In a letter from the FCO Director of the Overseas Territories, Ben Merrick to Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie, the latter was advised to include the Governor as part of his delegation to the United Kingdom next week.
The Premier-led team to the United Kingdom is expected to include Minister for Health Hon. Carvin Malone, Financial Secretary Glenroy Forbes and others, but not the Governor. This team is scheduled to travel to England from September 10-14 to discuss the loan guarantee.
The unusual decision to exclude the Governor from such a trip was disclosed by Hon. Fahie during the House of Assembly on 2 September. In fact, the Premier announced at that time that he had asked the Governor to tell him why he should be included in the delegation. Additionally, the Premier indicated that he believes that the people should decide whether the Government takes the loan guarantee and suggested a referendum.
During Monday’s continuation of the House of Assembly sitting the Premier read various letters between himself, the Governor, and United Kingdom government officials and stated that he wanted the people of the BVI to be in the know.
As he noted his issues with the loan guarantee and mentioned that public consultations were held on the matter the Premier said that the Government and the Governor are not seeing eye to eye on the subject. The differing of opinions, the Premier said, stems from misunderstanding.
“There is a misconception by the representative for the UK that we have a negative feeling towards the RDA. The RDA has its purpose Mr. Speaker, but they cannot be allowed to be less regulated and monitored than central government,” Hon. Fahie told the House.
The Premier said that the misunderstanding is a reason why Government is planning to speak to the UK government directly: “Mr. Speaker obviously the concerns that we have been harbouring and harping on met with some concerns, so we have decided … We will make the trip to the UK get the necessary officials and try to speak to them there, because er we are concerned if our messaging is getting back to them correctly.”
Hon. Fahie said that even though he was advised to by a UK official to involve the Governor in the trip related discussion, he is unsure whether the Governor should be part of the delegation.
Hon. Fahie, who noted that the Governor indicated his interest to travel, said that he wrote to question why this should be so: “I must admit that I have been asked by the Governor many times what time we are going. So today I sent a letter to the Governor because I feel he speaking to them [UK Government] all the time here and he went to England many times and he is not telling me what he was going for, that it’s time for us to go and speak to them directly.”
“Out of respect I sent a letter to the Governor saying “thank you for your inquiry on the Government’s trip to the UK to discuss the loan guarantee. You are to take note that the proposed date is 10 to 14 September 2019. However, you have signalled that you want to be on the trip, but can you kindly indicate what benefit can be derived from your presence with us in the UK. I await your response’,” Hon. Fahie told the House of Assembly.
The Premier said that the Governor did write to explain his reason for querying, however, the Premier said that he is focused on the UK meeting and ironing out the concerns with the loan guarantee. Further the Premier said that he is concerned about being the Minister for Finance who signs the loan guarantee; and is considering to have the whole matter decided via a referendum.
“When I come back from the UK, we will see if we will be able to make common ground. And if not, if these conditions are still there and they want to impose these things on us, let’s have a referendum,” the Premier said.
UK Wants Governor on Trip
The UK official, Mr. Merrick, in his letter that was made public asked the Premier to include Governor Jaspert on the trip. The FCO Director said: “I would request that your office work with the Governor and his office in the first instance on these arrangements and the specific detail of any issues you wish to discuss. I have asked the Governor to travel to London for the visit, and will be guided by him on a programme to ensure the visit meets your stated objectives.”
Additionally, the FCO Director in his letter stated that there is a reduction in communication with the Territory since the new government took office; and referred to this observation as disappointing.
“It is disappointing that engagement from BVI reduced dramatically after your election six months ago including the cancellation of your visit to London in May, which would have included meetings with HM Treasury Ministers and Lord Ahmad to discuss this very issue,” Merrick said.
He also noted that an attempt was made to have discussions with the Premier in June but this, he said did not take place. In fact, Merrick announced that these discussions would have addressed some of the very concerns that Government has: “I had wanted my Head of Economics to discuss this with your Financial Secretary during our visit to BVI in June but this offer was regrettably not taken up. However, I am pleased to hear that this is now being prioritised by your government,” the FCO letter said.