THE WIPM GOING INTO 45!
The WIPM Party going into 45.
The Early Years
On November 24th 1970 the branch of the WIPM party on Saba issued a press release to announce the formation of the party on Saba.
The announcement gave the names of the establishment of the Party which was to bring prosperity to Saba and change the face of the island for generations to come.
The new board consisted of the following persons:
Will Johnson, Chairman
Island Councilmember John Godfrey Woods, Vice President.
Island Councilmember Peter Lycester Granger, Treasurer.
Mr. Calvin Roland Holm, Board member.
Mr. Edison Melvin Peterson, Secretary.
This announcement made quite a commotion especially on St. Maarten as even before an election took place in 1971 the WIPM had two seats on the 15 Member Island Council from Saba. Furthermore early 1971 the Hon. Eugenius Achilles Johnson was appointed Administrator. The next in line to claim his open seat on the Island Council was Mr. Calvin Roland Holm, and we made an immediate effort to have him moved into the Island Council so that WIPM then had a majority in the Council even before the elections. We did not do anything to remove the Commissioners and even after the elections we cooperated with them to let certain decisions remain in favour of their party. We took the road less travelled up to then and did not go out for revenge. A new wind was blowing in Saba politics. An enlightened administration, of which the sole goal was to bring prosperity to the people of Saba and the WIPM has done that.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary (2010) in the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom, party chairman Will Johnson made a speech to commemorate the event and he said:
“Last week Friday we had a party for Raymond Johnson for his 77th birthday. When I told Cessie Granger that I had been to the top of the mountain he said: “Man you should have let me know I would have gone with you!” Cessie is 93. That type of optimism is typical of the WIPM party and defines the party along with consistency in keeping the name of the party, our party colours and trying to always get people to run on our ticket who can run a government. It is one thing to run for office but quite another story when it comes to running a government. Our experience has been that on the date of postulation of candidates people see whose running for office and make up their minds already which party can run a government.
While at 45 the WIPM may seem old, it is a young party. Young in the sense, that over the years the party has renewed its leadership according to circumstances. In October 1970 a press release was issued by me, by the late Calvin Holm and by Eddie Peterson informing the people that we had formed the WIPM party. A month later then Island Council members Cessie Granger and John Godfrey Woods joined us and so WIPM already had representation on the Island Council of the Windward Islands in November 1970, forty years ago.
The roots of the WIPM party go back to 1962 when I started out in politics, and when Claude Wathey sent me here from St. Maarten to campaign for him. I had no instructions and so I decided to support Mr. Van Hugh Hassell, who was the godfather of my brother Freddie. Van Hugh was the first man of colour to become a civil servant in the Windward Islands. Wim Lampe then Lt. Governor was married to his sister Lena Vanterpool. Van Hugh’s mother was a sister of the late Mr.Gardy Hassell. When the elections were over Van Hugh had 152 votes on Saba and Wathey had 11. Wathey won by 142 votes and never forgave me for supporting Van Hugh.
In 1967 there were no elections. I travelled with Mr. Wathey to Saba to help engineer a combined list as well as to Statia. I decided in 1969 to oppose Mr. Wathey for Senator, and I pulled 626 votes on the three islands. In that election the people of St. Eustatius campaigned for me on all three islands. People like Mrs. Christine Flanders (aunt of Lady Alida Francis) Harold Berkel and the entire Berkel family, Bengie Schmidt and the entire Schmidt family, Leonard Sprott and the brothers John and Max Suarez, and not to forget my friend Laura Rouse and her children.
In 1968 I started together with Mr. Alrett Peters, the Labour Spokesman newspaper on St. Maarten, on St. Eustatius, the Emporium Review with Mr. James Maduro and on Saba, together with Eddie Peterson and Allan Busby the Saba Herald. I also used to give out the local news on the radio station the Voice of St.Maarten from 1966 to 1968 and became well-known through that episode in my life
When Claude went up by Hunter House, he would preach to Eddie and Allan that their friend Will would land them in jail and they would not even know what for as my name only appeared as founder of the paper. Back then I made fls. 192.50 Per month, an after paying room and board I had fls. 27.50 left over. Looking back on those days I can tell you that that fls.27.50 went far.
In 1971 the WIPM party won on Saba and St. Eustatius and had two of the five seats on St. Maarten. I was not allowed to hold office for four years, while others have held office being in closer family relationship than I was.
The Lt. Governor had been married to my sister Sadie. She died young and he remarried, and though elected by the people I was told that I would be denied the office as Article 11 of the Island regulations forbade two family members from holding office at the same time. I fought it with everything I had to no avail and had to go through a long struggle and take down lies to get people to vote for me once again. I leave that part to history for now.
Over the years the WIPM leadership changed hands. In 1983, I passed over to Mr. Vernon Hassell, then later came back as leader, then turned it over to Senator Ray Hassell, and the last years to Island Council Member Mr. Rolando Wilson. On behalf of the other members of the party I want to thank them for taking on the responsibility of Party Leader.
Since November 1970 the WIPM party has always been represented on the Island Council and for the most part on the Executive Council as well. When we did lose in 1987 to Vernon Hassell’s party and in 1995 to Steve Hassell’s party both times it was because of a difference of opinion in the party and we tried not to look back on defeat but to look forward to victory. In the Central Government the WIPM has always represented Saba since 1981 when Mr. Max Nicholson was the Spokesman for Saba and I followed him in 1983. In 1986 together with Statia we appointed Mrs. Linda Badego Richardson followed by Mr. Ellis Woodley as Ministers of Education.
After that we had Mr. Max Nicholson in the Council of Ministers, as Junior Ministers, followed by Mr. Danny Hassell, who became a Minister later on, Mr. Roy Smith, Mr. Xavier Blackman, and Mrs. Amelia Nicholson. In Parliament it was I and Senator Ray Hassell from 1986 until 10-10-10.
Each election the WIPM party scouts the community for good men and women who are willing to serve their island and we are doing the same again. Under the new system Saba will continue to need good leadership in the Island and in the Executive Council. The world is unstable, even Holland has been and still is in a very unstable political situation and so for them also the future is worrisome.
Here on Saba we must always be on guard and continue to work hard, and to preserve our old traditions of agriculture, stock raising and fisheries. We can not depend on other people to grow our food.
On the 40th anniversary of the WIPM party, we said: “There are so many people to thank today, people like Diana Medero, Louise (Weesie) Hassell, Benny Johnson, the late Mr. Elmer Linzey, Guy Hassell and Eugenius Johnson and so many others who were with me from the beginning and who had the same optimism that change would come to Saba. I always remember my brother Freddie and Carlyle Granger sitting in the Lido club being optimistic about every change, and always preaching “Man, Saba is going to change”, that was long before the airport, the harbour and the many other changes which came to the island in the last years.
I would like to thank people like Mr. Vincent Levenstone here with us this morning, who because of family considerations voted elsewhere, but who still kept me in their hearts and wished me well.”
I was elected five times as Commissioner and served 16 years, as Commissioner, eight of which was with Cessie Granger who was then the oldest Commissioner and eight with Lisa Hassell who was then the youngest Commissioner. We had our differences of course but on the whole we enjoyed a good working relationship and I want to thank them as well. People like Alexander “Kaiser” Sorton, Hugo Levenstone, David Johnson, Calvin Holm, and many others who served with us on the Island Council, I thank them.
I must also say thanks to the opposition. When things were down, people who had opposed me came to my rescue; people like Mr. William Carl Anslyn, a warrior in politics, people like Mr. Ishmael Levenstone and his son Dave have at times been on the WIPM list with me. In 1985 I remember when as number three candidate I pulled 301 votes. Diana and Harold were the last two to come in the voting booth just before they closed down and their two votes carried me over the top and set a record.
The WIPM party is a member of the Social Christian Democratic Parties of Latin America since the late 1980’s. I and others from the party have been privileged to attend meetings all over Latin America with this group. Recently I was in El Salvador attending a meeting and before that Island Councilmember Carl Buncamper was in Panama. I remember once driving from the airport in Santiago Chile one of the loveliest cities in the world, and when I counted heads in the bus there were 7 ex Presidents with me from Venezuela, Panama, Haiti, and Costa Rica and so on in the same bus and I thought what a privilege it was coming from our little island Saba.
I would also like to thank the present young Commissioners Bruce Zagers and Chris Johnson for taking on the difficult task of moving the island from a familiar position of the past into the new situation we are now in. It was no easy task and it will continue to be a challenge for the future.
In 1972, I was at a low point in my life. I was sick at the year end and even when Eddie Buncamper came to pick me up to go out to bring in the New Year I felt so bad I had to decline. The so called “good life” had nearly brought me to my knees. On the stroke of midnight the radio station voice of St.Maarten changed hands and when my friend Vance James came on the first song he played for the New Year was “I can see clearly now”. I vowed then to change my life. In a few weeks I met my future wife Lynne and that has made all the difference to me in all my years of being in politics, and so I want to thank her and my children as well.
And so I know that each of you who have served in public office will have your own reflections and will be thinking along the same line as I am thinking as you review your career in politics, and I want to thank you all, starting with our present leader Island Council Member Rolando Wilson going back all the way to November 1970 when with Granger and Woods the newly formed WIPM party entered the Island Council.
I would also like to thank all those civil servants who faithfully assisted me and other WIPM officials. I see here this morning my two former secretaries and good friends Ms. Amorelle Granger and Mrs. Patsy Linzey and I want to thank them as well.
Once again Father Dan, thanks for allowing me to speak to my people on this historic occasion.
Thank you all who are here and who carry goodwill for all those who have served them through the years.”
That was part of the speech made for the 40th anniversary of the party. As we move into the year of our 45th anniversary we will bring you news and views of the party which is largely responsible for bringing Saba to level of development where it is today. Ever forward never backward ,and in 2015 we are once again looking for your support to continue giving good Governance to our island.
And as we move forward into the elections we will bring you more history of the party. Another section of The Saba Islander there will be news coming to you from The Old Lamplighter, where we will be putting fire under those who think they can get in government through a back door and expect that their names will not be called. Thanks once more for your continued support for the WIPM party.