Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith faced the public hours after Governor John Duncan forced government to make available an additional $800,000 to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) to fight crime. In a live broadcast on ZBVI radio late last evening, March 16, Premier Smith sought to explain the situation, which many view as an embarrassment to the National Democratic Party (NDP) administration.
Shortly after the National Security Council (NSC) meeting, Governor Duncan told reporters at a press conference that he will be exercising his constitutional authority under Section 103 of the Constitution, to instruct government to make the monies available for the police force.
"I find it extremely regrettable that the Governor should feel it necessary to invoke his reserve powers on a matter 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 administrative processes to be followed that are fundamental to any democratic society," Premier Smith said in the live broadcast.
The Finance Minister said that Governor Duncan's actions are especially concerning, "Since in addition to always providing the police with financial resources, the Governor, the Deputy Premier, the Commissioner and I meet biweekly in the very National Security meetings where concerns related to safety and security are dealt with."
He said they have always dealt with these matters in an amicable and effective manner.
Premier Smith went on to question the Governor's motive to involve the media.
"I am not sure what the motive of the Governor was in calling this press conference, but the people of this Territory will recall that we have just concluded our budgetary process where the Honourable House has allocated $16.1 million dollars to the police force, an increase over 2016 of $770,000 or approximately 5 percent," Premier Smith indicated.
He said there is no shortfall in budget for the police.
The Finance Minister stated that in short, the RVIPF is about to receive not only their increase budgetary sums, but also other payments at the Treasury that are needed to carry out its duties of safety and security.
Premier Smith listed the status of matters being processed by the Ministry of Finance in relation to the police.
Operation Lucan – NSC has approved the continuation of this important police operation and has requested $116,000. The Ministry of Finance is awaiting formal requests to process the funding. Purchase of 6 interceptor vehicles to arrive in May 2017. The cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016. And upgrade of CCTV cameras system. The cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
Further, he noted the purchase of law enforcement equipment from TEC Supply---the cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016; renovations to cells at the Road Town Police Station by J&J Construction---the Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016; maintenance of engines of police boats---he Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016; and sanitary ware for cells---the Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
He added that there are three new initiatives in relation to police recruits, relating to the purchase of vehicles for police training, police training and supplies for new equipment for police training camp, all approved and paperwork received.
"As you can see from all the foregoing, this government has never shied away from ensuring the security and safety of the people of this Territory and providing the finances to do so," Premier Smith indicated.