STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER HON. ANDREW A. FAHIE
SIXTH SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE
OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
MONDAY, 2nd SEPTEMBER, 2019
Appointment of Permanent Secretaries
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the Governor’s appointment of Permanent Secretaries and those who were reassigned to new Government Ministries.
Indeed, the public will recall that in just six short months, this new government put its shoulder to the wheel, and executed projects and addressed issues that had been trapped in limbo, and which stand to have a meaningful impact on alleviating the suffering of our people.
Mr. Speaker, these initiatives include, but not limited to, the completion of the Elmore Stoutt High School L-Shaped Building, which we will officially open on September and the Bregado Flax Educational Centre, we had a short handover ceremony on Friday, August 30 and we thank UniteBVI Foundation and Cable and Wireless Charitable Foundation for bringing this school back to life. This means that our children can return to full time classes this school year.
We also had the introduction of the Marine Training Programme, launch of the 1,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days Programme, re-opening of the West End Ferry Dock and repairs to the Jost Van Dyke Jetty. We also introduced the Consumer Protection legislation to the House of Assembly, we cleared ghuts and watercourses ahead of the hurricane season, and more.
You will recall that I have been saying that there is a lot of work to be done, we need all hands on deck, and Virgin Islanders as the benefactors must be at the forefront of this movement.
I am happy that the Public Service now has a full complement to its leadership rank and we can pick up the pace with finding new revenue streams. We can pick up the pace with development as a focus. We can pick up the pace with youth support and development. We can pick up the pace with putting in place resilient infrastructure. We can pick up the pace with making the BVI competitive and sustainable.
Mr. Speaker, there is an African saying that losing one’s eye sight is not as bad as losing one’s insight.
My phone has been blowing up since Friday.
I want the public to know that His Excellency, The Governor, opted, as he is entitled to do under the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 in accordance with section 92 of the Virgin Islands Constitution, to make his own decision.
Mr. Speaker, what this essentially means is that the Governor, rejected the recommendations of the Public Service Commission (PSC) with regard to the appointment of Permanent Secretaries, and usurped this function entirely upon himself.
While I have no problem with the Governor leaning on his own discretion - that is his prerogative; however, I see his action as an insult to self-reliance, self-determination, modern partnership, mutual respect and the democratic future of the BVI.
His decision is an insult to all Virgin Islanders and where we have come as a Territory, as I reflect on our 65th anniversary of Emancipation celebrations.
Indeed, this is another instance of The Empire, tugging on our invisible shackles and dictating to us as subjugates that we are not competent and capable enough to know what is good for us. Which is concerning for me because we have enjoy an admirable relationship with the United Kingdom over the years without persons in the middle trying to deteriorate the relationship with an agenda not in the best interest of the BVI.
The Governor’s preferential actions termed ‘merit-based’ is an affront to the unblemished reputation, integrity and professional competence of our distinguished stalwarts who serve on the Public Service Commission (PSC), and who have served long and illustrious careers in the Public Service.
Mr. Speaker, the individual and collective wisdom, judgement and abilities of PSC Chairman Mrs. Magdaline Rhymer and Commission Member Keturah Crabbe, both Retired Heads of the Government’s Human Resources Department, are beyond reproach.
Mr. Speaker, the same for that of Former Education Minister Honourable Lloyd Black, Civil Service Association representative and retired public officer Mr. Kelvin Hodge, and another retired Public Officer Mrs. Violet DeCastro.
These indignities and injustices of our people we will address in a different arena and at another time because good governance practices cannot be conditional.
For now, bringing relief to our people who are still in need of recovery two years after the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, comes first.
And your government will work with the Permanent Secretaries, looking forward to seeing them carrying out the Government’s agenda which is the people of the BVI’s agenda and not the Governor’s agenda.
We will continue to be fully respectful of the United Kingdom and their representative. But it is imperative that the respect be reciprocated. We also expect the same respect from the few others of like minds who will make sure that it is reciprocal.
I want to caution the permanent secretaries because there is more to the mortar than the pestle.
Not because the Governor appointed you, placed you where he sees being beneficial to him and is the head of the Public Service means that you are indebted to him. Your debt and commitment must be to the wellbeing of our employers—the people, our recovery, our development and our future. I don’t say this lightly.
Rest assured that I will never ask you to do anything nefarious. Instead, I will ask you to get things done on time and ahead of time.
As the Premier my only interest is in the development of the Virgin Islands. I have nowhere else to go. My members have nowhere else to go. I have no other obligation and my members have no other obligation. I have no other agenda in any other destination or jurisdiction. This Government is committed to BVI only.
Just this morning, I have written to Attorney General Chambers asking for the Whistleblowing legislation stating that it is needed now more than ever. The legislations must be Territory-wide as it is needed to guard employees against the elected members of Government, the Governor, the public service, and the private sector.
So, Permanent Secretaries must keep their eyes open on what is happening with Brexit. Together we must build BVI for BVI and not a BVI to stabilise others. We must not weaken the BVI structure, but work remembering that we have got nowhere else to go than the BVI.
I am well aware that the Governor has made an unprecedented move and has been meeting with Permanent Secretaries, and their supervisor is the Deputy Governor. I have already voiced my concerns to him about this on many occasions; in terms of the manner it is being done. I see this as a strategy to understand the inroads of my Government because we are coming in with our hands clean like Pontius Pilate, and there is a need to know us more. As I have asked the Governor before to take the time to understand that my Government is unconventional. We are not the past, but the present and the future. I have already told my ministers that we will leave our hands clean like Pontius Pilate. We are here to do work for the people and not take anything from the people.
In fact, I am telling all public officers right now that your first obligation as a public officer is work with integrity on behalf of the people—your employers.
Permanent Secretaries, I urge you to stay awoke. As you carry out your responsibilities, remember your insignia the Vigilate—be watchful. Watch me too, watch my ministers too. Keep us grounded in the things of good governance so that we can police ourselves, and no one policing us for themselves, and watch for those who are mandating to meet you to divide and conquer. I have said this repeatedly to my colleagues as well.
Remember others will come and give you things, put you in places to find out everything about you to consume you to rule you, but then there are those of us who know no other place that the British Virgin Islands, the place they said was only good enough to be a bird sanctuary.
My Government will only require of you to work objectively and to work to the best that you can, to the best of your ability. I must say here that while public officers have 25 year or more, any Government only has four years, and I intend to make the best of those years putting the things in place to make people’s lives better so that the BVI in which you are either a Virgin Islander or Belonger benefits from the good work and the good decisions that you would have done and this Government would have made.
Mr. Speaker, my Government has no personal qualms, but as a new Government, the original decision of the Public Service Commission would have put the BVI in a better step for the work ahead.
But, I have all confidence in my people and I shall remain laser-focused because the only agenda that this Government is carrying out is taking over the BVI for the BVI.
I am confident that with all hands who are present on deck, helping to restore and rebuild this Territory, working only in the best interest of the BVI and no other jurisdiction in the world, or in the cold, we can create a brighter future for generations to come. It is what our forefathers would have expected. It is what our forefathers worked so hard for.
May God continue to guide and protect the people of these beautiful Virgin Islands. Once we stick together our best days will not be our yesterdays, but rather our tomorrows.
I thank you.