BVI News

COMMENTARY: BVI post February 25


By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

The Virgin Islands General Election of February 2019 — despite beliefs that independent candidates and new parties would drive a new political culture — the two main political parties in the Virgin Islands remain dominant in politics.

Now, no one in their right mind wants to be smug. Smugness is for losers, stated a wise sage, once upon a time. And too much ‘I told you so’ is a self-confidence that is frequently fatal.

Although, one wondered at the absolute confidence of Virgin Islands Party Supporters that they would win the General Election outright, before the night of September 25, 2019. And that very day, the VIP won eight seats to the National Democratic Party’s three seats.

So, these VIP supporters knew something this old boy did not. Not that he was surprised at his lack of knowledge, or his total inability to predict elections in the Virgin Islands.

Predicting General Elections in the Virgin Islands is not science. It is VOODOO. OK.

The newly-formed parties each won one seat each; and this by incumbent politicians that were previously entrenched members of the two main parties, who jumped ship for personal reasons.

Shocking defeats

The shock of the night was losses by two incumbent politicians who were also cabinet members. One was an independent candidate who left the NDP weeks before February 25; the second was the NDP leader.

So the conclusion from the election results must be that the two-party narrative and culture remains strong. This election and the aftermath serves as a warning that to break that two-party culture will take a lot more effort and resources by candidates outside the two parties.

And a former independent and political activist that smelled the coffee early was rewarded with a major ministerial position after making the astute decision that joining one of the big two was his best bet to get a seat at the table of power.

Other independents who remained with the belief that ‘one more push’ would birth the baby of political power, remain disappointed, and in the political wilderness.

Big workload

The new government has a huge workload, however. One crucial task: in the UK, powerful politicians and bureaucrats are taking an ‘interest’ in the Overseas Territories as a certain Parliamentary report suggests.

This report is calling for the removal of Belongership. Belongership is a resident status unique to OT residents that seeks to protect these tiny communities and their unique cultures from the onslaught of forces of much larger and much more powerful societies.

OTs seen as vulnerable

The OTs are viewed as vulnerable communities that require some type of legal, social and economic protection. Belongership is an attempt to offer this protection.

Removing Belongership will destroy these communities by opening them up to invasive forces that will essentially end the way of life of these communities as they exist at present.

This is a ‘huge matter’ if the UK intends to drive the policy through. The Premier of Bermuda has gone as far as describing this proposal ‘neo-colonial’.

Matters of diplomacy

The new Premier will have to deal with this matter with great diplomacy and resourcefulness, and explain to His Excellency the Governor and the powers in Whitehall and Westminster, why this proposal is such ‘a terrible idea!’

The Premier will also have to get involved in the Brexit debate in the UK and meet with the various parties to understand how Brexit impacts the Virgin Islands.

The new Premier should think outside the box on Brexit. He should meet with Scottish, Irish, Welsh, English, and Overseas Territory political and business leaders.

The Premier should also meet with European Union leaders on the matter, especially the bureaucrats in Brussels.

Three things new gov’t should do

Just to add another thing, this old boy admonishes his friends in the Virgin Islands Party to do three things as the party begins a four-year odyssey in governance.

First: get all the advice from old Virgin Islands heads – ‘Virgin Islands Elders’ – as possible. Second: abandon the always ‘terrible idea’ of not working with specific public officers who may hold different views politically: peace and love is always better than war, especially in a micro-community. And third: start to formulate a SMART 20-year vision, strategy, and plan for the Virgin Islands.

This must be a vision for the Virgin Islands that is generally accepted by the country as a whole.

A smart vision is a GPS that will aid transparency, accountability, and great governance. To be continued

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