(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Leader of the Opposition and Eighth District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn has fired back at Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie’s comment that the Opposition acted “cowardly”.
The Premier in a statement issued on June 4, criticized the Opposition for disappearing from the House of Assembly during the debate and passing of the Immigration and Passport Amendment Act 2019. This statement did not sit well with the Leader of the Opposition, who in his retort accused the Premier of trying to use the House of Assembly as a rubber stamp. In fact, Hon. Penn said that the Premier “is a walking contradiction”.
While speaking to reporters on June 4, Hon. Penn was asked about the Opposition’s absence from the House of Assembly during the passage of the immigration legislation, which has caused contention in the Territory over the past two weeks. However, Hon. Penn said that he could only speak for his decision, and said that he chose not to participate because he felt that the House was being used as a rubber stamp.
The Leader of the Opposition told reporters, “The Premier is running a dictatorship. You cannot continue to use the House of Assembly as a rubber stamp for his own agenda…As we said previously, the Premier could have achieved the same thing he was trying to achieve without bringing the law to the House of Assembly. Why is he bringing it? What is the hidden agenda to get this done?”
Hon. Penn aired concern about the announced immigration reform, stating that the announced initiatives should be outlined in a policy, and he said that there was no disclosure previously about such a policy.
“We all discussed the issue of dealing with the backlog and getting the backlog addressed…If you are going to get a sweeping immigration reform you need to have a policy that outlines the reform. He hasn’t done that. All of a sudden, he read this epistle in the House of Assembly that never came forward to the people of this Territory. We never heard about this before until yesterday,” Hon. Penn stated.
“Tell me where was this plan all along that he is outlining. It just drop out of the sky. So the people of this Territory has a responsibility to get things done properly. We have no concern with persons who live in the BVI, have gone through a process and get their due in terms of their status, but there has to be a process. There has to be a transparent process that is known to everyone, both nonresident persons who are aspiring to be residents or belongers, and persons who live in the Territory,” the Leader of the Opposition added.
Further Hon. Penn accused Hon. Fahie of circumventing the manner immigration matters are handled. He also questioned the Premier’s announcement that extensive consultations were carried out.
“The Premier had done that through the backdoor. The Premier went around the process and said that he listened to persons. You had two public meetings for four hours on this issue and say that that’s listening to persons; and he want to be rewarded for doing things the wrong way and expecting persons to reward him for doing things the wrong way,” Hon. Penn said.
Returning to the question of why the Opposition chose to leave the House of Assembly, Hon. Penn told reporters, “For us we looked at it as a process of rubber stamping, using the House of Assembly for a rubber stamp or motive that we don’t know.”
He further stated that the statement that the Opposition turned its back on its responsibilities in the House is false.
“There are things going around that we absconded from our duties and those types of things. From the time that this announcement was made, I’ve been in contact with the Premier to try to have a discussion to understand what we are trying to achieve with this initiative, unable to do so,” the Leader of the Opposition explained.
“The whole issue in terms of us not voting is because we are not going to allow the House of Assembly to be used as a rubber stamp. It's important issues such as this; it's traditional that you have an informal meeting to have a proper discussion on the way forward in terms of whatever legislative agenda or legislative,” Hon. Penn added.
The Expat Situation
From Monday this week, a number of Whatsapp messages in the form of lists were circulated in the Territory. One of the lists included the names of persons who allegedly hate expatriates. The name of the Leader of the Opposition appeared on that list.
In response to the question about whether he hates expatriates, the Leader of the Opposition said, “I love expats!”
He further ventured to suggest that the lists were politically motivated and said that he is unphased that he is on such a list.
In explaining why he is not bothered by the list, Hon. Penn explained that his concerns about the immigration legislation had nothing to do with the expatriates who would be applying for status, but rather the process being used.
“It’s not about expats or not expats at all, it’s about the process. The Premier is trying to mix two issues. You came with a process that was flawed. From the beginning you should have had discussions with the people of this Territory, let the people know what you are trying to achieve and make sure that everybody is on the same page,” the Leader of the Opposition explained.
Hon. Penn also said that the Premier sent the expatriates who were hoping to receive status on a wild goose chase.
“He had expats on this wild goose chase, up and down trying to get documentation to do this and do that. Now you heard a different tone in the House of Assembly again yesterday, so the Premier is a walking contradiction,” Hon. Penn declared.