“The eyes of the Master fatten the horse!”

By anguillian February 22, 2013 09:00

“The eyes of the Master fatten the horse!”


Mr. Victor Banks

The third anniversary of the ascendancy of the Anguilla United Movement (AUM)/Anguilla People’s Party (APP) passed quietly with neither pomp nor circumstance. There were no noises from the usual “loud mouths” extolling the virtues of the Government or the deliverance it brought to the people of Anguilla. In fact, much to the contrary, there were a few former supporters of the Government threatening to make their criticisms heard on the same public media on which they facilitated their election. One such activist threatened to use the anniversary date as a launching pad for what he promised would be a “blistering attack” on the incompetence of the Government. And as if to add insult to injury the Chief Minister seemed to be conveniently absent, both physically and spiritually, since he did not even leave a recorded address to celebrate this milestone. Instead, he was on a meaningless expedition as close to the South Pole as anyone would venture without plausible reason. And the public awaits his report on how that adventure will affect its fortunes and the future development of Anguilla as a whole.

The future of Cap Juluca, the threats against the tourism industry, and the uncertainty surrounding one of the Ministers of the Government, occupied the minds of most Anguillians during the Chief Minister’s most inopportune expedition to the Falkland Islands. None of these three issues has progressed in the Chief Minister’s absence. Obviously, because all of them require clear and decisive leadership from the Chief Minister himself rather than any of his surrogates. And, unfortunately, it is to be noted that many of the surrogates who have presented themselves on his behalf do not even sit in Executive Council. It is becoming increasingly clearer, as its term progresses, that the AUM/APP Government is more and more becoming a “family undertaking”. How will it manifest itself in a system of full internal self-governance? Will it mean dynasty or dictatorship? This is not what Anguillians voted for in 2010.

It was clear when the Chief Minister set off on his journey earlier this month that he should have been aware that he had a fractured Government, incapable of making the important decisions required at that time. His most Senior Minister and his other Ministerial Colleagues are constantly at odds both in the House of Assembly and on the public media. And he just recently stripped one of his Ministers of a considerable part of his portfolio. This meant he had really one choice for the appointment of an Acting Chief Minister in his absence. It is well known that among his Ministers there is a great deal of resentment in connection with that choice. All of this has left much room for speculation as to what impelled the Chief Minister to leave Anguilla in the midst of this turmoil leaving a literally “lame duck” Administration.

A number of theories have been advanced to account for this conduct as follows: a) The Chief Minister needed to get off of the island on the Third Anniversary because he is embarrassed for not having anything inspiring to say given the lack luster performance of his Government. b) The Chief Minister just likes to travel. c) The Chief Minister genuinely believes that his bid for Independence could be enhanced by the experience, and that he could come back with some useful boasts to make his case with the Anguillian people, given the topic was self-determination and its role in self-governance and evolution. I will dismiss the first two theories summarily because they can both be considered very frivolous. But I do so mainly because if there is any element of truth in either of them, it would be very sad indeed. I would shudder to have to believe that the Chief Minister of Anguilla is prepared to leave his country, for any one of those reasons, to go gallivanting in the midst of such serious challenges.

So I will examine the third theory giving the Chief Minister the benefit of the doubt that he really sees this expedition as critical to fulfilling his very obvious passion of wanting to lead Anguilla into Independence. In this regard, I do believe that the Chief Minister was unaware of the context of this Conference or he would have realized that it was not about him but all about the Falkland Islands. I continually make the point that within the scheme of things in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Anguilla and the noisy rhetoric of its Chief Minister are of nuisance value to the British national agenda.

The Chief Minister should know by now that the venue for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Conference did not occur by accident. It coincides with the March 10-11 Referendum in the Falkland Islands in which the islanders will have to vote yes or no on the question: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?” So in truth and in fact it is not surprising that both the UK Government and the Falkland Islands Government would use this opportunity (CPA Conference) to consolidate their position in the dispute between Argentina and the UK for possession of the islands. As we all know this dispute, though it began in earnest in 1833, really came to a head in the Falkland Islands War of 1982 between the UK and Argentina. That is over thirty years ago, but during the Olympics in London last year the tensions rose again when the Argentine Foreign Minister declared that the Falklands Islands would revert to Argentine control within 20 years.

The Argentine Government has also recently contested the validity of the planned Referendum by stating that it shows “disrespect for national and international law”. So the whole staging of the CPA Conference in the Falkland Islands, in my view, has everything to do with the Falkland Islands and UK Governments working together to ensure that their position to the world community is clear and unambiguous as it relates to their rights to self-determination. Therefore our Chief Minister’s long and expensive visit to the South Atlantic Ocean is tantamount to being a pawn in the chess game between the UK and Argentina.

It may be instructive at this point to mention that the polls show an overwhelming “yes” vote for the Falkland Islanders to remain as an Overseas Territory of the UK. But I am sure that the Chief Minister and his supporters who are “pro-Independence-now” would suggest that it is because they are the same “kith and kin”. My counterpoint would be, what does that have to do with a country’s readiness for Independence? What does one’s origins have to do with exercising the right to self-determination in a responsible manner? Wherever your forebears came from — Independence means you have selected to be on your own. Let us make a few comparisons between the Falkland Islands and Anguilla as follows:

• Anguilla is 35 square miles —- The Falklands are 4,700 square miles.

• Anguilla has a population of approximately 15,000 inhabitants —- The Falklands have a population of 2,800.

• Anguilla depends mainly on tourism and financial services —- The Falklands have fishing, sheepherding, tourism and, quite recently, oil and gas exploration.

• Anguilla has a negative trade balance —- The Falklands have a very positive trade balance.

The only point I wish to make with these comparisons is that the two territories are markedly different. And strikingly so! But these are only the quantifiable differences. For example, what weighting would one place on the ongoing international dispute between the UK and Argentina or the remoteness of the Falklands as prohibitive factors in its future development? Nevertheless, these are two of the clear advantages that Anguilla would have over that Territory. On the other hand should the oil and gas exploration become a viable industry how would that change the fortunes of the Falkland Islanders? Would that heighten the intensity of the dispute or simply strengthen the economy? This is the kind of analysis that I would hope our Chief Minister would have made during his visit to that South Atlantic Archipelago of islands. For example, I would have thought that if the CM took the time to examine the Falkland’s Fishing Licensing Model that is operating so successfully in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) — it would have been a much more worthwhile enterprise to consider at this time rather than listening to lectures on self-determination. Managing our EEZ must soon, and very soon, become a top priority. That would be a way of ensuring that the horse is definitely in front of the cart.

And finally, let me congratulate all the players involved in coming to closure on the sale of the Malliouhana Hotel. Malliouhana represents the beginning of Anguilla’s foray into the field of “high value low volume” tourism. It served us well. However, we seem to face two challenges, namely, to maintain the secure environment that allows such strategies to flourish – and to further diversify our economy to make us more sustainable and self–reliant. And speaking about those three issues that still require your personal intervention — welcome back! Spend some more time at home! The eyes of the Master fatten the horse!


By anguillian February 22, 2013 09:00


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