The Premier’s decision to turn back the UK ship RFA Mounts Bay which was sent to provide recovery assistance to the Territory was questioned by President of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), Dr. Natalio Wheatley during the Speak Out BVI radio programme on 15 August.
The VIP President said that he is curious as to why the Premier decided that the Territory did not require assistance, even though there were indications that help was needed. “I still do not understand that particular sentiment, but how I would respond to that is that help cannot hurt, it cannot hurt,” Dr. Wheatley said.
He further pointed out that the ship was deployed to this part of the world to assist with disasters among other things and he further stressed that the BVI needed the assistance: “It would not have hurt for them to come here, because the place really was in a bad shape, still is in a bad shape, and a few extra hands would not have done us any harm.”
Nonetheless, the VIP President said that he understands that perhaps accepting help is not the BVI way: “I understand the reason partly why they wanted to stand down the ship and the assistance because it seems as though we are a Territory that can help itself. We pride ourselves on being able to help ourselves. We do not need aid from any other; when these tragedies happen people are looking for aid and we may pride ourselves that when these tragedies happen we do not have to take aid from other countries,” Dr. Wheatley opined.
The VIP President pointed out that following the renunciation of the assistance offered by the RFA Mounts Bay, the Territory had to cancel two cruise ship visits. “We had to turn away a few cruise ships and I understand why we had to turn away the cruise ships as well …I do not think it would have hurt in these types of incidences to welcome the help and not be too prideful,” he pointed out.
Further Dr. Wheatley suggested that the turning away the RFA Mounts Bay was an insult to those affected by the flood. “It’s almost somewhat a slap in the face of the people who have suffered such tremendous losses to say: well we don’t need the help. Just even to be sympathetic to the people who had suffered a loss we should not have refused help.”
A female caller to the programme rebuked Dr. Wheatley for his comments relating to the ship and announced that she was supportive of the decision Hon. Smith made: “Why, yes, the Premier may have called off the ship we do not know. I do not think that, right now, anybody has the full story as to why the ship was called off…I don’t think it is responsible to indicate that the Premier would have made a decision disregarding what challenges people may have had,” the female caller said.
On the other hand a male caller agreed with the VIP President’s views and declared that the turning away of the ship was insulting: “It was wrong for the Premier to insult the United Kingdom by refusing the war ship because that war ship could have come here and …they would have been able to give us a lot of technical advice,” the caller said.
In his statement on 11 August Premier Smith explained that the ship’s offer was stood down because the recovery efforts were progressing well in the Territory: “Given that our local authorities have made substantial progress in clearing roads and restoring power, and the significant assistance of the community, the ship was stood down and returned to its previous tasking,” Hon. Smith said.