Speech by the Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hon. Hubert Hughes
Blowing Point, Anguilla
8th January 2011
(The Valley, Anguilla) - Included here is a speech by the Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hon. Hubert Hughes, at a January 8th rally. The rally followed the refusal by the British Governor to sign the Government's 2011 Budget, another of a continuous series of steps seemingly directly opposed to the will of the duly elected government.
I thank you for your tremendous attendance this evening. It shows that you have listened to the call to join with me in this fight for our FREEDOM – ECONOMIC FREEDOM. This is the first in a series of Rallies that we will be holding because no one must say that they do not know what is currently facing Anguilla .
We want everyone to know that Anguilla is in a serious battle and while you have elected a Government to responsibly take on these battles on your behalf, we have done the best that we can on your behalf. WE NOW NEED YOUR ADDITIONAL VOICES TO LET BRITAIN KNOW THAT THE MESSAGE WE SPEAK COMES NOT JUST FROM YOUR LEADERS, BUT FROM YOU.
This Rally is not a Government Rally, it is not an AUM rally.
Tonight’s rally is a Rally for Anguilla, a Rally for a FREE Anguilla and we want to make sure that all Anguillians at home and abroad understand that Anguilla right now is on the sacrificial alter; We want every Anguillian to understand that now it is the duty of each and every Anguillian to protect this island; protect it not just for ourselves, but for our children.
The one advantage I have being a politician all my life and being first elected in 1976, is that at this point in my life no one can accuse me of self-interest.
I am almost at the end of my career, but UNTIL THE LAST DAY THAT I SERVE THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY, I have to LOOK OUT FOR, FIGHT FOR, AND PROTECT THIS ISLAND so that the next generation has an island for which they can feel proud to call home.
The slogan that we have adopted for this series of Rallies that we will be having is "WE FREED ANGUILLA IN ‘67, WE WILL DO IT AGAIN IN 2011."
There is a reason why I wanted the memory of 1967 to be focused in our minds. The reason is because we need to remember that the Revolution of 1967 was a fight for our economic freedom, it was a fight for fair treatment, it was a fight for self-determination, it was a fight for a better life for the People of Anguilla.
Mr Ronald Webster was like Moses taking his people out of Egyptian bondage.
Our People had been feeling the weight of that unfair treatment. Back in that time, we were completely bereft of general amenities like water, electricity, telephone, general communications, roads and like. We were deprived of an opportunity to work and earn our own living in our island. The infrastructure discouraged foreign investment. We as a People were not feeling encouraged by the administrative relationship with St Kitts. We wanted a break. A break for a better life; a break to have the freedom to develop our own destiny.
We were aiming for complete independence. That was Mr Webster’s dream, that we should be independent, we should have economic freedom and we should be able to shape our own destiny.
Everyone knows that Britain never supported the Revolution. Left to Britain, we would have all been shipped off to Guyana a long time ago. They invaded us in 1969 and they installed their Commissioner, but the Anguilla Government headed by Mr Ronald Webster ran the affairs of Anguilla independently of the British Government.
Let us not think for one moment that Britain has ever forgotten that humiliation.
Over the years, Britain has been allowed to eat away at the Constitution we first had; a Constitution which gave SUPREMACY TO THE HERITAGE OF A FREE ANGUILLA.
Today, the Constitution that we have has essentially reversed the power that Anguilla had to control its own affairs and has put the power back into the hands of the British. We should remember our heritage so that we can teach our children and so THEY will teach the generations that come after. If not we will be like a ship without a rudder.
We have to send the message that to be an Anguillian is to be PROUD, BLACK AND FREE. That is the heritage of the band of men and women that stood behind Mr Webster. The mere fact that Britain has never recognised or honoured Mr Webster should give you a clue.
They prefer to honour Sir Emile Gumbs for his contribution. Don’t think that for one moment that this Government will receive British favour for giving Mr Webster the highest honour that this island can give to be considered as Father of the Nation – an honour that other Governments refused to give. At times like these when Anguilla is faced with its most serious economic crisis since that 43 years ago,
We cannot afford to let the work of the Father of the Nation, Mr Ronald Webster go down the drain;
We cannot afford to let the work of Mrs Mildred Vanterpool to go down the drain;
We cannot afford to let the work of Mrs Daisy Wong go down the drain;
We cannot afford to let the work of Mrs Doreen Duncan go down the drain;
We cannot afford to let the work of Mr Collins Hodge and Wallace Rey and so many OTHERS to go down the drain.
That is why now in 2011 when AGAIN the chips are down; when the life as we know it is threatened to the core; when the plans of the British government clearly send us down a path of collapse we have to band together as we did back in ’67. We have to throw off the yoke of oppression and fix our eyes and energies on being able to control our own destiny.
So where are we today? What is this economic crisis that threatens our stability? I know that I am preaching to the converted when I say that everyone in Anguilla knows what was the state of Anguilla when this Gov’t got into office in Feb last year.
You all know that the Treasury was bone dry and that there was not even money to pay the salaries and general expenses for Government at the end of February. Everyone knows already that the former Gov’t had been borrowing over 10mil monthly since about Oct 2009. We were in dire state. But the Anguilla United Movement were prepared to take on the challenge of getting this island back on a track of prosperity. We asked for your TRUST in us and you gave it and we have earnestly, together with Mr Jerome Roberts who joined our Team, tried to get this country out of the dire economic slump that it is in.
Our plan focused on seeking to grow our economy, use capital investment initiatives such as the construction of the Sea Port at Blowing Point, attracting foreign investment so that money could be pumped money back into the island and so that it can circulate and stimulate economic activity.
Although the British Government had absolutely no difficulty in allowing the Front Government not to pass a Budget as they should have done in December, they refused our 1st Budget in March We worked again, implemented further initiatives and produced a 2nd Budget in June. And now in December, despite all the work and I can assure you the financial technocrats in the Ministry of Finance worked like beasts produced another Budget. 3 budgets in one year.
We know that we had a huge deficit. Over 86 million EC dollars when we came into the administration. We agreed with the British Government that we would seek to reduce that deficit and bring us to sustainability in three (3) years. That was the agreement. In our first year alone, our budget shows that we would be cutting that 80 million down to 50 million.
Now let’s be clear, we know that even to get to that point means that we were forced to implement some taxes which we are not exactly pleased about. But out of all the taxes that the British Government wanted us to implement we felt that the ones that we agreed to are reasonably manageable by our People and could still achieve the aim of reducing the deficit.
For several months our technocrats and the British finance technocrats have been having a back and forth over this Budget. There have been meetings sometimes several times per week and the one sticking point that continues to echo in those discussions is that the British Technocrats keep reminding our Finance Technocrats that the section dealing with Personal Emoluments or salaries of the Civil servants is too high.
Our Finance technocrats have showed the British technocrats over and over and under that the impact of cutting the civil servant salaries or cutting the service at this time is going to have such serious impact that the economic collapse of Anguilla is threatened.
You see it is important to understand the relationship between the civil service and the rest of the economy. Government is the biggest employer on the island. As such in an economy such as ours right now, where the private sector and the tourism sector are under-performing, if we are to cut civil servants in any significant numbers, with our knowledge of the state of the Banks, it would be an irresponsible act.
You have to remember the civil service is the portfolio of the Governor. It was HIS duty to ensure that the numbers of civil servants were grown to a manageable amount and that salaries were maintained at a sustainable level. None of that was done and both salaries and numbers of civil servants grew. Now is not the time to deal with either. Putting civil servants on the street without caring for how they will feed themselves or their families is morally reprehensible.
For us not to be concerned with how their loans will be paid, or how their ordinary bills would be paid or how they will be able to care for their household is not how this Government operates. Had our People had the safety nets like the People in England and collecting weekly amounts for them to survive, that would have been a consideration. But even after explaining ALL that to the British technocrats, that has become the sticking point. THEY JUST DON’T CARE.
Now that we have exposed them and have passed the Budget as is without sending people home the British Gov’t is playing their games. The Governor has just sent me a letter last night saying that the British government has not said that they want a particular level of reduction in expenditure or in the numbers of the public service. Again, A TWIST ON THE TRUTH because the Governor has been present in meetings, as indeed I have, in which the British technocrats were saying that we had to reduce the civil service. Our Finance technocrats like Dr Wycliffe Fahie, has come out publicly on radio and explained the situation that Anguilla faces to the people. He has shared with the People of the country the fact that the British technocrats have insisted that the salaries and numbers of civil service is the sticking point.
Dr Aidan Harrigan circulated an email to persons like Mr Bellingham right down to the Governor and others after one particular meeting (in expnanation).
So why try to make me out to be a liar? Why as I am hearing, the talk is that I am lying that the British want us to cut civil service salaries and numbers of the force? This is no time for games and I will not be in the business of playing games with the British when the life of Anguilla is at threat. This is why I am not going to put our People in further difficulty. I am not going to act in a manner that is going to put Anguilla in jeopardy. Even the technocrats are asking why Britain is seeking to implement policies that are going to cause Anguilla's economic collapse.
The Policies that they are seeking to implement will spiral Anguilla into an irrecoverable situation. The policies are the same type of policies that have caused other countries like Jamaica and Guyana to have to borrow from the IMF with disastrous consequences.
Close to 30 years later, the Jamaica dollar is 84 Jamaica dollars to 1 US . Flour and sugar cost $60/lb, Rice is $85/lb, condensed milk $140/can, sliced wheat bread $195 /lb, eggs $210/doz, detergent $310 /gal, Baby formula $1,400.00 /can. In Guyana the exchange rate is 200 Guyanese dollars to 1 US .
Every other country, the US , Japan , and others are bailing out their economy, by pumping billions of dollars into the economy. I said that in my speech a few days ago. England just gave Ireland billions of dollars to help rescue her. But she wants to do Anguilla is exact opposite – in this little island. She wants to be PLACING TAXES on us, SENDING WORKERS HOME and CUTTING SALARIES which will have the effect of crippling Anguilla .
And if for one moment you doubt the reason why the British would seek to do this to us look at Turks and Caicos islands. A group of islands that had a booming tourism economy, controlled their own destiny, now they are under the yoke of oppression; their constitution suspended; crime out of control, people out of work and they are completely dominated by the British who have filled so many positions held by local Turks and Caicos Islanders with British expats. Is that what we want for Anguilla ?
That is why I say that we are looking at another revolution – an economic revolution. We have to determine whether we are going to start seriously to move towards independence or allow the British to continually increase their powers.
So many of you wonder why I have difficulties with the Governor? The answer is truly simple. Our Philosophies are diametrically opposed to each other.
The British Government was on a path to allow the former administration to assist in creating Anguilla’s financial collapse and then the British could ride in on its white horse supposedly to rescue us like how they ‘rescued’ Turks & Caicos islands.
I have given you all examples time and time again about the lack of cooperation that I get from the Governor.
During the run-up to elections the Governor knew that both the AUM party and APP party were both saying that the Memorandums of Agreement that were signed with the big developers would have to be re-negotiated if we were successful. So what does the Governor do? He signs the Lease granting to Cap Juluca the right to hold our Land for 125 years with the automatic option for renewal for another 125 years on Election Day. You know what was his excuse to Mr Bellingham in England ? That at Executive Council it was decided that he would sign on Election day, so he was just complying with Exco. But everyone knows that he is the Chairman of EXCO. Shouldn’t he have been directing Exco like he likes to do now that we are in EXCO, and indicated that to sign such a Lease on election day was improper?
Look at how the Governor has been allowed to disregard our Constitution to the knowledge of his bosses in England by not appointing my Ministers in my absence. Every Lawyer can tell you that he does not have discretion under the Constitution when I advise him who is to be Chief Minister in my absence. Yet he does what he want.
He disrespects the highest law of the land, and by extension disrespects us as a People, because that could situation could not happen in England .
I have told you how the Governor wants me to dismiss my Ministers Walcott and Evan. He is trying to claim that Walcott turned down work permits without bringing them to EXCO. Such is the disrespect that even though I have asked him to put whatever are the allegations he has against Minister Walcott in writing – he has refused.
Minister Walcott wrote him a letter of his own last year asking him to put his allegations in writing. He has refused to even discuss it with Walcott and sent him back a response telling him he doesn’t need to discuss it with him, he will discuss it with me. And what is he asking when he meets with me? That I suspend Walcott and then AFTER that they will investigate.
With respect to Evan the Governor is trying to set up a story that Evan did not have permission to vote Anglec shares, when he knows that the Government of Anguilla won the case that was brought against us and that it was raised at Exco that I gave Evans permission. His latest position on Evan is that that issue is no longer serious.
There is no respect that is shown to us as Ministers of Government. I had to hear about a new Public Integrity Board on the radio just like you.
While we have to be cutting back on our Budget, the Governor is inflating his. I understand that Mr Fritz Smith Chairman or a high-ranking member of the AUF has been hired as the Estate Manager to take care of Government House. The Governor has not volunteered to share with me the details of that transaction, but I have seen Mr Smith on the premises. I wonder why Public Works could not have been asked to do the maintenance of Government’s property? Wouldn’t that have been a good cost-cutting exercise?
You see we have to realise that the Governor has to follow the plans of the British. His plans and our plans are very different because the agendas of the British and our agendas are different. We are now considered assets and the British Government will do what it wants to keep us under its thumb.
This economic crisis tells us that we cannot be afraid any longer to talk about independence. I pledge to you that we will not let this matter rest anymore.
But the immediate issue is that you have to raise your voices with your Government and make sure that Anguilla is the winner in this crisis. We are going to do so peacefully.
I ask for your Support. I ask you to ensure that the heritage of ’67 is not allowed to fail. We have to make sure that the message that Britain gets is clear and unmistakeable.
WE HAVE BEEN PATIENT, BUT WHEN OUR BACKS ARE AGAINST THE WALL AND OUR SURVIVAL IS THREATENED, WE WILL ONCE AGAIN BE THE MOUSE THAT ROARED.
WE FREED ANGUILLA IN ‘67 WE WILL DO IT AGAIN IN 2011.