UK seeks to increase - not decrease - its powers
in the British-administered dependency
Independence – a word that evokes a myriad of emotions in people across Anguilla. This is the word that has grown in popularity over the past few days as news spread across Anguilla – and has reached the media – that the British Government is seeking to increase the powers of the Governor and appoint a Financial Adviser, steps which will essentially undermine the authority of our own democratically elected Government.
When I learnt of this proposal, I was immediately reminded of the circumstances that surrounded the expulsion of Mr William Whitlock (a British Junior Minister who came to Anguilla on 11th March 1969) after just a few hours on island. On his arrival Mr Whitlock snubbed the Anguillian leaders. Even The Times of London reported that:
“One has the feeling that those responsible for deciding policy have completely lacked an imaginative insight into the minds of the people with whom they are dealing…There has been a failure of psychological appraisal …. Mr Whitlock, in particular, seems to have behaved with pompous condescension and insulted the actual leaders of the Anguillian community…”
Forty six years later, and it seems that the British Government has again failed to conduct a proper “psychological appraisal”. Again, the British Government has snubbed – “insulted” – our leaders by having the audacity to present the most retrogressive proposal we have seen in decades. I cannot imagine that any Government, or any self-respecting people, will roll over and play dead when confronted with this preposterous proposal/intention.
Back in 1969, Revolutionary Leader Mr James Ronald Webster, angered by Mr Whitlock’s disrespect, told Mr Whitlock that it was in his best interest to leave the island because “I can no longer guarantee your safety”. While I do not advocate the use of violent means to get our message across to the British Government, our Government and people must take a firm stance on this matter.
Many have said that we need to go independent immediately. However, I do not believe independence is the sort of thing that a country should do hurriedly and especially when emotions are “running high”. It requires serious thought and extensive planning. I therefore do not advocate independence as the answer to this current proposal. I do believe, however, that we should move the independence discussion forward on our development agenda rather than seeing it, as many do, as an unrealistic dream.
What is more important at this time is for us, as an entire country, to resist this move, by the British Government, to increase the powers of the Governor and appoint a Financial Adviser. This is no time to play politics, to call for the Chief Minister’s resignation or new elections. Now is not the time to cast blame and quarrel amongst ourselves as to why this is happening. It is the time, however, to make our voices heard loud and clear that we will not allow this to happen in our country. We have to be united in our stance to move Anguilla more towards a state of self-governance rather than sinking further beneath the ancient yoke of colonialism.
While the question of independence should not be removed from the table altogether, we should not allow these considerations to cloud our judgment at this time. We should give our Government the support it needs to ensure that the British Government’s proposal does not become a reality – does not see the light of day. After all, what is the point of electing our own Government if it is rendered powerless? I am willing to take a stand for Anguilla, for democracy and for our right to self-determination. Are you?