CONSULTATION SHOWS MUCH INTEREST IN DRAG RACING
Over the past few years there have been several public consultations on a variety of matters of national interest and concern to the citizenry of Anguilla. However, none of them attracted the high level of attention and participation like the consultation on drag racing last week.
It was the first such consultation on the thrilling sport which was held at the Teachers’ Resource Centre on Wednesday evening, November 5. The attendance was dominated by members of the Anguilla Drag Racing Association (now Anguilla Motorsports Incorporated), and other enthusiasts of that sport. Several political candidates were also in attendance.
Mr Jerome Roberts, Minister of Sports, said he was unable to provide a personal opinion on drag racing as it was a matter that would eventually go to Executive Council for approval. He stated, however, that the issue had been under discussion for some time and that those calling for approval of the sport “were very much on edge as it appeared to them that the bureaucracy to carry it forward was taking forever.” He thought it was prudent for government to find a way to help to move the process forward. He reported that there had been a number of behind-the-scenes consultations between his Ministry and members of the Drag Racing Association but, as drag racing would have an impact on the community, there was a need for the involvement and views of the general public as well – hence the public consultation.
Mr Roberts said there were ten points in the government’s discussion paper for the consultation. Those points, in the form of questions, were put to the audience by personnel from the Sports Department. “We are at this point because there is no proper legislation in place to address drag racing on Anguilla and therefore we are looking at finding a half-way house,” Mr Roberts stated. “What we are doing, once it is accepted by the general public, is to find a mechanism whereby our drag racers can have a location to carry on this sport and prepare themselves not just for [racing] here in Anguilla, but when they travel overseas to represent Anguilla.”
Mr Rollins Richardson, Acting Director of Sports, who urged the persons in attendance to reply to the questions, said the ten discussion points were aimed at providing the government with the required information to guide its policy decision on drag racing. The intention is to find a suitable location for drag racers to test-drive their vehicles, at least once a month, in preparation for racing competitions in places like Nevis, until the Anguilla Government could give approval for the development of a purpose-built drag racing strip on the island.
There was constant feedback from the floor to the ten questions or points in the government’s discussion paper. A number of persons suggested that there was a need for government and the drag racers to work together in several possible areas of cooperation, but without government being liable in cases of accidents. These included the choice of an appropriate public road or other area for temporary practice sessions and test-driving, pending the actual development of a drag-racing site; and the provision of insurance and other safety matters including ambulance, police and fire services in the event of accidents.
The records show that an area at Corito was earmarked some years ago as a possible site for a drag racing strip, but this has remained on the back burner. Since then, some youngsters, much to the annoyance of the police, have been illegally using the Jeremiah Gumbs Highway to practice their sport.
There appeared to have been much unanimity among the participants in the public consultation for the development of a purpose-built drag-racing site and for a temporary location until then. A number of the proponents argued that drag-racing could be a means of occupying the mind and time of the island’s young people, and a means of reducing their engagement in various forms of misbehaviour or idle indulgence.
One drag racing enthusiast put across his views squarely when he remarked: “We don’t want to put the government under no more stress, under no cost, but we have to bear in mind that we need something to get somewhere. If we don’t have nothing then we will just go off course; and we need something to get our youths back together again.”
The date and place of the second public consultation on drag raising – on the government’s discussion paper – will be announced later by the Ministry and Department of Sports.