|The 2009, 50th meeting of the OECS Heads of Government|
on Anguilla paying glowing tribute to then Chief Minister
of Anguilla, The Hon. Osbourne B. Fleming.
As you all are aware, I retired from active politics almost two years ago and since then most of my time has been spent in St Croix helping out with the family business there. Nevertheless I have not given up my country Anguilla, my fellow Anguillians and in particular the residents of the Sandy Hill District who I regard as my family and who continue to be a source of strength to me. I LOVE YOU ALL. During the months ahead I plan to spend some time to socialize with you and discuss the current issues affecting Anguilla and our future. Before I go any further let me make it abundantly clear, this is not in any way intended to be a plan to relaunch my campaign. I have retired from active politics and will not be contesting any seat in any future election.
I am a senior member of the Anguilla United Front and I stand in full support my Party Leader, Mr. Victor Banks and will continue to work hard to ensure that all AUF candidates are elected next election. I am sure you may have heard rumours to the contrary, but that is mere wishful thinking of those who wish to plant disunity amongst the Anguilla United Front and doubts in the minds of our loyal supporters.
Fellow Anguillians as I said, this is not meant to be a political speech. During the past 23 months, although I spent much of my time off-island, I have remained in touch with my country and the happenings in it. I keep informed of what is said on all the talk shows; the blogs; the House of Assembly; the many press conferences; as well as radio and TV addresses. So I am in the know. As the outgoing Chief Minister, I firmly believed that the duly elected Government must be given the chance to govern. In this regard I suggested to my Party that they should not to keep any political meetings for the first year and in the second year limit the amount meetings.
You will realize I spoke at only two or three public meeting since the last election and I have been part of one or two press conferences of my party. I wanted to ensure that the newly elected Government of the incoming Chief Minister, Hubert Hughes was given an adequate chance to focus on its work. My party considered my suggestion and agreed to act accordingly. By the way I do not consider Mr. Banks’s articles as negatively impacting the Government’s capacity to function. It is a part of the democratic process. However, I did express the view on one Talk Show that they may be too long to maintain the attention of some readers. Mr. Banks has been doing an excellent job in bringing the issues to his many readers.
Fellow Anguillians, I have remained relatively quiet, despite the fact that the Chief Minister and his colleagues continued to levy accusations of corruption against me and my colleagues in the former Government. I did this even while I was fully aware of a thirty-five page correspondence submitted by Chief Minster Hughes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in which he accused me of corruption dating back to 1990, economic mismanagement, and poor governance.
I have remained quiet despite the continued blaming of my colleagues and I for destroying Anguilla’s economy through wasteful spending, by this Government and in particular by the Chief Minister and his advisor Jerome Roberts, my District Representative.
Fellow Anguillians not only did I remain quiet but on many occasions and in public forums I offered advice to the Government. I also advised my party to extend an olive branch to the Chief Minister and to offer their assistance, which they did. I did all this because I recognized that Anguilla is bigger than all of us and as citizens we must do whatever we can to ensure that our country rebounds from the world economic crisis thus allowing our people to live comfortable and happy once again. In doing this I had hoped that our duly elected Government would have taken on its role to govern this country and do all in its power to minimize the impact of the global recession on the people of Anguilla.
Fellow Anguillians, I am concerned. I am concerned that 23 months later things has gone from bad to worse. Many of our people cannot afford to meet their commitments to the banks and are losing their property and vehicles.
The crime situation continues to escalate as the unemployment situation worsens. Many of our people cannot afford a good meal, and many sleep in darkness because they cannot afford to pay ANGLEC. These things grieve my heart because as we are being reduced to poverty, and investment and business opportunities dwindle, our government has chosen to fight an imaginary war with the British.
Instead of this continued verbal attack on the Governor, Deputy Governor and the Anguilla United Front, I ask you to join me and call on Chief Minster Hughes to settle down and focus. Focus on Anguilla and Anguillians. Our Chief Minster needs to recognize that his words and his attitude, style and approach to leadership are the biggest danger to Anguilla and Anguillians today. The impression of disunity and instability in the Government and that of a battle between himself and the British are damaging the investment climate in Anguilla. Money is scarce and while they may be people interested in investing in Anguilla which seems evident by the number of MOU’s signed by our Government, these potential investors will not be able to get financing for their projects. Banks are not willing to lend money for developments in countries that are unstable.
Our Chief Minister should realize that the UK government and British interests have major shareholdings in most of the Developments Banks around the world.
Fellow Anguillians during my tenure as Chief Minister, my Government had many serious disagreements with the British. Did you ever hear of any? No and you did not because my colleagues and I dealt with them in a non-confrontational and diplomatic way. Mr. Banks, who this Government and supporters continue to demonize must be highly commended for his role in these negotiations. It is for this and many other reasons that Mr. Banks remains the most qualified of the active politicians today to lead Anguilla in these trying times. I continue to endorse him as my Party Leader and to be our next Chief Minister.
Fellow Anguillians join me in asking our Chief Minister to recognize that he is the leader of this country, not the Governor, not the British and certainly not Mr. Banks. As leader of this country he must lead in a statesmanlike manner. There is no need for marches against the Governor, for in doing so you are actually marching against your own Government.
He must recognize that there is no gain for Anguilla in this all out confrontation with the Governor and the British. Recognizing this, I offered the Chief Minister to mediate a meeting between him and the Governor with the view of ending this unnecessary impasse that continues to damage Anguilla’s image. This did not materialize because the Chief Minister appeared to want such a meeting to be done in a manner that did not allow for open and fair dialogue.
Fellow Anguillians, the most recent developments created by the Chief Minster relating to the assent of this year’s budget concern me deeply. The Chief Minster has again created an uncalled for war. That the budget was not assented to before December 31 is not uncommon. As a matter of fact when Mr. Hughes was first Chief Minister between 1995 and 1999 every one of his Government’s budget were assented to in January. In 1996 & 1998 it was January 12, 1997 January 13 and in 1999 January 21. I am sure that on each of these occasions the Minister of Finance signed the provisional Budget. I am calling on him to do the same this year, sign the provisional budget and ensure that the workers get paid on time.
Failure to do so will result in the “wheels of Government grinding to a halt”, a situation that he himself would have created, not the British Government or Governor. In a recent speech he said that he was delaying signing to pressure the British Government --- but he must realized that the only persons he is pressuring are his own people who need their wages badly.
I am also deeply concerned by the way the Chief Minister continues to degrade the Permanent Secretaries, Foster Rogers and Dr. Aidan Harrigan in particular. Though vastly experienced and highly educated the Chief Minster continues to paint a picture that these two gentlemen cannot function in their new positions. Also of concern to me are the statements the Chief Minster has recently made about the Teachers Association. I wish to personally congratulate all workers in the public service for their excellent work in challenging circumstances and call on the Chief Minster to start embracing all workers, for indeed they are the ones that make a government function effectively.
Having paid careful attention to all the noises of the Chief Minster, his colleagues in Government and supporters, it appears to me that the aim of the Government is Independence for Anguilla. If this in indeed the objective then let us go about in the prescribed manner as provided for in our Constitution. There is no need to create a war with the Governor and the British: there is no need to try to create fear in the people of Anguilla. The British Government has stated on many occasions they will not get in the way of Independence for Anguilla. So Chief Minister if the reason for all this instability and confrontation which continues to damage our little island, is for you to make the case for Independence or to get international support for Independence, then stop this at once and do the right thing. Anguilla and Anguillians are hurting, they can’t take any more. Your style, attitude and approach no doubt are the main reasons for our worsening conditions today. So if its independence you want, so you could be Anguilla’s first Prime Minster, then hold a REFERENDUM ON INDEPENDENCE AND LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE.
Thank you for listening and May God Bless you and god bless Anguilla.
By: Osburne B. Fleming - former Chief Minister of Anguilla