REFLECTIONS AND IDEAS FOR A BETTER ANGUILLA

anguillian
By anguillian February 15, 2016 09:28 Updated

 

 

 

Many Anguillian belongers at home and abroad are becoming very concerned with a trend which is developing in our national life. We saw it during the last administration, and we are witnessing it in the present. More and more bills are being introduced in the House of Assembly and passed into law in a hasty manner without the public being properly informed about their implications or consulted and given the opportunity to make an input. In the judgment of many this is not the helpful or right way to administer the affairs of the country, or to ensure people’s participation, empowerment and development. We earnestly ask that this practice be discontinued going forward, and that as government leaders you become very intentional about ensuring meaningful people participation especially when matters which will have a significant impact upon their lives, and upon the tone and ethos of the country. After all, Anguilla is a democratic county and certain principles must be observed, and never compromised.

Both the word and the concept of “democracy” originated among the Greeks. In Greek, “demos” has to do with “people” and “Kratia” has to do with “ruling”. Democracy therefore means “the government” or the “rule” of the people”. In the small Greek states when an issue affecting the people had to be decided, all the people assembled and made the decisions. As time went by and the population increased it was no longer possible to make decisions that way. The idea of having representatives of the people make the decision on their behalf developed. At first, these representatives (later called Senators) were professional, voluntary and unpaid, and they served for two years or so and then went back to their professions and careers. The always consulted the people on the issues before any decision was made. For the Greeks the essence of democracy is that the people govern themselves. Informing this notion was the assumption that “the people are the best judges of their best interest and must therefore be given free scope to express their views”. From its inception then, “the voice of the people was considered a sacred canon of democracy. At one time it used to be said by the Romans that “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” While that was not true it points to the supreme importance of the people’s voice in their affairs. This is still true of democracy today, and we call upon the Government to honour and promote this principle.
The best short definition of democracy is that which was given by the US President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863. He said: Democracy is “Government of the people by the people for the people”. Short as it is, it embraces all the vital elements of true democracy. I respectfully urge our present government and all future government of Anguilla to carefully study and understand and respect the serious implications of these three short but profound phrases “of the people”, “by the people”, and “for the people”. A slightly longer definition is one found in the Oxford Universal Dictionary. “Democracy is the form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people and is exercised either directly by the people or by officers elected by them.”

It is clear from these two definitions that the elected officers have no inherent power or authority of their own. Whatever power or authority they exercise is the people’s power and authority, delegated to them, to be used in the best interests of all the people. This is why elected politicians are referred to as “the peoples’ servants”. It is therefore a betrayal of trust, bordering on treason, when the delegated power authority is used selfishly for personal gain or partisan advantages or when it is misused in any other manner. In Anguilla we tend not to see how egregious the misuse and abuse of the delegated power and authority is. Worse than that, some of us encourage the abuse, and will even defend it because of ignorance or selfishness. All misuse and abuse of the people’s power and authority will always have negative consequences for the people in the medium and long term. Our present social and economic crisis must therefore be seen largely as the sour grapes of earlier abuses of the people’s power. Our strong and sincere appeal to our present government is this: Vigorously promote and practice the principles of true democracy. The long term benefits for Anguilla will be far greater than the temporary gains of quick fixes, disguised abuse and manipulation.
A truly democratic government will always see itself as a government from below (the people’s government}. Such a government will have only one main agenda item – “The people and their best interests” – All of the people and not just some of the people. The details, decisions and outcomes of that agenda will differ considerably from those of a “government from outside”, or a “government from above”. What many persons find to be a matter of growing concern is that our present government in behaving too much like a government “from outside or “from above”, and not enough like a “government from below’, which is “of” “by” and “for” the people. Our plea then, please cherish and promote more consultation, collaboration, communication and corporation. You will reap more cooperation and commitment. Please dialogue with the people you serve and refrain from “telling” them what you “decided” for them. Good leaders inspire and empower people, and as a result there will be no need to micromanage, manipulate and bully them.

Let me conclude with a personal note of clarification specially for those persons who are very narrow in their thinking and perspective and generally see issues only in terms of party politics. How wrong you are to assume, say or promote the idea that I am a failed or aspiring politician! I have never considered or described myself as a politician in the past or in the present. It is a fact that one does not have to be a politician, in the narrow sense, to be involved in the life of one’s community. I wish more of you were really involved. I am involved because I am deeply concerned about the economic, social and spiritual well-being of Anguillians, and I have committed myself to work as best as I can for their good. I am driven by the desire to help promote justice for all and the principles of the Kingdom of God. Anyone who truly understand the meaning of the “Kingdom of God” as proclaimed by Jesus according to the Bible, must become invoved in the social and political life of his/her society.
My passion therefore is not for political position, prestige , power or possessions. I am concerned about fairness and justice for everyone in society. I am concerned about those who are struggling to make ends meet, those whose income is so inadequate that they have to choose between eating a balanced meal and paying the electricity or water bill; those single mother who have to work at a second job and have to leave their children unattended for hours. I am concerned about those elderly folk who laboured all their lives barely eking out a living and who now, in the evening of their day, live in great discomfort, pain and anxiety because they are unable to get the medication they need. I am concerned about those young people who are unemployed, frustrated and hopeless, and who do not see a future for themselves in Anguilla because of the inequities in our society, and therefore become violent and destructive to others and to themselves.
You see, people who think only in partisan terms deprive themselves of the opportunity to be a little more objective or to see the bigger picture. Often, without knowing it, they have imprisoned themselves in a mode of thought and ideology which make them follow a person or a party with a blind loyalty and cult-like commitment. Such persons need liberating in order to come alive and contribute to society.

Now, God has created and expects us to give our complete loyalty to him above all else, and nowhere has he commended us or expects us to give similar loyalty to any human being or political party. It is therefore quite in order to support a person or party, and at the same time to differ from them on a particular matter/s. Indeed, it is to be expected that one who thinks will have a different opinion at times, and even be critical of the leader or party, and still be a supporter. This is a sign of maturity and it does not make a person an enemy, traitor or demon. Any leader or colleague who regards you as such because you express a different point of view has dictatorial tendencies and does not deserve to be a leader in a domestic context. So I urge you, be analytical, and if needs be, be critical. Let no one scare you by calling you names or attempting to bully you with threats. Democracy demands free but responsible speech.

As we go forward then, let us create a new era and style of politics. Let us practice “better politics” so we can have a better Anguilla by consciously promoting and practicing politics which is transparent, truthful, thorough, tolerant, thrifty and thoughtful. May God bless us and bless Anguilla, land we love.

(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)

anguillian
By anguillian February 15, 2016 09:28 Updated
  • Evon

    Awesome reminder Dr. Niles! We are indeed answerable to God.

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