07 February 2011

Turks & Caicos Former Minister, in Anguilla, Discusses Decolonisation


The Anguillian

Talk Show host and former Cabinet Minister in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Robert Hall, said the current situation in his homeland and issues in Anguilla were not identical, but that there were some similarities.

Hall made the statement while visiting the island at the invitation of the Concerned Citizens associated with the Anguilla United Movement Government. His itinerary included a series of radio interviews early last week, participation in a forum on Friday, January 28, in the House of Assembly and an evening of prayer and reflection at the Airport grounds on Sunday, January 30. Those who led the forum were Josephine Gumbs-Connor host of “On The Spot”; Elkin Richardson of ”To The Point”; Timmy Webster, host of "What's Up" and Patrick Hanley "Sheriff".

Mr. Hall said in one of his radio interviews that he was invited to Anguilla by the Concerned Citizens to offer them “solidarity in their ongoing struggles with the British administration”. He made the point that he had not come “to interfere in the local politics or not necessarily to bash the Governor” whom he did not know, but that he would be making broad statements and “who the cap fits it fits.”

One of the matters on which he was questioned, was independence. He explained that ordinarily he was not a supporter of political independence for the Turks and Caicos Islands as he felt, among other things, that there was a need for a great deal of preparation of the people for that status. He charged, however, that he and others there were now beginning to look in that direction “because of the attitude of the British” who suspended the Constitution and took over the administration of the territory.

The difference which the forum at the House of Assembly provided, compared with the radio interviews, was that it was possible for members of the public to ask questions on various matters.

Marcel Fahie, a retired top Public Servant and Economist, made the following observation: “I seem to be hearing independence from something, but it just can’t be about from. It also has to be independence to do certain things. The idea of educating and getting our people ready for independence has a lot to do, in these present times, to do what.” He noted that Anguillians and others had the benefit of looking at many years of independence enjoyed by a lot of former colonial countries, and a chance to look at their pitfalls in terms of how they went into it and learnt their lessons. He stressed that there was a real need to approach the matter properly and to be very careful about shouting for independence at this point in time.

Mr. Hall replied, in part: “I would not want to be accused of dabbling in your affairs but, for example, if the Turks and Caicos Islands were to move away from Britain, then we would be moving to a stage where we are no longer dependent on them for external affairs. The matter of defence is hardly relevant…When the Columbian drug pushers occupied some of our islands, they [the British] thought they could depend on the Americans for that. And so if we had to take that step, we can forge such relations with the United States or other countries where we have much more in common; so moving from that relationship with Britain, is simply giving you that right to negotiate on your own.”

He said he would not like to see his territory “become independent and a beggar of the world, but that every country had at some stage to borrow…” He added: “In this colonial setting, if you want to borrow some money, the United Kingdom has to agree to that and if it doesn’t, then you are stuck for a while.”

 The dialogue continued as follows -

Fahie: So one of the key reasons is to be able to borrow without anybody putting restrictions on you?

Hall: It is not just borrowing. You have to look at borrowing in the context of having the ability to deliver on the mandate you gave your people to provide certain basic needs, and to advance their cause and the country’s development, without being hindered by this colonial power.

Fahie: (Citing IMF restrictions on borrowing by independent, developed, developing and debt-ridden countries): “I am only saying that the educational process is much more complex than we think. I don’t want us to talk about the ability to borrow as if it is just to be free from Britain and to do so. The whole world is inter-dependent and the United Nations system has a lot of checks and balances to do with borrowing …both for short-term stabilisation through the IMF, and long-term through the World Bank and IDB. It is a complex thing.

Hall: (Caught by Fahie’s explanation): “What I am saying to you, [is that] you can do your country well in educating them….”

Mr. Fahie was also invited to appear on one of the local talk shows to share his point of view with the Concerned Citizens on current matters relating to independence.

Parliamentary Secretary, Haydn Hughes, who took the floor, presented a different perspective. He emphasised that there was a need for vigilance at all times. He recalled that, in their latter stages in office, Ministers of the former administration had mentioned independence quite often. He stated that he was proud to have been one of the founders of the Anguilla Independence Movement in 1999/2000. “At that time I thought that we should go into independence; but now I know we must go into independence,” he asserted. “I know of a fact that the people of Anguilla must go into independence. Just today I met with an American gentleman and he said: ‘I don’t like the idea of independence for Anguilla. I respect it, but I don’t like the idea.’

“I said, 'well I am sure the Founding Fathers would have had a disagreement with you… the great America had a revolution…and they freed themselves…'”

See also:  http://tcweeklynews.com/anguilla-uprising-sparks-action-in-tci-p2339-1.htm

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