Acting on acts
A Beaconite was glad to see this week that more than a dozen laws received assent from Governor John Rankin. As legislators noted during last Thursday’s sitting, a lot of time and resources go into developing these bills, and many of them are important for bringing the Virgin Islands in line with international standards on issues like money laundering. That doesn’t mean the proposed legislation is perfect and immune from fair scrutiny from the get-go, but after the bills have undergone careful review by community members and elected officials, it logically follows that they should become law in a timely fashion. At a minimum, explanations should be given when such bills don’t receive assent, such as the legislation to legalise medical marijuana that passed the House of Assembly back when Governor Gus Jaspert held office. The Beaconite looks forward to the day when the entire law-making process becomes more transparent.
Having covered the Covid-19 pandemic and economic stimulus since the beginning, a Beaconites is pleased to see these topics being discussed in the Commission of Inquiry. Getting information on stimulus spending has been incredibly challenging. The reporter has written about these challenges often, and though she is relieved to have some more clarity after hearing the auditor general’s testimony, she is more concerned than ever about how the spending was handled. She knows that many, many other residents are concerned with how money was distributed in a challenging economic time. Other moves — like legislators upgrading their own benefits package (see page one) while many remain unemployed — are ones the residents of the territory have spoken out about. This reporter hopes more information on these pressing topics comes to light one way or the other.
There is often a perception among the Virgin Islands public that “no one” in the public service is courageous enough to speak out about a lack of transparency and accountability in government. The auditor general, who testified before the Commission of Inquiry on Monday, is proof that is far from the truth. For years, she has been raising the alarm about these issues in audit reports about various government projects. However, despite ample coverage in the Beacon and other media, the reports have largely gone unheeded by elected leaders and other public officials. The COI also has shown that there are others in the public service who are paying attention and who share her concerns. The Beaconite hopes changes follow.
On Monday, a Beaconite opened up the messages from a Facebook group to see a series of posts that have become unfortunately common during the Covid era. One of them was a public service announcement from a grocery store that some of its employees have been experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, and another was a notice from the Public Health Department that anyone who had visited three clubs on one day and a restaurant on another should isolate and contact the Covid-19 hotline. This time last year, the Beaconite would have felt dread upon seeing these posts, almost certain that a sweeping lockdown was approaching and worried about the toll of an infectious disease spreading through this small territory. Now, after going through these motions several times over and after being fully vaccinated, the Beaconite’s reaction is much more muted. He still feels a little anxiety, but it’s tinged with something close to annoyance. Though fewer residents have gotten vaccinated than health officials would have liked, a portion of the population has some degree of inoculation, and this should help contact tracers nip any potential spread in the bud. The Beaconite has a hard time envisioning a return to lockdown, but he does not want to take any chances. With society largely beginning to split into two groups, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, it is unlikely that such potential outbreaks will abate anytime soon, and the Beaconite is grateful that his health is protected and he can continue his increasingly normal life.