Hon. Christopher says:
Let the people decide
Former Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Communications and Works the Honourable J. Alvin Christopher said on Wednesday that he believes his ministerial appointment was revoked because he refused to bow to pressure from other Ministers to carry out projects in the manner in which they recommended.
He provided a rebuttal to the accusations made by the Chief Minister and other Ministers. Chief Minister Hon. Ralph O’Neal accused Hon. Christopher of failing to work with other Ministers to resolve the many urgent issues affecting his Ministry.
However, Hon. Christopher said the Chief Minister, as the leader, never made any attempt to bring the Ministers together to discuss any such problem. He admitted that because of the infrequency of caucus meetings, one Minister might make a decision that others might not be briefed on, agree with or in the best interest of the country.
In his press conference, the deposed Minister thanked everyone who supported him in the Legislative Council over the years and made special mention of residents of the 2nd District who elected him.
He began his presentation by playing excerpts of speeches made August 19th, 2001 by Chief Minister O’Neal and Minister of Education Andrew Fahie, commending him for being “very sharp, quiet (and) sensible”, someone who “thinks a lot and listens very carefully” and “takes his work seriously”.
Hon. Christopher pointed out that the Chief Minister did not say that he personally had problems with him (Christopher). He dissected the accusations made by the Ministers attacking him for failures in the various departments under the Ministry of Communications and Works and pointed out that efforts were made in each case to deal with the issues, but he faced roadblocks.
For example, the former Minister of Communications and Works explained that there is a Board that makes decisions on matters relating to the Electricity Corporation and those decisions are approved by Executive Council. “He has in writing a complete plan that would take the Corporation through the questionable period and a signed agreement by Rolls Royce accepting responsibility for supply [of] all power and repairs at their cost.”
Hon. Christopher indicated that the former Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, in his new capacity as Minister of Communications and Works, may now be able to say why the land has not been purchased to build the water plant on Jost Van Dyke.
Regarding sewerage, he recalled that a detailed plan for the East End/Long Look area was placed on hold pending the outcome of the National Sewerage Study.
He referred to the many unsolved problems listed by the Chief Minister and said for example that representation was made to the Chief regarding the port fees that were approved and suspended and the new recommendations that are with the Chief Minister. He also referred to the West End terminal report that was brought to Executive Council for urgent action.
On the telecommunications contract, he pointed out that the tender is with the Ministry of Finance but monies were not made available for consultants’ fees in the 2002 budget. He also agreed that there should be an inquiry into the Beef Island Bridge project and said a careful review of the Ministry of Finance would show how long that Ministry has blocked the funds for this project.
“Our now existing problems with the (airport) runway contractor, there are now strong rumours that Executive Council was deprived of information that was given with reference to the financial status of this company before the contract was awarded; such information was never brought to the attention of Members,” he charged.
The former Minister said he wrote to the Chief Minister indicating that he would take responsibility to ensure for seeing all projects through. “But my honest belief is that the Minister’s problem is not with projects, but with the new rules that were put in place to bring about a better control and accountability of projects…In my view, the very system in which these projects are done is questionable.”
He said he asked for government to discuss the issue, but they “were too afraid to do so” and this is the reason for his removal as Minister of Communications and Works and for the start of the exodus of projects from that Ministry to the Ministry of Finance.
“They know they could not pressure me, so they pressured the Chief for my removal,” Hon. Christopher charged. “I have chosen to follow the rules and to avoid being caught in any snare…I chose to run an open Ministry with nothing to hide and to be accountable for my actions.”
He accused government Ministers of hiding their heads in the sand and searching for someone to blame.
“These factors of extensive power and no accountability resulted in the circumstances we are facing at present. We did not drop to the bottom of the barrel, we gradually slid in. I constantly reminded my colleagues that we are slipping, but the answer was always the same, until I found myself with no-one to share my concerns with anymore.”
The former Deputy Chief Minister said every Ministry has its list of problems and if the way to solve these problems is to revoke a Minister’s appointment, then it would be necessary to revoke the appointment of all Ministers and let the people decide who will govern their affairs.
The Representative for the 2nd District also stated that he has been receiving death threats, but he used the opportunity to renew his commitment to continue to serve his people.
Asked about his political affiliation, Hon. Christopher said the Virgin Islands Party have decided they can no longer work with him and so he would now have to look at his political future and make assessment accordingly. “Until that time, I just would have to keep a low profile, politically.”
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