Weakened, marginalised & embarrassed: Premier Smith fights back
In an equally hurried national address following the weekly programme Umoja on ZBVI 780 AM on Thursday March 16, 2017, the Premier of the Virgin Islands questioned the motive of the press conference and called the action “extremely regrettable and concerning.” He also made reference to a five percent increase in budgetary allocations for the RVIPF, over last year, including several cheques that are allegedly still awaiting pickup by the RVIPF at the Treasury Department since December, 2016.
Cheques for VIPF collecting dust since December- Premier
These approved financing allegedly include funds for six interceptor vehicles, an upgrade of CCTV camera system, purchase of law enforcement equipment, renovations for the Road Town Police Station, maintenance of engine of police boats among others have been, according to the Premier, at the Treasury Department collecting dust since December.
Some $116,000 for the continuation of a “prudent” police operation is in the Ministry of Finance pending a formal request to process the funding, the purchase of vehicles for police training and supplies for new equipment for police training camp, have all been approved and paper works received, Premier Smith stated.
“As you can see, this government has never shied away from ensuring the safety and security of the people of this territory and providing the finances to do so, and we are not about to do so now,”
Extremely regrettable & concerning
Premier Smith remarked. “I find it extremely regrettable that the Governor should feel it necessary to invoke his reserved powers on matters such as this, where more funding has been given to the police in 2017, ongoing initiatives are well supported, and there are proper governance and administrator processes to be followed that can be found in any democratic society.”
In addition, he said it was “extremely concerning,” since in addition to rules provided in the budgetary financial resources he, along with the Deputy Premier Dr The Hon Kedrick D. Pickering (R7) and the Commissioner of Police Mr Michael Matthews, meet biweekly in security meetings where concerns relating to safety and security are dealt with.
“We have always dealt with these in an amicable and respectful manner and I am fully confident that this will continue.”
“ I am not sure what the motive of the governor was,” he continued, “calling this press conference, but the people of the territory will recall that we have just concluded the budgetary process where this Honourable House has allocated $16.1 million to the police force; an increase over 2016 of $770,000 or approximately five percent.”
The Governor John S. Duncan OBE, in what has been described as a hurriedly arranged press briefing on Thursday March 16, 2017, informed the public of his decision, making it the first time in the Virgin Islands’ modern political history that a Governor has used his reserved powers under the 2007 Constitution of the Virgin Islands to interfere in domestic affairs.
He had also made his intentions known to Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL), Deputy Premier Dr The Honourable Kedrick D. Pickering (R7) and the Cabinet Secretary, during an emergency National Security Council meeting held yesterday.
It was just last month that Governor Duncan made public that since the NDP took office they have cut the Police operations budget by some 46% percent and told persons at a government ceremony that this administration has no regard for “priority in spending.”
Governor Duncan told the few members of the press a few hours ago that “I just came from the National Security Council (NSC) meeting where I met with the Members to discuss the shortfall in the budget for the police force...After a long discussion I informed the Premier that I am not prepared to allow the situation to continue so I am invoking Section 103 of the Constitution, which allows the Governor to authorise that expenditure.”
RVIPF always received monies- Premier
Meanwhile, Premier Smith gave the assurance to the people that special budgetary attention was always given to the RVIPF. The same is true for the other law enforcement organs of the Governor’s group, such as the Magistrate’s wing, the Attorney Generals chambers and the Supreme Court.
He said these departments are considered important, for the proper functioning of the safety and security of the people and in cases where matters come up in which there are no budgetary allocations, the RVIPF is always given “extra consideration.”
Proper documentation required
Premier Smith further informed that the Ministry of Finance requires proper documentation-invoices, agreement of contracts- so that requests can be processed in the proper manner, as per the Public Finance Management Act, so as to ensure proper governance and transparency principles.
His close to nine minutes response ended by reiterating the government’s “unswerving” and “unreserved” commitment to the RVIPF and the safety and security of the people of the VI, vowing to ensuring that all law enforcement will be upheld in the highest standards and support it to the highest levels.