BVI News

Elected leaders were rendered “useless” after 2017 hurricanes

Mark Vanterpool

Four years after the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, elected leaders are sharing how they felt when political power was snatched from them and placed in the hands of a governor who had only arrived in the BVI two weeks prior.

The leaders shared snippets of their experiences in the January 5 sitting of the House of Assembly in a bid to show that they agree with moving political control from the governor to the elected government during times of disasters. 

Fourth District Representative Mark Vanterpool who was Minister of Works in 2017, recalled how Cabinet members lost control of their ministerial portfolios and were reduced to ‘information gatherers’ at meetings of the National Emergency Operating Centre (NEOC) which were led by Governor Jaspert.

“As a minister, you were useless. You weren’t consulted — you were informed as to what are the next steps. The civil servants were being directed not by the Premier of the country, not by the Minister of Finance, not by the Minister of Works. It took me about three weeks to realise that I wasn’t even responsible for Waste Management and cleaning up. I was just cleaning up,” Vanterpool explained. 

Not informed about arrival of UK officials 

Citing an example to show the extent to which political power was snatched from him, Vanterpool explained how unprepared he was to meet then-UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who visited the BVI after the hurricanes.

“When the present Prime Minister (Johnson) of the United Kingdom came with the BBC cameras and all kinds of things, I was there in my old jeans and my dirty t-shirt. The governor jumped out and took Mr Johnson to me and said ‘this is Minister Vanterpool’. In an old, dirty t-shirt cleaning up. But what Mr Johnson didn’t realise was that I wasn’t a minister, I was useless in this disaster. One man had the power! That cannot be!” Vanterpool said.

Governor shot down Fraser’s queries

Like Vanterpool, Third District Representative Julian Fraser shared his own experience when Governor Jaspert took power after Hurricane Irma. He said he was very disturbed when he entered a disaster management meeting and saw the newly-appointed governor at the helm of the table while then Premier Dr Smith sat in the second seat.

“It was really a shock. The governor had gotten to the territory 13 days before this happened … and yet my Premier and all the ministers allowed him to call all the shots in our territory. It seemed like they were alright with it,” Fraser remembered.

To make matters worse, Fraser said he asked a question in that same meeting and was met with an undesirable response from Governor Jaspert.

“Something came up and I asked a question. He, the governor said, ‘we’re not going over anything that was said before’,” Fraser explained. 

He said the governor’s comment angered him but he was subdued by another elected leader who was sitting next to him.

“Who told him to say that? I was going for him because I had nothing to lose. But Ronnie Skelton was sitting next to me and he gave an elbow (nudge) as if to say, ‘we’ve been putting up with this and we got a plan for it’.” Fraser explained.

In order for the disaster management portfolio to be moved to local government, the Disaster Management Bill has to be approved by elected representatives. They are currently going through this process and all will be allowed to vote on the bill once it passes through committee stage.

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21 Comments

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  1. BS says:

    You had access to a vehicle and social media and your own two feet. None of the elected leaders did anything for months. That was YOUR choice. Don’t try to pass that onto anyone else. When the country most needed you, none of you were there!

    Like 41
    • Useless? says:

      The politicians all loaded up their families and headed to their homes in the US. Of course they felt useless. Can’t do much sitting on their couch in the air conditioning watching tv. These useless politicians need to learn to keep their mouths shut rather than opening them and inserting their entire foot. Not one of them including Vanterpool did nothing to make sure the insurance companies handled claims correctly and expeditiously. Further, where was he when the government failed to purchase adequate insurance. I guess he was helpless then as well.

      Like 16
    • Truth says:

      And this is why we cannot be independent. Not because
      Our local government is co****t, inefficient and ineffective although that is all true. It’s because when the chips are down we simply don’t get stuff done without the organisational expertise of others. And I’m not talking about paying overinflated prices for consultants. I’m talking about carefully considered governance. It’s no shame in admitting it. It’s just a fact.

  2. Pandora's Box says:

    C’mon man! You guys were ‘useless’ long before that!

    Like 38
    Dislike 1
  3. Truth says:

    Sir, you are still useless, go find a seat!!!

    Like 32
  4. MK says:

    No political power was snatched from the NDP you were not doing anything to help the people. In August 2017 when the ship offered to come in and help after Smith told them to stand down, what a waste he was. I am not in favor of everything Andrew A. Fahie does, but one thing is for sure if the NDP in there times we will be worse off than we are now with the Virus.
    The NDP was crap and the VIP is running close behind them.
    We need new parties but don’t wait months before the election to get going any new party should get going now let people know who you are and let the people how you will be different and honest if there is such a word in politics.

    Like 22
    Dislike 1
  5. Styles. says:

    Hi Professor Pothole

    That you were deemed useless is probably because you didn’t do or didn’t plan to do anything.

    Like 22
  6. You know what sucks? says:

    That BUMBLEBEE COLOR WEB SITE. THEY WILL POST AN ARTICLE WITH THE PREMIER AND WHEN YOU GIVE YOUR COMMENT, THEY DO NOT POST YOIR COMMENT.

    Like 6
    Dislike 1
  7. Simmonds says:

    I cannot in good conscience read some of these comments and not make my contribution. The NDP government to me could have done a better job overall. Some of them worked hard and some could have done a better job. Hon. Walwyn did a good job. I saw him around in our district and he helped people including me. He did a good job with getting our children back in school and getting the damaged schools build back. We have to give credit where it is due. Marlon, Mitch, Mark himself were seen doing a lot of work in their district.

    Like 11
    Dislike 1
  8. Unaware says:

    They think this is helpful, but it is proving that they aren’t able, how as a minister are you unaware of the postion/power durning an naional emergency.

  9. Really says:

    It’s always when someone steps in to get the job done the slackers always have something demeaning to say. The elected members should have formulated an actual plan and assist the governor where needed but instead they fuss about who has more power than who. Sorry to say but they were useless. Give Jack he jacket.

    Like 11
  10. All of you says:

    All of you full of it.
    You, we, had never see a disaster of this magnitude before Irma but we the layman got on with the business of what needed to be done personally to secure our homes.

    Our expectation was that the people we elected would secure us on the national scale, decide what’s to be done next….and you know what you guys did? Fall the h**l apart to the point where you couldn’t make a decision, everybody saw you!
    That is why the man start to make decisions.

    So don’t come here with your revisionist history!

    Like 9
    Dislike 1
  11. Belonger says:

    The governor stepped in because the premier and many of his ministers were at a lost as to what to do.
    Blaming the governor for stepping up to the plate and offering some form of direction during such a terrible disaster is just plain ungrateful.
    We, the people, of these Virgin Islands thank you Gov for your leadership.
    Bon voyage.

    Like 17
    Dislike 1
  12. facts says:

    Myron was the most productive minister during that time from what I noticed. I saw him moving through helping people and getting the school children back in school. Mark Vanterpool was doing what he was supposed to do. He worked. Marlon Penn and Mitch Turnbull were out helping their people.

  13. Hmmmmm says:

    Because you all were playing politics when all of us were in need of help. I had to go to the fourth district if i wanted to get any kind of supplies. It is because of you all in the past government is why the current government still feeling the backlash. You people were vindictive, snobby, and a real set of F. So before you all focus on the people you all wanted to setup a fire sale.

  14. OUTRAGE says:

    PURE BULLS**T This man speaks til now. These politicians have the people of the BVI for a set of fools and idiots and uneducated dumbbies. really sickening on their part.

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