Two senior members of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party (VIP) said the government should avoid launching a legal battle against the cash-strapped BVI Airways, which is yet to fulfill its contractual obligation to commence direct flights between the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Miami in the United States.
Immediate Past President of the VIP Carvin Malone thinks the government should not squander funds on a legal clash, while VIP chairman Andrew Fahie thinks Government would suffer a defeat in the court.
The government had pumped $7 million into BVI Airways for it to start operating between the BVI and Miami. But the airline is now saying it does not have enough money to start fulfilling its part of the deal. It has blamed Government for the delays it faced in getting regulatory approval, adding that such delays resulted in its funds being depleted.
The BVI government, which does not own any shares in the private airline, is yet to say if it will provide the carrier with any further financial assistance. It however insists that it has fulfilled all of its obligations under the contract, and is now waiting for BVI Airways to start the promised flights between the BVI and Miami.
Fahie, who is also Leader of the Opposition, yesterday said he believes Government would lose any legal battle arising from the dispute, based on his interpretation of the contract that initially was signed between the government and BVI Airways.
He noted that there was an addendum to the contract, but the government has blocked the Opposition’s efforts to have details of that addendum made public.
“When you read this contract, it is clear that there were not sufficient intelligent thought processes that went into the formation of the contract… I might be wrong, but based on what I’ve seen signed, I don’t see how the government could win the case. I go on record as saying that. I am not a fan of either of the entities involved in the controversy… I don’t hate them personally,” Fahie said.
He continued: “But the contents of the contract that was signed – despite all that I am hearing lately from the minister of finance [Premier Dr D Orlando Smith] with the tough speech – the government has put themselves and the people of the Virgin Islands and the Treasury in one of the most peculiar positions in the history of the Virgin Islands.”
In the meantime, former president of the VIP, Malone, last evening indicated that he too is against the government pursuing legal action.
“As a businessperson, I can’t afford for the government to be in court for everything that they are doing, because they don’t have enough money to win and fight and continue to run this country, if everything that Government has done goes into court. If it does go into court, we have no extended airline, we have no direct flight,” Malone reasoned.
He added that, in relation to the controversy, he will consider the proverbial glass half-full as opposed to being half-empty. “We have a particular case where it was announced that we (BVI Airways) have the right to go into Florida and the right to go into New York; so we have someone with these rights that are not easy to attain. We have $7 million; we have three years exclusive; we have other people who can participate in this [effort to have direct flights between the BVI and the United States]. We have to make it work,” Malone further said. He, along with his party’s chairman, was speaking last evening during the ‘VIP Moving Forward’ programme on Channel 51.
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