14 October, 2010
Three times unlucky. That is what they said in the trenches during World War I. If you were a soldier taking cover in a trench and lit one cigarette at night, the sniper might miss. By the time you lit the second one, he had you spotted. If that shot did not get you, the third one was bound to splatter your head. Hence, third time unlucky.
I have now received my third “letter before action”. A subject of several posts on my blog has sent me a letter threatening a law suit if I do not apologise to him for what he claims are defamatory articles I have posted of him going back to 2007. I have sought legal advice, and am awaiting word from my attorney on how I should respond.
It may be worth remembering the recent history of this blog. It started in December 2006. By 2006, the lone Anguillian radio call-in programme, Talk Your Mind, had degenerated into social chatter about carnival and culture. There were no other radio stations engaging the public in any kind of serious discourse. By 2010 that has all changed. Each of the several radio stations in Anguilla now hosts one or more radio call-in programmes per week. At each of them the citizen is invited to express his opinion and to criticise government action and inaction. Even Talk Your Mind now once again occasionally deals with controversial issues.
When the blog started, our two local newspapers The Anguillian and The Light published only press releases and society stuff. No more. Since the blog started, they have begun to print critical and analytical stuff about the goings on in government. Last week’s Anguillian alone boasted over 6 pages of serious social and political commentary.
Back in December 2006 gang violence had never been as pervasive as it was in that year. There were more murders in Anguilla in that year than in a normal decade. The Royal Anguilla Police Force was secretive and defensive about its actions. Its members were held in very low public esteem. They complained that the public was not cooperating with their investigations. They had not yet started holding their weekly press conferences. They do so now. They now keep us up to date with what is going on in the criminal court, and on the criminal front. This welcome public relations effort began immediately after I met with the Commissioner of Police and his senior officials and pointed out how useful and necessary such an activity would be. Police relations with the public of Anguilla has since gone through a ground sea swell.
Back in 2006, the then Chief Minister Osborne Fleming had long stopped the tradition of weekly press conferences that Hubert Hughes had engaged in when he was in office. This blog complained frequently about the negative impact that this secrecy and lack of information had on the society. You will recall that many of us were then suspicious of government. There was a sullen acceptance that things were going on that none of us was being told about. The blog posted several pieces pointing out the need for more openness in government, particularly for press conferences after the weekly Executive Council meeting, so that we could be informed what government was doing for us. Shortly after the blog began to make these complaints, the Chief Minister started his weekly press conferences. It is true that they were not informative, about government, but mainly political propaganda, about the Chief Minister’s take on his enemies and their motives. There is still to this day no weekly press conference on the activities and decisions of ExCo, and that is a shame. Hubert Hughes has continued the tradition of political press conferences. Never mind, at least it is something. For what little it is worth, this blog can claim some credit.
There are plenty of other forums out there performing the function for which this blog was started. There is axareality.com. That forum does occasionally tend to be juvenile and bad tempered, but it posts interesting documents. There is some political discussion on Anguilla Talk though lately it has mainly died down, reportedly in response to threats of legal action.
I no longer feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness for some openness, transparency and accountability. Closing this blog down will not be a serious loss. Several others have taken up the mantle and are carrying on demanding the high standards of public life that we all expect.
The bottom line is that whether the gentleman who is threatening action against me is right or wrong, I am not prepared to expose Maggie Mitchell’s retirement fund to more risk of depletion. Since I evidently lack the necessary skills of dissimulation, it would seem that the only way to ensure this objective is to cease publishing. This will therefore probably be my last post on this blog.
A pity, really, as the site was nearly at the 250,000 visitor mark.