Opposition legislator Mark Vanterpool has said he believes that the Premier of the Virgin Islands should be the person tasked with managing the response of the territory after a natural disaster.
The current law dictates that in the event of a disaster emergency, the governor is responsible for the disaster management of the territory.
Vanterpool, during his argument in favour of the territory undergoing a constitutional review, said the Disaster Management Act of 2019 – which proposes to give the Premier the ability to lead in cases following a natural disaster – will never become law in the BVI.
“Under our constitution, there is an Emergency Act. I don’t know why we don’t feel that the Premier can run an emergency in the country [but] that a governor has to click in and take over the country … I’m not troubling the governor, I am troubling the self-determination of our country that when you elect a body to run a country, let the body run the country according to the constitution.”
He added: “This thing about an emergency and when a hurricane hit who runs the country after, and the Premier got to be tippy-toeing behind the governor. That is not right. That is not respect and that is not a mutual partnership, and that is not self-determination according to the preamble of this constitution.”
Premier knows territory best
In making a case for his argument, Vanterpool said that a Premier is more knowledgeable about their own territory than a governor who usually travels from abroad to serve for a limited period.
“Who knows the people more in the country? Who knows what their needs are more? Who knows how to deal with situations more than the premier of the country and his ministers, and the members of the House who mingle every day?” Vanterpool asked.
He continued: “Who could tell me that Carrot Bay get washed out and Carrot Bay get some big surges and the governor knows better about what is happening down there than the Premier? Or up East End by Red Rock, anybody could tell me much better than the leader of the Opposition what to do there, having known the history of Red Rock and what happened there?”
New Constitution must have change
Vanterpool said that he is hopeful that with a revised constitution, the Premier is given the responsibility to lead the territory in cases of disaster emergencies.
“I hope that we can get that change fast because me ain’t signing on to no Disaster Preparedness Act that says somebody outside of the Premier should be in charge after an emergency. The Premier should be in charge. He has the confidence of the people who elected him and he should be in charged,” Vanterpool argued.
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