The chairmen of the Territory’s two leading political parties faced off via the media this week in relations to reportedly circulated House of Assembly document. The contention was that the document which bore the names of private citizens and businesses was presented to Leader of the Opposition and Virgin Islands Party Chairman Hon. Andrew Fahie on 19 July and subsequently photographed, captioned and circulated via facebook with what was described as corruption aspersions.
The situation regarding the document was berated by Chairman of the governing National Democratic Party, and Minister for Education and Culture Hon. Myron Walwyn who said that in addition to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Andrew Fahie was the only other legislator the document – which dealt with contracts for the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College – was given to.
Therefore the circulation of the photo with corruption insinuations apparently bothered Hon. Walwyn who took to the radio and facebook to announce his disdain for the matter. In his announcement on 23 July the Minister steered clear of mentioning the name of the Leader of the Opposition, but managed to make it clear who he was referring to.
Hon. Walwyn announced: “In the last sitting of the House of Assembly I was asked a question in relations to the works performed by contractors immediately following hurricanes Irma and Maria at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. I did not read aloud the names of the contractors, or the business persons as I have said in that very house on several occasions. I do not think that it is an appropriate thing to do; because very often it serves only to demonize those businesses that are providing such a valuable service to the Territory.”
“A picture was taken of the document with a caption added that suggested that corruption was taking place at the tertiary institution in relations to those contracts; and it was sent around the Territory through a Whatsapp message. This is totally false…I find it important to defend the Board of Governors of the College headed by Dr. Charles Wheatley on this matter, because all the members of the Board are persons who are highly respected in our community; and are persons of the highest integrity. For something like this to be done it is certainly taking us down a pathway that would only hurt the Territory,” Hon. Walwyn explained.
The Minister further declared that the circulation of the document was a growing trend in the House of Assembly and announced that he finds the practice to be unparliamentary and very destructive to the Territory of the Virgin Islands. He also suggested that there should be amendments to the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly as a means of remedying the situation.
In addressing the corruption allegations the NDP Chairman said. “We should all seek to stamp out corruption wherever it exists because this is important for the good governance of our Territory. However, we should never manufacture it to gain cheap political points and to bring the names of our good citizens into disrepute.”
“At this current time our territory is in need of financial resources to get it back to its former glory. We continue to seek international aid, we are getting prepared to advance the loan guarantee offered by the United Kingdom and we expect our local businesses to participate at the highest level in the necessary rebuilding works that will be done. Recklessly using words to suggest that our institutions are corrupt only serves to make lives harder for all of us and I therefore urge all of my colleagues to look beyond just winning an election and look at winning for our country,” he added.
In response to Hon. Walwyn’s statement the Leader of the Opposition issued a rebuttal announcing that he was astonished by the statement made by the Education Minister. Hon. Fahie declared: “I was dumbfounded at the amazement expressed by the Minister of Education when he learnt that the public was informed about the nature and details of public contracts issued for the repairs of damages at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. In fact, he called it a, “disturbing trend”.
The Leader of Opposition particularly took exception to Hon. Walwyn’s suggestion that the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly be looked into.