By the time you read this, I will probably have exercised a senior’s privilege to vote early in the 2023 general election.
But to the majority of voters who have not yet gone to the polls, I would suggest disregarding calls by any political party to blindly vote “all the way.” Instead, cherish your votes for your district and at-large candidates. Blind loyalties are largely to blame for electing some members of the House of Assembly who have put self before the territory.
Like-minded politicians may make common cause to promote policies they would support if they were elected to form a government, but in the territory’s best interest they may need to compromise on them in dealing with others, including independents, in order to form a stable government. However, this process should be carried out as transparently as possible in order to avoid distrust in a system created in secret.
Too much secrecy
Such was the secrecy surrounding ex-Premier Andrew Fahie’s decision to rotate deputies until he made his choice.
Such too was the secrecy surrounding the current premier’s mission to the United Kingdom that resulted in the formation of the National Unity Government. I was mystified when Liz Truss, then the UK’s foreign secretary, referred to the VI’s NUG in a statement to the Commons. It sounded like some Russian secret service scheme.
A similarly troubling lack of transparency was reported in the March 30 Beacon article “BVI [Ports Authority] keeps deal with cruise group secret.”
One also wonders what secrets are behind United States Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s open support for the Virgin Islands Party, which was an unwelcome interference in our affairs.
At the polls
When you go to the polls, imagine yourself on an interviewing panel for a board of governors who will be responsible to stakeholders for their performance in office. Examine the track record of each candidate seeking re-election, even if they are under different party banners, and ask what relevant experience and qualifications newbies might have to offer. Their past performance in roles within the territory should weigh heavier than their connections to the district. Their primary loyalty should be to the territory as a whole
Section 66 (1)(f) of the VI’s 2007 Constitution disqualifies for elected membership of the House of Assembly anyone who hasn’t published a notice in the government Gazette or a newspaper circulating in the VI their interest in any contract with the VI government or the public service within 14 days before their nomination as a candidate. Most candidates have followed the letter of the law by declaring their interests in the Gazette, but kudos to the minority who have followed its spirit by declaring them in a newspaper read by the general public.
Given the potential concerns surrounding the coming election, the presence of a Commonwealth election observer mission is most welcome. I hope the team will not have to repeat its predecessor’s reservations about the conduct of the 2019 election. That mission delayed the publication of its final report until the outcome of the unseemly dispute between the speaker of the HOA and the member for the Fourth District had been resolved.
At the time, the then-commissioner of police admitted that my personal experiences with apparently Russian hackers were all too common, but he said he couldn’t act on them without some proof that they had influenced the outcome of the 2019 general election. I haven’t been offered an unsolicited grant this year, but I was shocked to have an apparently legitimate online survey asking me point-blank for my precise voting intentions.
The next government will be tasked with any fallout from American Airlines’ direct flights between here and Miami starting June 1. The three-hour flights’ scheduled arrival at Terrance B. Lettsome Airport at 1:06 p.m. and departure at 1:47 p.m. anticipates a sharp turnaround. BVI Airports Authority Managing Director Kurt Menal said last month that more than 70 percent of the airline’s seats had already been booked, and that many residents are among the passengers.
One wonders what commitments the government might have made for American Airlines to start the new service.
Another benefit of the direct flights may be the restoration of BVI Post’s airmail services, which have degenerated into accelerated surface mail since American Eagle stopped coming. We have just collected from the Road Town Post Office our first letter from the UK this year. Meanwhile, two months of mail posted at airmail rates between early December and February appear to have disappeared.
VI postal rates have barely changed over the years, but the international services are so bad that customers prefer to pay much higher charges for the reliability of courier services. Moreover, I have strong evidence to support my assertion that a past employee at BVI Post was at one time tampering with the post — a criminal offence.
Meanwhile, successive VI governments have mismanaged their revenue from financial services and tourism and left our infrastructure in a sorry state.
We were promised good roads, and we hope the government means it this time, but we’ve heard it all before. Even Health and Social Development Minister Marlon Penn has said the roads in the East End/Long Look area — which includes his District Eight — have become the laughingstock of the territory and are a danger to residents.
Voters would be wise to consider such issues when they head to the polls.