Books about Anguilla


Saturday, 5 May 2012


“..... and the pursuit of happiness”

Tranquillity wrapped in blue... tears.
Over the past weekend there have been several incidents that brought into uncomfortable focus the state of affairs within our communities. I use the adjective “uncomfortable” because I strongly believe that our people would have to be in a serious state of denial if they are able to rest easy amidst the blatant threats to our fundamental rights and freedoms. For an island that once boasted the slogan: “ Tranquillity wrapped in Blue” we may be forced to admit that we are not living up to that image any longer. On Sunday many of us attended the “Jamida Webster Bicycle Race” in memory of that beautiful and promising young lady whose life was cutoff by a most gruesome act of another “human” being. While we pay tribute in this way to her memory --- it must be a heartrending reminder to her parents, siblings, relatives and friends of her tragic death. It is ironic that such events are used to celebrate life even as we contemplate on death. I would hope that all who were present took some time reflect and ask the question: “Why?”

I would like to make the point at the outset that the situation is not the particular responsibility of this Government; the past Government; the Police Force; the Education Department; the Churches; the Social Services Department; the Governor; parents; or any other convenient object of blame --- it is the responsibility of all of the above. All of us! There seems to be a plethora of reasons and solutions coming from a number of persons that I have spoken to regarding this prevalence of gun violence and other crimes against life and property. Unfortunately, few of the reasons and solutions include the involvement/participation of the persons or groups making the suggestions. The “not my job” syndrome is rampant. And the “they not doing their work” accusation is commonplace.

Enlarge your soul through grief and loss – surrendering
 to your limits… a family grieves their relative... 

feeling is believing.
Let me take this opportunity in my column to extend my condolences to the family, relatives and friends of young Gustave Hodge who was brutally executed on Sunday at a social event next to the Jeremiah Gumbs Highway, for no apparent reason. I have also been told of two other youngsters who received gunshot wounds on Sunday and Saturday who fortunately seem to be recovering well. I also share the relief that their family, relatives and friends must be experiencing. Let me also empathize with Mr. O’Keith Gumbs and Mr. Wycliffe “Hank” Harrigan whose business establishment on Shoal Bay beach was burnt to the ground. All indications are that it was as a result of arson.

These incidents all occurred over the weekend. But just in the last twelve months alone similar acts of gun violence and crimes against life and property have left serious casualties. Deon, Randy, Salim are all young men who may be maimed for life. Mr. and Mrs. Morton, a hardworking couple, were viciously attacked and shot in their homes also suffering permanent physical and emotional damage. Mr. Rosmond Davis’s boats were burned at anchor thus destroying his business as well. I do not want this to read like a casualty list or an obituary but over the years a number of young men and young women have been injured or killed as a result of this extended spate of violence. Neither do I want to run the risk of inadvertently omitting anyone of the victims because every single one of them is a cherished human being in our community. All of them are loved and entitled to the enjoyment of life and property in our homeland, Anguilla. 

A nation suffering from a complicated grief disorder... 
who's to blame?
I do not wish to jump to any conclusions regarding the guilt or innocence of anyone in the community whether charged, not charged or alleged to be involved in any of these criminal acts. That is the domain of the relevant authorities and they should be allowed to function without obstruction. It is however my responsibility as a citizen to assist where necessary and make my contributions on the appropriate forums objectively. And that is the responsibility of every single Anguillian citizen as well.

This spate of violence has been subject to “ebbs and flows”. Just when we think it has subsided it suddenly raises its ugly head again. And as often as it springs up so too do we begin to come up with diagnoses and to advance solutions. When it dies down so does our focus on preventative measures and strategic responses. Again let me repeat this has been a general attitude not that of a particular group. The society as a whole seems to be guilty of this “on again off again” approach. There is great danger to our island with this approach and I believe that as a people we need to appreciate that these trends are a threat to our fundamental rights and freedoms as individuals. And the “faulty principles” on which this attitude and conduct within our society rests are in direct contravention of our entitlements as citizens as set out in our Constitution. The perpetrators of these vicious acts seem to embrace concepts that are alien to our culture and traditions and which some of us seem to condone either out of fear or denial.

The Anguilla Constitution is a document that many Anguillians seem to know a great deal about but which precious few have ever read. Obviously, they respond to “buzz phrases” like “the Governors powers” but they seldom seek to find out what their rights, powers and entitlements are. Neither do they enquire as to how they are empowered in the Constitution. The truth is the first and the largest Chapter of our Constitution is “The Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms”. It distinguishes it from many other constitutions at the time it was drafted and even today. In fact, that chapter of our Constitution has been used as a template for subsequent constitutional reform exercises in the Overseas Territories.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General 
Assembly of  the United Nations, 10 December 1948.The General 
Assembly, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, 
to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping 
this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and 
education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by 
progressive measures, national and international, to secure their 
universal and effective recognition and observance, both among 
the peoples of Member States themselves and among the 
peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
I therefore think that I should at least make sure my readers note some sections in Chapter 1 that deal with some of our entitlements under the Constitution to: 

a) Life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property, and the protection of the law;
b) Freedom of conscience, of expression, and of peaceful assembly and associations; and
c) Respect for his/her private and family life.

This section clearly outlines our entitlements and makes specific mention with regards to ones life, namely, that: “no person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law of Anguilla of which he has been convicted”.

It also makes another specific mention of freedom of movement, namely, that: “no person shall be deprived of his freedom of movement, and, for purposes of this section the said freedom means the right to move freely throughout Anguilla, the right to reside in any part of Anguilla, the right to enter Anguilla and immunity from expulsion from Anguilla.” 

Cold hearts in warm paradise... by the way, 
how do you describe your heart?
My quoting of these two specific sections of the Chapter may evoke the reaction from some persons that everyone knows that. However, it is alarming that an aspect of the trend in violence suggests that there are some persons who believe that they are justified in taking a life for the most frivolous reasons. To wit: “He disrespected me!” or “He is not from this part of Anguilla what is he doing here?” They likewise feel justified in destroying someone’s property for equally frivolous reasons.

Those are the “faulty principles” to which I alluded earlier! But how do these faulty principles become entrenched in our society? It is through the cycle of violence that they become entrenched! Ordinary folk who would normally condemn such behaviour get caught up in the pattern of revenge/retaliation and the sense of unfairness that springs from unsolved cases, perceived injustices and, rightly or wrongly, lack of confidence in the authorities. I shudder at the comments made by persons who are blinded by loyalties to the extent that they find a way to rationalize criminal behaviour. And the longer this cycle of violence continues the more the culture of “faulty principles” becomes entrenched. This is our dilemma!

Genetically modified in waiting... a wild wild west
syndrome that will call for specialist decoders.
So why is it important to promote these fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution? This trend of violence is leading towards a “vigilante” response from our community. Such a response can only lead to the escalation of gun violence in our society and the wanton destruction of life and property --- a “wild west” syndrome that will call for radical solutions. Our people need to be led away from this path of self-destruction that is being reinforced by the frustrations associated with the perceived sluggish pace of criminal apprehension and justice. They need to understand how the system must provide for their rights and freedoms without infringing on the rights and freedoms of others. This will be critical to their appreciation of role of the institutions of security and justice. They must be shown that the proliferation of violence will eventually touch everyone in the community at every level if it is allowed to go unchecked.

This not a party political issue! But it can threaten the very fabric of our democracy if it is addressed in that manner. The cycle of violence can only be stopped if we work at it together --- all the groups within our society whether social, cultural, Church, economic or political. And that will only be achieved if we adhere to the principles inherent in our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are the principles that democratic countries the world over espouse. Those democracies comprise individuals and groups who invest, do business and visit in our island home. We deserve an environment in which we can exercise these rights freely. They expect no less!

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 The Anguillian News Paper, lyricist, and a self-employed entrepreneur.

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” – MLK.