The people of Anguilla remembered their 1967 Revolutionary Leader, Mr. James Ronald Webster, with an official holiday, a mass-attended Singspiration, a series of addresses and a boat race on Monday 2nd March 2020, his date of birth.
Mr. Webster died on December 9, 2016, at the age of 90, and was accorded a State Funeral by the Government of Anguilla on January 13, 2017. His remains are entombed in a specially-built mausoleum overlooking the Ronald Webster Park which was named in his honour several years preceding his passing. It was there that the celebration of his birthday was held from 2.00 pm.
Earlier in the day Premier Victor Banks delivered a radio and press address to mark the occasion. He recalled that some years ago the Revolutionary Leader had requested the Government and people of Anguilla to discontinue celebrating his birthday but, because of the enormity of his contribution to the island, it was necessary to honour his memory.
“This holiday was designated in honour of the birthday of the Father of the Nation, the Honourable James Ronald Webster and is intended to allow us to demontrate our gratitude for his contribution to our homeland Anguilla,” Mr. Banks stated.
“In his typical humility the late Mr Webster asked several years ago that we do not make a fuss about this day dedicated to his honour; but even as we recognise the unselfish reasons or his request, it is important that we not risk the possibility that his contribution to the development of Anguilla be diminished in any way be acceding to the dictates of his humility.”
Mr. Banks continued: “In this context I appreciate the fact that from time to time the family or any organisation that so wishes may want to remember him at the shrine or mausoleum where his remains were respectfully and appropriately interred during the celebration marking his passing on January 13, 2017.
“We as a people must be proud of this shrine constructed in his honour and make it a point of duty not only occasions like his birthday, but whenever we feel so moved to visit and spend time, perhaps in quiet reflection of where we were and where we have come since those uncertain beginnings of national transformation.
“Indeed, we should not waste any convenient opportunity to bring attention to the historic circumstances of that period, now almost 53 years ago, when Mr. Webster’s leadership created the momentum for the success that we enjoy today. His contribution has been of great significance to where we are today as a people.
“In fact, the entire political development of Anguilla is centred on persons who have worked with him at some point in their lives. Every single Chief Minister of Anguilla’s history, including myself, has worked with Mr. Webster in some capacity. That fact, in itself, is an important commentary on the impact of his life’s service. Whatever may be a person’s views about his contribution, Mr. Webster will always remain the central figure in the shaping of our path and aspirations to nationhood.”
Apart from his political leadership of Anguilla, Mr. Webster established the present Social Security system in 1980 as a means of providing varied benefits to the people of the island. That system now accounts for upwards of 400,000 East Caribbean dollars. There is also a Social Development Fund in place which provides funding for various community projects around the island.