In the House of Assembly, members can get away with saying almost anything under privilege without fear of retribution, except perhaps for calling another member a liar. It is not the same on the radio, though speakers and talk show hosts can get away with a lot under freedom of speech. Nevertheless, they need counselling on how to behave responsibly, and station controllers should keep a close ear on contributors and not be slow in cutting them off the air.
Last week we had a prime example of how not to conduct an interview when a talk show host viciously berated the minister of health and social development over the Covid-19 situation. Professionalism should override personal feelings, and it was sadly lacking. Many people may disagree with the way government has dealt with a difficult situation, but they should not resort to gutter scraps. Kudos to the minister for keeping his cool.
For as many years as I can remember, at least three times a day the BVI Electricity Corporation advertises on the radio that it will disconnect delinquent customers in certain areas on certain days. There must be a lot of customers who do not pay their bills on time — probably so many that the corporation has fallen back on threats, saying that they can now disconnect customers remotely, and as early as 8 a.m. This is presumably due to the new remote reading meters they have installed — or are installing.
If this is so, they do not need to announce disconnections unless it is a day or so in advance to give folks the time to pay. They can also sack, or reassign, all their meter readers and disconnection electricians. I expect there is something in our laws about not leaving customers without an electrical supply, especially those needing financial help.
Government rightly wants as many people as possible to take up both vaccine shots in order to protect themselves and visitors. However, I am sure they have absolutely no idea what the size of our population is in order to gauge how many more, if any, need to be vaccinated. The 2010 census was a disaster from the point of view of people counting. The National Health Insurance registration list may give a clue once all the false/illegal/cheeky applications have been weeded out.
Things may improve, but right now we can only expect six calls by one Celebrity cruise ship (50 percent full) once every two weeks between June and August. So far, we have not been told of any plans for how to cope with the visitors or who they will be permitted, or want, to mix with. For such a short period, it will be difficult for our tourism industry to know what facilities to provide in the way of taxis, tours, beach facilities, food and so on. Only government is likely to obtain any financial advantage from these visits. But, as I said before, we have to start somewhere.
I don’t think releasing an alleged list of people who benefited from the stimulus package can come under the heading of whistleblowing as envisaged in the recent legislation. Our anarchic society is always going to have people who like to cause trouble, even if it is warranted.
The premier would be wise to keep his counsel and say nothing, rather than saying that the list was incomplete and inaccurate. His critics can say if that is so, publish the full accurate list. It was very telling that the minister charged with providing the list of recipients referred
all inquiries to the premier. If the leaked list is accurate, it seems that a lot of questionable people received grants. I don’t understand why fishers and farmers required any financial assistance. Their products feed the local population and output was not affected by any hurricane, and if the reduction in visitors was a factor they could easily cut back their activities. The businesses and people who needed assistance are those in the tourism industry, particularly those whose businesses were shut down and staff laid off — and not leisure farmers and fishers.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, but I hope the increase in Covid-19 cases does not mean a lot of false positives. Don’t procrastinate: Vaccinate!