Thursday, 3 November 2011
Over the past week culminating on Sunday, I had the opportunity to participate in a number of evangelical services on Anguilla at the Bethel Methodist Church as well as a dedication service for the newly built Good News Baptist Church in St Maarten. All of these events were to say the least inspiring. And the messages that emanated from the various pulpits were both uplifting and edifying. Among several others, there seemed to be a common theme in all these events, that is, the role of the Christian Church in the community and need for believers to grow in Christ and use their special talents to bring others into the fold to make a positive difference in their communities and the world. For those who came with an open heart and mind the messages were very personal indeed. And I am certain that every heart was touched in some measure by the worship experience as a whole.
The dedication service in St Maarten, however, had an additional dimension that transcended the “spoken word” and the worship and fellowship experience. It was the physical manifestation of what can be achieved by Leaders with a strong faith motivating “god fearing” people to do great things. I am certain that every single Anguillian (and there were over a hundred strong) who made the decision to travel to St. Maarten to attend the dedication service for the Good News Baptist Church in St. Peters were exceedingly proud. That pride comes from the fact that a young Anguillian Pastor and his family decided to move to St. Maarten seven years and seven months ago and led a congregation of believers to do great things. It was not in a “strange land” given our historical, social, familial and economic connections, but it was certainly not the country of his birth and infant nurture. Pastor Roderick Webster as a new Pastor assigned to a church already established for thirty-five years, convinced his congregation to tear down the old church building and construct a new one from the ground up.
The new Good News Baptist Church dedicated on Sunday October 30th, 2011 is a magnificent edifice in the heart of the St. Peters Community. It is an imposing structure without and awesome sanctuary within. Its beauty and splendour is befitting the purpose for which it was built --- to worship and glorify God. And only strong faith, perseverance and sound leadership could have led to its completion.
It is also very obvious that Pastor Webster is well loved and respected by his congregation, which is a clear indication of caring and understanding leadership. We salute Pastor Webster for this demonstration of how good Leadership constrained by a love of God can move people to do exceedingly greater things than they even imagined. Not only his colleagues in the Priesthood Ministry --- but those in the Political Ministry who were invited to the service as well, liberally heaped such salutations and kudos on the Pastor and his family. One could not but reflect on the biblical observation that “ a prophet is not without honour but in his own country.”
Speaking of caring and understanding leadership the cries of many people in our beloved country Anguilla ring out as they try to make sense of what has actually befallen them. Everyday we stumble from one crisis to another as if to remind us of the predictions of Rev. John A. Gumbs that “we would be punished”. Unhappily though, that punishment was not predicted to apply to persons who voted for the AUM, but to the Anguilla United Front supporters who in their loyalty to a government that gave them several years of prosperity and decisive leadership voted for the AUF. According to the AUM cleric, in so doing they “committed an act against God”. As lesser mortals, and like “the publican standing afar off” many of us must have said: “God be merciful to me a sinner!” The reality is that the AUM and the AUF supporters as well as the APP and other independents in between may be suffering from that apparent “act of blasphemy” that was committed by a “self-proclaimed intermediary” professing to relay a missive from God. On the other hand without claiming to received any revelation from the most high, I had predicted during the election campaign that the AUM could “fly an election campaign but could not land a government!” Just in last week’s Anguillian alone there were two contributions that give support to my point view, namely, a “Letter to the Editor” by Mr. Sheridan Smith and an “Open Letter to Honourable Walcott Richardson” by the Honourable Edison Baird, the Minister of Social Development. I will discuss them briefly to elucidate my point.
Mr. Sheridan Smith’s Letter. In his letter to the editor Mr. Smith was for the most part commenting on a discussion of a letter that he sent to the Chief Minister as the Minister also responsible for Finance and Economic Development on July 1, 2011 and copied to the Anguillian for public information/education. The letter presents a clear proposal worthy of discussion on how the Government might develop some new revenue streams. Mr. Smith’s proposal became the subject of discussion on the well-known “ Mayor’s Show” between three Anguillian panelists living in the United States. According to Mr. Smith as usual Mr. Haydn Hughes, the Parliamentary Secretary called in with an intervention that exposed a concession for the Viceroy based on the full waiver of alien landholding licence fees for a period of five years. Mr. Smith’s view is that though his proposal suggested a reduction in alien landholding licence fees, it was based on an industry wide concession to stimulate the economy rather than an individual property.
Obviously, Mr. Smith’s proposal could take some fine-tuning but it is not far removed from the concession that the Anguilla United Front granted in the early period of the recession to stimulate the sale of high priced real estate for a period of twelve months in the first instance. The concession was made known in a release from the Ministry of Finance on July 1, 2009, which in part read as follows:
“During this period of financial constraints it is important that we make every effort to revitalize the real estate sector as well as the construction activity, which flows from it. This does not mean a relaxation of the policy on land alienation as it relates to undeveloped land but assisting properties that are already developed to be disposed of when required. It is apparent that when times are tough every penny counts and real estate agents and property owners have been complaining that the high alien land holding licence fee is a disincentive to buyers from outside of Anguilla. In these times of tight liquidity it is important to attract financial resources from outside of Anguilla. This can be achieved without embarking on a program of massive land alienation. That would not be a good thing in the long term.
To address these needs the Government of Anguilla (GOA) as a part of its Fiscal and Economic Recovery Plan (FERP) will be putting in place an incentive to generate economic activity in this area. In this context, the Government, effective today July 1, 2009, will reduce the Alien Land Holding Licence Fees on real estate transactions on built development. On such transactions the applicable fees which are set at twelve and a half percent (12.5 %) will now be reduced by fifty percent (50%) for real estate transactions valued at less than Five Million U.S. Dollars (> US$ 5,000,000) --- and by sixty percent (60%) for real estate transactions valued over Five Million U.S. Dollars (< US$5,000,000). This means that the applicable fees for these categories will now be six and a quarter percent (6.25 %) and five percent (5%), respectively. This incentive will be for a period of twelve months ending June 30, 2010.”
While I am not acquainted with the details of Haydn Hughes’s stated concessions I am surprised that as one of the “campaign pilots” of the AUM that criticized the Anguilla United Front for excessive concessions --- he seems to be boasting about specific concessions to one property exclusively. The point that Mr. Smith so eloquently makes is that such a concession must be for the general real estate sector rather than for any particular project --- which is exactly what the Anguilla United Front did. The general AUM behaviour continues to demonstrate that the same policies which they condemned are the ones they are forced to adopt --- but without a sense of balance and careful analysis.
Mr. Smith in his letter also makes a point worthy of repetition as he analyzes our present predicament when he wrote: “The one thing this government has achieved is that it has squandered the people’s trust. …. “Just imagine that these cowards would go Into the House of Assembly just to be able to curse each other. And if anyone disagrees with them they go to the extremes to annihilate the character of hardworking honest citizens.” … “Who left Anguilla in a will just for them?” Four of my “oft repeated” points are included in that quote from Mr. Smith: 1) They have deceived Anguillians. 2) They are cowards. 3) They cannot take criticism. 4) They believe that the rules do not apply to them.
Mr. Baird’s Letter to Mr. Walcott R’dson. In his open letter to Mr. Richardson the Minister of Education laments his inability to get consensus from his own colleagues in Government to pass the Education Bill 2011. All this despite the fact that it was agreed in Executive Council after a period of wide consultations; later taken to the House of Assembly where its second reading was postponed by the Speaker of the House acting in her own discretion; brought back to Executive Council for further amendments; it was re-gazetted for further public consultations; the Bill was then openly opposed by the Minister’s colleagues on public talk shows; and the Minister has now decided that after eight times it would be futile to take the Bill back to Executive Council unless he receives his colleagues’ objections in writing. This whole issue is shameful example of the inability of the Chief Minister to manage and control his own Government. It is a national political fiasco. It reinforces my point that the AUM cannot “land a government”. There is opposition from without and within and the Chief Minister is helpless to do anything about it. He cannot control his own Ministers! And it brings back the question raised by the same Mr. Baird in “His Confessions” in his other statement to the Press entitled: “Who Runs Anguilla?”
Mr. Baird points out that the purpose of the Bill is to “provide for the orderly and coordinated development of a relevant, varied and comprehensive educational system in Anguilla characterized by excellence.” He indicates that his colleagues’ opposition to the Bill after such extensive discussion and consultations is “unfathomable and unreasonable”. And he emphasizes the fact that “it is unfair to the Anguillian children, through inaction, to allow other islands to run furiously ahead of us.”
This entire issue raises serious questions! In this challenging period when it is necessary to have stability in Government why are Ministers bickering among themselves on national media? Is the Chief Minister capable of resolving this matter with his Ministers? Is Mr. Baird satisfied with the relationship he has with his Ministerial Colleagues? Is Mr. Baird the problem or is it the other Ministers? If Mr. Baird is the problem why does the Chief Minister not dismiss him? If Mr. Baird is having problems with the Chief Minister and his colleagues on the other hand why does he not resign? This is a real dilemma which points to deeply rooted dysfunctions in the Government. And must have a serious effect on achieving good governance. Unlike the Good News Baptist Church there is no caring and understanding leadership in the GOA providing positive motivation for our people in these challenging times.
Finally, I have intentionally decided not to comment at this time on the present situation at Cap Juluca --- even though the blogs are filled with the usual “smoke screens” seeking to divert attention and spread lies. We recognize our responsibility to allow the principals involved at the ownership level, to resolve their issues within the legal framework of their agreement without any real or perceived interference from our party. Even though we remain concerned about the number of “loose statements” which the Chief Minister continues to make without regard for the delicate nature of the issues involved. Everyone is hurting! It is time for some Good News!
By: Victor F. Banks
Posted by Realist Spikenice at 17:36