It is still unclear what was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back or – in this instance – caused the National Democratic Party (NDP) to splinter; but according to Former Minister for Health Hon. Ronnie Skelton and Second District Representative, Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull the split was inevitable as they felt that the Party had lost its way.
Hon. Skelton and Hon. Turnbull held a joint press conference on 5 December and during that sit down announced that they had no choice but to join the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM) a new political party of which Hon. Skelton is the leader. While abstaining from listing specific persons, examples or occurrences both legislators announced that the ruling party no longer operates by the principles it once promoted.
Hon. Skelton said that his being a part of the PVIM did not start with the internal elections. Instead he said that he became concerned about the direction the NDP was going since 2015 when the party was planning the last elections. He said: “I think we lost the core value of what we set out to do as NDP, because we were finding excuses for why people were not getting the help they needed and a lot of it had to do with the financial system, so to speak, because a lot of things were missing. And I asked the question…what are we coming back here to do? If we are coming back here to do the same thing we are really wasting people’s time, you are wasting my time. I was given the assurances that when we come back we are going to put things in order: that never happened. To me that’s where it started.”
The former Health Minister who made it clear that he resigned and was not fired, did not entertain suggestions that the separation was motivated by power and position. In fact, he announced that those two things are never motivators for him: “Couple things I don’t run behind – that is money and power; so if you are approaching the premiership as a position of power and if that’s what you want it for to have power to do not good but just to have it for your own personal needs that is not me. The leadership of the country is important. I believe, based on my record, that I can add another level of building to this country where young BV Islanders and Belongers will feel that there is a country that can give them hope that they can strive for whatever they want to…if you give it (Premier title) to me tomorrow and you want it I will give it to you because it was never about power.”
As it relates to why as a former founding member of the NDP who sat at the ministerial level he never lent his voice to the matters he did not agree with, Hon. Skelton said he did voice his concern privately. In noting these situations, he said: “There are quite a number of things that the public is concerned about …We spent some money on the airport, then BVI Airways, the Wall, the Pier Park and probably other projects we will need to go into the records to find out what they are.”
The former NDP member told the media that his position on certain matters were expressed to the Party as a whole, and the leadership. “I object to things that are not right for the people or the country,” he told reporters in response to his position on controversial matters such as BVI Airways and the Elmore Stoutt High School wall.
Hon. Skelton and Hon. Turnbull did not provide a clear timeline of when and how things began to fall apart within the NDP. Hon. Skelton said that he became clear when he observed that certain Party principles were ignored during the internal elections. However, the founder of the NDP did not elaborate on the specific principles that were skirted.
Hon. Turnbull said that he was concerned with the state of affairs of the Territory and the party. He said that there were members of the NDP who were not on speaking terms and that information was being withheld or sparingly released to members of the party. He said he tried to bring the matter to the attention of leadership and to do his part to mend the differences but said that it was to no avail.
Both announced that they had separate meetings with current NDP chair Hon. Myron Walwyn. Hon. Turnbull said that the meeting he had with Hon. Walwyn lasted two hours and he admitted to the rumor that he did ask for a ministerial position in the next government. He confirmed to reporters when he asked for the position he was told by Hon. Walwyn — ‘we will talk.’
On the other hand, Hon. Skelton said that his meeting with Hon. Walwyn was brief. He said they had coffee and Hon. Walwyn asked him what he wanted and he said he wanted nothing.
Both legislators said that they want to put their chapter with the NDP to rest and focus on their PVIM journey.
“I made this decision to join PVIM, so the issues of NDP will remain with NDP because I have done, and we have done what I think was necessary to try to correct those ills. Where we are now in PVIM is a group of persons that share their ideas and respect each other,” Hon. Turnbull added.