More than two dozen protesters took to the streets of Road Town on Friday afternoon, demanding “more accountability” and “better money management” from the government of the Virgin Islands.
“We are presenting you with a list of grievances and concerns for answers and clarity,” said businessman and community activist Floyd “Heritage” Burnett to acting Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering, the sole government official who emerged from the Central Administration Building to speak with the marchers.
“These are existing concerns we the people of this territory have and have the right to accurate answers concerning.”
The petition being circulated calls for the immediate resignation of the government. However, materials posted by Mr. Burnett elsewhere said that the marchers are asking the government to “call for an immediate commission of inquiry into these issues within 30 days of our peaceful protest. Otherwise we shall thereby call for the resignation of our sitting government.”
The marchers’ list of “grievances,” detailed in materials circulated by Mr. Burnett and others, include government’s $7.2 million “loan” to BVI Airways, which was never repaid even though the airline has not flown; the planned Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport expansion project; a perceived lack of details about the United Kingdom loan guarantee; the Coxheath dumpsite fire; and the $30 million-plus overspending for the construction of the Tortola Pier Park.
Mr. Burnett said on Monday that the petition had 2,000 signatures and counting. He did not respond to requests to specify whether these grievances, or others, were included on the petition given to Dr. Pickering.
Dr. Pickering said he would present the concerns to Premier Dr. Orlando Smith when he returns from the financial services roadshow in Asia.
One of the marchers was Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie, who held a sign reading “Restore confidence in ‘governance’ in the Virgin Islands.”
Mr. Fahie (R-D1) said he has shared the marchers’ concerns about transparency for years and was one of the first to sign the group’s petition.
“A fish bad from the head is bad straight through,” he said.
On Monday, Mr. Burnett said he would collect a letter from Governor Gus Jaspert concerning the request for an inquiry.
“We put a ticking clock on the system, so right now they have 27 days,” he said. “They did say they would get back to us within the 30 days, so just like everybody else we are waiting to see what happens.”
The march came on the heels of a better-attended protest on May 24, against a UK bill requiring overseas territories to establish public registers of company ownership.