The saga that has been unfolding publicly between the two members of the Opposition – Hon. Andrew Fahie, and Hon. Julian Fraser is expected to come to an end shortly via a mediation exercise.
The impasse stems from the report that the Executive body of the Virgin Islands Party is desirous of seeing the 30 November appointed Chairman, Hon. Fahie become the Leader of the Opposition, a title that currently belongs to Hon. Fraser.
However, based on the various statements that were since issued by Hon. Fraser it appears that the Legislator has some concern about the move to replace him.
Nonetheless, the matter appears to be heading to a solution as it was announced on Tuesday that a mediation exercise is in the pipeline. “The party is committed to the process of mediation between the Chairman and Hon. Fraser aimed at resolving the impasse between the two members. The Congress of the Virgin Islands Party is the supreme law making body of the party and should be afforded the respect that is deserves. A meeting of the Congress will be convened, the results of the mediation would be reported and Congress will make the final decision and chart a positive way forward,” an announcement issued by the Virgin Islands Party stated.
Additionally, the statement sought to assure the public that the misunderstanding between the two members should not be misconstrued as VIP weakness: “While it is unfortunate and discomforting that the business of the Virgin Islands Party is seemingly on public display, the members of the party and of the wider public are assured that the Virgin Islands Party shall emerge stronger and ‘Together We Will Rise,’” VIP President Dr. Natalio Wheatley announced on Tuesday in his second statement in the space of days on the same matter.
The Party President spoke publicly on the matter on 17 January following an article in an online media stated that “there is not a ‘fight for power’ within the Virgin Islands Party; rather there is a struggle for all members to submit to the leadership of the party.”
In that statement, Dr. Wheatley announced that there was a form of communication erosion in the VIP: “On December 9th 2016, I informed the Governor of the results of the November 30th, 2016 election. On 19 December, the VIP Chairman sought to gain the acceptance of the former Chairman regarding his intention to abide by the Constitution of the party and the decision of Congress and seek the position of Leader of the Opposition, notwithstanding his earlier announcement. The communication level between the past-chairman and the Executive Committee seems to be extremely low to nonexistence and comes at a time when the policies and decisions of the Virgin Islands Party must be represented in the House of Assembly by the Chairman,” he stated.
Hon. Fahie Says He Deserves the Position
On Saturday 28 January in his annual First District Address Hon. Fahie announced that he does not intend to fight for a position that should accompany his new role. He said: “I simply can no longer be in a fight for that which accompanies the post of Chairman of the Party. If I am not prepared to take up the positions of Premier or Opposition Leader; why then would I contest the post of Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party.”
He further explained that the results of the general elections of June 2015 was deafening, and following the defeat the VIP Congress agreed that after 18 months of the 2015 general elections there must be a shift of direction within the Party if the Virgin Islands Party is to be successful in the next elections of 2019 or before.
As such he said that this is no time for massaging egos and parsing of words; and noted that without effective communication by the Leadership of the Opposition with the Executive Body of the Virgin Islands Party, the situation as-it-is cannot and will not work; because the people of the Virgin Islands will be the biggest losers.
Hon. Fraser Refutes
However, Hon Fraser announced that he views the current situation as deceptive and on Monday he issued a statement declaring that he lost the Chairmanship by deceptive means: “In a well thought out carefully orchestrated plan, some members of the Virgin Islands Party deceitfully unseat me as Chairman of the Party, and by now, most if not all Delegates should have known they were conned.”
In furthering his accusation, Hon. Fraser criticised Hon. Fahie’s interest in the Opposition Leader position by announcing that the claim for the title is a ‘lie’: “Delegates were led to believe that the Chairmanship of the Party came with the Leadership of the Opposition. Which was and is a big lie. And neither is the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition a political appointment. Delegates are advised to check for themselves and see if anywhere within the 35 pages of the VIP Constitution can “Leader of the Opposition” be found. Never once is it mentioned,” Hon. Fraser declared.
The Third District Representative referred to the situation as a “power grab” which he said could destroy the Party: “The only people talking about it are those whose lust for power would stop short of nothing to get it even if it means destroying the Party in the process. Throughout this whole Power Grab I’ve seen and heard many falsehoods. I’ve heard that the Leadership of the Opposition comes with the Chairmanship of the Party… Which is BS…Where were these same people when I became Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party in May 2014 and the former Chairman continued to hold on to the Leader of the Opposition post? Also why was the attempt to wrestle the Governor into denying the Chairman the Leader of the Opposition post after the 2015 General Elections,” he announced.
In directly addressing the Governor’s inclusion into the situation, Hon. Fraser declared that the invitation to seek the Governor’s input is an “embarrassment.” He said: “Running to the Governor is an embarrassment to this Territory which every man woman and child living in these Virgin Islands should resent. It paints the false picture that Virgin Islanders are incapable of handling their own affairs. Let me be clear… the Governor has no role to play in this matter, neither Constitutionally or otherwise. “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is not an extension of the Governor’s office, and neither is the Leader of the Opposition an agent of the Governor”.
Meanwhile he announced that he wishes that the Virgin Islands Party must know that the Leadership of the Opposition is not some political pawn to be pushed around by the Governor to suit their convenience.