The NDP government’s motion to rename Peeble’s Hospital in honour of Premier Dr D Orlando Smith was met with resistance from Ronnie Skelton and members of the parliamentary opposition on Tuesday.
According to the motion that was specifically put forward by Health Minister Marlon Penn, Cabinet had approved Dr Smith’s selection based on recommendations from an unspecified hospital renaming committee last year.
Skelton, who seemingly instigated Tuesday’s resistance, insisted that he needed to see the report from the said committee as well as the document from Cabinet’s deliberations on the matter.
Speaker of the House Ingrid Moses Scatliffe, however, denied Skelton’s request and reminded him that he was still a member of Cabinet when the decision to approve Dr Smith as the honouree was made.
I support renaming, procedures just wrong
Skelton then said he agreed that the hospital should be renamed in honour of Premier Smith but noted that his resistance was effectively one of principle and procedural correctness.
“Let’s say I leave that (the document from Cabinet) aside. The report [from the selection committee] cannot be a secret. The report should be a document that we all can see.”
Referring to Dr Smith, Skelton then said: “Here is someone who has made great contributions to the healthcare system and there are people with questions and we need not make it look like we’re doing something wrong. We need to just shed some light on why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s all I’m asking.”
Skelton, who is the leader of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), received support from his fellow party members Archibald Christian and Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull. Turnbull, for example, argued that Premier Smith should be honoured in the ‘right way’ and “not just rush” to have the hospital named in his honour.
Turnbull along with Skelton and Christian were members of the NDP government up to recently.
Put politics aside
According to parliamentary regulations, the Minister of Health has the authority to move any motion to dedicate the name of public health facilities in honour of community stalwarts who have contributed significantly to the BVI health sector. But, while doing so, the minister (Penn) must outline reasons why such a stalwart should be honoured.
Considering that he satisfied the requirements of the typical procedure when moving a motion, Penn accused Skelton and other members of the PVIM opposition of resisting the motion as a political play.
Penn, who took over the health portfolio from Skelton, took a shot at the PVIM leader’s efficiency while he was Health Minister.
“This is a process [to select a honouree] started in October 2016. How long does it take you to go through that process? If I was there it would have been done in six weeks; maybe six days too. The man (Dr Smith) has made his contributions to his territory and he should be recognised. Put politics aside,” Penn said.
The motion will return before the House of Assembly later today, January 23.
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