Governor Gus Jaspert provided several updates during a Tuesday morning press conference hosted at the Department of Disaster Management. (Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Governor Gus Jaspert gave updates on the recent Black Lives Matter march, environmental grants, the coming constitutional review, hurricane preparedness, and other topics.

However, he dodged questions on when he plans to assent to several bills passed recently in the House of Assembly, including legislation that would legalise gambling and marijuana.

“I will take a look at the acts once they come to my desk for assent,” he said.
Asked about the upcoming constitutional review, Mr. Jaspert urged everyone to read the 2007 Constitution in order to be “well-informed” in the “way things works” as the process gets under way in the coming months.

“It’s been 13 years since the last review and much has changed since then,” he said. “I think it’s important there’s a constitutional review now.”

Last month, Premier Andrew Fahie announced plans for the review, which he said is necessary to clear up “grey areas” in the Constitution, especially when it comes to accountability “across the board” in government.

On Tuesday Mr. Jaspert said, “The heart of the Constitution is about partnership. Any assumption that there’s somebody out there wanting to penalise the VI, that is quite simply the wrong approach. It’s not what I would ever be about. The job of a governor is supporting a partnership.”

What he wants, he said, is transparency and accountability, not for the purposes of penalising anyone but to find solutions to “spend public money better.”

Economic stimulus

He also spoke about the government’s Covid-19 economic response plan, which he said he welcomes.

“I hope these things can be done safely and transparently with clear criteria for those seeking support so individuals can see how public money is being spent,” he added.

Additionally, he said possible support from the UK could be discussed “on a case-by-case basis for overseas territories.”

He mentioned other areas where the UK has helped the territory as well, including providing medical items like personal protective equipment during the pandemic and recently providing grant funding of around £500,000 for various environmental projects.

The UK government’s recent Darwin Plus Initiative grant would help fund projects including a three-year sea conservation project aimed at improving turtle habitats.

“This is something I personally care a lot about,” Mr. Jaspert said, commenting on the territory’s natural beauty.

He also commended organisers of the June 20 Black Lives Matter march, which he attended.

“Here in the BVI, I was very pleased we marched peacefully to show our support for the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. “One of the things we are blessed to have is a huge diversity, and I think we need to ensure that we are celebrating and protecting that diversity.”

Hurricane shelters

Mr. Jaspert also spoke about protecting the territory during hurricane season.
Although a list of current hurricane shelters has not yet been published by the Department of Disaster Management, Mr. Jaspert said government is preparing as many shelters as possible on all major islands.

He added that all communities would have access to a shelter if needed.
“In the last few days we’ve seen a tropical wave in the Atlantic,” he said. “Whilst we shouldn’t be worried about that, it’s reminder that the hurricane season is here and we need to be prepared and ready.”

He added that two UK ships, the RFA Argus and the HMS Medway, are stationed in the region and ready to serve any hurricane needs.

Claims refuted

Mr. Jaspert also denied recent claims by talk show host Claude Skelton-Cline that he is investigating Mr. Skelton-Cline’s two recent government contracts.

“It’s completely false that there’s any threat against him,” Mr. Jaspert said. “My office isn’t investigating his contracts. I don’t know what Mr. Cline is referring to.”

He urged all media outlets to remain truthful.