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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

“ADJUST YOUR POSTURE!”


With murmurings of Cap Juluca closing indefinitely, inundating the “broad pa’ circuit” and calls from the “Hickox Family” and the “Brilla Group” for action of one kind or the other on the part of Government --- the past weekend was not promising to be one that could inspire positive sentiments about the future of the property and of Anguilla. The “Hickox Family” on the one hand, is accusing the Government of Anguilla of not living up to the terms of its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and in particular of not living up to its age old policy which states: “All beach front accommodation shall be either hotel owned or in a rental pool available to be rented to transient guests of the hotel”. To be more specific, the “Hickox Family” is claiming that villas purchased by private owners, comprising 27 of the 95 rooms available for use at Cap Juluca, have been padlocked and are being excluded from the managed rental program of Cap Juluca. The “Hickox Family” contends that it cannot operate a property, fractured in this way, and that Government is refusing to meet its obligations under the MoU. 

On the other hand, the “Brilla Group” is claiming that the “ ‘Hickox Family’ has no ground lease with the Crown, no Alien Landholding License (ALHL), no business license, and no financial wherewithal to consolidate the Resort, let alone renovate and develop the property to its potential”. In these circumstances, the “Brilla Group” is calling on the Government of Anguilla (GoA) to “foreclose on the numerous defaults existing under the ground lease and the ALHL process and hold a bona fide auction, welcome all bidders, for anyone willing to pay the GoA and the Crown what is owed on the lease and with the financial wherewithal to invest in the property and honor its agreement!” 

As in most cases of this kind, the arguments put forward by each side can sound equally persuasive and will cause the ordinary citizen to be, to say the least, confused. In the case of the workers, service providers and suppliers of Cap Juluca one can only imagine the uncertainty and frustration that they are now undergoing --- being unable to clearly decide what to believe. And to cloud the issue even further they have all received letters and heard statements from the Hickox Family; the Brilla Group and the Government of Anguilla. The Government for its part claiming it is “not in a position to arbitrate a settlement between two private entities in this arrangement”. 

I do not intend to wade through the muddle of arguments being put forward so as to offer a clear position on this matter. But there are some factual perplexities in all of this on which I must comment. Firstly, as I recall the Government of the day less than two years ago renegotiated a brand new MoU with Mr. Adam Aron which they claimed was in the best interests of Cap Juluca --- why then are they reluctant to stand by it today? Secondly, the Chief Minister and his cohorts orchestrated a march on the Governor’s Office by the staff of Cap Juluca petitioning the Governor to hurriedly grant an Alien Landholding Licence to Mr. Hickox to take over Cap Juluca --- why then are they now making him (Hickox) out to be “the villain” to the staff at Cap Juluca? Finally, if as the Chief Minister claims he cannot arbitrate a settlement and wishes to encourage constructive dialogue --- why then is he going down to Cap Juluca giving what seems to be a clear preference to one of the parties/entities in the dispute? And just a curious thought which is provoking me to ask these questions: “ Who is the Chief Minister claiming that Governor is supporting now, the Hickox Family; the Brilla Group; or none of the above?” Or is it the past Government in particular the former Minister of Finance? Inquiring minds want to know!!! 

Fortunately, in the midst of all this there were a number of events, which gave me a good feeling and I am sure all those persons who attended them as well. On Sunday afternoon I attended the 5th Anniversary Service for Destiny Church Anguilla that is led by Pastor Gary Hodge and I must take this opportunity to congratulate him on this early milestone and wish him continued success in his Ministry. My own Church Ebenezer also celebrated the 182nd Anniversary of its Chapel Building on the same day. However, it was something that Pastor Gary’s nephew, young Minister Dalan Vanterpool said which probably stayed with many in the congregation. His text came from the Book of Lamentations Chapter 3 paying particular attention to verse 21 which reads: “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope!” 

The message was to remind us that despite the challenging times we face, through the grace of God we have survived much more and even more severe tribulations because “his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning”. His admonition was that whenever we face such challenges because of that assurance we should simply “adjust our posture” and move forward with confidence. I believe that this is a solid message both for the workers at Cap Juluca and the Government, indeed for all of us, namely, that we should not cower at times like these but rather adopt a positive attitude and approach, bearing each other up instead of pulling each other down. 

The second event that I attended was a press conference on Monday at the Anguilla Tennis Academy celebrating the continued success of the institution through one of its products, a young woman, Ms. Nzingha Banks. Nzingha was recently awarded a full scholarship to play Tennis and pursue academic studies at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. The event was in my opinion a fitting tribute to the visionary leadership of Mitchelle Lake who is the founder and CEO of the Academy. He must be commended for having built an institution that has done many positive things for the more than 3000 young people who have entered its doors and passed through its programs. These are programs that have resulted in scholarships and training opportunities for its students as well as job and business opportunities in the community. 

The Anguilla Tennis Academy is a centre of excellence and a model for sports programs throughout Anguilla, the region and the world. It is “world class” and shows what heights we can aspire to as a country and a people. It is Mitch’s passion for the sport and his desire to give other young people the chance to derive similar benefits to those he was able achieve through Tennis that has ensured its success. Somewhere in all of this are some of the solutions to the challenges we face with young people in the community as well as the kind of approaches we need to adopt as a people to really participate in the developmental issues of our island. To use the mantra which Mitch “coined” for the ATA, this is indeed the formula for “shaping lives and building a future” for Anguilla. 

The third event was an opening ceremony for “Sunshine Rainbow Real Estate Ltd” at Villa Modena also on Monday afternoon. This was a testimony to Anguillian entrepreneurship, ambition, and courage, all in one place. Young Mr. Uton Rogers who spent the past twenty-five years in the tourism industry as a top employee at the Cap Juluca Hotel, launched a new career in the real estate business. And the place he chose to keep this opening event was at Villa Modena, a multi-million dollar exclusive luxury property owned by another Anguillian, Mr. Leslie Richardson. What this event highlighted for me is the fact that Anguillians are prepared to “step up to the plate” and become fully involved and invested in the industries that drive our economy. And I, especially use the terms ambitious and courageous because in recent times both of these industries have been experiencing negative growth. 

Is there a lesson for us here that can be applied to the situation at Cap Juluca? I certainly think so! And it is quite simple! We need to press for more local ownership/participation in the ventures that comprise our Tourism sector. The previous MoA for Cap Juluca by the past Government made provision for such a possibility. If such an option were exercised perhaps we would have much more leverage in matters relating to that project today. Perhaps this is the new model we should adopt. And the price for such a facility could actually be a reduction in customs duty or a financial acknowledgement of that factor in the concessions we grant. 

These three events were a refreshing reminder that there is much that we can do to enhance our status and improve our lot as Anguillians. Uton’s venture tells us that we need to be more courageous in pursuing opportunities in the Tourism sector. The ATA is showing us that we can be world class in the way we approach critical programs in our community. And finally, Minister Dalan Vanterpool suggests that in the face of challenges we simply need to “adjust our posture” and advance with confidence and hope. Who can be against us --- but ourselves? 

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.

1 comment:

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