Leader of the Opposition, and First District Representative, Hon. Andrew Fahie challenged the Government to a debate over BVI Airways, following comments made by Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn during the Budget debate.
During his budget debate contributions Leader of the Opposition, and First District Representative, Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that there is some missing information about the BVI Airways arrangement such as the identity of the owners.
In revisiting the comments about BVI Airways Hon. Walwyn did not directly refer to Hon. Fahie by name as he said: “We cannot in this body [House of Assembly] turn around and defame, and say the most terrible things, and unfounded things about a company because we have political ambition; and make sure we cost the government embarrassment and the people $7M because we use our mouth recklessly.”
“We cannot see past our noses, and cannot see what something can do in the long term in the interest of our country, but we can only see the short term, which is for us to get political power,” Hon. Walwyn announced.
However, Hon. Fahie did not allow the comments to fall lightly and rose on a point of information. The Leader of the Opposition announced that in his opinion the comments were not related to the legislation being debated: “The member obviously has a divisive spirit. If he wants a debate on BVI Airways, let’s have it separately, but to use what was said in the last House [sitting]as an excuse for the airline is nonsense,” Hon. Fahie said.
He further challenged Hon. Walwyn to consider a separate debate on the BVI Airways matter: “If the member wants to come to defend BVI Airways, tell him to come and have a separate debate for it, but I am not going to sit down here and hear the Minister come with no bully politics, intimidating me on what was said in this House. I came to defend the people; my aspirations is to defend the people of these Virgin Islands.”
When Hon. Walwyn rose again to speak, he announced that he never referenced any name when he made his statement. He then continued the BVI Airways mention stating that: “…Comments were made in this Hon. House about a company doing insider trading and people cannot come in the House and make those kind of comments without facts.”
This remark prompted Hon. Fahie to rise again on another point of information stating: “Where does the member get off coming in the House to defend a company? Is he in the company? What that has to do with the International Tax Authority Act that we are here doing? If he wants to know whether what I say have facts or not we can have a separate debate for that.”
The Leader of the Opposition then challenged the Minister to a debate on the BVI Airways to ascertain the merits of his comments, and announced that he is certain that the Minister will not win the debate: “When I come in here I could defend myself. If you want to speak to that, you come and bring a separate debate on BVI Airways. I could bet my bottom dollar you wouldn’t beat me on it.”
“I didn’t know you were coming in here to tie that in. They send you? Tell the member to confine his comments to International Tax Authority and not BVI Airways because if he doesn’t, I will get up every minute,” Hon. Fahie declared before the Speaker recessed the House for lunch.
Premier about BVI Airways
When the House resumed its sitting Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith also referenced the BVI Airways conversation as he wrapped up the debate and also drew comments from the Leader of the Opposition.
In mentioning the airline Hon. Smith said: “It’s a little disappointing Madame Speaker when you get a lot of negative talk about the development, about the functioning of BVI Airways. It is true that they weren’t able to meet the deadline of November to start the service in the BVI; but Madame Speaker when you are dealing with the airline industry there is always…the possibility that you’ll miss that mark…” “There are many factors Madame Speaker that could account for changes in schedule and there were these factors, there have been changes in schedule,” the Premier added.
At that point Hon. Fahie rose on point of correction and noted that he was not being negative: “Madame Speaker this is not about being negative, but I see what is going on here. A picture is trying to be painted that anybody that raise concern about BVI Airways is being negative, and I want to state it for the record — I support trying to solve the airlift issues but it is very difficult for me to sit here and listen to the Premier in a very eloquent manner try to brand that as negativity.”
“When all that I have been saying from the beginning of the BVI Airways deal from the time I have gone on to the Freedom of Information Act for both the British and the US that the time frame that have been given are not realistic. I was assured they were; and last year I stood in this House and said, based on the information that is required to get permission to fly from ASSI and to fly from Department of Transportation, it is no way that the deadlines in the contract with the company will be met,” he added.
The Leader of the Opposition further said: “I am for a credible airlift solution for the Territory but because the company that has been chosen has been missing all these deadlines…What has been happening requires someone asking questions—$7M.”