While Leader of the Opposition Hon. Andrew Fahie referred to his failed “No Confidence” motion as “a moment of reflection” and “a Joshua moment,” BVI Leader and Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith – who the motion was attempting to strip of the Ministry of Finance -referred to the opposition move as an “act of political grandstanding.”
The motion had been well publicized by Hon. Fahie but failed when it arrived in the House of Assembly on 1 August, because no legislator ventured to second the motion; and as a result the Opposition Leader was left standing alone. The numbers were clearly against him from the beginning: NDP 11 seats out of 13, VIP 2 seats or less.
The inevitable checkmate of the motion was followed by a quick end of the sitting as no one spoke in the other business section, and the House was therefore adjourned sine die. This early end left many to believe that this was the end of the discussion surrounding the motion.
However, that was not the case as Premier Smith used the evening hours to address and dissect the unsuccessful call for the removal of the Finance Ministry from his portfolios.
In a statement that was aired on both radio and television the BVI Premier painstakingly examined the content of the motion: “It’s important, that I speak not simply against the Honourable Member’s claim, not just to defend my service in this capacity, and not just to defend my personal integrity. I speak for more than just protecting the honour and good name of the Members of my Government, all of whom have been unfairly impugned in the motion. Rather, I speak first and foremost, to reaffirm that thing which matters most to me – that thing which sent me and my colleagues into public service many years ago – that thing which inspires us each day and informs our every decision and every action.”
In swift swoop at dismantling the claims made in the motion Premier Smith commented: “As I read the words of the motion presented before the House of Assembly, I do not see just a list of tired complaints that have been before this House many times. I see not just a list of falsehoods – although there are surely plenty of those. And I see not just a plain act of political grandstanding – although there is surely an element of that here, too. In fact it would seem that the Leader of the Opposition believes that the more he repeats the same diatribe the more likely it will be believed.”
The Premier further explained that he sees the points raised in the motion as an affront to his honour: “I see the Honourable Member calling into question my integrity and my competence as Minister of Finance and more indirectly this Government’s commitment to carrying out the mandate of the people of this Territory.” However, Hon. Smith said that he takes no offense: “I am a patient man. I have been in public life long enough to know that when one steps into the arena, one must expect that from time to time one will have to suffer attacks, and insults and indignities. That comes with the job. “
The Premier did indicate that his decision not to address the matter of the motion earlier was questioned by various persons, but he noted that he chose not to respond because he did not want a public exchange with the Leader of the Opposition: “Indeed I have been asked why I had not responded. The truth is that I was waiting to do so in the House where the motion has been moved. I saw no need to trade barbs and insults with my colleague. It’s never been my style and I am not about to start now. What I know is that the people of this country are a discerning people and recognize opportunism when they see it,” the Premier said.
“I do not fault the Honourable Member for launching this broadside against Government – albeit indirectly. It is his job to hold us accountable and I do not mind the challenge. But, I do mind being asked whether this Government truly believes in and is following through with our vision. To me, nothing is more important. Nothing is more fundamental,” the Premier added.
The People Lost
Days before the sitting the Opposition Leader explained that the motion of No Confidence was a response to the Territory’s “dire financial status, struggling economy, lack of accountability, lack of transparency and lack of good governance.”
This approach was reiterated in the House of Assembly when Hon. Fahie rose to his feet to pilot his motion. During that presentation Hon. Fahie even ventured into a brief explanation of the move before he was stopped by Speaker of the House Hon. Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe. The tone then shifted when the call was made by the Speaker for someone to second the motion and only silence reigned undisputed.
In a comment to the media following the failure of his motion Hon. Fahie said: “Everyone who want to be honest and fair must realize that our Territory’s finances are going down a slippery slope and so is our economy. The urgent changing of the guard at the position of the Minister of Finance is in the best interest of all at this time. But today a decision was made by elected members to put party and politics above the people and their best interest with the people of the Virgin Islands being the only losers. “
Hon. Fahie assured that the fizzling of the motion is not the end of the matter, because he intends to address the various issues with the people of the Virgin Islands in a speech before the end of the week. “I stand by my actions which were solely aimed at getting what the people of these Virgin Islands urgently need: an improved economy and the restoration of our finances to reflect accountability, transparency, good governance and adherence to all financial laws especially the Protocols for Effective Financial Management…I will continue to be steadfast in purpose and diligent in actions in the carrying out of my duties on behalf of you, the people, even if it means that I have to stand alone for what is right,” Hon. Fahie added.
Eyes Turn to Hon. Fraser
Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser is the only other member of the Opposition in the House of Assembly. However, it is public knowledge that Hon. Fraser and the other members of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) are not in agreement on a number of issues. Still the top question in the days and hours leading to the sitting was whether Hon. Fraser will nonetheless second the motion. The answer in the end was no, as the Third District Representative was absent during the afternoon session of the House.
Hon. Fraser’s absence from the House of Assembly at the time the motion was tabled apparently struck a chord with the other members of the Virgin Islands Party. This disappointment was noted in the remarks that were made by President of the Party Dr. Natalio Wheatley on ZBVI radio hours after the motion failed.
During his appearance on the Speak Out BVI programme Dr. Wheatley was asked by a caller if Hon. Fraser’s absence was in response to the alleged poor way he was treated by Party as it relates to his removal as head of the VIP, and Leader of the Opposition.
This comment was not endorsed by Dr. Wheatley who said that the personal matter should not be a factor in a Territorial issue: “This thing is way bigger than anybody’s hurt feelings. Let’s take a motion of No Confidence – this has to do with the performance of the government – so you can’t let your personal feelings influence how you do your job for the people…Doing your job as a representative of the people is bigger than your little hurt feelings…The House of Assembly is a part of the job, so not showing up to the House of Assembly that’s not doing your job. His personal feelings is right now affecting his job, the job that he is doing for the people,” Dr. Wheatley said.