STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
HON. ANDREW A FAHIE
Setting the Record Straight
RE: The Appointment of Permanent Secretaries
September 3, 2019
My Dear Virgin Islanders and Residents, Good Day and God’s Blessings.
Since the announcement on Friday, August 30 by His Excellency, The Governor, of his selection and assignment of Permanent Secretaries to the various government ministries, and subsequently my statement during the Sixth Sitting of the First Session of the fourth House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands on Monday 2nd September there has been a lot of discussion among the public on the topic.
There has also been a flood of commentary on the social media channels and online newspaper websites – perhaps higher than normal, much of which contains inaccurate and misleading information. The Internet trolls appear to be well organised and focused on substituting their misinformation in place of the truth, to create a distorted reality of what has taken place and to further their clear agenda to discredit and undermine your democratically elected government for the benefit of some other hidden interest.
Unfortunately, there has also been inaccurate reporting from members of the media, which has only served to compound the confusion.
Much of this tainted discourse purports that it was the Premier and the newly elected government that attempted to appoint individuals to the posts of Permanent Secretaries. Therefore, the Governor has blocked the “government’s picks”.
This is not true.
Section 92 of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 is clear that it is the Virgin Islands Public Services Commission (PSC) that makes recommendations to the Governor with respect to the appointment of Public Officers; not the Premier or anyone else.
It is now public knowledge that prior to last Friday’s media release by the Governor, that the PSC would have presented the Governor with the Commission’s recommendations for the appointment of Permanent Secretaries.
It is also public information that His Excellency opted to exercise his power under Section 92 to “act otherwise than in accordance with” the advice of the PSC, and to use his own discretion in making these appointments.
I am not privy to whether the consultation that is required according to the Constitution took place between the Governor and the PSC. However, if the proper constitutionally prescribed procedure was followed, the members of the Commission would have been asked to reconsider their recommendations and to submit new recommendations if they wish.
Assuming proper procedures were followed, the PSC would have affirmed, and reaffirmed, its confidence in its recommendations after being asked to reconsider their submission.
Therefore, by trashing the PSC’s recommendations, the Governor has signaled his lack of confidence in the members of the Commission to perform in a manner that protects Her Majesty’s service. This is a very serious aspersion that the Governor has cast on the members of the Commission who are among the brightest minds of the Virgin Islands with long, unblemished careers and who are stalwarts of our Territory.
Some Internet trolls are also suggesting that the PSC is biased towards the government and the Premier. This too is mischief that is calculated to play upon the minds of persons who may not know better.
Section 91(1) of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 clearly states that the five members of the PSC are appointed by the Governor, two acting in his own discretion, and one each in accordance with the advice of the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, and after consultation with the Civil Service Association.
All the sitting members of the PSC were appointed during the term of the last government, not during the tenure of this current six-month-old administration. Four of those commissioners were not appointed based on any input from the current Premier, and two of those persons were selected by the Governor himself, including the Chairman of the PSC.
Further to this, Section 91(9) of the Constitution Order stipulates that “in the exercise of its functions the Public Service Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.” The PSC is therefore an independent institution.
Where Section 91(2) of the Constitution Order requires the Governor to consult with the Premier in appointing the Chairman of the PSC, I was not the Premier at the time of that appointment, and therefore His Excellency, The Governor, would have consulted with the previous Premier.
How then can the PSC be painted as biased to the new government? It does not compute.
Veteran politicians from opposite sides of the aisle in the House of Assembly are saying that it is unprecedented – at least in the last 20 years - for a Governor to completely rubbish the recommendations of the PSC, as this Governor has done.
As I said in the House of Assembly on Monday, the Governor’s usurping of this function from the PSC is an insult to self-reliance, self-determination, modern partnership, mutual respect and the democratic future of the BVI.
It signals that, in the eyes of the some, colonialism is alive and thriving. Thus, to them, we the people of the Virgin Islands are still subjugated, inferior and lesser persons. Chains and whips have been replaced by less obvious, invisible kinds of shackles that can be tugged on whenever we raise our heads too high, so that we will cower back in line.
As I said with respect to the UK Loan Guarantees issue a few weeks ago, the limited self-government that the BVI enjoys today is the fruit of the labour and struggles of our forefathers who, through sheer grit and determination, forged the society that we see today after the slave masters and European capitalists abandoned these islands, condemning us to be nothing more than a bird sanctuary. Our freedom and autonomy were hard-earned, are priceless, and cannot be given up or diluted so easily.
We have to come together as one people; BVI strong.
We are dealing with persons who do not differentiate between NDP, VIP, PVIM and PU. They do not see red, green, blue and orange. They look at us and see one colour. So, they paint us with the same brush.
They do not care whose reputations they destroy or whom they must crush to get their way – even if it means that all BVIslanders must be made to suffer.
The members of the PSC are early, frontline casualties of this reckless assault. For, through his actions, the Governor has imputed that the commissioners are incompetent or compromised, thus smearing their professional records.
It would be curious to see, going forward, whether having displayed this lack of confidence in the members of the PSC, whether what the Governor’s next move would be.
How can he justify keeping a Commission in which he has demonstrated that he has absolutely no faith. But, also, how can he justify firing them when they have done no wrong, other than being born here?
We will continue to be fully respectful of the United Kingdom and their representative. But, respect ought to be a two-way street.
As the Premier my only interest is in the development of the Virgin Islands. I have nowhere else to go. I have no other obligation, no other agenda in any other destination or jurisdiction.
To all citizens, I say, stay woke.
May God continue to watch over the people of these Virgin Islands.
I thank you.