“We got to raise the bar!” by N. Ashton Bradley

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By admin September 2, 2011 10:19

“We got to raise the bar!” by N. Ashton Bradley

Anyone who watched the Chief Minister’s August 12th Press Conference realizes the level that politics have reached in Anguilla. The Chief seemed frustrated. As a friend of mine used to say, he seemed as frustrated as eunuch at an orgy at a Sultan’s harem in ancient Turkey. But it does not have to be that way. His raw style of cut and thrust belongs to another era.

 

It is unpolished and rude behaviour which, if maintained, will always stand in the way of progress. The problem it seems rests on the fact that he finds himself unable to get what he wants done; how he wants it done; whenever he wants it done; and so he will publicly denounce anyone and everyone he thinks is not on his bandwagon or stands in his way.

Those who want to see some improvement in our politics in Anguilla were disappointed by the manner in which he referred to civil servants (by name) and his rude reference to our Deputy Governor. There are much better and more decent ways for the Chief Minister to ventilate his personal conflicts with civil servants. Since the British first set up the civil service in colonial India and took the principles developed there back to England – and under the guidance of Sir Charles Trevelyan and Sir Stafford Northcote built the modern civil service – this arm of government has always enjoyed a position of respect and eminence in most countries where it has been established. Are we going to destroy that image here? And what is the reason? It was totally unnecessary for the Chief Minister to call members of the Anguilla Civil Service out in the way he did? Did he have to say that Permanent Secretary Mr. Foster Rogers knows nothing about economics and in effect is being paid to do a job that he cannot do? And not only that, he went on to speak of the distinguished civil servant disparagingly as though Mr. Rogers is just a mere “boy about the place”.

He gave all the Permanent Secretaries similar treatment. Dr. Aidan Harrigan did not escape the insinuations either as he told the Press Conference that Dr. Harrigan was doing a job that requires knowledge of accountancy, which he claims Dr. Harrigan does not possess. His tone was similarly cross when he spoke of Mr. Larry Franklin. But the brunt of his disdain was for the Deputy Governor (DG) as he expressed his disappointment with him not being able to utilize the position of being the first local Deputy Governor to make adjustments compatible and suitable to him (the CM). He went on in this rant to say that not only did the DG fail in this respect but that he is also arrogant. And if he had his way he would most likely have another job.

But through it all it seems that what the Chief wanted to say is that he is surrounded by a bunch of square pegs in round holes. But who determines that? Whose judgment do we rely on here? Nothing else noteworthy came out of the Press Conference other than when he said that he had in place a Constitutional Committee under the chairmanship of Rev. Dr. H. Clifton Niles whose aim it seems is to achieve some of the objectives started by the AUF — not simply to promote independence. Added to that he conceded that his “last effort” at an MOU for Temenos had failed.

There is no need for the Chief to go on a Press Conference to broadcast to the world that he is dissatisfied with the transfer of his Permanent Secretaries. He should not do it because if jobs were always allocated according to specific academic qualifications, based on the Chiefs’ reasoning, he may well be digging trenches. And why is the Chief so hard on civil servants? None of his political appointees and paid advisers has been formally trained.

But it does not work like that. The people of the village of Blowing Point although well aware of the fact that he is not formally trained, or learned in any discipline, continue to vote for him. So why not develop an amicable and cordial relationship with civil servants and try to seek real solutions for the real problems we have and which lay in the area of his portfolio? He could perhaps find out why the last deal he made failed. Was it because one of the square pegs got in the way, or is it that Anguilla is no longer the desirable spot to invest, as it was prior to him becoming Chief and wrecking our image abroad? One ought not to wash one’s dirty linen in public. If as he says the civil service is that bad — let us seek help to change it because bad mouthing, on its own, will not positively improve the situation. But firstly it will require that the Chief and his colleague politicians clearly understand their relationship with civil servants in the scheme of things.

In our simple Constitution some attempts have been made to incorporate the separation of powers. For example, the Members of the Legislature can pass any law that is in the interest of the people of Anguilla people and it requires the Governor assent or signature. But he cannot tell the Legislature what laws to enact. For the Governor to refuse his assent to Bill passed by the Legislature it must be really draconian or is repugnant and flies in the face of HMG law. Legislators have their own place in the political set up, and so has the Governor. He is responsible for the administrative side of things and the Legislature cannot micro-manage for him under this arrangement.

There is no point in belittling our civil service. The Chief knows that some of the people he has around him as advisers would have difficulty distinguishing between a “union” and an “onion”, or a demand curve from a supply curve. People who live in glasshouses should not throw stones. But it does not have to be like that! We can raise the bar a few notches. One can conclude that the Press Conference of August 12 was not a real press conference but rather an exhibition of a politician with a severe attack of political colic, puking in public.

But let us now look at an alternative way of doing things. In this scenario the Chief is in his Chair. He extends recognition to the reporters in the room and, with some poise, goes on to tell them why he has called the Press Conference. For example, he tells them, without calling names, about the situation of the transfer of Permanent Secretaries. He then goes on to talk about the friction which has developed between the Deputy Governor and himself. He expresses his displeasure without getting into the personality of the Deputy Governor. Above all he GIVES respect to the office of the person he is dealing with. It is not Stanley or Stanley Reid that he is dealing with. He is in fact dealing with a very senior officer in the hierarchy of our governance system and his position must be given due respect. When the Chief demeans the office for one Anguillian he trashes it for all. Is there no class in this place? Should cats, rats and dogs be sticking their feet in the same trough? Come on!

Let us create a classy though classless society! And let it begin at the top! How are future politicians to behave? Are they to emulate what they see here or look elsewhere for example? The Chief could have gone in; delivered his brief; taken questions and then left without trashing the system. Instead he continues to do the limbo! How low can you go?

The author of this article may be blamed for bias. But he is convinced that the Honorable Victor Banks would not do or say anything that would put one single civil servant in Anguilla in bad light. Instead he constantly promotes them and gives them mutual respect. That is what good leaders do!

admin
By admin September 2, 2011 10:19

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