|Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool, District 1, AUF Opposition|
Member in the House of Assembly
Friday, 1 June 2012
The honour and the privilege is all mine to have been afforded the opportunity, due to the unavoidable absence of the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Evans McNiel Rogers, to address you at this very important National Celebration. I must however not neglect to execute my solemn promise to Mr. Rogers to convey his sincere regrets that he could not be with you today.
Yet another time we have assembled on these grounds, a central meeting place for the leaders of the Anguilla Revolution, to pay homage to those stalwarts and to recognize Anguillian heroes and heroines who have contributed in several and different ways to the furtherance of the vision established and upheld since those early days of struggle. But even as we stand here today I am certain that there are many among you who can reminisce about the rallying cries and rousing speeches from this very spot that united Anguillians to stand firm and resolute in the face of threats from a hostile Central Government some seventy miles across the Caribbean Sea.
Forty-five years later we may not be facing threats from without, but certainly from within. Threats that can destroy many of the gains we have made as a people, at the hands of persons who obviously have not been touched by that spirit of family that brought us through the many hardships of the past. I believe that I should not lose this opportunity as an Elected Representative of the people of Anguilla and as a child of the Revolution, to use this privilege on this historic meeting ground to support the campaign against youth violence and crime in our beloved island. What is happening in Anguilla today is contrary to the vision of our forbears and is to my mind an abomination to the sacrifices that they have made and that we continue to make for future generations of Anguillians.
My entire life, training and experience has revolved around social and community work. I would therefore consider it unnatural for me not to make this issue central to my short remarks on an occasion when I can appeal directly to our patriotism to help to eradicate this threat to the realization of an Anguilla “proud, strong and free”. Quite coincidentally, this seems to fit with the theme for this 45th Anniversary, namely, “time to rejoice, rebuild and reconcile”. Every Anguilla Day should be a time to rejoice. But such rejoicing must also be coupled with reflection. I believe that such reflection at this time must certainly call for the rebuilding and the reconciliation of our situation as it stands today.
I wish to make the point that while the focus is on “Youth Violence and Crime”, we should not believe that the problem rests with young people alone. Indeed, let me quote a comment made by Mr. Victor F. Banks in his weekly column on the subject on May 4, 2012: “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!” I completely endorse Mr. Banks’ opinion and likewise applaud the non-partisan initiative launched by the political leaders from District 3 and 6, including the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Commissioner of Police has also appealed to all of us to be involved in the process of bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. I commend the Commissioner for his forceful response in the face of this growing trend. He is leading the charge in that area and needs our support --- but there is also the area of prevention that demands our serious and sustained attention. This area may be even more challenging than law and order and the response must of necessity be multi-faceted. If the response is to be multifaceted so too must the persons and entities involved in its implementation. In other words no single agency, institution, individual, or group can effectively eradicate this growing scourge. I must therefore reemphasize the point made earlier that it requires all of us!
I had a chance to look into the faces of Anguillian youngsters in the documentary film of “Operation Sheepskin”, which captured aspects of the British Invasion of Anguilla in March 1969. The film gave me an opportunity to compare the demeanour of youth in the period of the Revolution when there was a patriotic reason to be rebellious with the demeanour of present day, young men especially, whose rebellious conduct does not appear to be based on any reasons that are readily identifiable. While the existence of deep anger is evident in many young people in our island to day, the young men captured on film in “Operation Sheepskin” exhibited a more civil disposition that exuded strong resolve and passion rather than deep hatred and/or anger. The source of this anger and hatred which seems to consume so many of our young people must be identified if we want to stem the ongoing cycle of violence which attends us.
Within the last ten years more than twelve young people have died as a result of senseless acts of violence and several times that number have been injured or maimed. It is certainly not a statistic that we would have expected to be confronting forty-five years ago. The entire Anguilla Revolution was executed without any serious incidence of bloodshed and in fact without any significant display of violence among our people. Following that early period when we embarked on Tourism as the vehicle for national development our mantra was “ tranquillity wrapped in blue”. Highlighting the peaceful environment we call our homeland. As that industry blossomed with “low volume high value” services we became the envy of many destinations in the region and the world and really believed that we were heading towards achieve the vision of nation strong, proud and free. It is indeed a time for rebuilding and reconciling amidst this atmosphere of celebration!
I want to take this opportunity to challenge all of us as a community to do our part to ensure that next Anguilla Day will be a time of rejoicing! A time when we can truly say that we evoked the spirit of the Revolution on this historic ground and reversed the scourge of Youth Violence and Crime within our community. There is no question that throughout our history as a people we have been most successful when we have been united in purpose to address our challenges. With God on our side let us rise up once more to bring that early vision back on the course chartered for us some forty-five years ago. I salute the honourees, past and present, whose invaluable contributions we celebrate today. May God bless all of you! And may God bless Anguilla!
I thank you all very much for listening! Happy Anguilla Day!
Posted by Realist Spikenice at 19:25