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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

“HOPE IN 2012 ???”

Mr. Victor F. Banks - former Minister of Finance,
Economic Development, Commerce and Tourism
 on Anguilla
I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Members of the Anguilla United Front and on behalf of my family and I to wish all Anguillians, residents of Anguilla, investors in Anguilla and friends of Anguilla a very successful 2012 marked, through God’s providence, by good health, happiness and prosperity. Let me also give thanks for the blessings we have all received in 2011 and the wherewithal to continue in hope and confidence into this New Year.

Our party has carried out its role as Loyal Opposition to the best of our ability with the expectation that in a democratic environment we would be able to provide balance to the issues of the time as well as support where appropriate to the policy initiatives of the duly elected Government. We have not been disruptive in that role and have especially avoided any display of civil disobedience or boisterous conduct to achieve those objectives. On the contrary we have used the media, both print and broadcast, to present our views on matters of national importance.

Many Anguillians have been impressed by the effectiveness of the Elected Members of our party in the House of Assembly, namely, the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers in his role as Leader of the Opposition and his colleague, the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool --- given their numbers vis-à-vis the Government side of the House. They must be commended for giving positive articulation to the many concerns of the voiceless citizens in our community whose views on issues may not have received such audience in this the highest seat in our democracy. Indeed there are many citizens and positions that have been abused under the shelter of “parliamentary privilege” which several Members of the Government have exploited to shamelessly attack their opponents and others with whom they have differences. Thankfully, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Vanterpool were in place to rise to the defense of such issues and such victims of “parliamentary abuse”.

I am also grateful to the supporters of the Anguilla United Front and those persons who have come to a better understanding of the issues affecting Anguilla for the encouragement they have given us to “stay the course” despite the noisiness of those persons who seem to believe that democracy is a one-way street. You have given us the confidence to continue to carry out our responsibility to inform, educate and oppose when necessary on matters of national importance. We promise to continue in a similar manner in the year ahead.

On a personal note, because my column is my sole responsibility, I must thank all those persons who have taken the time to read my weekly articles and have encouraged me to continue despite the fact that other persons, in particular many AUM Talk Show Hosts, promulgate the view that the right to freedom of expression is a privilege for supporters of the Government alone. Ironically, these are the very same persons whose voices dominate the media and various forums throughout Anguilla on a daily basis. I am however flattered that I should be credited with such awesome power by all the Members of Government as well as their most vocal commentators for my humble attempt to fulfill my role as a vehicle of the democratic process. In any event I will not give such persons any vain hope that I will be silenced in 2012. 
I listened with some concern to the Chief Minister’s interview and address over Upbeat Radio on Saturday, December 31st. And I was extremely disappointed that he seemed to want to proceed with his “failed strategy” of blaming everyone else for his inability to effectively achieve what he promised and what he was elected to do for the people of Anguilla. In particular he seems to want to blame the British Government for every aspect of his failure. It must be obvious to discerning Anguillians that the only time that we have heard that we are “under attack by the British Government”, as the Chief Minister puts it, is when he has been in office. During my thirty-one years of active involvement in Anguillian politics --- I have not heard any Chief Minister, including our Revolutionary Leader, making such claims. Neither have I heard any Chief Minister organize any protest marches against his own Government. One might then draw the conclusion that it is not against Anguilla but against Mr. Hubert Hughes himself that the Governor and the British Government are waging war --- or alternatively that this war is a figment of the Chief Minister’s imagination or construction. I cannot accept that there is any substance to either of these conclusions what I do believe is that the Chief Minister is using “smoke and mirrors” as usual, to account for his inability to deliver on his promises to the people of Anguilla and for the illusiveness of his “invisible plan”. We hope that he will change this strategy in 2012!  

Unfortunately, the people of Anguilla are “fed up” with these shenanigans. According to the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool in his Christmas Message: “It is not helpful at a time when we are striving to meet the requirements for our survival as a people and an island --- to be casting blame and aspersions on each other simply for some useless vanity. We are all in the same ship of state; facing the same hurling seas ahead; hoping for “fair winds and following seas”; and praying that we have an able team to take us safely to our destination”. In other words the Chief Minister should be giving us a message of hope and a plan of action that employs the resourcefulness of his Government and the effective support of the same technicians that served past Governments against similar challenges. We hope that he will do so in 2012!

Ras Bee in his interview with the Chief Minister asked him what was his proposal for moving forward given the gloomy scenario he painted about Anguilla being under attack; that we are so divided as a people that we are not understanding that we are threatened by Britain; that we are so divided that Britain will succeed in impelling us back into abject poverty; that the Governor interferes with foreign developers and is jeopardizing our development; that our people are accepting strange favours from the powers that be and are compromising their ethics; and that Anguilla is a jewel which the British want. The Chief Minister’s response to Ras Bee’s question was that: “we must continue to fight and bring the World Press into Anguilla!” In other words we are destined in 2012 to be engaged in an ongoing war of words devoid of any real action that can lead to a positive reversal of our present plight. And that he will continue to make noises to attract world attention. We hope that this will not be the case in 2012!
Try counting all the black dots

In his address the Chief Minister also spoke about the Budget and the fact that it is not yet signed. We believe that the budget will be signed if the Government as stated met all the commitments to which it agreed during the process. I know that the public service rose to the task of preparing the budget in keeping with the usual guidelines, that is, presenting a balanced budget. However, I fail to understand what point the Chief Minister is making when he says that these are British taxes and not his taxes. It is time for the Chief Minister to take responsibility for his own budget that includes the taxes he agreed to in EXCO by his own memorandum and steered through and passed in the House of Assembly under his own motion. I cannot recall seeing any member of the British Government sitting in the well of the House of Assembly since Henry Goddard in the early 1980’s. There are only three ways to achieve a balanced budget outside of getting budgetary aid: 1) Cut back on expenditure. 2) Increase revenue/taxes. 3) Grow the economy. It is the Chief Minister’s option to do any of the above to whatever extent is required if he has agreed that he wants to balance the budget. The British Government should not have any role to play in how he achieves this once he comes up with plausible solutions to their agreed objectives. We hope the Chief Minister will take responsibility in 2012!

While it is not my objective to make this address a critique of the Chief Minister’s interview and address it would be remiss of me not to point out our hopes and dreams for a new approach, a new style and a new attitude in 2012. It is a truism that if you use the same solutions you get the same results! The Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Rogers has memorialized the idea that it is time for the Chief Minister to change his strategy --- as we all can see it has not brought us any positive outcomes over the last twenty two months. We hope that the Chief Minister will change his strategy so as to achieve the outcomes Anguillians deserve in 2012!

Chief Minister of Anguilla hard at work
Next year will be a milestone year for the Anguilla United Movement Government. On August 15, 2012 the Government would have been in Office for half of its term. On October 15, 2012 the Chief Minister will be blessed to celebrate his eightieth birthday. We therefore hope that this year will make a difference in the way the Government sees its legacy. Halfway through its term of office and led by a Leader who must now be concerned about posterity it would be most appropriate and welcomed if the Government would now focus on delivering on the promises they made to the people of Anguilla. We hope that the Government will have a sense of history in 2012!  

We note also that the Chief Minister in his closing remarks made a plea for unity even though our attempts at extending the olive branch in November past were “slapped down” by the most condescending remarks about Members of our Party. While we have no intention of uniting behind leadership that is characterized by volatility; failed approaches; irrational conduct and vacuous boisterousness we may be encouraged to coalesce with the Government on well-thought out strategies to advance the overall progress of our island. In fact as the only united party in Anguilla the Anguilla United Front has offered to work with the Chief Minister to address the various issues affecting our country but it has proven difficult to join forces with a Leader who is unable to unite his own party? These are real questions that occupy our thoughts as we seek to make sense about where we are going as a country. We hope that we can develop an environment of reason in 2012.
The fact is that we may be running out of time with no real progress in sight. The Chief Minister and his colleagues appear to be fighting on too many fronts when they should be building bridges to recovery. Our leadership seems to be coming from the streets where the message seems to be incivility rather than from Executive Council where the emphasis should be on mutual respect and cooperation. There seems to be a belief that unity means silence from the Opposition in the face of bad policies and flawed decisions. The fact is that democracy can lead to chaos when there is a lack of respect for some individuals and groups who have the right to be a part of the process. And good governance can only be achieved if we are all prepared to abide by the laws and procedures that have been established to ensure that it is practiced and clearly understood. We hope that the positive aspects of these distinctions can be fully embraced in the way we govern in 2012.
Chief Minister Hon. Hubert Hughes and Hon. McNeil Rogers,
 leader of Her Mmajesty's loyal Opposition, at an official Anguillia's  Day
ceremony at the James Ronald Webster park. 

So as we move forward in this New Year let us advance with the hope that there will be a new view of the way forward. Let us ensure that through mutual respect we can advance the cause of unity; that we can focus on resolving the real issues rather than try to come with excuses; that our leaders can take responsibility for what they were elected to do; that our leaders employ positive strategies to bring about change; that the battles of personality will cease and that we will prevail victorious in our path to recovery. These and other blessings we hope will attend our journey in the coming year as we seek to manage the challenges before us as a people --- a people who have endured even greater trials over its torrid past. May God bless us all and may God bless Anguilla. Have a healthy, happy and successful 2012.  

By: Victor F. Banks
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.

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