Books about Anguilla


Friday, 9 March 2012


Mr. Victor F. Banks
Over the last few days there has been much ceremony and celebration on our island beginning on Friday March 2, 2012 with the birthday of the “father of the nation”, the Hon. James Ronald Webster and the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. These were two separate events, but both marking significant landmarks in our journey as a people --- the blending of our colonial past with aspirations of nationhood. For a true student of history these are exciting times. Both the Hon. James Ronald Webster and Queen Elizabeth II were born in the same year and less than two months apart. They are obviously from different backgrounds and life experiences but they both feature prominently in the history of our island. Whereas one symbolizes the last vestiges of colonialism --- the other symbolizes the struggle for self- determination and the ultimate goal of full nationhood. 

Fortunately, the difference between our situation today and that of the early freedom fighters for Independence in Africa, India and other parts of the Third World, is that there is no impediment to us achieving nationhood --- if it is the expressed will of the people of Anguilla. That reality should strengthen our resolve to be painstaking in ensuring that we get it right and that we enter that new phase or our political development as a people who are fully aware of our responsibilities through an effective process of education. The politics of fear should not be the prod that goads us on but rather it should be our readiness to take on the responsibilities inherent in the choices we make that must instruct our progress. 

A lot has been said during the period leading up to this weekend of ceremony and celebration over the various media that concerns me. I went out dutifully to celebrate the birthday of the “father of the nation” and was most pleased to hear his statesmanlike presentation and witness his humble demeanour throughout the ceremony. And like many other Anguillians I was most pleased to greet him and get his autograph on my copy of his latest publication. 

My first concern however, stems from the fact that days before the usual Radio Talk Show hosts spent a lot of time involved in the politics of divisionism. Their position seemed to be that only elected persons on the Government side of the House of Assembly had the right to have a celebration on behalf of Mr. Webster’s birthday. Their reason being that the past AUF Government did not support a full holiday for the “father of the nation”. As a consequence they seem to have concluded that it is not a National holiday but rather an AUM holiday for Mr. Webster. 

Whatever the outcome of the difference of opinion on how Mr. Webster’s birthday should be celebrated --- the fact remains that it is a national holiday that is embraced by all Anguillians and as such it is to be celebrated by all Anguillians. It is also important to mention that it was never the view that Mr. Webster’s birthday should not be celebrated. It was always a matter of how to capture the essence of his contribution in a manner that was most educational and inspirational especially to the young people of this island, who as the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers pointed out in his address, have grandparents born in Anguilla who have no first hand recollection of that period of our history. Mr. Rogers also reemphasized the point that: “It (Mr. Webster’s Birthday) should not be just another day or weekend to go shopping in St Maarten. Should it ever become such --- we would have done a great disservice to your (Mr. Webster’s) legacy and that of the other stalwarts who were a part of that early band of “pioneers.” I believe that this statement is central to the controversy of how Mr. Webster’s Birthday should be celebrated. And rather than ignore the proverbial “800 pound gorilla in the room” let us be mindful of the several shades of opinion about leadership in the Revolutionary period that we must acknowledge rather than alienate. 

Such controversies about holidays for national leaders are not uncommon, neither are they intended to be disrespectful of those leaders in question. In fact, the ongoing controversy in several States in the U.S. A. over the holiday for their “father of the nation”, George Washington, was eventually resolved by renaming it “Presidents Day”, where not only George Washington but other Presidents and the office of the Presidency could be honored. Indeed the purpose of such days is to unify the nation rather than to divide it. The Chief Minister’s quip at the conclusion of his address about “not going to Sandy Ground” may therefore be considered especially divisive. The event at Sandy Ground put on by the AUF Road North Constituency Cell for Mr. Webster’s Birthday was just another venue of celebration. And I am sure that as the years go by there will be many other such ideas. 

My second concern is with regards to the visit of Prince Edward and the statements made by a number of Talk Show Hosts and AUM supporters, as if to encourage civil disobedience and protest during that visit. It seemed as if many of these personalities have bought wholesale into the position advanced by the Chief Minister that we are in “an undeclared war” with the British Government. In the circumstances, one Talk Show Host went so far as to question the fact that a number of persons turned up in their Sunday best to worship with Prince Edward at St. Mary’s. A statement also went out on the airwaves that parents should not allow their children to take part in the parade. The point I am making is, that there is no need for incivility and discourteous behaviour in a situation where it serves no useful purpose for advancing the interests of the community --- and especially at a time when we should be teaching our youngsters to use less confrontational methods to deal with the conflicts in their lives and their relationships. 

Speaking of youngsters, the eve of the Birthday of the “father of the nation” was no deterrent to the murderous intentions of our youngsters who seem to have again embarked on a vicious cycle of gun/gang violence. Yet another time over the past months young men have fallen victim to deliberate and senseless shootings. As a community we should be asking the question what is the root cause of this problem? I believe that there is no singular reason for this rash of gun-violence and it therefore requires a multifaceted approach to developing a solution or group of solutions to contain and eradicate it. The lack of capacity by the Police Force to crack these cases in a timely manner contributes to a feeling of insecurity in the community as a whole but also emboldens these perpetrators to carry out their vicious acts without the fear of being caught and very often in the presence of witnesses. 

For an island which once used the marketing slogan: “tranquility wrapped in blue” we can no longer boast about being a “low crime” or “no crime” destination. There was a time when one of our flagship hotels boasted that it had no room keys --- today that is a real risk. While our tourism plant still remains relatively safe there are no guarantees that the present situation now in isolated parts of the community will not eventually spill over into other venues if left unchecked. The silence about these incidents in the various communities is sometimes rationalized by the view that if we talk publicly about it and it hits the international media --- it will destroy our tourism industry. While this may have some short-term merit --- the truth is that if we do not confront the problem and deal with it effectively our tourism product will be destroyed in the longer term anyway. 

But while the situation can impact the Tourism sector the impact on the society can be even more devastating. The victims of these senseless acts bring tremendous pain, suffering, financial strain and in the extreme circumstances grief to their families. The business sector, particularly the local entrepreneurs lose considerable income as their clientele begin to cut back on their social life and frequent other places usually owned by expatriate interests. Already a number of normally law-abiding citizens are considering the acquisition of firearms in most cases, because of police restrictions, illegally. The proliferation of guns can possibly lead to a very dangerous and volatile situation in the community. There is need for all out campaign against these conditions across the political spectrum. 

In this context, I have used this medium to highlight the dangers of this situation and appeal to the Government and the wider community to join us in this effort. It calls for resources, and committed persons to advance this cause --- but first of all we need a plan. Our party has begun the groundwork for such a document that can be used as a working paper for further discussions with the community and the Royal Anguilla Police Force. The Police Force cannot succeed in their efforts without community support --- it is an integral part of the investigatory process and we must formulate our plan around their expertise and resources. If our efforts do nothing more than boost awareness in the community of the nature of gang/gun violence it is my belief that we would have created a significant civilian watch group to assist the policing and investigatory process. 

But let us not speak about our young people involved in these incidents as if they are from another planet. They are our children, our brothers, our cousins, our nephews and our friends. They have been socialized in our systems with the tutelage of their parents, teachers and peers. Anything they have become is because somewhere in that chain of tutelage we may have dropped the ball in some way. They did not make themselves. So we all must take some responsibility. We share in the pain and grief of all those parents and siblings who have seen their loved ones maimed and murdered. And we empathize even with those of you whose offspring lie incarcerated in the prison system. Are they remorseful? Have they changed their lives? Will they ever become productive citizens again? 

And even as we speak of Colonialism, Independence, House Slaves, Field Slaves, Kunta Kinte, Massa, the Select Few, the Masses and Classes let take some time to show love and caring to the marginalized, the poor, the depressed, the abused and the angry in our society. It is time to try a little kindness even for our “brother standing down the road with a heavy load from the seeds he sowed!”

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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