Still facing criticism for allowing a number of non-belongers to be appointed to some of the most powerful positions in the public service, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith yesterday tried to explain the reason for a number of the appointments, adding that it will take some time before enough natives are available to fill all top posts in both the public and private sectors.
“It is true that we’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of energy – a lot of money in education for young people of this territory, and they have taken advantage of these educational opportunities… That is all well and good, but it does take some time before we (natives) are able to fill all the positions that are vacant in the territory,” Premier Smith told the House of Assembly while he underscored the need to train people especially in areas where labour demand is high.
He further reasoned: “We have young people who go to school and they are qualified here to supply the private as well as the public services. Even in medicine, for example, when you hear people come back trained as doctors go into private practice, that is good because there is a need in that area. So we just have to continue doing what we have to do until all the areas of need whether in the private or public service will be satisfied.”
The premier elaborated on labour challenges facing the public health sector, saying: “At this point in time, after all these years and all the education programmes we’ve had, and even though there are quite a significant number of doctors qualified and trained and working in the BVI, there are still – for example – no local medical interns [inaudible] at the hospital at this time… What I am saying is that we have to continue to educate as we have been doing, and continue to encourage so that our young people will be able to fill the positions that are vacant.”
Premier Smith also used the opportunity to explain the reason a United Kingdom native, Phil Sharman, has been appointed Auditor General.
He noted that Sharman was hired after another person was turned down, adding that there was a protracted search for qualified locals to fill the post.
“When that [Auditor General] position was advertised, there was somebody selected by the selection committee, etcetera. But we were not content that that was the person we wanted at the time. And so we asked that the position be held; and that was held for about nine months while we did a search and encouraged other young people qualified in the BVI to get in that position,” Premier Smith further said.
He was responding to Opposition lawmaker Julian Fraser who, moments earlier, had rebuked the government for allowing persons from overseas to now serve as Auditor General as well as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The recently appointed DPP is United Kingdom native Kim Hollis, QC.
Fraser noted that the constitution specifies that only Virgin Islanders can serve in the House, adding: “No such provision [regarding nationality] exists for the Auditor General and the Director of Public Prosecution. Because those provisions don’t exist in the constitution doesn’t mean that we as legislators shouldn’t come here [in the House] and speak up about it. We have an obligation to do so.”
“And just like how you would have to find someone in the United Kingdom or wherever to fill those posts, you could [inaudible] find a Virgin Islander to fill those posts…” added Fraser.
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