by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Former Speaker in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) House of Assembly Julian Willock was relieved of duty as the speaker of the house, and Premier the Hon. Dr. Natalio Wheatley explained why.
“The majority of members thought that we should go in a new direction as it pertains to a Speaker… There are a number of incidents in the past that persons would have felt basically that its time with a new fresh start that we’re taking in this territory that we start in the House of Assembly as well and put a speaker in place that we all had confidence in conducting the sessions of the House in a particular way. But we want to thank the speaker for his service. All the members did not have confidence in the Speaker to conduct the affairs in the way that we all would like in this new dispensation that we have in this new era. Of course, the House of Assembly being a very important institution in passing laws and of course representing the people,” said the Premier during a recent press conference some weeks after Willock’s resignation was requested.
The new Speaker will be sworn in at the next House of Assembly Sitting scheduled for Thursday, May 19.
The premier also spoke about the legitimacy of a donation made to one of the capital projects being investigated, as recommended in the Commission of Inquiry Report.
In a statement from the Governor-General John Rankin shared that criminal investigations are underway into the Elmore Stoutt High School Perimeter Wall project.
There was a $2 million anonymous donation to the Elmore Stoutt High School Development Project, and the Premier has reported that it has been guaranteed to be 100 percent legitimate.
Dr. Wheatley confirmed the legitimacy of the donation during a May 13 press conference.
“If somebody is making a donation and they want to remain private, that’s also their choice as well. But I can assure you the donor fund have nothing to do any illicit activity or any illegal activity. I can have law enforcement confirm that to the public if that is necessary, but these funds are legitimate funds, and it’s legitimate business persons who have provided the funds, and I will not reveal the name of the persons until I get clearance to do so.”
Premier Wheatley addressed concern about donations being directed to the central Government, explaining that funds for such projects are received by the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA), so the donations will be used transparently to encourage more donors for the recovery and development of the territory.
“Certainly, as it pertains to donation, the RDA receives donations all the time. We have a structure in place where persons can donate; nobody donates directly to [the central] government. RDA was set up specifically for the purpose of providing a transparent and accountable means for persons to be able to donate to these projects. We’re grateful for their donations. Of course, you know, the BVI was devastated in 2017 by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Many persons have come to our aid.”
Former Premier Andrew Fahie announced that an anonymous company to donate $4 million towards the redevelopment of the high school campus in March of this year.
Two million dollars have already been donated; the remaining pledge will be granted later.
Another issue addressed was the BVI Ports Authority LLC (Limited Liability Company), established in 2019 and its connection with the BVI Ports Authority Managing Director, who is one of the three directors and shareholders of the company.
Deputy Premier Honourable Kye Rymer confirmed the Miami based company is a legitimate company that does outreach for the BVI’s cruise business.
“The BVI Ports Authority LLC is a company registered in the United States in 2019 to enable the BVI Ports Authority to rent office space in the Miami area to provide an outreach location for its cruise business. In addition, it was decided that the office space could also host the BVI Tourist Board and the shipping registry. It was intended to be a multi-agency space for the purpose of marketing and promoting tourism, ship registration, and perhaps in the future, serve as a base in Miami for Virgin Islanders, residents and students requiring assistance while abroad. In addition, it could potentially serve as a business hub for BVI entrepreneurs requiring office or meeting space during travel. The office is strategically situated near the Miami Airport.”
The Minister responsible for the BVI Ports Authority said the legitimacy was determined after conducting preliminary internal investigations into the company after residents raised concerns because Maynard is a director and shareholder of the company following her three-count indictment on drugs and money laundering charges.