Improving the Second District’s schools, businesses, environment and infrastructure will be the top priorities for Claude Cline, he said at his campaign launch at Big Banana in Cane Garden Bay on March 23.
Pastor Cline did not call himself an independent candidate, but his campaign slogan is “country above party.”
The candidate sounded every bit the preacher as he spoke to residents gathered around. “We have behaved ourselves into this and we will have to behave our way back out of it,” he said, later adding, “I feel like doing church right now.” The pastor said he sees a run for office as an extension of his ministry “for this season in my life.”
Pastor Cline made several “declarations” to the people gathered at his launch, including promising that he will not buy votes with “white envelopes,” but will earn them by fair representation of the entire district, including far-flung Jost Van Dyke.
JVD residents should be commended for speaking up, Pastor Cline said of residents’ recent request for a JVD representative in the House of Assembly.
“I know that the only reason why you’re crying out for your own representative is because you’re sick and tired of being treated like a second-class citizen,” he said.
Rather than a community centre, he added, he would propose that JVD should instead have a new school, whose multipurpose room could also be used as a community centre.
In CGB, Pastor Cline said, he would propose a new primary school with current technology. On the legislative side, he said he would propose that the government take an “inquisitive” look at the General Orders, which he said prevent many public sector workers from expressing their political opinions. He called the orders a “residue of colonialism,” and said that it is wrong to assume that public sector workers can’t have a political opinion and still do their jobs effectively.
He also said he would do more to build up the tourism sector in the Second District by proposing a redevelopment plan for Brewers Bay and pushing a territory-wide hospitality policy. He added that he would push for more different kinds of hotels in the territory to draw a wider range of visitors, including those who want to stay at a five-star hotel.
“We need all kinds of hotels in the territory,” he said, adding that during the last election, the territory was “bamboozled” by “crazy people telling us that there were invaders coming.”
Before Pastor Cline spoke, Bishop John Cline gave a brief biography. He said Pastor Cline was born and raised in CGB, then went to junior high and high school in St. Thomas. Pastor Cline was a preacher in the United States, most recently in Detroit, Michigan, where he led a congregation and the Prevailing Community Development Corporation — a nonprofit organisation that bought and improved run-down housing and built new homes for low-income families, Bishop Cline said.
In 2008, Pastor Cline returned to Tortola, where he has continued to contract with the government to provide services to the community, Bishop Cline said.
Pastor Cline said that some have questioned the propriety of his taking funds from the government for the recent Neighbourhood Partnership Initiative, but that he is “unapologetic and unashamed of the contract I had with the Ministry of Education. I delivered the services and I got my paycheque.”
He described the people accusing him as being against his campaign, and added that another attack has been attempted on his fitness to run because of the length of time he has lived abroad.
“I been here long enough and if anybody does not believe I’ve been here long enough, you can meet me in the High Court with my lawyer and then we will demonstrate how long we been here,” Pastor Cline said.
He also had a few words about the district’s current representative, Alvin Christopher.
Although Mr. Christopher has done some good work in the past, the people of the district haven’t seen him lately, and he has “not much to show for” the last eight years, Pastor Cline said.