ANGUILLA DAY CELEBRATED ON MONDAY, MAY 31
While all of its Caribbean neighbours followed their normal work and way of life routine on Monday, May 31, Anguilla celebrated in grand style the 43rd Anniversary of its 1967 revolution in which it broke its political and constitutional links with St. Kitts-Nevis and set out on a long journey to self-determination and separation.
It was only in December 1980 that Britain unilaterally and formally separated Anguilla, granting the island and its daring people Crown Colony status, later re-styled an Overseas Territory. The May 30 Anguilla Day celebration was deferred this year to the following day as the usual date of the historic occasion fell this time on a Sunday.
The main event was the customary official parade at the James Ronald Webster Park, which was held under a heavily-overcast sky and a humid atmosphere, but with a large turnout of uniformed units, many invited guests and other members of the public, as well as the 21 persons selected for awards. The welcome remarks were delivered by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Foster Rogers, who also chaired the proceedings.
The uniformed units comprised contingents from the Royal Anguilla Police Force, Her Majesty’s Prison, Scouts, Cub-Scouts, Guides and Brownies, Pathfinders, Girls Brigade and the Police/Community Band, all under the command of Inspector Elliott Forbes. The parade was inspected by Chief Minister, the Hon. Hubert Hughes, accompanied by recently-appointed Commissioner of Police, Rudolph Proctor.
The inspection was followed by a precision drill by members of the Police Force and a march past of the uniformed bodies during which the salute was taken by the Chief Minister, who was accompanied on the dais by His Excellency Governor Alistair Harrison.
The event, which lasted more than three hours, included reflections on the revolution by Carmen Woods, one of the island’s early Police Officers and an honoured revolutionary heroine; and a poem written about the “Father of the Nation”, Ronald Webster, by noted local poet and freedom fighter, Daisy (Juan) Richardson, and read by radio personality and honoree, Iwandai I. Gumbs.
There were two greetings which preceded the address by the Chief Minister. The first was delivered by Leader of the Opposition and Elected Member for Valley North, the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers. “Our history recalls the resilience of our people in the most trying circumstances and the fact that they remain, in the words of our National Song, ‘a nation proud, strong and free,’ is a testimony to that abiding aspect of our character as a people,” he told his listeners. “One fact of that history, which should be instructive, as we continue to face new challenges, is that Anguilla has been strongest when it is united.”
Mr. Rogers, noting that there were still divisions on the island resulting from the recent electioneering, said it was time to move beyond the politics and to collectively find solutions to the problems confronting Anguilla and its people.
He said there was no better time for accentuating the theme of unity than on Anguilla Day and acknowledged the presence of Revolutionary Leader, Ronald Webster, and a number of others who played significant roles in the revolution. Mr. Rogers called on Government, Opposition and ordinary citizens, to make the day a turning point in the fortunes of Anguillians and to adopt the spirit and unity of the revolution in building “a nation proud, strong and free.”
Elected Member for East End, the Hon. Jerome Roberts, attired in his uniform as a Scout Leader, commended all of the stalwarts who made Anguilla Day possible. “We should be proud to know that, after 43 years, the Father of this nation, James Ronald Webster, a humble man from my district, still remains committed to the progress of this beautiful island we call home,” he said. “I take pride in saying long live Mr. Webster and those heroes and heroines who fought to save this land as ours.”
Mr. Roberts observed that there was a falling away from some of the principles and goals set by the revolution. He called for a re-kindling of what made the people of the island proud Anguillians over the past 43 years and urged families, churches, communities and schools to do their part to promote a spirit of love, unity and achievement.
In an address, read by his step-daughter, Yvonne Price, and previously published in The Anguillian, Revolutionary Leader, Mr. Webster, said the occasion was another milestone in the history of the revolution. “As we reflect on the past 43 years, we can rejoice in the fact that, despite the uncertainties of our economic situation and changes in our social, political and cultural development, I am proud of the contributions and talents of our men and women of courage and vision…who made tremendous contributions to Anguilla by their dedication, loyalty and determination,” he stressed.
Chief Minister, Mr. Hubert) Hughes, speaking without a script, charged that “Anguilla is more colonized 43 years after 1967 than before” and blamed the people of the island for creating the situation as a result of political disharmony and division. In rare statements heard on Anguilla Day, or on any other occasion, he claimed, among other matters, that the late Premier Robert Bradshaw, against whom the Anguillians rebelled, and whom he admired, did not neglect Anguilla. He indicated his belief that St. Kitts itself was neglected by Britain and that Bradshaw’s desire for Anguilla to remain within the fold of St. Kitts-Nevis was simply to preserve the unity of the then Associated State.
Mr. Hughes, who obviously offended some persons, said at the beginning of his address that he would depart from the normal Anguilla Day “situation.” He spent much time speaking on the economic, financial and social difficulties facing the island, which he blamed on the previous administration; the lack of a budget which he said the former British Minister for the Overseas Territories, Chris Bryant, had refused to approve; the refusal of the British Government to sanction loan agreements with the Caribbean Development Bank; and certain problems encountered at the hands of past Governors over the years.
After his exhaustive and sometimes controversial address, Mr. Hughes ended it as follows: “Governor, you got a good outing today. [To] my great leader, Ronald Webster, I had eleven months in his Government. We were overthrown, but it was the best eleven months of my political career.”
Following his address, he presented awards to the 21 nominees, assisted by Mrs. Janice Hodge, Mrs. Murtle Smith and Miss Anguilla 2009/2010, Sandrina Harris.
The awardees, a number of whom were represented by family members, were Thomas Benjamin Smith, Adolphus Vanterpool and Isalee Harrigan for the part they played in the Anguilla Revolution; and the others, awarded for their contribution to social development were: Ashley Brooks (posthumously); Thomas Bryan (posthumously); Joseph Gumbs (posthumously); Mrs. Donice Hodge (posthumously); Alwyn Hodge (posthumously); Renford Hennis (posthumously); Elliott Richardson, Hubert Gumbs, Rev. John A. Gumbs, Rev. Joseph Lloyd; Rev. Menes Hodge; Kenneth (Bob) Harrigan; Walwyn Hodge; Irma Richardson; Venis Simpson, Rondie Webster, Whaldama (Ras B) Brooks; and Iwandai I Gumbs.