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Bishop Cline claims he is a ‘casualty’ of NDP feud

Bishop John Cline

Bishop John Cline

Bishop John Cline said comments he made on radio last week Friday have been given as the reason he was asked to resign as Chairman of the state-owned BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA).

But he strongly believes he was a mere casualty of an ongoing ‘war’ within the governing National Democratic Party (NDP).

“Whatever is going on within the NDP, I became a casualty of war because there is obviously a war going on. I hope and I pray that, whatever the infighting is, they (members of the NDP) sort it out for the good of the country. Sort out your problems and do what you were elected to do, and lead this country to greater prosperity, peace, and safety,” he said in an interview today with BVI News Online.

Asked to state the reason for the alleged NDP infighting, the clergyman responded: “That I don’t know because I am not on the inside; I am not that type of party supporter. I don’t keep track of what is going on in Caucus, Cabinet and all of that. I was simply asked to chair the hospital board and do my best to help improve it, and that’s what I do.”

A ‘fatal’ radio interview

Bishop Cline, who made it clear that he is still an NDP supporter, became the premier’s target last week Friday when he made certain comments during an interview with radio host Paul ‘Gadeithz’ Peart.

He told the radio host that – among other things – he supports a call made by another NDP member Eileen Parsons for Premier Smith to surrender the finance ministry to Minister of Health Ronnie Skelton.

Premier Smith subsequently declared publicly that he has no intention to give up the finance ministry.

The premier – hours after Bishop Cline’s radio interview – asked the clergyman to resign from the BVIHSA by Sunday, January 8.

Bishop Cline today told BVI News Online that he did not fight the request.

“I was asked to resign; that’s not a secret. There was too much going on and too much to accomplish, and too many important issues on the table [regarding the BVIHSA] for me to volunteer to resign. And that is the reason why I accepted [the recent renewal of my contract at BVIHSA],” he explained.

Premier Orlando Smith. File photo

Premier Orlando Smith. File photo

Bishop Cline further stated that, prior to tendering his resignation letter, he spoke with Premier Smith.

“I did have an opportunity to speak to the premier to say to him, ‘I don’t mind going; I just don’t want to leave with an impression – based on an interview after all the years I’ve supported your government – that I am against your government, because that is not true’. I wished him success,” Bishop Cline said, adding that the premier’s decision has not reduced his level of support for the NDP government.

“It hasn’t been reduced,” he told BVI News Online.

Pressed to state if the latest developments may influence him to switch political allegiance to the Opposition Virgin Islands Party, the former BVHSA chairman chuckled. “I will stay with the BVI,” he said.

I did not disrespect the premier

Bishop Cline, in the meantime, has brushed aside claims that the action taken against him was justifiable because he was – in effect – undermining Premier Smith on public radio.

He reasoned that his agreement with Parsons’ opinion that the premier should give up leadership of the finance ministry was not a criticism of the premier.

“I wasn’t offering any criticism against the government; I was just in support of what ‘Ms Parsons had written. She wrote a letter respectfully in a private way. Once it became public, all of us can comment on it. But me disagreeing with you doesn’t mean I am criticizing you,” Bishop Cline said while stating why he still thinks Skelton should be the finance minister.

Health Minister Ronnie Skelton

Health Minister Ronnie Skelton

“I don’t agree with everything any government does. There are some disagreements that I have… I was in agreement with Ms Parsons that maybe they should consider giving back Finance to Ronnie. I said Ronnie Skelton has been an astute businessman and financier [who] built his family business to a profitable and thriving business, and someone who understands the numbers; I can speak to his business acumen. But my support for this administration, I think, hands down, has been undeniably so. I wasn’t criticizing my employer in public,” Bishop Cline said.

Premier Smith thought otherwise.

Bishop Cline explained: “The reason that was given [for asking me to resign] was that, based on he interview with Paul ‘Gadeithz’ Peart, it was concluded by the premier that I was no longer in support of his administration, and so he required my resignation forthwith, and I complied. The request came in Friday and it wanted the resignation by Sunday. Everything they asked for I did.”

Bishop Cline, in addition to agreeing that Premier Smith should give up the finance ministry, also told the radio host that he does not support a government contract being awarded to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

Government announced last month that CCCC has been selected to undertake the runway extension project at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport at a cost of just over $153 million.

But Bishop Cline is contending that the airport project is not feasible, especially at this time when the territory is facing financial challenges.

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