Premier Andrew Fahie has made it clear that accepting military assistance from the United Kingdom will be a last option as he is confident in the ability of local authorities to effectively police the territory’s borders.
Fahie’s statement came only hours after Governor Augustus Jaspert publicly said he was going to propose for the National Security Council to receive assistance from the UK military to help with the territory’s fight against COVID-19.
Governor Jaspert said in a statement on Tuesday, August 25 that during the initial stages of COVID-19 locally, there was a previous offer from the UK to help bolster the territory’s border security.
“That offer was not supported at the time. I will be discussing with the National Security Council what support might now be needed and will update in due course,” Jaspert said in his public address.
Navy a last resort
During a press conference later that night, Premier Fahie said military assistance from the UK would not be warranted since the BVI is collaborating with the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and providing the local border security authorities with the necessary resources and equipment.
He said: “By this collaboration in an area of common ground, which is border protection, the BVI and USVI will be able to tighten both sides of the shared border. Measures such as these are our first option and they must be given the time and opportunity to mature before we reach for drastic measures. The UK navy should be our last resort and I want to say that with due respect.”
All other requests to the UK denied or unanswered
While noting the absolute confidentiality of all deliberations within the National Security Council, the Premier said Governor Jaspert ‘breached the protocols’ by making those deliberations relating to military assistance public.
Responding to questions from members of the media on Tuesday, Premier Fahie said he is, therefore, forced to address the matter.
He explained that since the pandemic, his administration has made multiple requests for help to the UK government — the majority of which were either declined or left unanswered.
“We were asking for funding to help with the social issues. In the early stages when we were asking … for assistance with test kits, in the early stages when putting military was not even a thought, that was the one offer on the table.”
“There was some discussion about military support and I must say here that the UK and its ‘agent’ seem to be itching to put military personnel within the jurisdiction, whether on the sea or on the land,” Fahie stated.
Accepting reverses self-determination progress
The Premier further said he does not want to make the same error as seen in other territories or countries by signing off to a decision disguised as an act of assistance.
“Every time we have been pressured to accept military presence in the territory, we have been required to consider the social, historical and cultural aspects of this decision. And part of that includes our march towards self-reliance and self-determination,” he said.
He continued: “It is on this basis and in the confidence of our personnel here in the BVI, it was felt that military was not the way to go and we decided on many measures that we will exercise first.”
The BVI is now classified as having clusters of COVID-19 cases across several sections of the territory. It is believed that the BVI now has instances of community spread because persons have been smuggling themselves in and out of the territory.
There are currently 17 active COVID-19 cases in the BVI.
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