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Gov Jaspert not ruling ‘in or out’ use of reserved powers

- challenged the media to hold Gov’t accountable to the people
Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert (centre) interacting with local reporters at Government House on August 29, 2017. Photo: VINO
Former Governor of the Virgin Islands, John S. Duncan OBE, right, had created controversy when he invoked his constitutional power to take money from the Consolidated Fund to give to the police and other departments, virtually stripping the Minister of Finance, Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith OBE (AL), left, of his authority to determine where and how monies are spent. Photo: VINO/File
Former Governor of the Virgin Islands, John S. Duncan OBE, right, had created controversy when he invoked his constitutional power to take money from the Consolidated Fund to give to the police and other departments, virtually stripping the Minister of Finance, Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith OBE (AL), left, of his authority to determine where and how monies are spent. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – After former Governor John S. Duncan OBE created controversy when he invoked his constitutional power to take money from the Consolidated Fund and giving to the police and other departments, virtually stripping the Minister of Finance of his authority to determine where and how monies are spent, the question on the minds of many is whether new Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert was also prepared to do so if he sees fit.

Governor Duncan had received support from many who felt it was a necessary move especially to fund the police since the territory was experiencing an unprecedented number of homicides.

The decisive action by Mr Duncan; however, had received much condemnation from members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) Government and reportedly caused a strain on the relationship between the Government and Governor.

During the first media "meet and greet" session called by the governor on August 29, 2017 reporters did not shy away from asking the forward question as it relates to his intentions during his tenure, one being "Do you see yourself using your reserved power if you see that you are not getting certain things done?"

Not ruling anything in or out

Governor Jaspert’s response was one of diplomacy, stating that he is not ruling anything in or out. "I am not going to say what powers or not will be used....actually the bigger message is about partnership and using all of the tools you've got and that all of the priorities are met in the right way.

"I am not in a position at this point to rule in or rule out anything."

Reminded by reporters that he did repeatedly say he has been in constant dialogue with his predecessor Duncan, Mr Jaspert further stated, "I am vested by Her Majesty with a certain set of powers and by the constitution with powers within that. In a way I see those powers as powers on paper and powers that are actually more to enable a strong partnership rather than powers that will daily be reaching for and grabbing ways going forward."

Hold Gov’t accountable

Governor Jaspert went on further to challenge the media and the general populace of the Virgin Islands to always hold the government of the day accountable as he said it's not his role alone to do this.

"This is a role for everybody, it's a role for yourselves, you are part of good governance. A healthy democracy is all of what you do. It's also about the public and what they do, how they hold everybody to account, myself included."

The National Democratic Party Government has failed to bring the Freedom of Information Act to the House of Assembly despite calls by members of the public, talk show hosts and former Governor Duncan and instead it was quick to bring a bill, the ‘Cyber Bill’, to the House that sought to throw journalists in jail. The bill was condemned even by the international media.

Further, the NDP Government, due to its lack of openness with public information, continues to seek to have the media play a more public relations role rather than practising investigative journalism.

Meanwhile, Governor Jaspert said he could not commit to a schedule of meeting with the press as he hadn't his calendar of activities at hand but further stated the he may not be the direct point of contact for certain matters the media would want to have him address.

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