STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, 17th October, 2019
Strengthening Democracy, Transparency and Accountability
Mr. Speaker, I am in a good place this morning because finally the Members of the opposition agree that questions and answering the questions asked is critically important in strengthening our democracy, transparency and accountability, especially if we are on our way to becoming self-reliant. I commend them for these questions.
The words democracy, transparency and accountability are all principles of Good Governance. When I say democracy, I mean that power is to the people and the power is in the people.
When I say the power, I mean positive power where the ability of each person in this Territory serves as the link in making and keeping the British Virgin Islands great. And, I truly believe that we are great for many reasons, and it is only because of the goodness of God, our creator, our shield, our ever-present help in our time of any need.
BVI over the years have kept a sacred covenant with God and this will continue as long as we keep our covenant with God and not man. I know this because thankfully I have been the beneficiary of His grace throughout my life, and I know that Members in this Honourable House and the people we serve can attest to the goodness of God.
So make no mistake when I say that God is the Head of your elected Government. God is the Head of this Territory we love. God is the Head of this House and our power to effect positive change comes from God through the people.
But, here is why I have prefaced my statement like this; it is because; Hurricane Irma came and put a stop to our sleepy routine. She ushered in a new era and breakup what has been the norm. We took things for granted, and have now been reminded who we are and of whose we are.
Over the years, we allowed ceremonial and dictatorial practices to become the norm.
We forgot about the foundational expectations of our forefathers who were once trapped in the legacy of others. Somehow, overtime, we forgot the rest of the story that our forefathers became free to build a legacy of their own—for us. They became a people of independent spirit and they developed themselves and this Territory based on qualities of integrity, mutual respect, self-reliance and they owned their lands engendering a strong sense of belonging to and kinship with these islands.
The reset button has been triggered and pressed.
Mr. Speaker, democracy, transparency and accountability is what the new BVI is asking for. For a long time, I have said we have to be conscious and to ‘stay woke’. I have said that we cannot take things for granted.
This new revelation of the need to get back on track has caused us to remove the lasso from our minds.
For we allowed ourselves to forget that our fore parents built BVI on commonsense, practical applications and skills and God’s grace, now with more information, education, technology and God leading from the front, together we can build it again.
As a people, we allowed ourselves to forget that our responsibility as elected officials is to put the people first with God’s help.
As Public Officers some of us tend to forget that we are in the era of transformation. Instead of working in the best interest of the people, we work in the best interest of a person giving that person the advice they want to hear, rather than the advice that they need to hear.
Well can I tell you that, the status quo to remain is a thing of the past. The new BVI is about pride and building BVI for BVI. I have asked my team to tell me the reality, not the dream.
Leadership for me is not weight throwing around game. It is a weight lifting reality because lives and livelihoods are dependent on my colleague and I to turn things around.
Leadership for me is not about influence, but rather about managing the financial affairs of the Virgin Islands in a fiscally sound and prudent manner.
Leadership for me is about ensuring that there are proper checks and balances and that is what today is about.
On today’s Order Paper there are several questions to answer and I welcome this because I believe that if a people put a Government to work, then work we would. If a people want to know what is going on with their Government, they should, and I have been singing, shouting this same tune since I was in the Opposition, standing alone. It is only when election was coming that the fouls came home to roost and jump ship, but the Rhone was already wrecked.
The people who elected us need to know what past Governments have done and what their Government is currently doing to make the lives of those who call here their home better, not bitter, but greater.
So I want the people not to see the questions as doom, gloom and ‘gotcha’ strategies. I see the responses as an opportunity to educate the people who empowered us with the help of God. It is important for the people to learn about how their new Government in seven months is making every effort and turning stones what couldn’t move for many years, even eight years.
Mr. Speaker, my Government is about better communications with the public, so we have increased public consultation for we do not believe in being private in the public. We want our people to understand that the answering of questions by my Government can only make our people stronger because they would be well informed not only through Government communications and public relations channels and the media, but through this Honourable House where all 13 Members, including the Attorney General have an obligation to promote and engage in transparent reporting to the people, once it does not create a security breach.
There are those who are trying to make history by asking 80 or more questions, and I like this because I have been able to show this Honourable House Sitting after Sitting what it takes to keep a Government transparent and accountable. I was trying to show the former Government that I was trying to help keep them in power, but failure to answer put me in power.
For years, I have asked questions and came up empty handed. No matter how many times I cast the net in the sea the seine came up empty. For I myself am still waiting the responses to many unanswered questions that I am now being asked to find. Some of those fishes are now sitting in the Opposition and are yet to answer to this day.
The Honourable House of Assembly is the law making body for the Virgin Islands and it drives its legitimacy through election, the majority party that wins the elections makes a Cabinet in the House of Assembly to form the Government.
The Government once legitimatised through Her Majesty the Queen Representative will be obligated to implement policies and procedures they have promised during the elections.
The House of Assembly plays a key role here to keep the Government accountable and make sure that the Ministers in the Cabinet are not over stepping their powers in implementing policies.
Therefore when Members are asked questions, I am happy and my Ministers and I have agreed to answer all questions asked to the best of our abilities.
This is welcome by this Government and I want the people of this Territory to compare our current actions of openness with the many closed cavalier episodes of those in the Opposition who for the past eight years became a law unto themselves and not to the people.
I am happy to be part of a Government with guts, a Government that puts into practice what we say. We are responsive, open and transparency. A spade is not a club, and the sky is no longer falling.
The political process for the Government is never completed. The Government has to ensure that they carry out the mandate they campaigned in the elections or they will be booted out in the next elections.
The stronger the Opposition, the better the Government. It is hoped that the Opposition will move on with the forming of the Public Accounts Committee and move along with the public expectations. I am there for you.
My Government’s commitment for democracy, transparency and accountability is conducting Government business, that’s it and nothing else.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you.