The upcoming elections campaign are going to be tough, Premier and outgoing Leader of the National Democratic Party Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith warned in an address to the Territory on 26 November.
Elections are expected to be held within the next five months and in his Territorial address at the start of the week, the Premier who is also Minister of Finance, announced that despite all of the recent issues that have plagued the NDP (such as the departure of some members) his Party still has a great vision for the BVI.
Nonetheless, the fact that two new political parties have sprung up to challenge the government in addition to the main opposition party does not seem lost on Hon. Smith who advised the Territory to brace for what may be a stinging season. He said, “Over the next few months, we will go through a General Election campaign. As is always the case, the campaigning will be rough and tumble. That is normal.”
Nonetheless, with campaigning supposed to commence in about two months the Premier is calling for an orderly process. In a comment aimed at not only residents but also those who will be on the rostrums campaigning the BVI Leader said: “I call on all BV Islanders and all those who aspire to lead to exercise dignity and common sense and respect for each other and our community as we go through the political season. For our political divisions are shallow and small when compared to the vastness of all that we share and which binds us together as one people.”
In further preparing the public for the upcoming campaign season Hon. Smith said: “I ask you to keep your faith in your fellow BV Islanders no matter their party or politics. I ask you to keep your hope intact for the future of our Territory. And, above all, I ask you to continue to seek the blessings of God for your Government, your neighbors and for our entire beloved community.”
Future of NDP
November was a whirlwind month for the National Democratic Party as it suffered an significant and unprecedented exodus. The rupture saw the resignation of former Junior Minister for Tourism, NDP founding member and Treasurer, Hon. Archibald Christian, NDP Vice President Dr. Michael Turnbull and Chairperson of the NDP Women’s Association Shaina Smith. The most shocking quiver was the firing of Minister of Health, Hon. Ronnie Skelton who is supposedly the leader of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), a new political party that has allegedly been formed by former NDP supporters, and that Second District Representative Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull announced that he is a member of.
The departure prompted the Premier to fill the vacant positions that were left following the exodus. As such Hon. Marlon Penn was appointed Minister for Health and Social Development, while Hon. Hubert O’Neal was named Junior Minister for Tourism, and Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines was appointed Junior Minister for Trade, which Honourable Penn had held.
Speaking publicly on the resignation of the members Hon. Smith announced on Monday: “This Government has undertaken a reshuffle. We will be fine. The people of this Territory have gone through far worse and have endured.”
Hon. Smith said that the NDP has retained its core vision and purpose. “It is the same purpose that has guided the National Democratic Party since the day we were formed. That purpose is simple and it is unwavering.”
“Politicians come and go. Ministers come and go. Governments come and go. Indeed, my own time as leader of this party soon draws to an end. But the vision – that is what endures. If it is sound and true – then it outlasts us all. And it is our commitment to that vision that enables us to weather these rocky days and to assure you, the people of the BVI, as well as our friends around the world that this Government will continue to competently lead through to the next General Election and the formation of the next Government,” he added.
General elections are constitutionally due in 2019 and consequently the House of Assembly would have to be dissolved no later than 23 June 2019. However, in a statement on 15 November His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert announced that elections will be held by April.
The Governor said: “After careful consideration of this advice, I consider the holding a general election by 16 April 2019 as a reasonable time frame. I will be advised accordingly in due course on the dates the Premier wishes to dissolve the House and hold an election prior to that date in April.”
“The Virgin Islands has already been through much since the hurricanes of the past year. There is still much to be done before the House of Assembly will be dissolved before April 2019,” His Excellency added.