By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
While accusing members of the governing National Democratic Party (NDP) of continuing on what he calls a dangerous road of ‘conflict of interest,’ Opposition legislator Julian Fraser has sought to defended an often questioned decision he made years ago to introduce Digicel and BiWater into the local market.
Members of the NDP government have claimed that the introduction of the two overseas firms when Fraser was Minister of Communication and Works has been detrimental to local investments such as Ocean Conversion and CCT Global Communications – two investments in which members of the NDP government previously had shares.
Fraser, in a statement yesterday (January 28), claimed that consumers have benefited from the introduction of Digicel and BiWater. He added that BiWater was brought into the market because of a ‘bloody civil war’ between the then previous NDP government and Ocean Conversion.
While not elaborating, Fraser said: “It was the result of a bloody civil war between Ocean Conversion and the NDP government that resulted in a contract with Bi-Water to produce constant and quality water to the residents of the Virgin Islands at substantially reduced rates.”
“Charges for the supply of water to the government had surpassed $24.00 per 1,000 gallons and, in addition, there were issues with quality and consistency,” he claimed, adding that the sitting government has been trying to sabotage the BiWater contract.
“The NDP government has wasted three years trying to sabotage the Bi-Water contract instead of repairing or expanding the broken water distribution system. Today, as we speak, residents cannot access the water that is now being produced and must continue to suffer from empty pipes – thanks to an NDP government.”
Turning to the Digicel issue, Fraser indicated that he is still standing by his decision to have introduced the telecoms firm into the BVI because – among other things – it forced local CCT to adjust its rates and policies.
“The blatant ‘conflict of Interest’ by members of the NDP has or had resulted in, but not limited to customers of CCT being charged for in-coming calls. Liberalization of the telecommunications market [with the introduction of Digicel] not only removed this crippling incoming charge, but has resulted in reducing cell phone rates to levels never before experienced in the BVI.”
Adding that taxpayers have suffered due to alleged conflict of interest in the NDP administration, Fraser suggested that some government members may still be violating the rules of the House of Assembly.
“Since being elected to the Legislative Council in 1999, most members of the NDP have embarked and continued on the dangerous road of ‘conflict of interest’ as a result of shares held by themselves and/or their families in companies that continue to trade with the government of the Virgin Islands without adherence to the rule of the former Legislative Council and/or the House of Assembly. These violations are significant not only for their violations of the Rule of Law, but they are also significant for their effect on you the hard working tax payers.”
Fraser, in the meantime, listed a number of projects undertaken recently by the government, implying that ‘conflict of interest’ was involved. He however did not illustrate the supposed ‘conflict of interest’.
“The blatant ‘conflict of interest’ by members of the NDP has or had resulted in, but not limited to: Questionable contracts for catering services to the very House of Assembly; questionably contracts for the supply of goods and services to the BVI Hospital Authority; questionably contract for the supply of Chinese road pavement equipment; [as well as] questionable contracts for legal services to the National Bank of the Virgin Islands, BVI Health Services Authority and other government statutory bodies,” added Fraser, who is also Chairman of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party.
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