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Look seriously at At-Large system – Doug Wheatley

Host of the 3D radio talk show, Doug Wheatley felt that the current At-Large system needed a more serious look. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Talk show host Doug Wheatley believes the Virgin Islands (VI) should take a harder look at the current At-Large system in place.

Speaking on the 3D Show aired November 2, 2012 on a local radio station, the host said “some people say that we have a saving grace in that we have a five votes, you have a District vote and you have four At-Large votes. I have to say that I am not convinced that those five votes bring us any greater benefit than the one vote we had in the past.”

He added, “I seriously recommend that we look very seriously at the At-Large system, because I don’t think that it has delivered what we had hoped to get out of the At-Large system.”

Mr Wheatley felt it might be prudent for the VI to think of getting rid of that and going back down to nine representatives or going all the way At-Large especially at this time when he felt the Virgin Islands is faced with financial difficulties and problems.

“I’m not seeing that it is bringing us five times the benefit by having those representatives.”

He felt that it might be necessary to do a study or analysis of the At-Large system to see if it is really worthwhile and if it wasn’t worthwhile, the Territory should get rid of it.

“As it now stands… that’s a weak system,” he said, “either we’re going to go back to what we had before or we’re going to go At-Large all the way.”

He also believed that there is room for Municipal government within the Territory, noting that the administration of Road Town and East End/Long Look as a village in particular could be done at the local level with local government.

Some people, he said, have argued that this system might make government too expensive but he countered that municipal government can be paid for through savings that you get from a reduction in the House of the Assembly at the moment.

“We have a long way to go in developing our country,” he added.

In December, 2011 Hon. Myron V. Walwyn had said the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) At Large Representatives would play an active role in the districts hence squashing the notion that they are a sixth finger in the political system.

“The thinking that a district has one representative is what contributes to the division of the Territory. It has to stop, every single At Large member is responsible for every district...there is nothing wrong with the system,” declared Minister for Education and Culture and At Large representative, Myron Walwyn, at the December 21, 2011 sitting of the House of Assembly (HOA).

Premier Dr. D Orlando Smith; Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie W. Skelton and Hon. Archibald C. Christian are the other At Large Representatives.
Prior to Hon. Walwyn’s statement, two of the most vocal At-Large representatives in the then Virgin Islands Party (VIP) administration, Keith I. Flax and Vernon E. Malone, had lamented that they were disenfranchised in executing their duties and that their roles were not constituently defined.

During a HOA sitting on December 23, 2010, Malone recommended that the At Large reps responsibilities be incorporated into the district representation system.
“At the moment, that is wreaking havoc on the [political] system and the At Large members have become useless. I call myself the sixth finger,” Hon. Malone had told members of the House of Assembly.

Meanwhile, Hon. Flax, at the same sitting had bluntly stated that the At Large Representatives’ role is a “position that should not be taken lightly, and must not be taken for granted. We have to represent the people like the District Representatives.”

28 Responses to “Look seriously at At-Large system – Doug Wheatley ”

  • voters (04/11/2012, 09:40) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    All those in favour, of abolishing the At large system say 'aye' ,"

    "Aye!" the crowd said in response.

    "All those against?" say no

    There was no response.

    "The ayes have it," to loud applause
    • Observer (04/11/2012, 21:27) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      There is nothing wrong with the At-large system.
      - We need our leadership to ensure that those At-large members without a portfolio is given something substantial to do. Ralph and Dancia failed with Vernon, Keith and Irene. I hope Doc and Doc will not fail with Archie.
      - the At-large Members need to identify a cause / project and lobby for it. Archie - Beautification. Ms Parsons (2003-2007) - Festival. There are nine districts out there, surely there must be something you can do.
      - Most importantly, the At-large members shouldn't spend months campaigning for a job and when they actually get it, they don't know what to do. Read the "job description" first. Any excuse is pure bull.
      • liat 521 (04/11/2012, 22:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        From the look and history of it, most of the NDP politicians seem to like the At-large or Territorial system as it’s easier to buy the election and easier to win as it’s just a popularity contest and who got $$$$$. Where as to run in a district you have to show results and action, you have to do things, archive real things…just ask Dancia, E. Harrigan, Dr. Scatliffe and Orma Hodge.
        • Observer (05/11/2012, 11:23) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          When our country wants to get rid of a gov't, it is usually reflected in the At-large votes - See VIP in 2003, NDP in 2007 and VIP in 2011.
          At-large representation is harder to "buy" (Mark who is well off, couldn't buy a seat in 2007) and the only constant in the At-large representation since 1999 has been Dr Smith (mainly because he is the NDP leader).
          It is easier to retain a district and as such you have long serving representatives like Ralph (almost 40 yrs) and Alvin (who came in the same time as the At Large system), even without substantial results. A long serving representative really has to screw up or wear out his welcome to be replaced - see Omar in 2011.
  • facts check (04/11/2012, 09:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Ohhhhhhhhh Dear, I bet if you abolish the At Large System Myron and Archie will both get heart attacks…but the At Large system was a coup by the UK to get the VIP out…it worked…!!! But the system has been a failure.

    The UK is a master of wizardry by destabilizing democratic governments or political parties they do not like... don't be fooled by the seemingly 'all of us will be represented by such a system'…this At Large system mixed with both At Large and district exists only one other place on earth a small country in Africa…no where else in the Commonwealth is there such a system…go figure!!!!.
    • Crank Shaft (04/11/2012, 12:09) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply

      WTF?? Boss what bull$sh!t you talking about? Do your research and see where the at-large system came from, it had NOTHING to do with the UK but rather local politics. It was a benefit to a certain individual and party at the time and it wasn't NDP. Do your research and know your history from chatting bull$h!t. The request for the at-large system came from locals not the UK.

      • @ crank shaft (04/11/2012, 14:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        Your blog is comedy footage and is clearly the combination of arrogance and ignorance and your knowledge of the BVI political history is astounding. Bro the whole world knew the At-large system was started by the UK (with a fake survey to say the people wanted it) to get rid of Lavity Stoutt...get it in your big head!

        There comes a time 'Crank Shaft' when you have to stand for what is right where everything do not have to be about your narrow minded politics, just some wise advice
        • True (04/11/2012, 17:40) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          whoever you are; you are correct!!! The UK implemented the at-large system as a trial run and also as a DESTABILIZATION tool in 1995 and thereafter it has been in our system. We should get rid of the at-large system as it brings no real value to the democratic process.
          • cat walk (04/11/2012, 23:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
            Absolutely correct True - as a system, the At large system has failed the country miserably!!!!
        • Crank Shaft (04/11/2012, 22:23) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          LMAO!! My post is comedy? And yours is what? Who won the Elections right after the at-large system was introduced? I'll await your answer!
          • Answer (05/11/2012, 10:12) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
            You know who won and we all know who won. Have you ever heard about "being beaten at your own game"?
  • --------------- (04/11/2012, 13:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    i say make the whole thing at large BAM
    • persia (04/11/2012, 18:34) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      you don't bite the hand that feeds or fed you

    • zeo (04/11/2012, 23:33) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      After over 17 years of experience with the At-Large system (started in 1995) it has yielded not the least bit of insight and new and proper representation to the people of the BVI!
  • . (04/11/2012, 15:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    i say cut it out...its a waste of money...too many politicians to pay forever
    • high hope (04/11/2012, 22:08) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      since the at large system all we see is it has been the great divider in this country. it has not worked for the NDP from 2003-2007 or for the VIP 2007-2011.

      Now after the 2011 you have it with one newbie Minister-myron with unbounded ambition, with no foundation, who claim he will make it work...we are all still waiting!!!!.
  • shelia (04/11/2012, 18:43) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Yeah mon, I had liked dey at large system from the get go, but after the last election tis giving me doubtful feelings now
    • Virgin Gorda (04/11/2012, 23:20) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Time for us to remove the Territorial system for the time has come for it to take a hike. How much has the At large system really done for this country besides divide it into THEM and US?. Hardly the right formula to run countries affairs when all this UK imposed system have done is tear each other apart even the political party themselves. (Vernon against the VIP and Myron against the NDP)

      Time to get some forward thinking folks in the house including some forward thinking women. All the At-large candidates need to take your salaries and enjoy your retirement and go back to your businesses.
  • Eagle and Buffalo (04/11/2012, 19:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The Virgin Islands (British) is about 57 square miles with an approx population of 30,000 ( When will the 2010 census be release?) and 13 representatives in the HOA. That is approx 1 elected member per 2308 population. Thirteen members are too many for a tiny territory; and there is talk of adding 2 more. The VI can be govern as effectively with a smaller HOA; the system needs a holistic review with an eye towards consilidating districts, ie, 7&8 districts.

    What is the value to the electorate of the at-large system? Is the electorate getting better representation with 7, 9 or 13 members? And if the benefit is only marginal with larger numbers, are the larger numbers worth the cost? Moreover, if those at large members had engaged the electorate in all 9 districts instead of stroking their egos and wining about being a 6th wheel they may well still be in the HOA.

    • jack be still (04/11/2012, 22:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Over the past 16 years, I like many BVI voters and ordinary citizens have been observing the manoeuvrings of the people who have been elected under the At-large system. However, based on the utterances of some of them-Vernon, Al Fret, Myron, Reeal George I am not convinced that the At-large system is a creditable alternative to the district representative a system used by well over 100 countries worldwide.

      From all indications, the people seems satisfied with the district system and no amount of rhetoric can change that fact. Indeed, my conclusions can be incorrect and I welcome another perspective. After 16 years can someone name one thing of significance that an At-Large member has done for these islands…..and no I am not talking about giving out a few assistant grand cheques our jumping in front the camera or being rude and disrespectful in the House of Assembly, or starting a hospital that we cannot finish.

  • Mixed System (04/11/2012, 19:53) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    It is a great check and balance and we must keep it. It is the only way for the masses to help get rid of arrogant or incompetent governments.

    One party now realizes they will not see power again unless they bring competent candidates to the voters and change their ways.
    • george t. touch (04/11/2012, 21:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Mixed System If you had the same opinion as me, I would be worried....everyone knows the at large system has not worked for the BVI but not to worry come 2016 you will learn that!!!
    • Mary J (04/11/2012, 22:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      "It is a great check and balance and we must keep it". Is that not an Oxymoron? is there any good politcal system in the world?.
  • mother hen (04/11/2012, 23:36) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    this At-Large system is a millstone around all of our necks. We need to get rid of it before it takes the whole country down with it BAM hit the right spot!!!!
  • Polo (05/11/2012, 00:09) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I for one see nothing wrong with the At-large system. However when I read some of the comments I know some commentors have seen the opportunity to "piggyback" on a groundswell of negative public opinion against the system, in a forum such as VINO.

    Many of you are simply reacting to the behavior of individual members who have been elected At large and getting confused with the system. I know after last year’s election how much many of us have been turn off with two particular At-large members in our parliament, but that should not indite the entire system. The worst part of it all is that those two members swear their actions are for the love of the BVI people.

    So BVI please don't pack that suitcase yet on the At large system. I believe it’s gonna to be around for a long time after the next election, even when we get rid of plenty ah dem around now so give the At large system time to work.
    • Crank Shaft (05/11/2012, 12:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply

      Don't mind the noise, these people posting this crap over and over know exactly what they want. They want people to be elected by a hand full of people and please a hand full of people instead of answering to the Territory at large. We are the problem, not the system. How can you say the At Large system doesn't work when it hasn't been given a proper chance? ALL Ministers should be elected Territory-wide and that will stop the nonsense. That way Fraser won't have to worry about Sea Cows Bay alone, Mark doesn't have to worry about Road Town alone, etc. They will have no choice as Ministers and the holders of our purse, to ensure the entire country is represented if they want to seek re-election. The fact that a person has to only rely on a few hundred votes out of over 10,000 to be re-elected as a Minister in Cabinet is worst than the At-Large system. If all Ministers have to be elected Territory-wide you will see how fast the system will work. What happened in the past is that the same greedy souls wanted the Ministries so the At-Large candidates were almost always back benchers. How can that be the UK's fault? It's our fault, it's the locals that choose their Cabinets. How can someone who got 600 votes get a Ministry but someone who got over 4,500 Territory-wide have to sit back and watch with nothing to do, as what happened in the last Admin? That makes sense?

      So tell me how the District system is better. I dare anyone to put forward a proper argument as to why electing officials in Districts only can be better for the entire Territory. The District system is why the last minister of communications and works and last minister of Education were side-tracked. Instead of focusing on national mandates like their ministries, they were always focused on re-election. Now we have Minister of Education, Minister of Health and Minister of Finance as At-Large members. this means if they want to be re-elected they must work for ALL of us, not just one District. That's common sense. I'm an NDP supporter and I'm not afraid to say Mark is doing the same thing in Road Town as Fraser did in Sea Cows Bay. Yes, Road Town is the Capital but in principle it's the same thing that was fought against.
  • lass (05/11/2012, 10:36) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The at-large system, which has aided in over-burdening the local economy needs reconsideration. In these financial hard times when cost-cutting has become a crucial issue with decision-makers, locally and internationally, perhaps now is a good time to re-evaluate the benefits of this system. Maybe, the additional district representation which has been called for previously can take up one or two of the at-large positions. Then districts and constituents would have a chance at fairer or better representation. Consider.

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