Books about Anguilla


Friday, 17 February 2012


It is now exactly two years since the Anguilla United Movement (AUM) Government ascended to Office under the leadership of the Hon. Chief Minister, Hubert B. Hughes. It came to office during a time when the region was just “coming to grips” with the impacts of the global economic crisis and the smaller islands, especially vulnerable to all kinds of external shocks, were grappling with solutions for what they expected to be a short-term situation. The Government was “fresh” from an election campaign where they took advantage of the dire economic conditions by suggesting that it was totally the result of the policies and actions of the past Anguilla United Front (AUF) Government. They embellished their case by using lies, half-truths and innuendos. According to the Minister of Social Development, the Hon. Edison Baird in his “Confessions” entitled “Who runs Anguilla”: “It was our finest hour!” Those finest hours have now become a “millstone” around the necks of Anguillians and other residents on the island. 

Don’t get me wrong! The global economic situation is not of the Government’s making. However, they have not fulfilled their promises in areas where they should have been able to do so mainly because they have spent so much time making excuses rather than finding solutions; “adopting a strategy of confrontation rather than conflict resolution”; “indulging in political victimization rather than promoting national consolidation”; speaking out against nepotism and patronage while embracing it in its worst forms; running the government from the talk shows rather than from the Executive Council; preaching unity while practicing divisionism; extolling the virtues of good governance while ignoring its fundamental principles as enshrined in our constitution, rules, regulations and laws; and using lies, half-truths, “scapegoats” and “smoke screens” of all kinds to mask their incompetence and inability to deal with the critical challenges facing Anguilla at this time. 

As I mentioned last week I remain impressed with the level of restraint exercised by the Chief Minister and in fact the entire Government over the past three weeks even while we hear rumours about the situation at Cap Juluca. We hope that the biblical image of “a lamb being dumb before its shearer” is not applicable in this case --- because there are many employees, contractors and suppliers who need to be assured that Government is being properly advised on the handling of this matter. And I will use this medium yet another time to assure the Chief Minister of our (the AUF’s) full support of a well-thought-out strategy to bring about a positive outcome to this challenging issue. I therefore hope that Government’s silence is not a sign of surrender --- but a sign of a more “studied approach”. 

I challenged the Government in my first column for this year entitled: “Hope in 2012”. I wrote: “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 (subsequently I have been informed that it will be his 79th). 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!” 

Firstly, my feeling of hope was based on the thesis that the unrelenting pressures on the economy could only be dealt with by a new approach and that it was high time for the Government to recognize that after almost two years in the driver’s seat the “blame game” has lost its credibility. Secondly, that a Chief Minister who had never had a successful term of his own making would want to make his mark, especially since it is the first time that a party, which he led, won a clear majority in the Anguilla House of Assembly. 

The opening days of 2012, however promised more of the same as the Chief Minister continued his usual conspiracy theories about the budget process and later clearly showed his insensitivity to the real issues facing Anguillians by using his office to expedite his own personal financial interests. I am of course referring, particularly, to the EC$40,000 payment he (The CM) facilitated for himself through EXCO for the payment of a fifteen year old phone bill that he claimed to have “run up” in twenty-eight months from his home with official calls he made while he was Chief Minister in 1994 to 2000. 

Those two incidents, namely, the “hullabaloo” over the late assent of the budget and EC$40,000 questionable payment to himself, reinforce two points that I have been making for the last two years. Firstly, either the Chief Minister does not understand his role in the governance process or he is deliberately using the Governor and the British Government as “scapegoats” to advance his independence agenda. Secondly, that the Chief Minister does not believe that the rules and procedures apply to him. Given his rigid defense of both these incidents over the various media using the same conspiratorial and confrontational approach, it is obvious that the Chief Minister is unlikely to change his approach in 2012. 

Let me raise some concerns and issues that remain unresolved over the last two years that the Government needs to fix as it enters its third year in office. I will also include some new ones that are emerging as well. The list is not exhaustive but will give you an idea of the need for the Government to begin to take charge and perform the functions for which they were elected as follows: 
  • The issues of the Board and Management of Social Security remain unresolved. The Director of Social Security was publicly ridiculed and abused in the House of Assembly by the Chief Minister/Minister responsible for Social Security and he now seems to have no real function; Staff members are complaining of victimization; and morale is at an all time low.
  • Interference in the management and policy issues of ANGLEC continue to frustrate the company’s efforts to operate as an independent entity regulated by Government.
  • Nepotism and Cronyism seem to be used as a means of controlling various Boards and Committees without any real concern for the competencies required.
  • The Management and Staff of Radio Anguilla, are reported to have been reprimanded by the Chief Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs, for making their services available and accessible to groups, individuals and other entities that may not be supportive of the views of the AUM Government.
  • The Interim Stabilization Levy is still proving to be a “bad law”! When will the Government resolve the issues of fairness and equity in its application and amend the “IRS style” penalties, which continue to terrorize and criminalize Anguillians?
  • The Government has informed us that it is intended that the “Levy” will come to an end on 31st December 2012 at which time a National Health Insurance System will be introduced. What is the Government doing to adequately provide for such a transition if such is still being considered?
  • It was agreed in 2008/2009 that reductions made to Public Servant’s salaries would be reimbursed when the economy turns around. What is the Government doing to reach a principled agreement with public servants given the need to rationalize this commitment in the context of the sustained nature of the global economic crisis?
  • The Government has been pushing about the issue of Independence. They see Independence as the answer to our present woes both administrative and economic. Will the Government call a referendum after adequate consultations to determine the views of the people, rather than waste precious time and resources in meaningless posturing at a time when we should be focusing on bread and butter issues?
  • The Chief Minister is unable to maintain a united government given the existence of a “rogue minister” in the person of the Minister of Social Development, Hon. Edison Baird. Will there be any reconciliation this year so as to create harmony within his (the CM’s) government?
  • Will there be any additional taxation measures imposed in 2012? Will the Chief Minister continue to contend that present and future taxes are British taxes?
  • Will there be further public consultations on the Constitution this year?
  • Will any of the several projects for which MoU’s have been concluded over the past two years start any time soon? And will the difference between MoUs and MoAs be explained to Anguillians?
  • Will the Education Bill be passed this year?
  • Will the issues associated with crimes against persons, firearms, drugs and gang violence, be articulated more forcefully by the elected and nominated members of the Government rather than just the Police Force and the Health Authority?
  • Will the AUM Government, its advisors and vocal supporters curtail the level of incivility and discourteous conduct that they continue to exhibit on the airwaves?
I have discussed many of these issues with a number of Anguillians and other residents as they relate to the remainder of the AUM term of Office. And I have in fact left out some very significant matters because they relate to ongoing Court cases and other sensitive negotiations. It would be irresponsible to bring them into the public domain just to make political points. But the most wide spread reaction from many of the respondents; is a total lack of confidence in the ability of members this AUM Government to make the necessary adjustments to their style, attitude and approach --- in order to arrive at positive outcomes. One good friend in an obvious expression of despair wrote to me: “And the beat goes on! ---- Where will it ever end?”

By Victor F. Banks
Victor Banks is a former Finance, Economics, Commerce and Tourism Minister on Anguilla. He is presently the leader of the OpositionAnguilla 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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