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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.

Copyright 2017 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

25 Comments

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  1. Taxpayer says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 3

    It’s about time. Dr Smith I like you and all, and I’ve always admired you when I was growing up but you need to come good and be held accountable.

  2. Connie Lingus says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 5

    Someone want to tell ole Fraser that there was no functioning communication so any warning about the prisoners couldn’t go out

    And mention to Mr Fraser that he hadn’t exactly been a cheerleader for necessary funding at DDM so he should just sit down

    • we the people says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

      We the people aint accepting that lame excuse government agencies and statutory bodies sending home people for that same excuse(all Communications were down) it is in my opinion that a reasonable excuse but given the fact government and other statutory Bodies are sending home people with that same excuse we the people WILL NOT tolerate that excuse

    • voiceofthevoiceless says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

      ‘no functioning communication so any warning about the prisoners couldn’t go out”

      Really? Not a fan of Fraser but this excuse is unacceptable for such a small group of islands. How about a Megaphone and a car and disseminate the info throughout the territory? Roadtown must be London or New York. How do you explain your Minister of Ed and Culture( who is in charge of the prisons) making a public statement that the prisoners were ‘low risk’?

      This country was in a scary state of lawlessness for 48 hours and the best you could come up with is communication was down? SMH.

      We need answers on what went wrong so we could ensure that history does not repeat itself.

    • Lie says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

      Lie…I heard the Mr Premier on the radio station Isle 95 about 3 days after Irma talking about he was assessing the situation and how he “over flew” the islands. He never was specific about the extent of damage, never mentioned anything about breach of prison. Everyday for weeks I heard helicopter “over flewing” over my head. He couldn’t use the same radio station to communicate? He couldn’t land in each district and go through the village with a bull horn speaker as they do during campaign time? Please! Truth be told, this lack of communication issue was a problem waaay before Irma. God don’t sleep!!! And Fraser could go sit on he bumside for absenting himself when the most Honourable Fahie wished to pass a motion of no confidence in that Premier. Again, God don’t SLEEP!!!!

  3. Reply says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 0

    Hurricane Irma was an unprecedented historical storm. To my knowledge, a storm of such magnitude, certainly in my lifetime and that of my grandparents, had never struck the BVI with such ferocity before.

    As such, it is fair to say that no one could have comprehended nor anticipated fully the potential degree of destruction of the storm, because frankly none of us have experienced anything like this before.

    I am sure most of us would agree that they were shocked when they looked outside after the storm passed, and were thankful to have made it thru such a gruesome ordeal.

    Nevertheless, in my judgment, the government appears to have fallen short in several areas, and need to answer for their shortcomings.

    It is reasonable to ask why a state of emergency was not instituted prior to the storm. The government had advanced knowledge of the strength of the storm. In my judgment, a state of emergency should have been declared prior to the storm based on the available information they had to prevent loss of life at a minimum.

    Secondly, while I understand that communication was interrupted by the storm, the news of prisoners being on the loose under still unexplained circumstances, was very slow and coming.

    That was a misstep in my judgment. To the extent that communication allowed under the circumstances, seems to me that piece of information was vital to get out to the public as soon as humanly possible.

    As for the reported widespread looting, it appears law enforcement was not prepared to deal with it.

    It appears to me that the command structure including government and law and order just completely broke down in the immediate period after the storm, and it took some time for everyone to figure out what happened and what to do next.

    There was no apparent anticipatory guidance of the potential damage of the storm, therein lies one of the lessons we should learn from this horrific storm.

    As I said before, no one I believe could have anticipated fully the impact of this storm on the territory, however, I think the government gets a failing grade for preparing the public before the storm, and dealing with it’s immediate aftermath.

    Now, we can all sit around and ascribe blame and point fingers, but that does us no good at the end of the day. What we all need to do is to learn from this experience in anticipation of the next one, as surely we will be experiencing other storms in the future due to climate change.

    Let this be a teaching and learning moment for us all that man is no match for mother nature. Thankfully, the loss of life was minimal despite physical destruction has been widespread and surrounds us. But we are a resilient people. We will rebuild, and we will be stronger hopefully as a people and country going forward.

    Long before the BVI grew to what it was prior to the storm, we were a people that helped each other be it building homes or assisting each other during hard times. That’s our history and heritage.

    We got what it takes to get back on our feet, because most of us came from nothing. We built the BVI from the ground up. Together we can do it again; divided we will not.

    Let’s move forward, and thank God that we are still here to live another day.

  4. Littlejohn says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

    Members of the government should be impeached or dismissed. I am not pleased with their behaviour. There is no recovery. This territory gets worse by the day. It will never recover with them. Bring on the revolution

    • Littlejohn says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      Why was my comment edited. It was the truth, so it cannot be construed as libelous!

    • Gene Pool says:

      Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  5. Sam the man says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

    The NDP Government are way out of their depth when the going gets tough we see what they are really made of – bluster, empty promises, knee jerk political spin, incompetence and brazen unaccountability. But they’ll no doubt limp on until the next election with more talk about what they intend to do but never do it

  6. Albion says:

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Reply says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

      My friend @Albion. Declearing a state of emergency would have given the government the power to mandate everyone be off the streets until the all clear was given.

      As such, it can follow if people were ordered to be off the streets as the storm approached, the likelihood of looting would have been lessened as well as the loss of life. Its the same logic behind the subsequent mandatory curfew.

      At any rate, its water under the bridge. They should know what to do next time. Declare a state of emergency when storms of such magnitude approaches. Better be proactive and safe than be sorry.

    • *Hmm says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

      Lord ignorance is bliss! Pick sense out of nonsense, don’t you think had the issue been made BEFORE the storm the army ships would’ve been in the area & ready to go as soon as the storm had passed. I guarantee you the looting wouldn’t have been to the extent it was. Those soldiers wwould’ve put the fear of any & all offenders. Listen at the end of the day doc & his minions dropped the ball, their incompetence showed & still showing

    • voiceofthevoiceless says:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

      @Albion.

      Come on Albion. A state of emergency would have placed the Governor in control and he would have summoned for the troops to be on the ground so as to be deployed as soon as the storm had passed. You see that is the reason why I believe that the state of emergency was never called prior to the storm : Control. Ego.

      I am not buying all that Reply is selling cause if all projections had that storm within 12-20 miles of us and its hurricane force winds extending 45 miles from its center then technically that is a hit. When you hear CAT 5 you prepare for the worst.

  7. Gene Pool says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    Well the unprecedented, the biggest of hurricne in a century passed its eye over a 2by 4 island with no army or national guard. Who anticipate that the imported contaminants of humanity would release their natural base instincts at such a time to do wht they do best..This type of behaviour is atypical of what distinguishes a Tortolian., something was done right because Hundreds of lives or thousands miraculously were not lost or maimed. The Gov of the day caught off guard as their homes buildings families and everything went kaput.
    Gov now hopefully will accept reality and rebuild with a lot better quality.

  8. Gene Pool says:

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  9. Guess What? says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

    This is equal to sweeping the dust under the carpet. With all that we know about disasters and despite the series of warnings and notices, we did virtually nothing. The response shows we were not even ready for category 1 hurricane

  10. Bite and blow says:

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

    The NDP will be fine. The BVI has a short memory. Watch and you will see. When electricity starts to energize more homes and businesses, roads get fixed, debris is removed, vegetation grows back hiding Irma aftermath, potable water starts flowing, insurance money start flowing, cars get repaired and replaced, internet is back stronger and better, cell phone service fully restored, homes and commercial buildings are repaired and rebuilt, mold is minimized, schools are rebuilt back up and running, all school children are wearing uniform, workers sent off island return, children sent off island return, ports of entry fully restored, prison repaired, prisoners sent off island return, generators are placed in storage, all radio stations are back up and running, central admin complex is repaired, tourism product is restored and enhanced, cruise ships return, financial services shows growth, hurricane related stress and health effects are minimal, we no longer anticipate an Irma story in daily conversation…….who am I kidding, NDP is screwed!

  11. Migoman says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    The problem is simple. We´ve got too much out of touch, OLD leaders on both sides. We need fresh, young faces. People need to step up. I know what Ill be doing come 2019.

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