It must have been a bittersweet time for the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), the political group that has won the most elections since the legislature was restored in 1950, after the party emerged as the Government in the 2023 Elections in the Virgin Islands.
The VIP is also the only party that has been credited with some 85% of all the developments in the VI, including road and infrastructure works, bridges, schools, airports, hospital facilities, the local college, the BVI London Office, water and electricity supply, clinics, community centers, the strong twin pillars of the economy-tourism and financial services, direct flights from mainland USA by American Airlines to Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport and the national scholarship programme to name a few.
The last term was considered a rough four years for the VIP, which saw a two-year lockdown of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, when that was over, its former Chairman and Premier Mr Andrew A. Fahie was arrested by US authorities.
A one-sided UK Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was also imposed on the people and government with a preconceived conclusion already written ahead of the official CoI report. The VI also saw the removal of its beloved Speaker Julian Willock for no reason, one of the few persons in the VI who was fighting to build the Legislative institution.
At the formation of the Government of National Unity, the VI also saw the removal of two VIP Ministers, Carvin Malone and Hon Vincent O. Wheatley (R9) from the Government.
VIP Chairman Dr Wheatley who is a second
term Premier and Minister of Finance, returning to the House after he
defeated his only opponent, Independent Perline R. Scatliffe-Leonard
with a 487 to her 367 votes.
The Big Lie!
Lies were told on the campaign trail by agents of the National Democratic Party (NDP) that the UK did not want the VIP back in power and that if the VIP wins the elections, they will not be sworn in or the UK will suspend the constitution.
Some were also claiming that two of the VIP members, former Legislator Carvin Malone and now Minister for Health and Social Development Hon Wheatley, could not hold Ministries. This was yet another lie.
Hon Wheatley was sworn in as a Minister on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, the day after the general elections, and recently, some have erroneously claimed that the Governor must give permission if the former Speaker Willock is to be considered again for the Speaker's post. This is yet another lie.
Governor John J. Rankin, CMG has said both privately and publicly that he had nothing to do with the Speaker being asked to resign or the removal of two Ministers, Hon Wheatley and Mr Malone.
The now three-party Opposition held a press conference days after their defeat at the polls, as NDP was only able to reach 3 seats after they ran with 9 candidates. The NDP breakaway group, also referred to as NDP 2 but officially called the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), received only 3 seats out of 9 candidates on their 2023 slate.
In addition to all the challenges faced by the VIP, one of its members who is now a former Legislator, Ms Shereen D. Flax-Charles, left the party weeks before the general election, claiming she was in a “bad marriage” with the party and that she was more comfortable with another group, the PVIM, which allowed her to run in D9 against her longtime friend and colleague Hon Wheatley.
The people in D9 have since let their voices be heard at the polls, leading to Ms Flax-Charles coming in third in the four-person election race in the district. Members of the VI public have since wished her well with the hope that she is also comfortable at home out of the House of Assembly (HoA).
VIP’s Hon Luce D. Hodge-Smith's win over NDP’s Sandy M. Harrigan-Underhill in the 2023 Elections.
Did PVIM disappoint with its so-called ‘strongest At Large’ slate?
PVIM and their supporters, like controversial talk show host Claude O. Skelton-Cline, were even boasting that they had the “strongest 4 At-Large set of candidates”. This turned out to be far from the truth because 2 of their candidates were rejected by voters, with the group only winning two At-Large seats.
Their leader Hon Ronnie W. Skelton (AL) only beat out his closest opponent, former legislator Neville A. Smith, by 354 votes for the fourth-place slot.
The other two of their so-called “strongest At Large candidates” were unable to win seats. Shaina M. Smith-Archer came in 7th place and Ingrid A. Moses-Scatliffe, who was to be the ‘wonder woman’ and ready to fight for Virgin Islanders, came in 9th out of 17 At Large candidates.
Two big upsets on election night April 24, 2023, against all odds and big money in District Four, were VIP’s Hon Luce D. Hodge-Smith's win over NDP’s Sandy M. Harrigan-Underhill and the VIP Chairman Dr Wheatley, who is a second term Premier and Minister of Finance, returning to the House after he defeated his only opponent, Independent candidate Perline R. Scatliffe-Leonard, with 487 votes to her 367 votes.
Some political and social pundits were claiming for weeks that Premier Wheatley would lose to independent candidate Ms Scatliffe-Leonard who was endorsed by the NDP and the PVIM.
Meanwhile, others were claiming there was a race to watch in District 5 against the hardest-working politician, Hon Kye M. Rymer. The other only hardest working politician compared to Hon Rymer, was in the days of J. Alvin Christopher a former Minister for Communications and Works some 25 years ago.
In the end, as some predicted, it was a blowout for Minister Rymer, who is now in his second term in office as the Minister for Communications and Works, with 840 votes to PVIM’s Marvin E. Blyden's 342.
Hon Kye M. Rymeris now in his second
term in office and as the Minister for Communications and Works after
wining District 5 with 840 votes to PVIM’s Marvin E. Blyden's mere 342.
Trying to rewrite history?
While the losers are claiming that the three-party Opposition got the most votes overall, in the Westminster system of Government practiced in the Virgin Islands
it takes seven seats to form a government and the VIP had 6.
Many knew all along that Honourable Lorna G. Smith, OBE (AL), now the Deputy Premier and Minister for Financial Services, Labour, and Trade, was always an Independent and never fully signed on to the politics of weak leadership the NDP was known for.
One of the NDP's losing candidates, D. Allen O’Neal, who was whipped on polling day; coming in 13th out of 17 At-Large Candidates and even beaten by Independent candidate Daniel F. Davies, had labeled the Premier as an “accidental Premier” on the campaign trail, but now must eat his words as Dr Wheatley has a clear mandate today to lead the Territory.
One other politician, Hon Julian Fraser (R3) of the one-man Progressives United (PU), whose only request throughout all the attempts to form a government was that he wanted to be the “Premier”, had some fighting words during the political campaign.
It was Hon Fraser who labeled the VIP as the “enemy” and advocated to “cut off the head of the snake.” Hon Fraser will now spend his next four years in the Opposition where he has already threatened to interrupt the work of the HoA and bring votes of no confidence against the government. We will see how the Speaker deals with him.
So, despite the many attempts to use the Auditor General's reports to portray the VIP as corrupt and wasting government funds, when in fact money was spent on the residents, the many lies and untruths by some to secure power have now come crashing down, and the people of the VI, along with the Deputy Premier Hon Smith, have vindicated the VIP.
The voters on April 24, 2023, rose above the dishonesty and propaganda told on the campaign trail and in desperation for power the NDP, PU, and PVIM even floated the idea that the Governor was against the VIP returning to power which was why he recalled the HoA.
Today, we have yet again a VIP Administration in the VI, along with Dr Wheatley as the Head of Government and the VIP prevailed. Someone once said it may take a long time, but the truth does emerge in the end!