove the owner of Cap Juluca, Mr. Adam Aron and transfer the property to Mr. Hickox without expecting that Mr. Aron will defend his rights after having caused over 50 million dollars to be invested in Cap Juluca?
5. How could the Chief Minister say that only the Governor can transfer Cap Juluca to Mr. Hickox --- when he fully well knows that the Governor’s signing of any transfer is based on Executive Council approval and the preconditions for the transfer being met by the relevant Ministry, including the Attorney General’s Chambers?
6. Why did the Chief Minister encourage the workers to march to the Governor’s Office when he fully well knows that the Governor has no more authority to force the property to remain open than the Chief Minister does?
7. Who instigated the barring up of the Offices of the Manager of Cap Juluca? How is that action supposed to protect jobs and ensure that Cap Juluca remains open?
8. Having seen a copy of a letter to the Loyal Staff at Cap Juluca from the Executive Council and signed by the Chief Minister and the Governor. Why does the Chief Minister not use the same tone and balance on the public media when addressing serious national issues?
9. What is the Government’s game plan? Why do we get the impression that the Chief Minister believes that he can solve this issue by literally using the workers as “human shields”?
10. Whence came “Josie”? What is her role? How does she now react to the Chief Minister and his colleagues’ expression of complete confidence in the Attorney General and his Chambers after she spoke disparagingly about them on a public platform?
These are just a few of the questions that have been raised. I believe that our Government has gone about this matter the wrong way. There is no question that this is a matter of grave national concern. It could have serious repercussions for the entire economy. I believe that it would have been appropriate for the Chief Minister to call in all Elected Members of the House of Assembly and tell them that we are facing a serious national crisis and we need to work together to resolve it. This would have taken the politics out of the issue and allowed for national solidarity. Every single Member of the House will want Cap Juluca to survive this ordeal. They could then as a “united front” (no pun intended) formulate a “well-thought-out” strategy that could stand a better chance of success than “hiding behind someone’s petticoats”
By: Victor F. BanksVictor 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.
Posted by Realist Spikenice at 16:08