The Ninth District Electoral debates were filled with ideas fielded by the three candidates from the National Democratic Party VIP), the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), and Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM).
These ideas were largely in response to questions on a number of topics, including education.
Here are some of those questions and the responses from the debaters — Dr Hubert O’Neal representing the NDP, Vincent Wheatley from the VIP, and Jose de Castro from the PVIM.
What steps would you take as the Ninth District Representative, to improve on the quality of education in the Virgin Islands?
One of the things de Castro said he would look at is children having a strong introduction to education. He proposed ideas such as providing teachers with good training that would cater to children with special needs. He also promoted proper prenatal care and engaging foetuses by reading to them from the womb. He also said a trade school and after-school programme for youngsters is important.
He responded that tremendous strides have already been done under the governing National Democratic Party. He said he would continue to advocate for improvements and tackle the existing deficiencies in schools with a mentorship programme.
Wheatley said he would review the extra school year in secondary school and place more emphasis on early childhood education. He further said he would advocate for more field trips and additional school competitions. He also proposed separating the primary division from the secondary division at Bregado Flax Educational Centre on Virgin Gorda.
For years there has been a perception of neglect towards the Ninth District. As district representative, how would you combat this?
“It (the neglect) is real,” he said before adding that a Ninth District budget would be his first order of business in that regard. He also said he would improve ‘access’ in the district.
Combating the perception of neglect would require strong leadership that only a government minister would provide, O’Neal said, He, therefore, submitted that the Ninth District representative should have a ministerial portfolio.
Wheatley said he believes his former post of Sister Islands Programme Coordinator should be renamed to Coordinating and Planning Officer.
“[This post should then be] placed in the ministry, where it belongs, in the Office of the Premier. And, for the first time in history, funding should be provided for that post,” he said.
What is your strategy for diversifying and strengthening the Virgin Islands especially in the Ninth District?
He said his plan is to develop agriculture, fishing, sports tourism, and information technology in the territory.
He stated that his strategy would be to diversify the economy to include agriculture. He said it was also time to inject more funds into the tourism sector to promote the territory on a wider scale.
Wheatley stated that, if elected, he would invest in a seafood export port, agriculture, and technology as ways to strengthen the territory.
How do you intend to involve Ninth District residents in the decision making process?
He responded that he would do so through a series of community meetings, have regular office hours, and engage residents via various social media platforms.
O’Neal said he has done regular town hall meetings with the residents and will continue to do so.
Wheatley said he would continue to have daily office hours, continue his radio and social media presence. He also noted a plan to cater to the expat community.
What would be your top three priorities for the district in the first six months and how would you plan to achieve them?
Implementing a budget for the district, implementing a trade school, and assisting persons who were displaced by the 2017 hurricanes.
He said his top priorities would include getting people back into homes, assisting in redeveloping the now-closed resorts, and train more locals to work in the tourism sector. He said his third priority would be to restore the banking presence on Virgin Gorda to include a branch of the National Bank of the Virgin Islands.
Wheatley said it would be difficult to state how the territory’s finances would be after becoming elected. He, however, said he would return to the district to find out from residents what their priorities are. He noted that the schools, government buildings, and ports in the district all require attention.
What efforts would be made to protect the environment of the Ninth District?
de Castro said he would invest in renewable energy and would introduce a bill that would require electronic cars to enter the territory duty-free.
He said that he would prohibit persons from openly burning garbage in the British Virgin Islands, initiate a recycling programme, and make better use of renewable energy from waste.
Wheatley said he would implement an alternative energy system from Anegada, ban single-use plastic in the territory, and eliminate plastic use in the next ten years. He also said, under his leadership, mangroves would be better protected.
What do you have planned for emergency situations on Anegada?
He said he would install some much-needed lights on the Anegada-based airport to facilitate nighttime emergency flights. In addition, he said he would set up a helicopter service in collaboration with local police. He said a resident doctor would also have to be stationed on the island.
He said his plan would be to have a resident doctor on that island as well.
He said, for emergency situations, he would equip the island with a healthcare facility capable of dealing with emergencies.
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