Saturday, 26 November 2011
I was amused by the exchanges between the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool, the Elected Member for Island Harbour and the Hon. Haydn Hughes, the Parliamentary Secretary on several media over the past week. It began with Mr. Vanterpool's response to an interview over Radio Anguilla by the Chief Minister in which he accused the Anguilla United Front of being responsible for the challenges at Cap Juluca. The Chief Minister also used the opportunity to boast that he is "more qualified than all of them (the AUF) put together!". The exchanges as a whole, but in particular the line of defense put forward by Mr. Haydn Hughes regarding statements made by Mr. Vanterpool about the negotiation of MoU's, caused me to question whether our people are really listening.
Are people actually keeping track of the statements the Chief Minister and his colleagues have been making since the election campaign; through to their ascendancy to Office; and over the last twenty-one months? Were they actually paying close attention --- I would be most surprised if they would continue to accept that this Government is genuine in terms of its campaign promise to turn the economy around in three months; its pledge of integrity, transparency, openness, good governance, honesty, and fairness; its condemnation of nepotism, favoritism, party politics and conflicts of interest; and its call for a united Anguilla.
In reflecting on whether or not Anguillians are actually paying attention to the behaviour of this Government since it came to office, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be a good thing to actually catalogue some of the many inconsistencies between word and action. In other words, the difference between what the Government professes that it will do --- and what it actually does, both individually and collectively. My reason for doing so is because it is a puzzlement to me (as it is to many others) how the very same people who, rightly or wrongly, accuse the Anguilla United Front for a particular kind of conduct could support the present Chief Minister and his colleagues in the identical conduct it claims to condemn. Or why it is that certain rules applicable to the past AUF Government do not apply to the Chief Minister, his colleagues and his advisors.
I have observed that there are five very common excuses for the AUM Government's failures, namely: 1) The United Front left the Treasury empty; 2) The United Front created this situation while they were in Office; 3) The United Front is not allowing the Government to function; 4) The Governor is sabotaging the Government; and more recently, 5) It is not the Government it is the global financial and economic situation.
I will endeavour to be concise in my presentation of the inconsistencies but I certainly cannot be exhaustive because there are many more examples than those I have almost randomly selected. However, it is my intention to provoke more focused reflection by putting a number of these examples of contradiction and inconsistency in one place. Here goes:-
· During the election campaign the Chief Minister claimed to have a "secret plan" to turn Anguilla around in six weeks. Now that he cannot deliver on that plan, twenty-one months, later he resorts to blaming the past Government for leaving the Treasury empty.
· Upon ascending to Office the Chief Minister accused the past Government of excessive borrowing. Yet in less than a year they borrowed ninety four million dollars from Social Security System alone.
· The AUM Government criticized the United Front for being reckless with the Social Security Fund when we created ASSIDCO as an investment arm of the Fund. Yet one of the Chief Minister's first executive acts after coming to Office was to sign a document pledging present and future funds of the Social Security System to secure a loan from an unaccredited lender for US$200 million.
· The Chief Minister and his colleagues campaigned on Good Governance. Yet when he signed the authorization for the borrowing of US$200 million he did not seek, nor did he obtain Executive Council or House of Assembly approvals as required by law.
· The Chief Minister and his colleagues campaigned on transparency and accountability. Yet when he was questioned why he did not seek EXCO and House of Assembly approval as required by law he said that he did not do so because he knew he would not get the approval of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Is this not circumventing, the principles of good governance?
· During the campaign the Chief Minister and his colleagues claimed that if the Anguilla United Front were re-elected they would impose new taxes. Now that have been elected and have imposed new and increased taxes he is now saying that these taxes were already in place and that they are British taxes not his.
· During the campaign the Chief Minister and his colleagues strongly condemned nepotism. "Nepotism is the practice among people in power and influence of favouring their own relatives, especially giving them jobs." (a definition from an Oxford Dictionary). Yet the day after the Chief Minister was elected he appointed his oldest son Haydn as Parliamentary Secretary and the pattern has continued ever since with other colleagues.
· The Chief Minister claimed that he would revise all MoA's to MoU's upon coming to Office and recoup the revenue that he claimed the Anguilla United Front gave away. Yet the first MoU that the Chief Minister signed resulted in the Government of Anguilla eventually losing 18 million dollars in tax revenue.
· The Chief Minister claimed that the Anguilla United Front negotiated MoA's "in the bush". Yet the Viceroy MoU is purported to have been negotiated by the Parliamentary Secretary alone; prepared on Starwood Capital stationary; and signed by the Chief Minister without the approval of Executive Council and unbeknownst to some of his Ministerial colleagues.
· The Government accused the Anguilla United Front of giving away too much on the Cap Juluca MoA. Yet the Hon. Jerome Roberts and the Parliamentary Secretary Hughes boasted of negotiating an MoU for Cap Juluca in which they gave away over seventy acres of pond lands; seven acres of national park beach front lands; the right to remove coral reefs from the foreshore up to 100 feet; and an option for Anguillians to purchase a 20% interest in Cap Juluca. They have in fact given much more concessions than they accused the AUF of granting!
· The Chief Minister, his colleagues and advisers boast that they reduced a deficit left by the Anguilla United Front from $70 million to $20 million in a matter of months. Yet they were never able to generate enough revenue to cover recurrent expenditure during the same period. Where did the money come from?
· The Chief Minister talks about honesty and forthrightness. Yet when questioned at one of his Press Conferences about an official report published in the newspaper regarding his salary he declared: "I do not know what my salary is it goes directly to the Bank. I don't even look at it!" Yet this is a man who knows everybody else's financial affairs!
· The Government ran on a platform of good governance. Yet the Minister of Utilities and the Chairman of the Social Security Board orchestrated a hostile takeover of ANGLEC, a publicly owned company, without following due process, apparently to expedite the party agenda. The same shareholders whose rights they claim to champion --- they were planning to make mere spectators in the decision making process of the company.
· The Chief Minister claims to be transparent with the use of public funds. Yet as Minister responsible for Social Security after being asked two specific questions in the House of Assembly by the Elected Member for Island Harbour, he still has not responded as to whether Social Security Funds were used to pay the legal fees of the lawyer in the ANGLEC case. What is the CM hiding?
· The Chief Minister claims that only the Governor can repeal or amend the draconian and "IRS style" penalties in Interim Stabilization Levy Act. Yet he passed an amendment of the Customs Act in House of Assembly to reduce the import duty on vehicles and spare parts by 50 percent. What is the difference? Just like they amended the Customs Act they can also amend or repeal any inequitable or unfair aspects of the Interim Stabilization Levy Act if required.
· The Chief Minister is fully aware that the British Government has pledged not to stand in the way of the Overseas Territories rights to self-determination and independence once it is the expressed will of the people in a referendum. Yet the Chief Minister continues to provoke social instability by giving the impression that there is need for civil disobedience to achieve that status.
· The Chief Minister boasts about being squeaky clean. Yet there is a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head because of the government lands leased to one of his tenants to build a Shopping Mall. That tenant was the first local developer granted duty free concessions since the AUM government came to office. The question is being raised as to who actually owns the proposed development.
· Supporters and advisors of the AUM constantly send out calls for unity. Yet they are unable to unite among themselves. One of the Ministers of the AUM continues to criticize his colleagues openly on public fora. Why is the Chief Minister afraid to punish that Minister? Does he (the Minister) have something on the Chief Minister?
· The Chief Minister knows that the situation at Cap Juluca is a longstanding ownership dispute that has its own mutually agreed framework for settlement. Why then should the Chief Minister encourage the employees to protest the Governor's Office to further his own image as a champion of the workers rather than produce any real results in their interests? Why should a self-proclaimed "champion of the workers" use them literally as "human shields" in his battles with the Governor?
· The AUM in its election campaign suggested that the past Government was corrupt and many of their Ministers, including myself would be arrested. Yet to date they have not produced any information or evidence to substantiate their spurious claims.
It is incredible that in the face of such blaring examples of the CM and his colleagues's lies and inconsistencies --- there are persons who still seek to find excuses such as those mentioned earlier. We believe that such persons really do not want to know! One famous Trinidadian Calypsonian in commenting on such willful disregard for the facts in assessing the performance of a Government coined the jingle: "We know we like it so!" In other words, it does not matter what the Government does they will not shift their support. Which has led many of us to conclude that: "there are none so blind as those who will not see!"
By: Mr. Victor F. BankVictor 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 theAnguillian News Paper, lyricist, and a self-employed entrepreneur.
Posted by Realist Spikenice at 00:49