Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said he is feeling relief now that the much talked about Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act was passed with a 10-2 majority vote in parliament.
He said it was absolutely necessary that the legislation pass given the current state of affairs in the territory and the glaring $50 million deficit in this year’s budget.
“I am relieved that my colleagues have all – or most of them – agreed to do something which is right for this territory because we all know the status of the country that we are in right now,” the Premier said.
The bill passed on Tuesday with government backbencher Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull and Opposition member Julian Fraser being the only two legislators who voted against the bill. Delores Christopher was absent for the vote.
The majority vote means the territory will implement the Recovery Agency, and has accepted the United Kingdom’s offer of a £300 million (more than $400 million) loan guarantee.
The Agency will have full control over how recovery funds are spent.
Why Turnbull voted ‘no’
After much speculation from residents, Turnbull released a video on social media Wednesday explaining why he voted against the controversial bill.
“I made the decision based on principle – based on the principles for which I debated in the House. As it relates to how we got to this point of the Agency being set up, the lack of information, the lack of transparency,” he said.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision,” he added.
Turnbull further noted the importance of having accountability and transparency in government.
He said elected members must always be able to receive information in order to make informed decisions that are in the public’s interest.
“Over the last two-and-a-half days, we went through tremendous amendments and discussions of which I participated. But the principle still remains. We got to a point where we were forced in a direction to make a decision, given a timeline that we didn’t have adequate discussions on,” Turnbull explained.
“As a government member, as the member for the Second District, I hold my position very seriously and I take my responsibilities even more seriously.”
He continued: “I do agree that we need this money to rebuild and recover this territory. I do agree that we need help to do so through the loans or whatever guarantees. But I believe the process is more important,” he reasoned.
Rebuild at a comfortable rate
Turnbull reiterated that the territory should not rush to rebuild at any cost.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we will recover, as I said during the debate, we took over 50 years to build this country. I don’t expect that we will take 50 years, but what I do expect is that we will take our time, do it right with the people, for the people of this territory for which we love.”
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