ENOUGH IS ENOUGH by Tyrone Hodge
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth,” (Oscar Wilde).
In Anguilla, we seem to have one devil of a time trying to get to the truth, or some semblance of the truth. We have hit a fork in the road and are unsure of which direction to take. Do we go left or do we go right? Given that we still find ourselves in dire straits, our own minds may not have very much farther to go before they start to act as the enemy.
Anyone contesting the last elections ought to have had their heads examined, for knowing the condition of the island, the way it was, and still is, was a very tall order to fill. We have in place now, a government, who after giving considerable thought as to why they would want this job, proceeded to annihilate the sitting government. So, having done that, we now look to the new government to make us whole again, and while some progress has been made, quite a bit remains to be done.
This government, while it does not particularly boast about what it is doing, allows an agenda to be put out there by those not particularly aligned with it. It was good to hear that the CM actually held a news conference the other day. And while the issue of the banks remains unresolved, this government is missing a golden opportunity to take some of the glare off of the banks. Remember, this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Not a few of its friends who want to see a particular outcome.
The banks are an important part of us. They define who we are as a people, but they will only prosper and become whole again if, and only if, our people have what to put in them, money, and how does that happen? Jobs. As the saying goes, “a rising tide floats all boats.”
We are still waiting with bated breath for a decision as to what will happen to our two indigenous banks. Amalgamation or what? The general consensus of people in the know is that the banks should not be consolidated and if, in fact, that is the route our CM wants to take, then I’m afraid that the backlash would be one in which a divisiveness, the likes of which we have never seen, would cast a giant shadow over our lovely paradise, not to mention what it would do to the fabric of our very existence. Mr. Chief Minister, think long and hard about what you are about to do. Venner and company have their agenda, the same as we have ours. Let us not be fooled for one minute that they really give a damn about Anguilla and what happens to us. Mr. CM, I’m telling you what I told the last CM, do no harm.
Because we are a small territory, we tend to be on the receiving end of a lot of big brother decisions that we basically have no say in. This happens time and time again, and if we don’t acquiesce to the demands made by the British Government then punitive measures most often seem to be enacted against us. A quick perusal of our almost fifty year history as an Overseas Territory will find an array of examples, many of which were either initiated by the Brits because we wanted something, and they in turn also wanted something, or our guys wanted something and the Brits saw an opening to further extract something they had given us. We can start out with transshipment; we can look at offshore finances, just to list the two that come to mind right away.
We tend to always find ourselves behind the eight ball, and in pool parlance, not a good place to be. I’ve said this many times before. After fighting all our lives for better living conditions for our people, we were able to finally accomplish our goal only to see it slowly wither on the vine. Don’t get me wrong now. It is not dead – there’s still some semblance of life in the old rock, but it is in dire need of a transfusion of energy, the likes of which we have never seen.
From the time that we came into existence, we have been on our own. When the British refused to help us, we sought help from elsewhere. Many of us left home at a tender age – when we ought to have still been in school – to seek a better life for ourselves and our families. We have always been independent. When we didn’t have, we made do with what we had. We created our own way of life and we did quite well too. We built our own ships, flew our own planes, owned our land and founded our own banks.
To now have a few people determine for the rest of us that our banks should become one, and that we are unqualified to manage our own finances, I think is the last straw, and is definitely a nonstarter. They might as well take a scalpel to our midsection, for that’s basically what they will be doing. Mr. CM, you can’t be alright with this. You want to be the one to let the banks got to hell? Think long and hard about this. Do you know from whence those banks came? You want to tell those people who spent their hard earned cash to found those banks, that you are willing to let them go? Do you not understand what is going on here? What are we going to leave for the coming generations? What are you going to tell your children? Daddy blew it?
When you read and research the members of the other seven ministries, one is forced to take stock and ask the question, are these the guys who are going to be sitting on that committee which advises the Governor of the ECCB? Seriously?
I question their objectivity in arriving at the right solution, knowing what’s been said, and how they’ve treated us in the past. You’ll recall, when we broke away from St. Kitts, many of the islands reps who were Bradshaw’s friends, sided with the Premier, because they wanted to keep us in our place. How dare we do this, how dare we try to fight for a better life, how dare we try to get paved roads, electricity, telephone service, better schools, better healthcare and so on? How dare we? You’ll also recall that our Father of the Nation, Mr. Ronald Webster, shot off a sternly worded letter warning them to stay out of our affair, an affair to which they’d contributed nothing, and now these are the same guys that will determine what happens to our banks? Mr. Webster where are you when we truly need you?
I don’t know if all of these machinations are attempts to marginalize us here in Anguilla, but it sure as hell looks like it. I’ve said many times that this is a bellwether year for us. This government, more than any other government, has an opportunity to make a difference. If we allow the British to come in and dictate to us what we can and can’t do, when they’ve contributed not one farthing to our well being, then maybe the time has come for us to start discussing independence from Great Britain. Think about it. If the Ministry of Finance is commandeered by the Governor’s Office, that will have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I hope I’m dead wrong.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention and, as the saying goes, we had to become inventors. Don Mitchell, retired Court of Appeals Judge, wrote, in his without borders article, that we weren’t quite ready for the big-time: “We were sheepherders, fishermen and sailors, entrusted to run a country with ministerial government,” a task that would have seem daunting to anyone, not to our guys. These were the same guys who took the fight to Bradshaw on his own turf, so what does that tell you about us? Think about it.
As I’ve said earlier, we’ve arrived at a fork in the road, and we’re waiting for a sign as to which direction we ought to take. We are faced with issues that require our undivided attention. We have a participatory democracy and as such must be involved in the process. If this doesn’t happen the backlash to any unilateral decisions made by this government, or the Brits for that matter, will be “something fierce” to use an old saying. If our CM is contemplating merging both local banks, good luck with that. If the Brits are seriously trying to pass a resolution to take away the Department of Finance from the Finance Minister, good luck with that. Of course I’m being facetious here, but are we paying attention? Folks he who hesitates is lost, and that’s exactly what we seem to be right now. Let us let our government know that merging the two local banks is not acceptable. Fix the banks and get on with it. The Brits gave us guidelines as to how they want things done – ask them if it’s their money that we’re spending. If we’re not ready to do what they tell us, then perhaps it’s time to move out of our mother’s house. Read into that anything that you wish. Until next time, let us keep the dream alive, that one day we will achieve that which we started out for. Till then, may God bless us all and may God continue to bless Anguilla.