“What Madiba would have done”

anguillian
By anguillian December 13, 2013 22:15

“What Madiba would have done”

 

Mr. Victor Banks

Mr. Victor Banks

I was tempted to dedicate my entire column to the memory of the late Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, that iconic Leader of South Africa and of the struggle for justice, freedom and equality throughout the world. He was a man who understood injustice, oppression and inequality — because he endured it. And who understood the importance of sacrifice — because he sacrificed much for the liberation of his people. But above all, he was a man of great humility and who had a keen understanding of the human spirit. While he taught us many lessons throughout the journey of his life from a period of social activism; through many years of imprisonment and torture; to national leadership and international acclaim — very few of us will ever be able to emulate his ability to focus on the greater good while putting aside vengeance and hatred against our fellowmen.

But it was Reverend Keithley Lindsay Richardson, in a powerful sermon at Ebenezer last Sunday, December 7, 2013, who brought me to an awakening of the difference between people and their beliefs. He was speaking about why Nelson Mandela was able to forgive the very people who were responsible for his imprisonment and torture — then work along with them to bring the possibility of real freedom to South Africa. Mandela realized that it was not the people but rather their beliefs that had to be changed so as to bring about that lasting freedom, justice and equality in South Africa. As I reflected on that message I decided that I was not worthy even to “gather up the crumbs from under his table” — never mind eulogize so great a man in this lowly exposition. And chances are that even in attempting to do so I may in some way diminish the aura of his life and of his contribution to mankind. So I have decided to simply pray that the soul of our Brother “Madiba” rests in peace — even while I pray that the hearts and minds of all leaders become restless in his memory and in the example that he has set for selfless leadership.

On the local scene, just days before the sad news of the passing of Mr. Mandela, the Parliamentary Opposition’s public meeting at the Landsome Bowl Cultural Center grounds, on Saturday November 30, 2013, was already causing a considerable amount of stir among AUM supporters. It all culminated on the Monday Night Talk Show where it seemed that, once again, the Host exhibited his usual bias using two points on which to hang his arguments. His first claim was that the speakers were disrespectful to the Chief Minister in their presentations on the platform. The second claim was that because Eddie Baird was on the platform with the elected members of the Anguilla United Front (AUF) it meant that he was now a member of the AUF and would be replacing Delsic Rey as the candidate for the AUF in Road North in the upcoming election. He used an internal discussion paper, which the AUF Party Chairman emailed to members of the AUF Party Executive, as the grounds for the latter claim. The Host intimated that a copy of that email was somehow leaked to him.

This internal discussion paper, for the most part, analyzed the situation in Road North and options for the upcoming election. The Host haltingly read this paper to the radio audience while expressing his dissatisfaction with the way the AUF seemed to be treating Mr. Rey. A number of callers, including one of the AUM’s loudmouths who had been absent from the airwaves for some time, also lamented, in a most dramatic fashion, how the AUF leaders were treating a colleague. I was amused at how all of a sudden AUM diehards were coming to the rescue of a member of the AUF. They did not waste the opportunity to warn the AUF that Eddie Baird would be a detriment to the Party and to Anguilla. This concern for the welfare of the AUF was amusing and it occurred to me that these AUM supporters presumably want to “run our party and walk their own”.

As I listened to the program, I was amazed at the hypocrisy inherent in the comments. Here is the Party, that threw its candidate, Iwandai Gumbs, “under the bus” without warning, in the 2005 General Election. Here is a Party, which before one of its sitting elected members has had his day in Court, is already talking about his replacement in the upcoming election. Here is a Party which appears to be callously using the illness of one of its elected members as a “political football”. Can such a Party genuinely cast aspersions on the principled manner in which the AUF deals with the selection process for its candidates?

But I have been reliably informed that the AUM’s own travails still lie ahead. The AUM will also have to deal with succession planning within its own organization because the Chief Minister has indicated that he will not be contesting the seat in Road South in the next general election. This promises to be an interesting battle/fete between the “wanna-bees” in the Party. I would therefore suggest to the AUM commentators that they begin to “mind their own business” and leave the AUF’s business alone. We are quite capable of handling our situation in a principled manner and in keeping with our Party Constitution.

But the claim that I must spend some time addressing is the specific charge of “disrespect” for the Chief Minister that was repeatedly made by callers supportive of the AUM. It is a puzzlement that a Chief Minister, who built his political career on disrespecting every single one of his adversaries and their families, should now not expect to be likewise disrespected. He has sown enough seeds of disrespect in the field of politics, over his fifty years of involvement, to grow a forest of disrespectful “trees”. Those “trees” continue his legacy of lying, defaming and blaming even as we speak. In fact, it is his disrespectful style that has been adopted by many up and coming politicians who have been weaned into the belief that this is what politics is all about.

Let me make it very clear that we all have fallen short, especially during our youthful years of politics, and have said very unkind things about our opponents. I certainly have done my share, albeit quite infrequently. But the exuberance of the moment and the bitterness of the campaign, must never become the justification for such conduct — nor be considered “par for the course”. The Chief Minister, on the other hand, has boasted about his prowess in this regard. He has boasted how he destroyed David Carty and his family; how he has put Victor Banks out of the political arena; what he has done to his opponents in Road South: Franklin Connor, Brent Davis, Maurice Connor and now to Curtis Richardson; how he almost killed Governor Harris; and, generally speaking, his disdain for every single person that would seek to challenge him including members of the public service; investors; hoteliers; British officials; and so on. He wears this record of conduct like a medal on his vest and like a measure of his superior abilities as a politician.

It has become very annoying to members of the Anguilla United Front, based on the responses we receive, from the Christian Council; Civil Society; and the Radio Talk Show Hosts from time to time, that we are apparently the only group who has made statements that have crossed the line of proper decorum in public speaking. No one seems to be listening to the CM and his son, the Parliamentary Secretary, when they use the House of Assembly as a bunker from which to launch their dirty bombs of disrespect not only on their political opponents but also upon ordinary members of civil society from that cowardly vantage point. They have attacked Teachers as a group; the Parliamentary Secretary has attacked Queen Bee in the most abusive manner; and the Chief Minister has attacked Investors and Managers of several hotels, just to name a few of the non-politicians who they have terrorized from their bunker in the House of Assembly. It almost seems as if this kind of aggressive and abusive style is acceptable only when it comes from the Chief Minister and his colleagues.

Don’t get me wrong! I do not condone or encourage any kind of abusive and disrespectful language from political platforms. But I believe that there must be fairness in the manner in which society judges each and everyone of us. I sincerely hope that over the coming days, as we celebrate the life of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, we may all take the time to reflect on what really made him great – on what brought Leaders of the free world, as well as Leaders of oppressive regimes, all to one place in large numbers to celebrate his life and his contribution to humankind. And perhaps in our reflection give, at least a fleeting thought, to what Madiba would have done.

anguillian
By anguillian December 13, 2013 22:15

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