By Davion Smith, BVI News Journalist
Tempers flared among ministers in the House of Assembly yesterday when government backbencher Melvin Turnbull said the finance portfolio should be taken from Premier Dr D Orlando Smith and given to health minister, Ronnie Skelton.
He also claimed that other government members no longer wanted Premier Smith in control of the Finance Ministry.
But his claim did not sit well with senior government ministers such as Mark Vanterpool and Myron Walwyn who suggested that Turnbull was disrespectful and disloyal.
“If this is the direction of the National Democratic Party (NDP) to be disrespectful to the leader like this, Myron Walwyn will leave the NDP. Because this is not what I am here for and I am not going to stand by it. It is wrong. It is disrespectful. And if nobody wants to say anything about it, I will speak,” said Walwyn, adding that he was not afraid to ‘perish’ for defending his Premier.
The Education Minister further said that as a government team member, Turnbull should have sought help for Dr Smith rather than publicly ‘insult’ the NDP leader.
“If the Premier is weak on Finances you have businessmen here. Go and help him. If I am weak on education come and help me… if honorable Penn is weak on trade, go and help him. That is what teamwork is about,” said a fervid Walwyn.
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Vanterpool used his time in the House to sing praises of Premier Smith who is also his brother-in-law.
“I am a firm believer in following my leader and if I can’t follow him I will step away but I have been very keen on working with our leader Dr D Orlando Smith who has been at the right place and the right time as a leader.”
Ronnie Skelton who also spoke after Turnbull’s remarks noticeably steered clear of voicing his opinion on the matter.
However, Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie hastened to defend young Turnbull and was keen to remind the House that he too had no confidence in the Premier as finance minister and had lobbied for Minister Skelton to get the job.
Fahie said it was not ‘disrespectful’ for Turnbull to ‘stand on his principles’.
“Everybody, all of a sudden, jumping on the young member for the Second [District]. I know how he feels. I stood up many times with my government over there. And when I stood up against them I was ridiculed… But I lived to see that everything I stood up for come back and haunt us.”
“You need strong people in place for certain things. It’s no disrespect to anybody,” added Fahie, who went on to criticize the Premier’s handling of taxpayers’ funds.
“When the average man on the street has to go jail for [stealing] a bread, and you look back on the past and you keep seeing the people’s money going through the door just like that all the time, how could you not question leadership? Wrong cannot be right based on who we love and right cannot be wrong based on who we hate and that is how the country is running.”
Fahie said other NDP members “love the government so much that if they see anything out of place, they’re not going to address it.”
Meanwhile, Premier Smith also came to his own defence. While demanding respect from Turnbull he said he was disappointed in the first-time politician.
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