By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
Minister of Health and Social Development Ronnie Skelton said two of his colleagues in the House of Assembly are wrong in their suggestion that expats are in statutory bodies refusing to hire natives of the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Junior Minister of Tourism Archibald Christian and Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie made the suggestion in the House of Assembly a few days ago.
Responding to them, Skelton said expats are not to be blamed, adding that locals are the ones who hold virtually all leadership positions across the various statutory organizations.
“I don’t know who we are blaming for the employment of our people. It is all well and good we can go about blaming all sorts of other people. But on all the boards that we have formed, majority of them – 99.99 percent are BVIslanders. Most of the key positions that are in some of these statutory corporations are [held by] BVIslanders,” Skelton said.
He further declared: “Sometimes we make it sounds like we have a bunch of foreigners making decisions for us. But we are the ones who doing it to ourselves. We just need to stop it. I don’t know how blaming others gonna help.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition leader, Fahie, had asserted that, when expats serving on statutory bodies ditch local job seekers, they employ other expats – sometimes on contract.
“I can name at least 15 people I know now home crying – right now crying with degrees. They went to different statutory bodies in this territory and were interviewed and can’t get the job. And when you look and see who else get the job you realize something going on,” Fahie continued.
“We have to understand that, when you put other persons to head your organizations, head your departments in these statutory bodies and other places in Government, they are gonna look out for their own. They gonna take the job applications and adjust it to fit somebody else. And, when they done adjust it, even if our people go college 10 times, they can’t meet that qualification.”
Fahie further told the House: “I don’t want to stop anyone from working; I don’t want to stop anyone from eating. But I do not see St Kitts building St Kitts for Trinidad – we are all one Caribbean brothers and sisters. I don’t see Trinidad building Trinidad for Barbados. I do not see Barbados building Barbados for Venezuela. I even don’t see Nevis building Nevis for the Anguillans. I don’t see Jamaica building Jamaica for any other island next door.”
Christian, in the meantime, expressed similar sentiments. He called for Government to be more circumspect as it relates to persons being appointed to statutory boards.
“The practice where non-BVIslanders already secured a job in the BVI can find employment on a statutory body or the organization that the statutory board has responsibility over; and you have qualified Virgin Islanders not working, not employed, failing to get a job in these organizations – in my opinion, it is wrong.”
“You cannot have your own people that are qualified in their own country can’t find a job and someone else who is working in your country who already has a job is getting a job in a government organization. Tell me how that is right,” Christian further said.
He also weighed in on the issue of qualification.“This thing and this practice about you are over-qualified for a job; it needs to stop. If you are over qualified for the job, find out from the person if they are willing to accept the terms and conditions of the job. Don’t write them off and say they are over-qualified, so we look to the next person who may be a little bit less qualified and we grant them the job. Those are the things we have to fix.”
Christian, along with Fahie, voiced their concerns while debating a successfully moved motion to have Ayanna Liburd appointed head of the BVI Health Services Authority, which manages all public health facilities across the territory.
Mistaken identity – Skelton
Meanwhile, health minister Skelton said his parliamentary colleagues Fahie and Christian were possibly arriving at wrong conclusions by mistaking some Belongers on statutory boards for expats.
“I think sometimes we are looking at some people and, because they were not born here, we say that they are not belongers. But some people have [immigration] status; they have a lot of stuff. I think that is where we are making some of the mistakes,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, except the doctors and the nurses that we need more of that we don’t have, majority of the other people [in the healthcare system] are belongers.”
Skelton also noted that there are various reasons BVIslanders may not be successful when they seek employment through the BVI Health Services Authority.
“We need nurses. Somebody is going to tell our people that they can be nurses in this modern era by doing Home Economics in school. But it doesn’t work. And we have had nurses go into the school to tell them differently [that] it gotta be Biology, Chemistry – you got to be in the Sciences now in order to be a nurse.”
“I know of some cases where some of the people at the different statutory boards; they have their own preferences who they would like to work with. And sometimes, if somebody applies that they feel is not going to be part of our culture, then they don’t employ them. There are problems, but we are the ones to be blamed [for the issue regarding employment]. I am not talking about the ones just in this House [when I talk about we]. I am talking about we who call ourselves belongers of this country – from us all the way down; we are the ones doing it (not employment qualified local people),” Skelton further said.
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