Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has said he is not opposed to HMS Medway assisting the territory with border security whenever it is in the region; however, it would be naive to think the vessel would solve all the border security issues, as he said the Auditor General Sonia M. Webster has suggested.
“The Report seems to make the assumption that the HMS Medway could have solved all our border security challenges,” Dr Wheatley stated during the debate on the Report of the Auditor General on the COVID-19 Border Security Contracts for Static Marine Platforms at the Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth House of Assembly in Road Town on February 21, 2023.
According to the Auditor General, Opposition was raised to HMS Medway’s presence by the then Premier Andrew A. Fahie, who she said referred to it as a “military intervention.”
This was confirmed by Dr Wheatley, who added that HMS Medway is usually in the region at specified times. “They don’t stay here forever, they move around to different countries and territories, and they were here for a limited period of time.”
The Premier declared that he is grateful for the support of HMS Medway and any other ship from the United Kingdom or any other country coming to help the territory after a hurricane or just to be on guard in the event of a hurricane, to offer humanitarian support, or support in preventing drug trafficking, human trafficking, and gun smuggling.
HMS Medway can’t do it all- Premier
“But let’s be real, Madam Speaker, the Virgin Islands
needs a more permanent sustainable solution to border security.
“You think one ship can patrol our marine borders? Madam Speaker? Let’s get real. One ship can’t patrol our marine borders. You need several points or several areas that you can provide radar and even when you provide these platforms and points for radar you will still have spots that are uncovered because our marine borders are so broad and so porous.
“So HMS Medway, while their help is welcomed, they are not the end all be all. And they are a very small part of the solution for monitoring the borders.”
Premier Natalio D. Wheatley, right, said
the Report by Auditor General Sonia M. Webster, left, only sought to
tear apart the argument for the barges, and did not include the positive
areas of the platform.
Dr Wheatley said the issues of border security are ones the VI has to continue to grapple with since the issues of human trafficking, drug smuggling and gun smuggling are experienced by the territory, and, "Madam, Speaker, we need solutions.”
The Premier, who said he respects the Office of the Auditor General and is committed to the process of audits from an “independent” auditor general, was of the view the Auditor General’s Report only sought to tear apart the argument for the barges, and did not include the positive areas of the platform.
The debate on the Report of the Auditor
General on the COVID-19 Border Security Contracts for Static Marine
Platforms began at the Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth
House of Assembly in Road Town on February 21, 2023.