While hesitating to say who the rumor mongers were, Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotions, Hon. Marlon Penn lashed out at those who he said are telling his constituents false stories that he was party to the transfer of the East End Long Look sewerage project funds to the BVI Pier Park project and that he was the one that told Government it was no problem to use the fund.
According to Hon. Penn this is not true and he said that at a later date he plans to address some of the other false stories that are circulating about him. However, the Junior Minister said that he felt it necessary to speak on the sewerage fund transfer matter during the debate of the Recovery and Development Agency plan in the House of Assembly on 23 October.
Both Hon. Penn and Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering are the two Districts Representatives of the area that is most affected by obnoxiously unhealthy sewerage in the Territory. Since the transfer of funds to another project both legislators have said that their constituents are planning to deal harshly with them.
The residents of both the Seventh and Eight Districts have announced repeatedly their frustration with the sewerage issues and it was previously reported that the residents were not happy to learn that the funds that were expected to finally finance the solution of the problem of sewerage plaguing them for years was used for other means.
However, Hon. Penn is making it clear that he had no say and no part in the transfer of the funds. In fact, the Legislator is not pleased that persons are telling his constituents otherwise: “I am hearing the talk up and down saying that I told them to go with the sewerage [project funds]from East End. It is political time now so they want something to stick – they say that I… got up and told them go with the East End Long Look sewerage [project funds]… They could try something a little better than that. We need to be truthful, the reality is and I will deal with this one specifically – the caucus had no clue of what happened with the sewerage money.”
The Junior Minister laid the blame for the transfer of the funds squarely on the shoulders of the Ministry of Finance, and the Cabinet. Hon. Penn said, “It was Finance in their wisdom, without authority that transferred the money from the sewerage project to the Port, and it was the Cabinet who made the decision to ratify it. Those are the facts, that’s what happened…” “The people of East End-Long Look have suffered because of that decision. I have said in multiple times in this House of Assembly and I expressed my displeasure about what happened with that process, but I have to find solutions for my people,” the Junior Minister added.
Second Time on the Issue
Back in March during the debate of the Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act, 2018 Hon. Penn lamented that running sewerage was still an issue in his District and noted that the situation could have been remedied.
He told the House: “For the past seven years since I have been in this House I have been talking about the issue of sewerage in my community and my colleague before me, been here 20 years. I was in college when I heard him screaming about sewerage and the potential for cholera. Sewerage is still running in the streets of our community, you know why? Not because we never borrowed money to do what we have to do because we hadn’t discipline to follow through on what we have to follow through on.”
“Eight million dollars was taken from the money that was borrowed to get sewerage done Madame Speaker and shifted elsewhere and now the people of my community still have to suffer with sewerage running in the streets because we lack the discipline to do the things that we need to,” Hon. Penn stated.
Therefore Hon. Penn called for measures to be put in place to prevent a repeat of such a situation: “There needs to be a national development strategy. Things that are beyond politics that can be removed from political interference and it has to be something that’s approved by the people of this country a shared vision a contract between us the leaders and the people of this country in terms of how we want to develop this country so that these type of things cannot happen no matter who shifts in government,” he said.