Monday, 26 March 2012
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the First Baptist Church on its celebration of fifty years of Baptist Ministry on Anguilla. Many persons from my generation and before will remember the early years of Pastor Freeman Goodge’s Ministry on Anguilla. In those early days very few people referred to that Church as the “Baptist Church” but rather as “Goodge’s Church”. From those very humble beginnings in 1962 a number of Anguillians started their journey in the Christian faith and many of them have become pillars of the Baptist Ministry in all parts of the Caribbean and indeed the world. Probably one of the earliest followers, Pastor Cecil Richardson, gave a brief history of the Baptist Ministry on Anguilla to include the period during the Anguilla Revolution when it may have even been considered the spiritual and moral conscience of the movement.
It was also a pleasure to see one of the late Pastor Goodge’s sons, Pastor Gary Goodge bringing the first message but it was another product of the Goodge’s Ministry, Pastor Beltane Harrigan who brought the main message of the celebration with great animation to a very receptive congregation. The general focus of the entire celebration was on the next fifty years and the overwhelming importance of the Church in making a positive difference in Anguilla. All in all it was a very captivating worship experience and I commend Pastor Norril Gumbs on the leadership role he played in putting the event together.
My reflections after the service was on the manner in which Governments use the Church as a convenient institution to legitimize themselves and as a scapegoat at times for the problems in the wider community. When things get out of hand they complain that the Church is not taking up its responsibility and when things are good they seldom think about the important support the Church provides as a source of strength and stability in the community. There are even those persons who use the Church as a platform to launch their political ambitions --- and putting on the mantle of self-righteousness they portray themselves as bastions of integrity in our society. In the last election for example, one “man of the cloth” used his position in the Church as a means of winning support by evoking God’s condemnation on those who voted against his party. It was a most blasphemous act by a man who I had highly respected for his exceptional ability to deliver God’s Word. But in a way it illustrates the powerful impact of the Church in our communities as well as the importance of the Word rather than the Preacher to the challenges we face as an island state.
Don’t get me wrong! I fully support the doctrine which seemed to be the focus of the 50th Anniversary Celebration, namely, that the Church is that “unstoppable group” that must ensure that our nation is on the right course. However, it (the Church) should not be manipulated to advance the personal interests of unscrupulous individuals. It is always amuses me when the Chief Minister calls upon the Christian Council and the Evangelical Association whenever he is in some kind of trouble or wants to advance some aspect of his political agenda. However, he is also very quick to attack particular members of those bodies when they oppose any aspect of his style, approach, attitude or decisions.
The foregoing pattern of behaviour is also true of the Chief Minister’s supporters and advisors. They continue to pretend that they espouse lofty ideals and Christian principles in scorn of their opponents --- who they relegate to the category of subservient “house slaves”; cowardly lackey’s of the oppressors; and “alleged” criminals. Just because their opponents do not accept the style, approach, attitude and decisions of their Government. Mrs. Josephine Gumbs-Connor felt it necessary to unleash a searing attack on the Anguilla United Front (AUF) because of its decision that, based on the course the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Committee was taking, its (AUF) members were disassociating themselves from the process, going forward. The AUF made its reasons very clear and its letter concluded with a carefully thought-out position:
“It is therefore clear to us that, inasmuch as full internal self-government is no longer an option at this point in time, there are two (2) other real options available to Anguilla and Anguillians,(i) enhancing/improving our existing relationship with the UK as a British Overseas Territory; or (ii) deciding on the issue of independence.
The AUF is therefore of the view that the course of action which the Government of Anguilla has embarked upon in relation to full internal self-government is ineffective and time consuming. We would suggest that the constitutional reform instead focus on the viability of options (i) and (ii) as aforementioned.
If, after appropriate consultation and education on the pros and cons of independence, our people decide to vote yes for independence, then the AUF will join with the Government of Anguilla in agreeing a timetable for independence and lend its full support to the educational process. For the record, however, it should be known that while we call for a referendum in order to ascertain the views of the people, the AUF does not support independence for Anguilla at this time but we are in full support of a well thought through educational process on the pros and cons of independence.”
It is this difference of opinion that caused Mrs. Gumbs-Connor to embark on that “subjective rant” and to which Mr. Marcel Fahie referred in his article in the Anguillian entitled: “Vitriol Unbecoming Of A Black Anguillian Empress”. I was grateful for Mr. Fahie’s analysis of her reaction --- a reaction that for a moment stunned me to the extent that I felt compelled to reread the AUF letter several times to ensure that no one had tampered with its contents before publication. And I particularly liked Mr. Fahie’s comment on Ms. Gumbs-Connor’s conduct when he wrote: “I also thought of the forceful and virulent reaction, of the extreme intolerance, shown by Mrs. Gumbs-Connor towards the AUF’s point of view set out in its letter to Rev. Dr. Niles. She should know that such hostility, attempted psychological black mail and bullying, if not resisted, create the environment from which dictatorship springs. Thanks to the voices of moderation and tolerance, extremes were avoided in the Anguilla Revolution. Reason tempered rashness in the early days and helped us to arrive at the place we find ourselves in today.” Because as Mr. Fahie concluded the AUF was only suggesting an “open and responsible discourse on our path to constitutional advancement and the attainment of greater self-determination.” It neither mentioned nor did it imply an attitude of subservience it simply recommended a “good governance” approach to the process.
In vindication of our position, the Chief Minister during and after his CARICOM meeting, made a number of statements in the regional and international media that clearly show that the Constitutional exercise is simply a tool to manipulate Anguillians into believing that independence is our only option.
In the Anguillian he is reported to have said: “Government is now undertaking a constitutional exercise to achieve full internal self-government --- if this is fails, he (Hughes) will pursue independence.”
In a release from Suriname he said: “the Governor of Anguilla is a virtual dictator and he manipulates every system to suit his whims and fancies.”
In the Amsterdam News in New York City he is quoted as having said: “Britain has made it clear that it has no plans to grant greater executive autonomy, like self-governance, to the island --- much less full independence, as some islanders seem to want --- because ‘they believe that we have an abundance of oil, gas and fish life. They have deemed Anguilla now to be a valuable asset that should not be let go of.”
Obviously the Chief Minister is painting a picture locally, regionally and internationally that Anguilla has no choice but to go into independence because the British have refused to give us full internal self-government; because the Governor is an evil dictator who is enslaving the people of Anguilla; and that Anguilla has to fight for Independence because the British wants to grab our oil, gas and fish resources for themselves. The totality of which are lies and half-truths that creates a false premise for rushing into independence. All of the above reinforces the concerns that the AUF expressed in its letter that we are being taken for a ride in the constitutional exercise.
But I would like Mrs. Josephine Gumbs-Connor to react as promptly and with similar indignation to a letter from the Members of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Committee to the same Chairman (Rev. Dr. Niles) to whom our letter was addressed. The letter is captioned: “Procedural Impropriety of the Chairman of the Anguilla Constitutional and Electoral Reform Committee”, and reads in part as follows:
“ A constitution, apparently coming from this Committee, has been released to the public without the approval of the Committee and without the knowledge and approval of the Chief Minister. This document cannot be retracted and has caused unnecessary confusion and embarrassment to the Committee. Your conduct amounts to procedural impropriety and has brought the reputation of the Committee into disrepute. The result of your behaviour is that the Committee members wish to distance ourselves from the document you produced to the public.
On March 07, 2012 the Committee met and decided that you have lost the confidence of the Committee and requests that you immediately recuse yourself as Chairman of the Committee. The Committee does not wish for you to take any further role in its proceedings. We demand that you present your resignation letter within 48 hours from the date of this letter. We also demand that you refrain from any contact with the public regarding the duties of this Committee.”
This letter was signed by all the Members of the Committee, namely, Mr. Whaldama “Ras Bee” Brooks; Mr. John Benjamin; Mr. Patrick “Sheriff” Hanley; Ms. Dawne Richardson; Mr. Brent Davis; and Ms. Quincia Gumbs.
I would beg readers to note that the document to which the Committee is referring is the same document that caused the AUF to recall its representative on the Committee. You will likewise note that a similar phrase to wit, “distance ourselves”, is being used. We used the phrase “disassociate ourselves”.
I am not getting into the question of who is right or wrong in the present dispute between the Committee and its Chairman --- but what I am saying is that the AUF representative on the Committee, Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, would also have had good reason to be concerned about the process. One would therefore expect that perhaps either the entire Committee or the Chairman would now be the recipient of the same angry diatribe, to which the AUF was subjected, from Mrs. Josephine Gumbs-Connor. In which regard one could reasonably pose the question: “Which of these two protagonists (the Committee or the Chairman) adequately does justice to the memory of those “Kunta Kinte’s” to whom “Josie” referred?” Will the true Kunta Kinte come forward!
By: Victor F. Banks
Posted by Realist Spikenice at 13:23