While the term rebranding was not overwhelmingly mentioned, it was clear that the ruling National Democratic Party has undergone a big overhaul and by indication of the large crowd that converged at the Moorings conference room on Monday 10 December for an event that was described as a Commitment Service for “the new NDP” the Party is entering campaign mode.
While acknowledging that this is not the first time that the National Democratic Party has appended the word “new” to its name ahead of a general election, as this was done in 2015, Chairman of the Party Hon. Myron Walwyn announced that this newness is more than just the addition of fresh faces to the slate of candidates but rather institutional.
In fact, the main feature of Monday’s event was the presenting of the eight commitments/covenants that the Chairman, and Vice Chairman Hon. Marlon Penn pledged to abide by. It was explained that the presented commitments were crafted because the NDP is desirous of building a more effective and meaningful partnership with the people of the Territory for the continued peace, sustainable development and increased prosperity of the BVI.
It was also explained that the core principles in the eight undertakings will foster a more efficient manner of conducting the people’s business and lead to confidence that government is working in the public’s interest.
In fact, the National Democratic Party leadership explained that Monday’s Commitment is the product of a painstaking review of the Party’s philosophy of politics, its original purpose and mission in the context of the changing needs of the people of the Virgin Islands in a changing domestic and global environment. “The review formed an integral part of a continuing process of organisational renewal as the leadership of our party transitions from an older to a younger generation,” Hon. Walwyn explained.
Who Should be Premier?
Members of the media pointed out that based on current information at least four political parties would be contesting the 2019 general elections. As such reporters asked Hon. Walwyn why he thinks he is the better choice for Premier as opposed to the other contenders.
In response Hon. Walwyn seemed to have taken a swipe at one or a few of his opponents stating that the next Premier must be ‘people focused and friendly.’ He announced: “Leadership must be accessible, leadership must be approachable, leaders must be everyday people. They cannot be people who come every four years asking for a vote and you have not seen them for the last four years. I can honestly say that I have given a 110 percent to this country. I can also say that I am perhaps one of the most if not the most accessible representative. That is why I say of the persons who are putting themselves forward I am the best person at this time.”
End the Blame Game
While commenting on the current political landscape as persons commence making declarations to run the NDP Leader said: “The level of politics needs improving and we need to educate the people more on what the issues are facing the country rather than entering the petty politics of blaming one politician at a time…you have to get to the heart of the problem if you are going to address it.”
As it relates to complaints about project executions and mismanagement the National Democratic Party chairman said that this is not a new occurrence, however he noted that fixing the situation require a deep look at the systems and regulations relating to the matters.
“If we look at the history of projects in this country, look at the bridge – Beef Island went millions of dollars over. Look at the very same hospital that one of the Ministers are touting now. It was supposed to be built for $65 million dollars. It went over a $100M. I am saying this – are [we]to believe that those persons that worked in those ministries stole money? Are we to believe that they deliberately mismanaged money – no. We have to look at the systems in government and strengthen the systems…The reality is ministers don’t do projects…I am not blaming anybody because I would take responsibility for my staff when they do something wrong. I close the door and lick my children but I am saying that continuous work must be done to improve the quality of services. The laws that are on the books,” he explained.
While further calling for an end of blaming casting, the Education Minister said: “The question is really how important is blame, it is more important to get to the root of the problem and fix it so that it does not repeat itself as opposed to blaming, because you can end up blaming somebody the person loses election goes away and that same problem repeats itself with somebody else, which is what we have essentially seen over the years.”
The NDP Separation
Last week founding member of the NDP and former Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie Skelton launched his own political party and with him on the team is former Government backbencher and Second District Representative, Hon Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull. Additionally other members of the National Democratic Party are also aligned with the new Party.
As a result, reporters asked Hon. Walwyn to comment on the separation/exodus from the NDP to the new PVIM Party, and in response, Hon. Wawlyn said: “The matter of the breakaway, these things happen in life. I will say to you that I was disappointed in the way in which the matter was handled. I would say also that if the elections had gone the opposite direction I would have been there. I know Marlon would have been there working with those persons who won.”
“I remember joining the NDP I was the first candidate to declare myself in 2011 with the NDP, because after looking at the Party closer I saw the ideals were good ideals. There were some missteps before, but the founding principles, the core principles were good…I came, Hon. Penn came, Hon. Caines came to the NDP when it was at its lowest — losing an election 11-2 and we stuck with the Party. Some of the same people who are touting for leadership now won elections on our backs; and we reinvigorated the Party just like the younger ones are coming in to reinvigorate the Party now and I am disappointed that at our time when we went through a democratic elections even after meeting with some of them and asking them what role do you want to play come and work with us. Work with Marlon and myself waiting for a response only to hear they formed a new Party – I am disappointed, I am very disappointed. Those who have left I wish them God’s speed,” the NDP Chairman declared.
Both the VIP and the newly formed PVIM leaders have accused Hon. Walwyn of being more interested in expatriates, an accusation that Hon. Walwyn vehemently denied on Monday. In responding to the criticism Hon. Walwyn said: “In certain countries of the world there are certain things that are reserved for the people of that country to make a living and so we should not be afraid to do those things, but in doing those things…find a balance to take care of your people because they are yours. But in taking care of your own people you don’t have to make others feel as if they are not welcome or appreciated. That is a balance we must strike in a Virgin Islands that has over a 100 nationalities where you need everybody to work together to make the place better for everyone to live in.”
Good outweighs Bad
Against the backdrop of certain alleged government mismanagement situations, Hon. Walwyn is pushing back against talks that the NDP should be voted out because of these issues as he announced that the NDP’s good outweighs the bad.
“The NDP has done a lot of good things. Don’t look at three or four things and use that to define the record of the NDP. That is not true. When you are judging somebody you write the bad and the good. If the bad outweighs the good you have a problem. I can tell you over the two terms of the NDP we have done far more good than our mistakes.”
When told that both a founding member and a former backbencher said that the Party has lost its core values and principles and does not operate by the tenants it previously held Hon. Walwyn said: “What I will simple say is I don’t share those views what somebody lost was an election.”
Following the reading of the eight commitments, both Hon. Walwyn and Hon. Penn signed two copies of the documents and presented them framed to a young and senior member of the community.
Following the presentation NDP Deputy Chair Hon. Penn announced: “The new NDP represents the new thinking, we are a group of doers who are fully committed to this Territory. To represent you have to love people. You can’t represent if you don’t love people, we are not only connected to the people, we are committed to the people. We understand the needs the dynamics, and the culture of this Territory and focused on making the BVI a better place for everyone.”
We have some really good ideas to drive this economy forward. We continue to talk about the digital economy that is where our sector is going and we need to transform the economy of the BVI so we can take it to the next level and we are committed to that vision.
We are new we are ready we are fresh, we are energetic and we are going to move things forward.