After we criticised the opposition in October for an apparent lack of coordination, we are delighted that members now appear to be working as a team to hold the government accountable.
Though they represent three different parties — and lost a member last week when Alvera Maduro-Caines (R-D6) crossed the aisle — they have been presenting a much more coordinated front recently.
They are also promising that the opposition-led Public Accounts Committee will start meeting next week, which is great news. The body, which has fairly broad investigative powers, is one of the opposition’s most useful tools for holding the government accountable. We would like to see it probe recovery spending, missing government audits, Premier Andrew Fahie’s private bodyguards, and the past decade of festival expenditures, among other matters.
The four opposition members also deserve kudos for recently promising to hold regular press conferences and otherwise making themselves available to the media.
During a session with reporters last month, they dished out some sound advice, advising the government to secure recovery funding quickly; follow the proper steps when establishing a medical marijuana industry; avoid victimising public officers who speak out; and push to appoint a Virgin Islander to head the Recovery and Development Agency, for example.
Though some of their rhetoric was politics as usual, the members brought up many important points, and the government would do well to listen.
Moving forward, we hope the spirit of teamwork will continue during coming House of Assembly meetings.
In question-and-answer sessions, for instance, members should coordinate their approach to avoid repeating each other or otherwise wasting time. They should also take our previous suggestion and publicly assign themselves de facto shadow ministries so that each can hold a brief for monitoring a particular portfolio on the government side.
The opposition’s work is never easy, and we suspect it is especially difficult at a time when members come from three different parties. But by putting their differences aside and working together for common goals, members are setting a positive example.
We hope they keep up the good work and proceed full steam ahead with their promise to hold the government accountable. A strong opposition is an important part of any democracy, and the VI needs one now more than ever as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Irma and faces formidable new challenges in the coming year.