The general elections that are constitutionally due next year might be called early in the year. This disclosure was made this week by Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith – who would have the say of when the Territory heads to the poll.
The Premier – in a statement issued on Tuesday 19 June – hinted briefly at the possibility of an early election: “At some point next summer or may be even before we will have another general election. In that election, the NDP will once again stand.”
In that same announcement the BVI Leader confirmed suspicions that he will not be contesting next year’s ballots and noted that the Party’s new leader will be elected during a National Democratic Party internal elections on 23 June.
In mentioning the internal election Hon. Smith said: “When the NDP comes together in its upcoming Convention, I will not seek nor accept the nomination to lead the party into the next election…It is my expectation that the Convention will see other candidates offer themselves up to lead. And the assembled party-members will select a new leader.”
Premier Touts NDP Success
Hon. Smith took a moment to laud National Democratic Party accomplishments. He said: “Over the course of nearly twenty years and five election campaigns, we have offered one simple vision: to use the resources we have today to strategically invest in a greater tomorrow. Virtually every project and policy implemented under NDP leadership has been in that spirit. We focused on growing our economy and created the conditions for our Territory’s gross domestic product to surpass one billion dollars.”
“We carefully conserved public resources and were able to set aside reserves in excess of 60 million dollars – money that proved crucial in the recent hurricanes. We worked with our regulators and the private sector to build a global financial services sector that is admired throughout the world and that has continued to thrive in the in the face of unprecedented attacks,” he noted.
The Minister for Finance also added that his government did its share of building and constructing: “We invested in our tourism sector, building the cruise ship dock and pier park village, and supporting the construction of some of the first new resorts built here in decades…We built a modern rubberized track at the AO Shirley ground that has helped to train many athletes including our recent gold medalist. We built the Virgin Islands Technical School and saw the Community College through its accreditation process.” He also noted the Business Bureau and NHI as important accomplishments.
Hon. Smith also admitted that things were not always rosy under his leadership: “To be sure, we had failures, as well as successes. We made mistakes along the way. But through good times and bad, we never swerved from our philosophical North Star. Each and every one of the achievements we delivered was rooted in that basic belief that we must invest today in order to realize gains tomorrow. Of course, much of this progress was wiped out in last year’s disasters,” he said.
Ministers Face Off
Minister for Education and Culture Hon. Myron Walwyn kicked off the bid for the Party’s leadership position on 6 June with a commercial titled “The Way Forward.” Days later Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie Skelton issued a print advert noting his interest in the seat. It was indicated that Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering has given no indication that he will compete in this weekend’s internal vote.
In his commercial aimed at the National Democratic Party delegates who would be voting on 23 June Hon. Walwyn declared: “I am now seeking additional responsibilities and I am seeking your support to lead our party into the next general elections. We are facing major challenges as a country and also as a political organization, but I am absolutely certain that if we all work together, we can all overcome each and every one of them,” he said.
In elaborating on his plans Hon. Walwyn said, “I ask you on June 23 to vote for someone who has strong leadership qualities; vote for someone who is innovative and productive; vote for someone who is approachable and accessible; and vote for someone who is an everyday man for the people. Vote for me, Myron V. Walwyn as the next political leader of the National Democratic Party.”
The Minister for Education and Culture added: “I can honestly say that I gave a 100 percent every day to ensure that our children were prepared for the future; that our culture was preserved; that our level of national pride was raised among other things,” Minister Walwyn said.
On the other hand Hon Skelton did not issue a video but confined his bid to a printed ad which emphasized the points — Integrity, Accountability and Selflessness. The advert also stated “ready to fight for our people.”
Second District Representative, Hon. Mitch Turnbull also released an advert for the Vice President position also up for grabs at Saturday’s election.
VIP Out the Gate – Pounding Pavement
As the ruling National Democratic Party prepares to elect a new leader, the main opposition Virgin Islands Party is doubling down on its efforts to mount a worthy challenge when Territorial campaigns kick off.
The Party has been mobilizing since it elected First District Representative Hon. Andrew Fahie as its Leader and began fervent public preparation in recent months with President of the VIP Dr. Natalio Wheatley announcing in January that candidates were being eyed: “The Virgin Islands Party is hard at work fielding a team of persons who love the BVI and will put country above and before self…We have a number of such persons interested and talks are ongoing. However, to date the Virgin Islands Party’s Congress has not met to select ANY candidate whether At-Large or otherwise,” Wheatley stated.
Last month members of the media jointly approached Chairman of the Party Hon. Fahie to ascertain how ready the VIP was. During that 23 May media interview Hon. Fahie was keen not to divulge too much information of the candidates vying for the upcoming ballots. However in response to a reporter’s question of whether the Party is hoping to attract younger candidates he said he sees a mixed slate.
“I don’t have the notion that only young persons [are]supposed to run a country. Some persons are giving the impression that this is only the young people’s world alone, rightfully so they are the future and they are also the present, but for anything to be done in the most intelligent or wise way you have to strike a balance. Some young some middle aged and some old of course, you will try to be place emphasis on the young because they are up and coming but we all need guidance…It is nothing against youth you need them you need more of them on the ticket but it also needs to be balanced so we are looking at our slate to be balanced.”
From last week the Virgin Islands Party has been having district meetings, which Hon. Fahie said are aimed at explaining to the public how the VIP constitution works and how candidates are selected so that it is clear. He said the meetings are also geared towards informing the public what the Party is about. “We won’t go into too much depth because I do not want to be unfair to potential candidates,” he told reporters when further pressed.
When asked how the VIP anticipated its slate of new comers will stack up against currently serving NDP legislators, Hon. Fahie expressed confidence: “We are going to bring a good team — I don’t know if people will say some of the individuals are strong, but I know when they look at our team and the message that we are saying it is going to be about how to make the BVI much better than it is right now.”
Fahie Jabs NDP Record
While further stressing that the VIP is the choice in the next elections Hon. Fahie said: “If people are saying that they had enough of not knowing how the economy is going and just blindly vote for persons just because of the individuals; you are saying that you want it to continue. If people are saying they are not happy with transparency in the country and you just vote for them as individuals you are saying that you want it to continue.”
“If people are saying that they are not happy with accountability, good governance in the country you just vote for them as individuals — you are saying that you want it to continue let us face the facts,” he added.
The Opposition also heaped blame on all of the Ministers stating that they are all culpable in the controversial matters such as the Port overrun and the BVI Airways deal: “Cabinet has five Ministers depending on what subject it is they blame one Minister and the rest say that it was not them. They say that the Minister of Natural Resources giving away the country I tell them I do not want to hear that because the other four Ministers are there with every single decision he makes. When the plane was going to go out with the money it is not the Premier alone did it there were four other Ministers sitting down there and every single one of them voted yes.”
“When the over expenditure came with the port it wasn’t the Minister of Communications and Works alone, it was every one of the Ministers that said yes; and the list can go on and on. So if the people of the Virgin Islands want a team that is going to bring a program of new economic benefits for the Virgin Islands and a new level or even some kind of level of accountability and transparency that’s what the Virgin Islands Party is going to bring forward. You have a choice you could vote for a team that is going to look out for your benefit or you could vote for individuals you love and get more of the same,” he added.