CHIEF MINISTER’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2017

anguillian
By anguillian December 25, 2017 11:26 Updated

 

 

As 2017 comes to a close — heralded in by the joy and merriment associated with the Christmas Season — many of us are reflecting on the events of the past twelve months. Needless to say this was a year that was designated for great celebration — a moment in our national history that no patriotic Anguillian would allow to go unnoticed. Indeed preparations were being made for this Golden Jubilee Year of our Revolution more than a year in advance.

But as this year dawned, we were in mourning over the passing of the Father of the Nation, the late Honourable James Ronald Webster, whose mortal remains we put to rest with much ceremony and celebration befitting his unparalleled contribution to the cause of the Anguilla Revolution and the making of Modern Anguilla.

There were notably many more fallen patriots as the year progressed, including the Father of Commerce and Industry, the late Mr. Albert Applebaum Richardson Lake, OBE, who finally succumbed to a protracted period of illness. May all their souls rest in eternal peace!

Let me therefore take this opportunity to remember those among us who have lost loved ones, old and young, to natural causes; violent causes; and accidents during this landmark year. Their families, relatives, friends and indeed the entire community will certainly miss them in several ways during this season of fellowship — and will ponder in sadness on those memories that only Christmas can evoke. May we all find comfort in the knowledge that this is all a part of God’s divine plan!

God through the elements of nature/his creation — also saw it fit to send us an important message during this Jubilee Year. The most severe weather system in the recorded history of our region visited our little island leaving destruction and death in its wake. Once again reminding us that He is in control and that we exist only because of His Grace. Indeed, despite the physical losses we have suffered — many lives have been spared. And we have so much to be thankful for even as we struggle to rebuild Anguilla stronger and better with His support and guidance.

Our island has been commended for the level of resilience we have exhibited as a people in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Indeed, we have a lot to be proud of in the manner that we have conducted ourselves since that awful morning of Wednesday September 6, 2017.

The community started early, and without solicitation, to clear roads and remove debris from our streets and homes; there was no need to implement a state of emergency; there were good neighbours, friends and families that readily assisted those in need of support; the first responders and emergencies services maintained their posts throughout and immediately after the storm; and the best attributes of our “Anguillianism” were for the most part evident.

But we must also express our gratitude to Anguillans and friends of Anguilla living abroad; leaders, groups, and organizations from our sister islands in the region; international agencies and charitable organizations; and the Government and people of the United Kingdom for their immediate relief support in various forms. Without that spirit of caring and kindness residing in their hearts our situation could have been even more traumatic.

So despite the many challenges we have faced over the past twelve months, there is one undisputable fact: “We have survived!” This is due, in part, to our resilient nature; our friends regionally and internationally; the British Government and people; and most importantly the Grace of God.

Just over 100 days after Irma; Jose; and Maria we have made great progress as a result of island wide initiatives led by various agencies, organizations, groups, and individuals from both the private and the public sector — all singularly focused on the task of recovery and rebuilding stronger and better. We can be grateful that among those many blessings:-

• Airport services have been restored;
• Hospital services have been stabilized;
• Schools have been reopened;
• Sea Port Services are being maintained at functional levels;
• Telecommunication Services are rapidly improving;
• Fuel Delivery Services are stable;
• Banking Services have been restored;
• Water Distribution Services are improving;
• Island Wide Electricity is approximately 90% restored. Many thanks to our own ANGLEC employees and their colleagues from across the region and Canada;
• Food Security has been maintained;
• Initiatives to assist the employment sector have been introduced; and,
• Our Churches continue to find ways and places to worship and give God thanks.

And this list is not exhaustive!

You will, however, be aware that the 2018 Budget has not been brought to the House of Assembly. And you would have also heard that your Government has received an undertaking for a grant of some EC$220 million from the UK Government for capital projects in the recovery plan. Both of these realities dictate that we must expand the budgetary process to ensure that we have negotiated all the preconditions for approval by the Secretary of State so that we have a solid plan of action to meet the financial challenges that could be experienced in the ensuing year. As has been one of our many mantras throughout this ordeal — “We hope for the best even as we prepare for the worst!”

Let me also state that there is absolutely no intention to increase taxation. There will be no new taxes in the 2018 budget. There will be in fact some reductions as well as concessions for persons, groups, and organizations desirous of repairing their homes and property. And Government will further advance its recovery support for persons and businesses that have sustained damages and lost jobs as a result of Hurricane Irma.

There is also another important grouping that we must not as a people take for granted in this period of gratitude and reflection, namely, our visitors and investors. Despite the ravages of the most violent storms of record in our history — they have not walked away. They have remained loyal; returned; and continue to support the recovery process with tangible resources.
And in this vein it would be remiss of me if I did not pause to acknowledge, with deep regret and fond memories, the recent untimely passing of the late Mr. Leandro “Lee” Rizzutto, one of the most generous and prolific investors in our Tourism Industry. As a grateful people we remember his family in this time of tremendous grief and loss.

But we must we not be selfish to reflect only on the circumstances that impact our families and persons associated with Anguilla. Many of our neighbours in the region have been equally devastated by these severe weather events and in many cases they have suffered many times more than we have, especially in terms of loss of life and property. God’s Grace will also attend them in their efforts to rebuild.

As a Government we have continued to remain focused on what we deem to be the greater good, even as we have been addressing the real challenges of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. There were times when we were frustrated but we have never given up hope. Indeed our most effective weapon in this struggle has been HOPE. Our valleys of frustration have come not because we believe that we have all the answers — but rather because those who criticize relentlessly seldom offer solutions. In fact, it often appears that their actual criticism is the goal/objective itself.

Undoubtedly, next year will also come with its own set of challenges — but like the past year there will be times for celebration as well. We refuse to be a part of the conversation that spells doom and gloom for Anguilla. Such talk is for persons who seem to find some perverted pleasure in our island’s demise — simply to advance their selfish agenda. Such conduct is not consistent with the message of peace that was a key component of the early vision of the Anguilla Revolution — neither with the gift of peace and salvation of which this Christmas Season reminds us.

I feel particularly moved to commend all those persons and businesses that have made the effort, even as we struggle to complete our island wide electrification, to cheer up our villages and communities with the glorious lights of Christmas. I especially commend the Community Lions Group that has yet again not spared any expense or effort to decorate and illuminate the trees and walks of Coronation Avenue in the Valley. Thus lifting many spirits while creating an atmosphere of joy; hope; and promise for Anguillan residents and visitors alike.

This message of Hope is appropriate to the many persons in our community that are feeling the impact of setbacks — even despair of various kinds in their lives at this time. Let us in the spirit of this season reach out to all of them in our prayers. But also let us not neglect the opportunity for giving and sharing in whatever way we can. It is what Christmas is all about!

I want to especially thank our new Governor, His Excellency Mr. Tim Foy, for his support and team spirit as he worked together, brilliantly, with my colleagues and I, in this effort so quickly after his arrival on our island. We sincerely wish him and his family all the best for this blessed season.

To all Anguillans and to all residents; visitors and friends of Anguilla — let me take this opportunity on behalf of all my colleagues in Government as well as my own family to wish you all a very blessed and joyous Christmas and continued good health; happiness and prosperity for the New Year and many more years ahead.

May God bless you all and May God bless Anguilla!

(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)

anguillian
By anguillian December 25, 2017 11:26 Updated

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