Opposition members used their monthly press conference last week to blast the government’s recently announced tourism re-opening protocols, which they said are overly restrictive.
Melvin “Mitch” Turnbull (R-D2) said the protocols unveiled by Premier Andrew Fahie on Oct. 26 and 27 demonstrated a lack of an economic plan and showed that government is “content on telling people foolishness and expecting people to go along with it until the next speech.”
“We are not fools and we will not be taken for fools,” Mr. Turnbull added during the Oct. 28 press conference. “Don’t insult our intelligence.”
Opposition Leader Marlon Penn (R-D8) spoke similarly, alleging that Mr. Fahie hasn’t thoroughly “engaged with the public” or stakeholders regarding the economy.
Though leaders held several virtual stakeholder meetings to discuss reopening protocols in October, Mr. Turnbull said the government was “hearing and not listening” to the people.
Julian Fraser (R-D3) claimed that residents are being kept in the dark.
“The darkness we are suffering is a data darkness,” he said. “We believe the government has the data but they’re not sharing it.”
Mr. Turnbull added that he was happy that government representatives recently took a trip to Jost Van Dyke, which is in his Second District, to meet with residents there, but he alleged that many of the concerns expressed had gone unanswered.
During the meeting, the premier said questions about re-opening specifically relating to sister islands and the marine industry would be answered in an announcement on Monday.
“Not one question that was asked that day was answered on Monday,” Mr. Turnbull said. “I was hoping that something would come out Tuesday, and yet again nothing.”
Mr. Fahie said last week that a re-opening plan had been in the works since March, but no plan has been made public outside of his announcements.
Mr. Turnbull claimed, “The cliché you hear — ‘don’t be private in the public eye’ — that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re trying to cover something.”
What Mr. Turnbull fears most, he said, is that people will turn to desperate measures during the Covid-19 economic crisis.
‘The bank is calling’
Mr. Penn said he got a call from a resident on a sister island who owns a business and depends on the marine industry.
“They told me, ‘The bank is calling. I can’t pay the bills. I haven’t worked since March. I haven’t collected a paycheque, but I kept my employees going,’” he said.
Mr. Turnbull asked the government to open the economy in a non-restrictive way.
“I am begging the government to do the right thing,” he said. “You can still [re-open] systematically, but do not put these stringent measures that are deterring people [from coming to the territory].”
He added that people are tuning in to press conferences to understand what’s happening in the territory, and that cancellations on vacations into the territory are flooding in.
Mr. Turnbull also mentioned that $300,000 that was allocated to each district representative and at-large representative in late May is only now being distributed to constituents by government.
The fourth opposition member, District Four Representative Mark Vanterpool, did not attend the press conference.