Governor John Duncan, in response to critics, today declared that his purpose in the British Virgin Islands is not to make decisions that are popular.
But he said ‘a lot of people are supportive’ of his controversial decision to use constitutional powers to force Government to allocate an additional $800,000 to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) this financial year.
Governor Duncan said the United Kingdom government did not give him instructions to take action, adding that the Virgin Islands Constitution gives the Governor all the power needed to take action on his own.
“Section 103 [of the Virgin Islands Constitution speaks to] the governor’s decision; it is not a decision which comes from London. But of course I have informed London of my decision and my intention to take that decision.”
Governor Duncan, during a press briefing this afternoon (March 24), further stated that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was informed about his decision to force Government’s hands, before action was taken.
Asked if he had warned Government about the likelihood of him imposing his constitutional powers, the governor told journalists: “I did indeed put it in those terms.”
He added that his final warning was made in a letter on February 21 – weeks before he announced on March 16 that his constitutional powers would be brought to bear.
The governor added that, prior to taking action, he, on various occasions, also raised concern about the police force not being adequately funded.
“There has been regular discussions at the NSC (National Security Council); there has been regular discussion in Cabinet including on the  budget itself before the budget was approved by Cabinet, and there has been regular correspondence between myself and the premier.”
Do your job, elected reps told
Governor Duncan, in the meantime, noted the need for elected representatives to do their job.
“As I said in my last press conference, I regret having to take this decision. It is not the way that I wanted matters to go. I wish the government cared to take more responsibility. We are a modern society. Elected representatives need to take their responsibilities seriously, even if sometimes these are hard decisions. So, it is a matter of regret that I had to take this decision.”
The governor responded to claims that his decision has set the British Virgin Islands back constitutionally.
“I don’t think it has put the territory back. Section 103 is in there (the Constitution) for a particular reason, if a situation arises. The situation has arisen; the governor has to take the decision. That’s what the constitution is for; it’s a check and a balance, and the governor is part of those checks and balances.”
No bad blood
Governor Duncan further told journalists that his action has not negatively affected the professional relationship that exists between himself and Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, who also is the minister of finance.
“We are working together. The premier was with me this morning. We were discussing how to take this forward,” he added.
Governor Duncan also defended the grounds on which he decided to force Government to give the police force an additional $800,000.
“I will point you to my inauguration statement way back nearly three years ago where I said I would take decisions on the basis of properly evaluated evidence, and that I would not hesitate even if those decisions were unpopular – words to that effect. Have a look at what I’ve said. That is exactly what I am doing,” he continued.
“I am here to take judgments and decisions, which are in my view on the basis of evidence and advice from a wide variety of people. They are not intended to be popular. They may be popular, but that’s not what I am here for. I am not here to make popular decisions; I am here to make the right decisions as far as I can judge it to be.”