NEW ANGUILLA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY SWORN IN
It was the biggest gathering in recent times at the Atlin Harrigan Parliamentary Building on Monday, May 11, when the members of Anguilla’s first House of Assembly, following the April 22 2015 general election, were sworn in. Specially-invited dignitaries joined the crowd of Anguililians who filled the House to capacity and overflowed in the tents on the outside.
The visiting dignitaries, who also joined Anguillian officials at the event, included Lt. Governor Osbert Potter of St. Thomas, (US Virgin Islands) and delegation; Prime Minister Ivar Asjes and delegation from Curacao; Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs of Dutch St. Maarten and ministerial colleagues Rota Gumbs, Claret Connor and other delegation members; President of Parliament, Dr. Lloyd Richardson and MPs Mrs. Sarah Wescott Williams; Mr. Van Hugh Deweaver and Mr. Frans Richardson; and from French St. Martin, Members of the Executive Council – Mrs. Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool representing Madam President and Ms. Maud Gibbs; and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Daniel Gibbs.
The first agenda item was the election of the Speaker of the House in the person of Mr. Leroy Rogers, who first held that position for eleven years, and recently served as Deputy Speaker and Second Nominated Member. He was sworn in by Resident High Court Judge, Madam Justice Cheryl Mathurin.
After Mr. Rogers had been sworn in, he administered the oaths of office and allegiance to each of the following Elected Members: Mr. Victor Banks (Valley South); Mr. Evans McNiel Rogers (Valley North); Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge (Sandy Hill); Mr. Curtis Richardson (Road South); Mr. Cardigan Connor (West End); Mrs. Evalie Bradley (Road North); Mrs. Palmavon Webster (Island Harbour). Then followed Mr. Terry Harrigan (First Nominated Member); Mr. Stanley Reid (Ex-Officio Member and Deputy Governor); and Mr. Rupert Jones (Ex-Officio Member and Attorney-General).
There was no mention of the oppointment of the second Nominated Member Member or Deputy Speaker.)
Before inviting each of the Elected Members to speak, Mr. Rogers observed that among them were three elected women. In commending them, he commented that it was the first time in thirty years, since the election of the late Albena Lake-Hodge and Idalia Gumbs, that women were again chosen by the people of Anguilla as elected representatives.
Mr. Banks led his Anguilla United Front team in thanking the electorate for the party’s overwhelming victory at the polls. He repeated his campaign pledge to create jobs and business opportunities for Anguillians; facilitate investment; grow a vibrant economy for Anguilla; provide training for Anguillians; repeal the unfair Interim Stabilization Levy by the next budget at the end of this year; and fulfil his party’s pledge to put cafeterias in all the schools within the first two years in office. He also spoke about embracing Anguilla’s Caribbean neighbours; working towards clear guidelines and policies to ensure justice, fairness and dignity with regard to immigration systems; “and growing “a viable population size and yet remain a truly Caribbean country”. He added: “It is the only way to build social cohesion as we strive to create a more robust economy”.
Mr. Rogers was aware that the new AUF Government will have a difficult task, but he was confident that it will succeed because of the calibre of the new persons in the House of Assembly whom he referred to as “rookies”. He joined the Speaker in welcoming the three elected women to the House. He said his colleagues would not dwell on matters of the past five years, but would press on looking to the future. He pledged that the Government would seek innovative ways and means to stimulate Anguilla’s economy so that it would be able to invest in such areas as continuing education and the provision and development of health services.
Mrs. Richardson-Hodge said it was the first time that three women had been elected at once in Anguilla, two of them lawyers. “The mandate to govern that has been given to us, by the people of Anguilla, is a huge responsibility and one that we don’t take lightly,” she observed. “I am truly humbled by the degree of confidence the District 2 constituents have placed in me, and that the people of Anguilla have placed in the Anguilla United Front Government.”
She pledged that one of the first matters that she would work towards, would be the revision of the island’s labour laws so that they were fair and equitable to both employer and employee; and also a new labour code. In addition, she promised to look at immigration policy and constitutional and electoral reform.
Her assistant, Mrs. Evalie Bradley, said the AUF Government would work in the best interest of the people of Anguilla over the next five years. “Mr. Speaker, the task before us, as a Government, is a very challenging and formidable one, and all I am asking is that the people of Anguilla give us their support and prayers,” she continued. “We know that expectations are very high…but let us be constructive for the benefit of all of us as we chart a new direction for prosperity, development and opportunity for all.”
Mr. Curtis Richardson spoke about the challenges he faced, over the years, to become the elected representative of Road South, and his eventual election in 2015. “The people of Road South declared a new season, a new day, a fresh anointing, and made it come to pass – so let it be,” Mr. Richardson stated. He said the Government had only been in office for two weeks and, as Minister of Infrastructure, he had his first task – a major fire at the Corito landfill but, with the assistance of a hardworking team of fire fighters, and other persons, he was “able to fix it”. In a similar way, he promised that he and the rest of the Government would “build a new Anguilla, fix unemployment, fix the tourism and construction sectors as well as fix the problem of running water”.
Mr. Cardigan Connor said he had played professional cricket in England and Australia for fifteen years and the team concept, that took him through those fifteen years, was similar to the team concept that the Anguilla United Front brought to the election campaign, and was now bringing in Government. He added: “It is not just about the elected members, but all of us in Anguilla – and all Anguillians abroad, and our friends and family members in St. Maarten/St. Martin who will make a difference.”
Ms. Palmavon Webster said that, as an independently-elected representative and Leader of the Opposition, she would ensure that the people’s business is progressed, and that she would not oppose for opposing sake. “We won’t forget that the disadvantaged and the vulnerable people of Anguilla, deserve representation and I commit to each and every person that I will remain the voice of the people of Anguilla.” she promised. She also spoke about working towards the development of gender affairs legislation as a means of improving the social life of the island. Ms. Webster was appreciative of the Government’s pledge, as articulated by Mr. Banks, to eventually repeal the Interim Stabilization Levy and to establish cafeterias in all of the schools – the latter being one of her efforts towards a school-feeding programme.
Just before the adjournment of the House, the Speaker advised its members that the general election was over; that they should not use the immunity of the House to attack their opponents in or outside the Assembly, and should allow the House of Assembly to remain honourable.