Books about Anguilla


Friday, 9 March 2012


Mr. Victor F. Banks
On Friday, March 2nd, we will be officially celebrating the Birthday of the Hon. James Ronald Webster, the Father of the Nation. It is an event now in its third year and one which gives Anguillians an opportunity to pay homage to the great contribution that Mr. Webster made as the most central figure of our Revolution in 1967. While there may be several shades of opinion regarding the Revolution --- no one can dispute the fact that he was the most prominent figure in that effort and is the Leader who commanded the widest popular support during that period. 

It was because of his strong determination and unwavering resolve to free Anguilla from the shackles of the hostile Central Government led by Premier Robert L. Bradshaw at all costs, that Mr. Webster attracted the respect of his colleagues and most Anguillians. Undoubtedly, his brand of leadership was exactly what Anguilla needed at that juncture in our political history. Let me take the opportunity in my column to wish the Hon. James Ronald Webster a wonderful day and pray for continued blessings for many years to come. Happy Birthday Mr. Webster! 

I think that it is appropriate to use this time of celebration for reflection as well. And I will lift two excerpts from Mr. Webster’s Message in the 40th Anniversary Commemorative Magazine to introduce my short reflection. Mr. Webster wrote: “Since May 30th, 1967, Anguilla has undergone a fundamental reconstruction. Despite our ups and downs we were able to cope with the many adverse situations. Our respective Governments have made it possible for every young Anguillian to receive a quality education and maintain a brighter hope for tomorrow as the island moves forward.” It is obvious from this statement that Mr. Webster seemed satisfied in 2007 that our young people, the focus of the “ brand new Anguilla” that he and the other early pioneers set out to build, was on track. He confirms that fact in another statement along with an admonition. He wrote: “As we reflect on this milestone of 40 years, we can rejoice in the fact that we are living in a peaceful island and one of much charm and beauty. We must continue to build and strengthen our nation through love and loyalty and to share these great virtues with each other.” 

If I were to begin with the second quotation from Mr. Webster’s Message a number of issues come to mind. Among them the spate of senseless shootings and robberies that haunt this our “peaceful island” and to which he (Mr. Webster) so proudly referred. A number of victims are now suffering various forms of impairment: lower body paralysis; damaged organs; crippled limbs and other lasting injuries, both physical and mental. The victims are both young and old. Hardworking Anguillians who find themselves stricken at the hands of young perpetrators who would seek to deprive them of their honest earnings. And young men with bright prospects who must now face the future with challenging handicaps. These victims and their families cannot “rejoice in the fact that we are living in a peaceful island” 

Mr. Webster’s admonition included in the same quotation was that: “we must continue to build and strengthen our nation through love and loyalty and to share these great virtues with each other”. But when we try to make sense out of these incidents of violence we are left to question where that love has gone. And further to ask what has happened to us as a people, when the very children whose future Mr. Webster and the leaders of the revolutionary period fought to secure are maiming and killing each other for no apparent reason. 

Our prisons are now overcrowded with young men who have made violence a way of life, oblivious to the dreams of their grandparents in 1967 of a “nation proud strong and free” --- and of a heritage preserved for them by honest work and sacrifice. It is obvious that a great amount of anger consumes our young men. What else could possess them to commit such senseless act of violence against each other and other innocent people in the community? What can we do to advance the building and strengthening of our nation “through love and loyalty” --- and save our young men? These are real questions, which must occupy our thoughts even as we celebrate the Birthday of the Father of our Nation. A nation that once brandished guns to secure peace and freedom --- now finds its peace and freedom threatened by guns in the hands of young men with no regard whatsoever for the consequences of their actions. 

The image of young Anguillians standing around listening to the comments and rebellious talk of adults congregating at an action spot during the Revolution brings back memories of the uncertainty of that period. It was, however, exciting for such youngsters for whom the whole affair was just another thrilling experience --- and more often than not, the opportunity to stay home from school. 

In this context, it was both nostalgic and inspirational to view a silent documentary of “Operation Sheepskin” --- “The Invasion of Anguilla” filmed in March 1969 by a videographer from the British team. I am grateful to one of my friends for sending me the link. And I encourage everyone who wants to get a sense of the passion and resolve of our people at that time, to linkup and view the film. 

I recognized many faces, forty-three years younger of course, including the likes of Bishop Errol Brooks, the late “Miss Joseph”, the late“John T”, Leslie E. Richardson, Pastor Davis Lloyd and many more persons among the throng of Anguillians who had come to the Court House to see for themselves what “these invaders” had in mind. It was serious business, smiles were rare, and the crowd of Anguillians were very much engaged and animated. 

Despite the lack of sound one can feel the emotion coming from the screen as the video rolls. And standing there, some very young bystanders, boys for the most part, completely absorbed in the proceedings; perhaps not even realizing that they were witnessing a bit of history in the making and the possibility of a brighter future for them. 

Of course, Mr. Webster was there in youthful vigor --- sometimes with the Bible in one hand and at other times with the Anguilla Flag. It is the picture of a Leader standing side by side with his people exuding confidence and hope. The whole film a compendium of images causing tears to “well-up” as one observes the unpretentious looks on the faces of Anguillians in their uncertainty with the outcome of this entire affair. It is a touching image and one which every child, student and adult should see. It would be a good thing to show this film to the “angry young men” that may even now be inspired by the positive images, which this documentary conjures up. 

Mr. Webster in the first quotation wrote: “Since May 30th, 1967, Anguilla has undergone a fundamental reconstruction. Despite our ups and downs we were able to cope with the many adverse situations. Our respective Governments have made it possible for every young Anguillian to receive a quality education and maintain a brighter hope for tomorrow as the island moves forward.” This statement of positive progress on the 40th Anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution contained in the Chief Minister’s Message is refreshing given our disappointment with some of our young men. But all is not lost! I believe that the recent Leeward Islands Debating Competition (LIDC) demonstrated the positive outcome of those opportunities that Mr. Webster spoke about in his Message. The Anguilla Debating Team “showed its stuff” in the 40th Anniversary of the LIDC, winning the Competition decisively against some very formidable Opponents from St Maarten, Montserrat and Antigua. 

At a time when our thoughts are occupied with the number of shootings in our island attributed to young men --- there is a tendency to put a negative label on the Youth as a body. In this context, many Anguillians have expressed great pride in the performance of our debating team. From the beginning to the end the debaters brought out the best of Anguilla and gave us all a reason to feel that our efforts have been put to good use and that the future of Anguilla is secured as these students make their way through tertiary education to positions of authority and prominence in our communities. But I believe that it goes even further because not only the Anguilla team but all the other teams and their supporters as well, have exhibited the highest level of decorum in their approach and professionalism in their presentations. In this sense it also augurs well for our region as a whole. 

There is no doubt that the Anguilla Debating Club is a “center of excellence” at the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School. A number of professionals in several fields of endeavour have come through the Club and are today either well settled in their careers or are still in the process of training. Kudos must go out to the many teachers, coaches and resources persons over the years that have worked diligently with them --- it goes to show that it is evolving into a community effort. But to the gladiators themselves who went to battle for their school and country belong the highest commendations. So, “big up!” to Deanna; Zipporah; Dayna; Mikeela, Senegal; and Jose’ you all made us proud! 

So as we reflect this week on the vision of the Father of the Nation on the occasion of his birthday, let us not be discouraged by the setbacks we now face --- there is still a lot of work to be done. We must stem the tide of violence in our communities with positive messages. Let us take Mr. Webster’s admonition to strengthen our nation through “love and loyalty” rather than “anger and hate” which seems to abound. 

The incivility that has become a feature of our behaviour at many levels cannot be helpful to this cause. We need to return to the tradition of mutual respect and civility that has characterized us as a people. Wherever we have traveled throughout the world to make an honest living we have demonstrated these qualities. Why should we be any less courteous and respectful at home? According to our victorious debating team: “I rest my case!”

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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