ANGUILLA--"Father of the Nation"Ronald Webster celebrated his 86th birthday in great style with many Anguillians Friday. His birthday celebrations started with a parade at Webster Park, after which there was also a boat race, a motorcade, and a visit to the Fun Day and Health Fair at East End.
Speaking at the parade, Governor Alistair Harrison hailed Webster as a revolutionary leader and paid tribute to him as Anguilla's first Chief Minister. He noted that during the revolution Webster had three important assets: unity, vision and courage. He said that all three remain important today and he congratulated Chief Minister Hubert Hughes and the Executive Council for aiming to live up to Webster's vision.
The Chief Minister reflected on the part that Webster played in the revolution in seeking a better life for the people. He remarked that as Webster looks on the affairs today, he must see that the nation "comes up short" and is not where Webster would want us to be. "Where we are now does not do justice to the integrity of us as a people," he said, adding that the people have seen the workings of a colonizer that does nothing to enhance the dignity of the people of the island. He went on to say that there is much work to be done and pledged to Webster that, as long as he is chief minister, he will fight for dignity and march on to free Anguilla.
Leader of the Opposition, Evans McNiel Rogers congratulated Webster on his birthday and thanked him for his contribution during the revolution and for guiding the people. He suggested that the majority of the population has no direct memory of the revolution, and therefore it is important to educate everyone about the events at that time. He spoke of a video he saw where Ronald was a young vibrant leader standing with his people and inspiring hope. He spoke of the different governments who have tried to maintain a focus on building a nation that is "proud, strong and free," and said it is important to remember the vision and legacy of Webster as "a symbol of our past and a beacon for our future."
Webster said he was touched by the parade in his honour and the number of people attending and is grateful to the government and the organizers of the event. He said that he is indebted to all who joined him in the revolution and their many achievements. "We must now march on with the same spirit of unity and determination with God as our Helper," he said. He noted that there is still much to be done and he is confident that the island will have a bright future. He spoke of the need to re-commit to freedom and justice for all and to have unity to make Anguilla a self-reliant and dignified nation.
Webster said the 30th anniversary of Social Security is also a celebration and that it is one of the best systems for the people. He remarked that under the influence of Britain, leaders have become weak and in a "state of infancy" and this must be changed in the constitutional reforms. He said there are many people in Anguilla of other countries and all are welcome to join in unity, love, strength of purpose and commitment for the future of the island. He remembered the contribution of all who fought in the revolution and asked for a moment of silence in their memory.
The parade included the Royal Anguilla Police Force, the Police Community Band, Prison Officers, Cub Scouts, Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies, Rainbows, Girls Brigade and Pathfinders. It was attended by members of the House of Assembly and other government officials as well as a large number of the population. The Chief Minister and Webster inspected the parade participants and took the salute at the March Past. The programme included a poem by Daisy Wong read by her daughter Shirley Gumbs, a musical tribute by Anguilla Time as well as King Dynamite and the cutting of a large birthday cake.