From left: Governor John Duncan, chair of Cabinet and the five Cabinet Ministers of the NDP government
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith and his Deputy, Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering were noted to be “not pleased” following an unprecedented move made by Governor John Duncan to invoke section 103 of the Constitution, allowing him to authorize additional expenditure for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).
Governor Duncan made his decision known during a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) yesterday, March 16 at the Administration Complex.
In a snap press briefing following the deliberations, Governor Duncan noted that the Premier was instructed to allocate an additional $800,000 to the local police force to finance much need initiatives and advancements.
He stated, “You can imagine that they are not pleased, but we are professionals and we work together.”
The actions of the Governor were noted to be as a result of the lack of resources and the adequate skills needed to properly serve and secure the community, in addition to combating the Territory’s crime epidemic.
“We have some major court cases going on in the Territory, these need to be funded. We cannot allow a system where engagements are made and not followed through," Governor Duncan said.
He added, "If I’m responsible for internal security, money must be there to support the RVIPF and the judiciary for carrying out their jobs on behalf of the community. It’s for specific equipment needs of the force and training.”
Although his decision was one highlighted to be the last straw, the Governor shared that it is one that he regrets.
“It’s a great regret to me that I had to do this, because I have supported the Territory in many of the debates against things the United Kingdom (UK) wanted to do. I have supported the Territory in getting things changed in the Constitution, such as the Junior Ministers, the overdraft facility," the Governor said.
"I have maintained consistently that it is for the Territory to take responsibility and not for the Governor to intervene. But with the circumstances, great regret, I have had to invoke section 103 and I will be doing that in the next 24 hours.”
He added that he regrets it because he doesn't see the role of the Governor to intervene in the matter.
"I’m forced to do so because that’s my responsibility, but my role, throughout the last 2 ½ years is to encourage the government to take its responsibility.”
Governor Duncan added, “The Governor is the last resort. If the government does not act, the Governor has to act and that’s where we are in this instance."
The Governor also shared that the argument of an increase in the allocated funds for the force has been underway since November 2016.
“This request is outstanding for over 4 months. The new budget does not uplift the RVIPF funds adequately, as it should be. It does not address the shortfall of over $800,000. I am not prepared to allow this to happen in the field of internal security, which is my direct responsibility as Governor.”
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Michael Matthews chimed in on the matter as well, noting that he had previously identified the need for much needed resources and equipment after three months of him being in the Territory. He also provided a detailed list earlier this year at the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) deliberations.
“I have identified in 2016 a number of urgent issues that are needed and I found them within three months of taking over...I listed a number of urgent requirements in the Standing Finance earlier this year, and I think the Governor has recognized that some of these issues now need to be addressed.”
With the additional funds, the force intends to invest heavily in the training of its officers, as well as new and improved equipment and software.
“The immediate impacts of the funds are going to be around training for officers plus additional equipment. Plus the opportunity to bring in on a short term basis, additional murder inquiry detectives from the UK, who can be used to increase the capability in a short term, so that we can address the most recent incidents that have been happening," Matthews stated.
He continued to explain that the investment in new equipment will see the purchase of new computer software; increase in CCTV capabilities for the Territory; and equipment to enhance the marine capabilities.
“It’s good news whenever there is an investment in the security of the Territory. Our job is of course to keep people safe and I think the Governor recognized that so he’s made a decision to increase the budget.”