THE VALLEY ANGUILLA:--- Fellow Anguillians at home and abroad, Good Morning. As we are all aware, Anguilla has recorded two positive cases of COVID-19. This is a moment that we have all been dreading and I know that many of us are anxious and fearful about the future, the threat that this virus poses to the health and safety of our people and its negative impact on our economy and livelihoods.
To the individuals who have tested positive, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to you and wish you a speedy recovery. We are all in this fight together as a people and I once again urge all Anguillians to adhere to the restrictions and guidelines that have been implemented by the authorities to prevent the spread of this virus in our country. This is our collective responsibility.
I wish to speak to you briefly on a matter that has come to my attention in relation to statements I made concerning the potential postponement of the general elections here in Anguilla. On Friday 20th March 2020 I hosted a press conference in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition to voice concerns in relation to our response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In that press conference, I mentioned that postponing the general elections in Anguilla is something that, realistically, we may have to consider - and sooner rather than later. Furthermore, I outlined the reasons for this:
1. The Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization has set out specific guidelines for all countries in preventing the spread of COVID-19, one of which is social distancing and maintaining a safe distance of not less than 6 feet between persons.
2. I noted that as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the United Kingdom postponed their local council elections and London mayoral elections until 2021.
3. I also spoke about the recent studies which show the potential of the COVID-19 virus to be viable in the air for a prolonged period after coughing or sneezing and to live on some uncleaned surfaces for up to three days.
I raised the issue of possibly postponing our general elections in a meeting with the Governor. I raised the issue again at a high-level meeting with several stakeholders, including the Governor, the Premier and the Leader of the APM, Dr. Ellis Lorenzo Webster. So there is no confusion, I want to make it crystal clear that I, Pam Webster, will
always seek to do what is right in the best interest of All Anguillians. At this present time, and under these circumstances, the health, safety, and wellbeing of the people of Anguilla should be our number one priority. I, therefore, ask you to consider the following:
1. The social distancing protocols that must be adhered to, which include maintaining a safe distance of not less than 6 feet, staying at home and avoiding crowds and large public gatherings.
2. The high rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, particularly from persons who may not be showing symptoms.
3. The present capacity and limitations of our electoral system, including polling day infrastructure, to safely and successfully execute the process of a general election under these new circumstances.
It is on this premise I have raised the possibility that our general elections may have to be postponed. This, of course, is not a certainty, however, proper leadership requires us to put contingencies in place to address these issues in advance.
While we hope for the best, we must plan for the worst – this is what effective governance is all about. My reason for raising this issue was to initiate serious discussions among all stakeholders involved as to how we can mitigate this potential challenge. Such a challenge will undoubtedly give rise to important considerations, particularly in relation to our constitution.
Sadly, some have used this issue to play political games at a time when we must unite as One Anguilla to fight this COVID-19 battle. Nevertheless, I know that the people of my district and the people of Anguilla recognize that this, among others, is an important issue to consider during this difficult period, as it speaks directly to the continuity of governance. I am sure that our Premier, the Leader of the APM, who himself is a medical doctor, and all other stakeholders in our electoral process see the merit of this and will lend their voice to a fruitful and open discussion on the way forward in this regard.
As I close, I want to remind our people that the protocols and restrictions that have been implemented thus far are geared towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our country. I urge you to comply and to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing to protect yourselves and our communities.
God Bless you and God Bless Anguilla, Always.