By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has raised questions as to whether Governor Augustus Jaspert’s recent reports about victimisation existing in the public service is indeed true, following the recent termination of outspoken political critic, Cindy Rosan-Jones, from the BVI Tourist Board.
Penn raised the questions on the nature of the termination in the House of Assembly on Monday during the 2021 Budget Debate, where he disclosed that Rosan-Jones’ position as Events Coordinator at the Tourist Board was made redundant with immediate effect on December 11.
He said believes such an action raises a number of red flags in the territory. Penn said this action may lead to persons questioning the BVI as a true democracy.
“So an entire restructuring of an organisation just so happens to be conducted and the person who so unluckily to be axed is Ms Rosan-Jones, a Virgin Islander — outspoken? But we’re in a democracy. This is the same person who cut our behind when we were in power the last time. Never had a letter, never was intimidated because in a democracy, people have a right to express their views in a democracy. Is this what BVI love is? Is this what BVI Love represents?” Penn questioned.
He added: “A mother of three in the heart of a pandemic is sent home? We couldn’t find anywhere else for this person to work and earn a living in her country because of her outspokenness? And then we use our young Virgin Islander to do this dirty work? This can’t be BVI Love.”
The term ‘BVI Love’ has been the slogan the Fahie administration has been using as part of its campaign to revive the local tourism sector which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does freedom of speech really exist?
Penn said he believes the firing will spark fear in the public service, as persons may now become hesitant of speaking out against the government.
“Are we saying that anyone who speaks out against the government in any way should be feared of losing their jobs, or be victimised? So is the Governor really telling the truth? This can’t be the direction that we are going as a territory,” he stated.
“We’re talking about a constitutional review. There’s freedom of speech in the constitution. Persons shouldn’t be fearful of losing their livelihoods because they have a say in their country of their birth. That is the direction that we’re going,” he further said.
Meanwhile consultants being paid millions
The Opposition Leader said that while Rosan-Jones’ position has been made redundant, the government continues to spend millions of dollars on consultancy contracts of which details are still not forthcoming.
He said: “At the same time we see it in the budget, $8 million for ‘other consultancy’. We have consultants on the ground from all walks of life from all over the place. Up to now you can’t get a report on what they do, you can’t get a report on their contract or their level of engagement but this daughter of the soil, with immediate effect, is sent to the street, with three children to feed in the heart of a pandemic.”
Assured of no layoffs in October
Redundancy usually occurs when an organisation is restructuring or downsizing its workforce. The news Rosan-Jones termination comes only two months after Premier Andrew Fahie had publicly dismissed rumours of his government laying off any of its public servants due to the economic downturn triggered by COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, he said that cutting the civil service was a last option for his government and that his administration’s aim is to diversify the economy in order to generate revenue that will help to maintain the country’s current expenditure.
“The last thing we want to do is cut any public officers from the payroll. We want to make sure that we can maintain what we have and get more efficiency, improve government services, continue with new industries … and continue to create more avenues so that persons can have more opportunities for jobs in the territory,” Premier Fahie stated.
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