Press Statement by His Excellency the Governor
Mr. Augustus Jaspert
on 25th September, 2018
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Media. It is a pleasure to see you again.
As you know, I view the media as an important part of BVI and therefore I am keen to continue regular informal ‘catch-ups’.
Today is an opportunity for us to discuss a number of issues. I want to start out with giving you an outline of areas where my attention is particularly focused at the moment. These are:
- Disaster Preparedness—ensuring the Territory is as prepared as possible for any storms and events which may affect us during this hurricane season;
- Good governance—promoting, good governance, accountability and transparency in all aspects of public life and transforming our public service
- Security—ensuring we have a safe and secure British Virgin Islands for the people of this Territory; and
- Recovery—we still have a long way to go to rebuild these beautiful islands in a resilient manner.
There are many, many other areas which I also get involved with on a daily basis, but these are my priorities. Taking each in turn:
Firstly, disaster preparedness.
It is the peak of season, and we been fortunate so far, but we should never be complacent, we must collectively stay ready and be ready.
Across Government, public officers, businesses and voluntary organisations are busy improving the state of readiness for the Territory, and I am grateful to the Department of Disaster Management’s leadership of this.
We have 21 designated shelters including on the Sister Islands with work progressing on 13 more. Marine Shelters are being progressed at Paraquita and Sea Cow’s Bay. There are plan in place to remove derelict vessels. There is a huge effort to clear debris from around the Territory; and the clearing of ghuts continues.
We are also, as a Territory, working on more resilient communications. We are restoring early warning systems and weather stations and the United Kingdom has funded back-up satellite communications for use across Government.
The Government is replenishing contingency supplies, supported by the United Kingdom Government, which has funded supplies and generators. I am happy that we could deploy two of the UK generators already to Anegada to support the reconnection of electricity there whilst BVI Electricity Corporation works on a more permanent solution. There is still much to be done.
I encourage everyone to do their part to help the Territory prepare, whether that’s cleaning up your own yards or helping out in your local community.
Next I want to talk about Good Governance.
I made it clear from my first arrival in the Territory that I supported transparency, accountability and good governance in all aspects of public life.
In the Speech from the Throne the Government laid out its agenda with a recommitment to a number of good governance measures including legislation and the establishment of commissions. I wholly endorse these important steps.
I continue to welcome this direction where there is a commitment by the Government to promote the integrity of public officials, public officers, and institutions and to transform our public service.
I do recognise that these good governance measures have been included in a number of speeches before. I want to underline my commitment to turning words into action and working alongside the Government to ensure that the appropriate institutions and supporting administrative mechanisms are in place to ensure progress.
I am happy that we have seen the Human Rights Act laid on the Table in the House of Assembly. Later this week we will have the release of Cabinet decisions in keeping with the Government's commitment to promoting more openness and transparency.
I will now turn to security.
I want to thank all our security agencies for their hard work and dedication in supporting the security of the Territory.
As with many others, often working in far from ideal conditions.
We have made progress in a number of areas. Government committed $5M to supporting the priority security needs of the Territory.
Infrastructure repairs at our police stations, including on the Sister Islands are progressing, supported in large part by UK funding.
There is a renewed surge on interagency co-operation to protect our borders, excellent co-operation between police, customs, immigration, ports, airport and others to reduce illegal contraband entering the Territory; and
There is an increase in the number of officers trained in the use of firearms. Firearms training and new armed response vehicles were funded by the United Kingdom. We are already seeing results with a number of seizures by the Armed Response Unit. So, we are moving forward with improving security in these islands.
Finally I want to turn to recovery, this continues to be at the forefront of my mind, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I wish we were far more advanced than we are, over one year after the hurricanes of last September.
I am conscious that many of our people are still living and working in temporary accommodation – with homes and offices still to be repaired. I know this is not easy and I don’t want this to become the new accepted norm.
I am disappointed that the Government’s Recovery Plan was withdrawn from the House of Assembly last week. The Government of the Virgin Islands proposed and has established the Recovery and Development Agency. The plan prepared by Government involved a significant amount of work from public officers along with input from the public and wider stakeholders.
I believe that the implementation of the Plan is key to progressing the next stage of our recovery. It establishes the key priorities that ministries will deliver and it is essential for the start of any discussions on recovery financing, including accessing the United Kingdom's loan guarantee.
The loan guarantee allows the BVI to access the money needed to move the recovery forward and at a far cheaper rate, saving many millions of dollars.
I am aware that the plan is expected to go before the House again on 2nd October. It is critical that the plan is in place to provide the platform for recovery.
I want to reiterate my full commitment to seeing these Islands recover quickly and successfully, and, also that of the United Kingdom Government, which has and continues to provide significant funding and assistance to support the Territory.
I am fully determined that BVI will be restored to its best and even more resilient in the future. Thank you.
I am sure that you have a number of questions on these and other issues.