A team from the United Kingdom will help train Virgin Islands police in building financial investigation skills, Governor Gus Jaspert told reporters Monday during his latest press conference.
As part of the effort, the UK City of London Police will support and assess the Financial and Cybercrime Investigations Unit in preparation for a Caribbean Financial Action Task Force evaluation due next year, according to the Governor’s Office.
At the press conference, Mr. Jaspert also touched on the topics of governance, public service transformation, security, strengthening the judicial system, and improvements to disaster management throughout the territory.
Reporters asked him questions about the amended cybercrime bill, Brexit, European Union blacklisting, the Recovery to Development Agency, the United Kingdom loan guarantee, and more.
“Ongoing — and this is an important part of my work and will always be on the top of my mind — is about disaster management activity and disaster preparedness,” he said.
He stressed the importance of being ready for a disaster at all times, not just when hurricane season comes at the beginning of June. As evidenced by the recent seismic activity in nearby areas, he said, disasters can happen at any moment.
“Don’t leave it till the end of May to start checking your families’, businesses’, and communities’ plans,” he said. “Think about are you ready to respond now?”
The governor shared that the territory will be reaccredited by the United States-based Emergency Management Accreditation Programme later this month.
In 2014 the Virgin Islands became the first Caribbean jurisdiction to achieve the accreditation, and it will remain the only one. Such accreditation helps the department’s grant applications and makes other resources more readily available, DDM officials have said.
On Friday Mr. Jaspert said recent disaster preparedness measures included rebuilding and regularly testing the siren network. Caribewave, a tsunami warning drill, will be held again this year on March 19, he added.
“It’s important not to panic,” he said. “We need to be confident that we’re ready, follow advice, know what our plans are, know we’ve taken all the right measures.”
He also encouraged all residents to download the DDM app.
A reporter asked the governor about proposed amendments to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act 2014, which has drawn criticism from free-speech advocates here and abroad.
“I’ve got the bill for assent,” he affirmed. “The bill is an important bill. It has some very important areas that have been flagged to me about speech and what is the right level of speech. Those are important issues. What is the right of the media to cause inconvenience? Is it right or wrong that journalists can cause inconvenience? Those are some of the issues that are being debated.”
The bill — sections of which are nearly identical to clauses in a proposed Grenada law that were deleted years ago amid international outcry from free-speech groups — will not take effect until the governor assents to it.
On Monday Mr. Jaspert said he and Premier Andrew Fahie are still corresponding about the bill, which was passed in the House of Assembly in October. He added that he hopes they reach a conclusion soon.
Last month, the premier doubled down on his support of the bill in its current form, claiming it went through the “most democratic process” and that the governor should assent to it.
When the governor was asked to clarify his January response to the recent resignation of Recovery and Development Agency CEO Paul Bayly, he echoed his previous statements and said he had nothing further to add.
“Paul Bayly was recruited to lead an organisation that had an ambitious agenda to our recovery. He’s come to the decision that it’s in a different position now and I sympathise with his decision on that,” he clarified.
Though he was asked about the status of the UK loan guarantee, which would allow the territory to borrow up to £300 million at low interest rates with the backing of the UK, he did not provide an answer.
Toward the end of the conference, Mr. Jaspert again stressed the importance of recovery and said that it needs to pick up pace this year.