Premier Dr D Orlando Smith is being urged not to give in to calls for his administration to fight a constitutional action by Governor John Duncan that has forced the government to allocate an additional $1.8 million to fund the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and certain legal services.
“My advice to the premier is, don’t fall for any of this stuff,” said social commentator Douglas Wheatley.
He further advised: “You (Premier Smith) know what the situation is; you know that there were shortcomings in some of your own ministries and departments, and you have been trying to work with them. Don’t, at this point, come out and do anything that would just bring discredit to you and to your government.”
Governor Duncan recently indicated that his decision to invoke his constitutional powers was due to failed attempts to have the government properly fund the police force.
Wheatley, in the meantime, noted that both the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the United Kingdom had a say when the Constitution was being drafted several decades ago, giving the governor power to force the government’s hands in the way Governor Duncan did.
“We (BVI representatives) went up to London, we discussed and we came back with a constitution that has two reserved powers (legislative and financial) in the hands of the Governor.”
“You’ll remember that Mr (Julian) Fraser was with the Honourable RT O’Neal when they went to London to discuss this constitution. It was this Constitution they were discussing that that provision was inserted, and I heard nobody making a fuss about it then. So, it’s not that this was done behind the backs of the legislators or behind the backs of the people of the Virgin Islands. It was done right here in full view,” Wheatley said during his 3D Show on radio last Friday.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as long as you remain a colony of Great Britain, Britain will ensure that the Governor has the power in order to administer this territory under the UK. And hoping that it would be otherwise, won’t help. There is one answer to that. If you don’t want that situation to obtain, you have a right to self-determination,” added Wheatley.
His call for the premier to not fight the governor was made in response to a challenge Pastor Claude Skelton Cline had thrown out for Premier Smith to take on the governor or step down.
No one to blame but ourselves
In the meanwhile, another social commentator, Dr Natalio ‘Sowande’ Wheatley, said the governor’s action is justified, especially at a time when the territory is grappling with a serious crime situation.
“They say the action of the Governor was unjustified. At a time when you have families grieving for the loss of life and people are concerned about the situation of crime, you telling me that putting more resources into the police department’s hand is unjustified?”
“The police force needs the money and they not gonna get involved in politics; they not going to come out and say the budget is not enough; the police have been saying there are a number of things they need,” Dr Wheatley said.
He further advised that, if the people are serious about removing power from the Governor, they should begin by promoting good governance.
“The local government and those that support the local government, if they want to gain the autonomy on behalf of the people, what they need to do is to promote good governance,” he said while noting the need for – among other things – greater freedom of the press and freedom of speech, as well as empowerment of the Complaints Commissioner and implementation of a Public Procurement Act.
“Do all of these type of things that can help improve the checks and balances that we need to give people the confidence…that you will be responsible in being able to govern.”
Dr Wheatley added that the people of the BVI must blame themselves for the current situation, especially considering the lack of transparency and accountability in government.
“We have no one to blame but ourselves for the current situation. We can’t blame a governor for using powers that he constitutionally has. If we want to go towards a situation where the governor doesn’t have those kind of powers, we have to show ourselves to be responsible.”
Dr Wheatley continued: “All of this whole idea of using slavery and colonialism when it’s convenient to you to try to get more power from the governor – or to complain about the governor trying to curtail your power in any way, but yet you are not giving power to the people. I don’t respect that at all. I think you are just manipulating people with this whole idea of slavery and colonialism, and we need to stop it. Our own local people sometimes can behave like colonial masters as well.”
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