Books about Anguilla


Sunday, 22 January 2012


The Chief Minister was interviewed by a most “accommodating host” on “To the Point” on Monday January 16, 2012. And true to form, with an assortment of lies and other distractions he tried to explain away the fact that he was able to get his colleagues in EXCO to agree to pay him EC$40,000 for calls made from his home phone some fifteen years ago. The Chief Minister reverted to his usual “smoke screen strategy” by pointing the blame to the past Government; suggesting that he was the victim of a political conspiracy; and that members of the past administration had done worse things. You would not be surprised to hear that he brought the former Minister of Finance into the equation so as to rally his usual callers to defend him against the “wicked schemes” of Victor Banks. After the tone was thus set, the “accommodating Host” opened the phone lines for the “kill”. I will come back to that “killing field” and the “character massacre” that ensued, later!

One of the Chief Minister’s main defenses was that he had refused to pay his property tax because the past Government did not honor his claim. Even though this is not a valid excuse to avoid paying his taxes to begin with --- the fact is that the Chief Minister had not been paying his property tax for many years before this matter came up. In fact, Mr. Hughes has never willingly paid property tax. He has always had to be forced to do so and usually only when he is in the Government. So even that lame excuse is a lie! There is absolutely no connection between the payment of property tax and the fact that he was not able to convince the past Government and officials in the Treasury that he should be paid EC$40,000 for a questionable claim. It is all a lie designed to convince Anguillians that it is not about his personal self-interests nor about a possibly fraud.

See Nothing Hear Nothing Say Nothing
When asked to explain why all these Government business calls had to be made from his home phone the Chief Minister explained that as Minister of Tourism he had to make calls to England, France and Germany in the morning before he went to work because of the time difference. I will not waste the time to ask why the Chief Minister had to call these European countries so frequently from his home or to question whom he was calling. As a former Minister of Tourism myself I cannot recall that level of activity to justify EC$40,000 in phone calls over a twenty-eight month period. And I almost fell off my chair when the Host, Mr. Elkin Richardson commented that “as a responsible journalist” he had to ask Mr. Hughes whether this money would be paid to Cable & Wireless. Based on my experience I would not consider Mr. Richardson to be a journalist --- and to add the adjective “responsible” would be almost sacrilegious.

Anguillians suspect the Hon. Chief Minister is being 
very much disingenuous.
But the next day (Tuesday, January 17) I was privileged to listen to an interview with the Governor Harrison conducted by Mr. Keith “Stone” Greaves over Radio Anguilla. Besides the stark contrast between the journalistic skills of Mr. Greaves and Mr. Richardson, the quality of the interview was balanced and professional. Mr. Greaves’ questions were respectfully incisive and the Governor’s responses were polite and “to the point”. I listened to every minute of the interview that covered the full range of issues that have been in the spotlight for the last month. However, for the purposes of this article I want to highlight the Governor’s response to the question Mr. Greaves asked about the Executive Council decision to reimburse the Chief Minister for his fifteen year old phone bill. The Governor replied that he had disassociated himself with the decision mainly because in his experience with the British Government he was not accustomed to having claims submitted for payment so long after the expenditure was incurred. In fact, he said in many cases such expenditures would not be honoured after as little as three months. He went on to say that he had made a full statement to the Executive Council on the matter.

Immediately after that live interview with the Governor, I went to Government website and got a copy of his statement to EXCO at the meeting of Thursday 5th January. The excerpt from the EXCO minute that contains the full text of the Governor’s statement under the caption, “Reimbursement of telephone bills to Hon. Chief Minister”, reads as follows: The Governor indicated that he was dissociating himself from the decision on the Chief Minister’s telephone bill and made the following statement: “I fully accept that under Anguilla’s internal self-government the decision on whether to reimburse the Chief Minister EC$40,000 for his telephone bills from November 1997 to March 2000 during his previous time in office is one for the elected members. But I would like to dissociate myself from the decision on the grounds that too much time has elapsed and that no clear audit trail has been presented to EXCO. The original assertion in Hon. Richardson’s paper that at that time both personal and official calls were paid for is certainly inaccurate, as I checked with Mr. Hughes predecessor Sir Emile Gumbs and his successor Osbourne Fleming. Both told me that they paid for their personal calls themselves. The Accountant-General’s information also falls short of confirming the assertion. In any case, all claims for expenses should be made promptly, which by no stretch of the imagination is true in this case.”

This statement by the Governor should be very instructive to those persons who believe that the Governor runs EXCO. A falsehood the Chief Minister continues to perpetrate on the people of Anguilla, whenever it suits his purposes. Especially when he does not want to accept blame or responsibility for an action or a lack of action. The Governor stated clearly that even though he opposed the reimbursement, it was a decision for the elected Ministers to make. He then further proceeds to make three crucial points: 1) There is no clear audit trail to support the validity of the claim. 2) It was never a Government policy to pay the home phone bills of Chief Ministers. 3) The Account-General’s information does not support Chief Minister’s claim.

The Governor’s statement in EXCO leads one to question how the other Ministers of Government could support the Chief Minister in this questionable claim. But it is to say the least astounding, that the Chief Minister could make the inconsistent statements he made on “To the Point” talk show. At one time he said that it was a Government line at another he said it was his line. And when he felt he had sufficiently made the case for his conspiracy theory, that purports that he rather than the people of Anguilla was the victim, his “accommodating hosts” opened the phone lines to his usual half a dozen callers. From that point forward it was for the most part Victor Banks who was “the culprit”. 

The issue to which I will respond, since a number of my supporters expressed their outrage at the comments, is the one raised by those callers who decided that I should be deprived of my pension because I am not retired. The issue was raised on the talk show before but I thought that the matter was settled. The nasty comments and bad-minded remarks that came from those particular callers confirmed their ignorance of the system that provides for those persons who have made the sacrifice to be exposed to public scrutiny in the service of their country via the electoral process. But it also shows that we are heading down a very dangerous path indeed, when people believe that because they don’t like you --- you should be deprived of your earnings and entitlements. I noticed that while the Chief Minister (Mr Hughes) who worked on the Anguilla Legislators Pension Act; who brought the St Kitts-Nevis version of the Act to assist in the drafting; who made sure that special consideration was given Chief Minister’s pension rates; and who supported and seconded the final bill in the House of Assembly was silent as the usual callers abused me. The Host was a bit more circumspect by pointing out very quietly that they had been advised that my situation was legitimate. It is shameful that the Chief Minister should be so hypocritical in his efforts to create “a smoke screen” to cover the reimbursement issue.

AUM supporter: "Shit... AUF hid all the damn info in
books to sabotage our government..." 
The Legislators Pensions Act in Section 4 sets out quite clearly the circumstances in which a pension shall be paid as follows: “The person has, a) has served as a legislator for not less than ten years; b) has ceased to be a legislator; c) has attained the age of 55 years if he was a legislator before the act came into operation and 60 years after the act came into operation; d) not having attained the retirement of 55 or 60 becomes medically boarded and unable to discharge the duties of a legislator or any other gainful employment.”

The Act also makes provision in Section 6 for “cessation of pension if a person in receipt thereof again becomes a legislator.” It is stated as follows: “ A pension payable under this Act shall, if the person in receipt thereof again becomes a legislator, cease to be payable during the period in respect of which that person is receipt of an allowance as a legislator, but if the amount of such basic allowance is less than the amount of pension, the higher amount is payable.”

So for the benefit of those persons who are genuinely concerned about my rights under the Legislators Pensions Act as well as those who would like to see me “beg my bread” because they do not support me politically, let me explain the terms of my entitlement.
1. I am no longer serving as a legislator so I am entitled to a pension since I am eligible. I am a retired legislator --- not a retired politician. 
2. I not only served ten (10) years as a legislator. I actually served twenty-eight (28) years as a legislator. 
3. I was entitled to retire at the age of 55. I actually retired at the age of 62. 
4. My pension and gratuity was computed in accordance with the provisions of the Legislators Pensions Act as amended in 2004. 
One of the most silly points that I was told, Percy Thomas made on an earlier show is that I lost the election, I did not retire --- so I should not receive a pension. The point is also made that I ran in the last election so unlike Mr. Fleming, Mr. Harrigan and Mr. Albert Hughes who did not run --- I am still active in politics so I should not receive a pension. And the usual talk among some diehard AUM supporters: “ The Front caused the problems we have in Anguilla so they should not receive their pension. They should be locked up in prison”. The Chief Minister himself has gone a bit further to suggest that we (the AUF Government) should be exiled from Anguilla. 

All this is wishful thinking on the part of the Chief Minister and his AUM supporters. They actually believe that they alone have the right to be protected under the Constitution and Laws of Anguilla. Persons who do not support their way of thinking are not entitled to any rights, freedoms or a living. Analyze their statements on the Talk Shows and their behaviour in the House of Assembly and you will inevitably come to the same conclusion. Maybe only AUM retired legislators should get pensions! And have their undocumented bills paid! 

Spoofing over this phone bill parody a friend said to me that he could imagine the Chief Minister calling the tourist offices in Europe. CM: “This is Hubert Hughes, Chief Minister of Anguilla calling! Send me some tourists!” Tourist Office replies: “Sorry! Wrong number!” Actually, that is probably how he ran up that big phone bill.  

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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