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Why didn’t gov’t act sooner? Premier’s lead questioned

Premier Dr D Orlando Smith at a press conference in the Ashley Ritter building on Tortola recently.

Davion Smith, BVI News Journalist

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith has been called out to finally explain why a State of Emergency was not implemented prior to category 5 hurricane, Irma.

The Smith-led government is widely criticized as being the cause for the massive breakdown of law and order following the September 6 hurricane.

Not only did looting run rampant, but government neglected to inform the public that the territory’s adult penitentiary had been compromised by the hurricane and that several high-risk prisoners – including persons incarcerated for murder – were loose in the territory.

Premier Smith will have to explain his government’s actions, or lack thereof, when the House of Assemble sits on Monday, November 13.

The Premier’s leadership is being questioned by Opposition member and Representative of the Third Electoral District, Julian Fraser.

Questions Fraser will put Dr Smith include: “Could the Honourable Premier and Minister of Finance tell this Honourable House why immediately after Hurricane Irma residents of the territory were subjected to having to live with the prisoners of Her Majesty’s Prison on the loose amongst them; without a warning from his Government or anyone else, and could he explain why this situation was allowed to develop?”

Fraser will also be the parliamentarian to ask why the State of Emergency was implemented imprudently after Irma, unlike the neighbouring US Virgin Islands which was placed under a State of Emergency a day before the category 5 disaster.

Fraser will further ask about matters in relation to the 11pm curfew, compensation to victims of looting, as well as the 21 BVI inmates who were transferred to a prison in St Lucia.

Premier to answer to Opposition Leader

Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie will also have an opportunity to crack a few questions at the highly-criticized Premier.

Fahie is expected to grill Dr Smith about the millions government owes the BVI Electricity Corporation, as well as the government’s controversial relationship with BVI Airways.

Government had given the airline just over seven million of taxpayer dollars to commence direct flights between the BVI and Miami in the USA.

Since that transaction early this year, the airline missed all its promised deadlines to commence flights. It also laid off its pilots and flight attendants.

The privately-owned airline claimed that it was too broke to fly and has demanded more funding from the National Democratic Party government.

Meanwhile, Fahie is also slated to ask the Premier how much money government has in its coffers and how much it intends to borrow to fund recovery efforts.

The finance minister will also be made to answer questions about the $25 million it borrowed from CIBC First Caribbean Bank.

In the meantime, Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool will also be placed in the proverbial hot seat when the House of Assembly sits on Monday.

The works minister will be drilled about utilities and road repairs.

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