Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 8 May 2014


Mr. Colville L. Petty OBE
It has been widely claimed that our Honourable Chief Minister, Hubert Benjamin Hughes, will not be a candidate in the 2015 general elections, so I thought it would be useful to put on record, for the benefit of present and future generations, a brief history of his involvement in elections in Anguilla. Also, I shall comment on the possibility of his candidacy in 2015.

Hubert has been contesting elections since 1961. On 16th November that year he, Kenneth Hazell and Walter Hodge were defeated by Peter Adams in the election to choose Anguilla’s representative in the Legislative Council in St Kitts. Hubert contested that election as a member of the Robert Bradshaw-led St Kitts Labour Party. One thing about him is that he has never denied or disguised his high esteem for Bradshaw. As recent as Wednesday 19th February 2014 he told Keith Stone Greaves’ Anguilla Talk – on Radio Anguilla – that he was always an admirer of Bradshaw.

During the revolutionary years (1967 -1969), Hubert kept a low political profile. He did not contest any of the local elections held during that period. Actually, he dared not because he was strongly opposed to the Revolution. As a matter of fact, he took the position that there was never a Revolution. To quote him at a political meeting at the Webster Park (1981): “The Anguilla Revolution was not a revolution at all, but a skirmish . . . It was lawless people who, for selfish reasons, decided to make some sort of demonstration using the people sentiments”. But once a British administration was established in Anguilla, Hubert was back on the political stage contesting elections. The first one he contested was on 15th March 1976 as an independent candidate in the Electoral District of Road South. He beat the two other independent candidates (Camile Connor and Everet Romney) and was the sole opposition member in the Legislative Assembly. Ronald Webster, whose PPP won six of the seven seats, was appointed Anguilla’s first Chief Minister.

But Webster’s six seats did not save him when Hubert moved a no confidence motion against him on 1st February1977. The motion had the full backing of Webster’s ministerial colleagues, so Webster lost the vote (5 to 2) and Her Majesty’s Commissioner appointed Emile Gumbs as the new Chief Minister. Hubert was appointed political adviser to the Chief Minister but his dissatisfaction with the Gumbs Government, primarily because he was not given a ministerial post, caused him to leave it, within a matter of weeks, and to later join forces with the dethroned Ronald Webster.

When general elections were held on 28th May 1980, Hubert, a member of the Ronald Webster-led AUM (which won six of the seven seats), beat Urban Hazell of the ANA, in Road South, and was appointed Minister of Natural Resources, Tourism and Communications. But Webster’s Government lasted less than a year. Webster had some irreconcilable issues with Claudius Roberts, his Minister of Social Services, whom he fired – and Hubert resigned in sympathy with Roberts (his staunch political ally). Thereupon, the Commissioner dissolved the Assembly on Webster’s advice and fresh elections were called for 22nd June 1981.

The result was victory for Webster’s APP which won five seats including that of Road South where Hubert of the AUM was defeated by Maurice Connor. But Hubert was not out of the Legislature for long because when Webster called a snap election for 9th March 1984 he (Hubert), who ran as an independent, recaptured his seat from Maurice Connor of Webster’s APP which was soundly beaten winning only two seats (Island Harbour going to Nashville Webster and Sandy Hill to Osbourne Fleming). It was the Emile Gumbs-led ANA, which included Belto Hughes (Hubert’s political twin), that formed the new government having won four of the seven seats. On 11th March 1984, two days after the elections, a press release from the ruling ANA stated that Hubert Hughes had applied for membership of the ANA and that his application was approved. The next thing, yer know, Hubert was appointed Minister of Finance. But he and most members of the ANA had much difficulty working as a team so on 19th February 1985 Governor Baillie revoked his ministerial appointment on the advice of Chief Minister Gumbs.

After being expelled from the ANA, Hubert found himself back with Ronald Webster as a member of his new party, the AUP. In the 1989 general elections the AUP won two of the four seats it contested, the winners being Hubert Hughes and Belto Hughes. But it was the Emile Gumbs-led ANA that won three seats which formed the government with the assistance of Osbourne Fleming (Independent).

By the time of 1994 elections, on 16th March, Hubert Hughes and Ronald Webster had parted ways again. Webster formed a new party, the AGG, and Hubert held on to the AUP with himself and Belto winning two of the four seats it contested. The other seats went as follow: ADP – 2 (Victor Banks and Edison ‘Eddy’ Baird); ANA – 2 (Eric Reid and Kenneth Harrigan); and Osbourne Fleming (Independent).

The new government was a coalition of Hubert Hughes’ AUP and Victor Banks’ ADP – with Hubert as Chief Minister. Because Hubert and Victor were longstanding political enemies – nobody expected the coalition to last its 5-year term, but it did. Ironically, it was Victor who told a public meeting, many years earlier, that Hubert would never accede to a position of political leadership in Anguilla because, to quote him (1981): “Jah will never give power to a baldhead [Hubert Hughes]”.

Jah having proved Victor wrong in 1994, proved him wrong again when he gave power to the baldhead a second time following general elections held on 23rd February 1999. The elections resulted in another coalition between Hubert’s AUP and Victor’s ADP, with Hubert as Chief Minister, but it went into collapse mode within a matter of weeks. Victor and Eddy had accused Hubert of “Yeltsin-style leadership” and vowed to halt it. To this end, Victor left the coalition, on 21st May 1999. Eddy did not leave. He refused to follow his party leader. His reason: “I am not going to jump out of a plane without a parachute”. So he did not jump, and I can still hear Victor, on the evening of 21st May, at a political meeting in South Valley, crying: “I am standing alone! Will somebody help me?” But nobody answered his call.

Following Victor’s departure, Hughes’ Government, with Eddy’s support, limped on for several months. However, it could not conduct any business in the House of Assembly because of lack of a quorum. Eventually, Hubert took the Speaker to the High Court to compel him to convene meetings of the House. The issue revolved around whether a two-thirds quorum of the 11-member Assembly, plus the Speaker, was eight or seven. The Speaker took the position that it was 8 while Chief Minister Hughes held it was 7. When Justice Adrian Saunders, on 12th January 2000, ruled in favour of the Speaker, Hubert had no choice but to demit office. General elections were held on 3rd March 2000. Hubert’s AUM won two seats (Hubert in Road South and Belto in West End), while Victor’s ADP and the Osbourne Fleming-led ANA – which campaigned together as the AUF – won four seats resulting in Osbourne heading the government as Chief Minister.
The AUF led by Osbourne Fleming formed the government for a second time following the February 2005 general elections when it held on to its four seats. Edison Baird’s-led ANSA won two, while Hubert won the only seat of five which his AUM had contested.

Five years later, in the 2010 general elections, Hubert was appointed Chief Minister for a third time when his AUM – which included Eddy Baird – won four seats. It was the first time any of the political parties that he led gained enough seats to form a government on its own.

A synopsis of Hubert’s involvement in elections reveals the following: when he contested his first election in 1961, as Anguilla’s representative in the Legislative Council in St Kitts, he was 28 years old. It means therefore that he has been involved in electoral politics for some 53 years. Anguilla began holding separate elections under its own constitution, in 1972, and since 1976 Hubert has contested every one of them. He lost only one – in 1981. To date, therefore, he has contested 10 general elections (won 9 and lost 1) a record in Anguilla’s electoral history. No one in Anguilla has contested more general elections than him. By 2015 he would have sat in the House for 36 years – another record.

Despite Hubert’s lifelong involvement in politics, and despite him having said that he will not contest the 2015 elections, many people feel that his name will be on one of the ballot papers. They are of the view that he will run again if he believes that the AUM cannot be returned to power without him; that he will run to earn the distinction of being the first person to be appointed Chief Minister of Anguilla for a fourth term; that he will run to go down in history as Anguilla’s first Premier whenever a new constitution comes into force; and that he will stay on long enough to lead Anguilla into independence and become Anguilla’s first Prime Minister. They say he is physically fit to carry on.
Frankly speaking, he looks in good shape physically. For a man who will be 82 next year, Hubert doesn’t have a single strand of grey hair on his head. And oh he likes to boast about how fit he is. I still remember him back in 1985 telling a public meeting: “You know I went to the disco the other night and I heard the lil boys say: ‘Eh, eh! How [come] Hubert Hughes could dance so long? I never see a man dance so long!’ I said: ‘Man, I always keep fit!’”

Actually, one seldom hears of Hubert being sick. As far as I can recall he was sick three times. The first was on 25th August 1986 when Eric Reid, Minister of Health and Lands, landed a powerful left hook to his head, in the House of Assembly, throwing him to the floor. He was disoriented for a while but recovered shortly after with some assistance. The second time was in 1989 when Statchel Warner disclosed, at a political meeting, that Hubert was not well – that he was suffering “from verbal diarrhea”. And the third time was in May 2013 when the motor vehicle he was driving ran off the road in George Hill and he ended up with a fractured rib. After brief hospitalization he was fit as a fiddle again.

Time may prove me wrong, but it is my firm view that, barring death, Hubert will lead the AUM in the 2015 general elections. Already I could hear him bragging that he is the cleanest politician in Anguilla – that he is “squeaky clean” and does not take bribes. By the way, several years ago, a foreign businessman offered him a bribe and Hubert did not hide it. Listen to him at a public meeting (1985): “This [wristwatch] is the only bribe I get. But yer know how I get it. He was very clever. He slipped it on my arm. But the way he did it I feel somebody tell him: ‘Hey, you got to push that on da man arm, yer know, because he don’t take bribes’”. Hubert went on: “When I was given this watch I was so frighten . . . I run straight to the Governor with it. I say: ‘Oh Lord, Mr Baillie, dem bribe me!’”.

And, by the way, I do not think he can be bribed not to contest a seat in the 2015 general elections if he feels strongly that the AUM cannot win without him. Furthermore, knowing how Hubert loves politics, and has lived politics, I cannot see him not wanting to die, naturally, in politics. For him to do otherwise would be like committing suicide. That is why I hold the view that the only way he will not contest the 2015 general elections is if he is in his coffin. Another reason for so thinking comes straight from Hubert’s mouth. I heard him over Radio Anguilla, shortly after his recovery from his May 2013 vehicle accident, saying that he was in good shape – that his blood pressure was 120 over 70 and that his doctors were so impressed with the state of his general health that they said he could live for another fifty years. Could one imagine Hubert living another fifty years and not being actively involved in politics? I cannot. Hubert’s name will be on a ballot paper come 2015.

Mr. Colville L. Petty OBE
Colville L. Petty is a columnist for The Anguillian Newspaper. He is also a political scientist, author, writer, historian and curator for the Heritage Collection Museum on Anguilla. He is the immediate past Supervisor of Elections, and a former Permanent Secretary o Anguilla.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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