As if to add to the historic quality of the project, the Centre is housed in the family residence of one of the stalwarts of the Revolutionary period, Hon. Nauson Campbell Fleming who was also one of the earliest elected representatives for the District. His willingness to agree to have his family home used to advance the causes of the Hope Centre was reflexive. This is according to his son, Dr. Herbon Fleming, who traveled all the way to Anguilla with his wife to be a part of this historic event. The Centre is therefore poised to take up its role in the development of the East End and Island Harbour Districts and as a model for similar projects throughout the island.
It was also refreshing to see, for the most part, the “absence of raw politics” in the proceedings. There were speakers from all persuasions --- political, religious and generational. Indeed, the mission statement was evident in the formulation of the program, namely: “Helping Our People Excel --- H.O.P.E. is a community-based organization that seeks to develop and enrich the physical, emotional, and spiritual being of our community, and particularly the lives of our young people, through mentorship, education, the arts, sports and spiritualism”.
Pastor Gary Hodge, (the Chairman of the Board of Directors) acted as the Chairman of the proceedings but the speakers included, Hon. Edison Baird, Hon. Jerome Roberts, Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool, Dr. Herbon Fleming, Ms. Renee Fleming a successful student of the Centre, Ms. Ariela Gaskin an outstanding student from the District, Mr. Josie Vanterpool a young music student from the District and the invocation and blessing were done by Pastor Norril Gumbs and Pastor Roderick Webster, respectively, both being sons of Districts 1 & 2. All their comments, with few exceptions, were salutary and evoked an equally inspiring sense of community that could be infectious to other groups across Anguilla.
The Centre has already been playing its part in the lives of young people in the area through various classes and summer programs even during its unfinished phase. This launching and opening event has been able to showcase the facilities, furnishings, equipment and teaching tools available for creating an environment much more conducive to promoting the goals and objectives of the Centre. And the walls of the Centre is a gallery of photographs of community leaders, educators, elected representatives and exceptional achievers in various fields who have made positive contributions to these communities. The young people and other groups who will use the Centre must feel a sense of history whatever their reasons for being there.
I used the term “infectious” earlier to describe the kind of inspiration projects like the HOPE Centre can transmit to other groups and villages. Indeed, the elected Representative for Island Harbour the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool could not help but mention in his remarks a “food bank” project that likewise grew out of an idea from Mrs. Claudette Bryan and naturally gravitated towards the promoters of the Hope Centre Ltd and another successful group the Welches Village Fest Committee, to “piggy back” on their momentum and capacity to deliver on wholesome social projects. As a result, after a few short meetings and the enthusiastic and caring support of both local and expatriate residents of Anguilla they are able to launch this “food bank” project on the 23rd December just in time to deliver help to some needy citizens during this Christmas season. This is the way positive ideas feed on each other and wholesome social projects create “believers” who will cause other such projects to be realized.
But even though heartened by this atmosphere of caring, sharing and positive ideas I needed to read the Chief Minister’s Budget Address which I did not really listen to when it was delivered last Friday. Fortunately, I had listened to Mr. David Carty’s Open Letter to the Chief Minister just hours before and I picked up some “pluck” to do so. I made the decision to read the printed version of the Chief Minister’s address because I had heard a few clips from his labouring presentation in the House of Assembly and I found it painful to the ears. I was thoroughly entertained by Mr. Carty’s presentation because it seemed a long time since I heard someone so eloquently describe and satirize the kind “buffoonery” with which many persons in and out of Anguilla have labeled the Chief Minister’s conduct.
As a former Minister of Finance who has presented and heard budget addresses over the years --- I must admit that I was deeply disappointed and wondered which regional organization or institution would publish such a document in its entirety. And I am referring to the first seven and a half pages of his presentation because I can identify clearly where the technical staff of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development made its input. It is an exercise which, as professionals they (the technical) cannot compromise because when they interact with their colleagues in the ECCB, OECS and CDB they would be severely embarrassed by the quality of the presentation and of the technical analysis.
The Chief Minister’s first seven and a half pages of “political garbage” is so filled with lies and fabrications that I would not destroy my mood at this time of year to comment or respond. In fact, he has again used the “cowardly approach” of telling lies in the House where he deems he has protection from being sued. This “parliamentary privilege” which he exploits will soon however, come to haunt both he and his junior colleagues who believe they have a “new toy”. I will leave it up to my competent associates in the House, the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers and the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool to have their say. I will leave my response until a later date.
I am also aware that a written version of Mr. Carty’s Open Letter to the Chief Minister will be published in the newspaper this week so I feel very comfortable in yielding some of my space to him. I must comment though that I would have thought that given the challenges that Anguillians are facing as they approach this festive season the Chief Minister would have presented a much more convincing message of hope based on facts. Because I am sure that this Christmas will not be the same for many Anguillians.
Most Anguillians do not want to hear politics as usual; they don’t want to hear about why the Governor is stymieing the CM’s progress; they don’t want to hear about how the Opposition is destabilizing his (the CM’s) Government; they don’t want to hear how much deficit you inherited; They don’t want to hear who is forcing you to implement new tax measures; they don’t want to hear about how frugal you are in your private life or how you have never borrowed money from a bank; they don’t want to hear your imaginary stories about corruption or how clean you are; and they are tired and fed-up of you conspiracy theories.
So I would like to suggest that during this festive season when we think about receiving or giving gifts --- let us be reminded that the true meaning of Christmas includes hope for all mankind wrapped up in the birth of the infant Saviour. Let us look back to those traditions that have made this season special to all of us as a people over the years and strive to use them (those traditions) to make a difference for our family and for others.
If our people can come together and make a difference in their communities without relying on neither Government’s initiative nor support --- then we can also search within ourselves as individuals and make a difference in the lives of a few people in need of an act of kindness or some word of hope. And despite the preoccupation of others with uncovering imaginary demons from the past --- let us lift up that promise of salvation to all mankind and speak with confidence of those glad tidings of great joy!
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 theAnguillian News Paper, lyricist, and a self-employed entrepreneur.