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Governor forces gov’t to give police more money

Governor John Duncan. File photo

Governor John Duncan. File photo

Governor John Duncan has exercised his constitutional powers, and has forced the Government to allocate more funding to the Royal Virgin Islands Force (RVIPF).

The RVIPF will receive roughly an additional $800,000 to its budget for this financial year, which will take effect within the next 24 hours.

The governor has oversight responsibility for the RVIPF, which is funded by the BVI government.

He told journalists at an emergency press briefing at the Central Administration Complex this afternoon (March 16) that the additional funds will go primarily towards acquiring for equipment for the RVIPF.

Governor Duncan’s action comes after years of complaint that the British Virgin Islands government has not been funding the police adequately.

The matter usually rises to the fore whenever there is a spike in serious crimes such as gun robberies and murders. Since the start of this year, for example, three persons have been murdered in different incidents. Two of them were found murdered last week Friday.

The average number of people murdered in the territory annually is about three.

The current crime rate has weighed heavily on the governor’s decision to exercise his powers under the Virgin Islands Constitution.

“We are facing serious challenges in criminality. We have a good commissioner of police who needs our support, and therefore I am invoking Section 103 of the Constitution, which allows the governor to authorize that expenditure,” Governor Duncan today told journalists.

He noted that he took no joy in forcing the government’s hand, but it had to be done.

“It is with great regret to me that I have had to do this, because I have supported the territory in many of the debates against things the United Kingdom wanted to do – like the public register [in relation to financial services]…”

“I’ve maintained consistently that it is for the territory to take responsibility – not for the governor to intervene. But, in the current circumstances, it is with great regret that I had to invoke Section 103, and I will be doing that in the next 24 hours,” added Governor Duncan who also chairs the Nation Security Council.

Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews

Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews

Meanwhile, during the recently concluded Standing Finance Committee of the House of Assembly, Commissioner Michael Matthews stated that he inherited a budget of $15.3 million, when he assumed office on April 10, 2016.

Of that amount he inherited, $13.3 million was for emoluments, and the remaining $2 million was for managing the RVIPF operationally.

The commissioner further stated that, over the past four years, the budget for policing had been reduced.

He explained that the operational funding for the year 2017 was lower than that of 2012, and equated to a 37 percent reduction to the operational element of the budget.

Also, in January this year, then Opposition leader Julian Fraser suggested that the government has not been funding the RVIPF properly because it does not control the law-enforcement organization.

Fraser later reasoned: “If you look at the 2017 budget, the police have now received $16.136 million. Of that, only $2.3 million has been left for the operation. If I go back to 2006, the police only had about $2.5 million for operational purposes. So, you are looking at 11 years since. How do you explain that your operational funding [for the RVIPF] is the same as it was 11 years before?”

“That’s the trend I am talking about, because the total budget [for the RVIPF] has grown to $16 million [this year] over $10.8 million in 2006. So, they got basically $6 million in the total budget, but the operational part of it has not changed. That trend is constant within the territory budgetarily,” Fraser further said during the recent budget debate in the House of Assembly.

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