The Commissioner during a March 18, 2021, joint press conference alongside Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1) and Governor John J. Rankin, CMG said that the illicit drugs trade was fueling unexplained wealth in the territory and the wealth is especially attractive to youths looking for a quick fix to get rich.
“When you look around and you notice that someone has got three or four homes, and two and three fast boats and a couple of nice cars, but they haven’t got a job, you have to ask yourself a question… where is their incoming from?” Mr Matthews asked.
The comments resulted in community outrage with some believing that the Commissioner was painting Virgin Islanders as corrupt; however, on the April 6, 2021, edition of the Honestly Speaking show, Mr Matthews admitted that while the comments may have offended some Virgin Islands, he explained that he was not talking about honest citizens.
“I am not talking about the hard-working, honest BVIslanders who have built their homes up from scratch and are enjoying the benefits of their hard work now… but that’s how it came out through somebody’s else eyes and ears,” he said.
“I have to accept that, because if that’s what some black people thought this white guy was saying that day in the press conference, I can only apologise that was not what was intended,” he said.
He, however, said that some people in the Virgin Islands do have unexplained wealth and assets, as such, law enforcement is entitled to ask questions.
“When we identify people and then we see they don’t have any employment, they don’t pay any taxes in the BVI, they are not actually doing anything day in and day out that seem to contribute to the people of the BVI.”
My Matthews pointed out that the same people are buying cars, boats and building up houses; however, he said law enforcement and the police have a duty to investigate.
“I do not believe I am a racist in any shape or form. I do not think I would have survived here a month if I had been. But I accept the fact that as a white guy living in a predominantly black country, I may say things on occasion that other people could interpret and say… I’m offended by it.”
Mr Matthews said he stands by the comments and accepts that he may have offended people. He said the way forward is to learn from those experiences.
“The last thing I would ever want to do is offend the good, hardworking, honest, decent and welcoming people… BV Islanders who have made me and my wife feel part of this community, we felt like we're BVIslanders here but I’ve got to say this, I don't mind offending the criminals,” he said.
They say never judge a book by its cover but they also said a picture is worth a thousand words...