They may be Ministers in the so-called Unity Government, but blood is thicker than water was proven in the House of Assembly (HoA) on March 2, 2023, when Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) clashed.
It was during the debate of the Auditor General’s Report on COVID-19 Border Security Contracts for Static Marine Platforms [COI R23] when Hon Turnbull accused Premier Wheatley of double-standards since he, Hon Turnbull, believed the Premier was heavily critical of the contracts offered by Government to Claude O. Skelton-Cline, who is Hon Turnbull’s cousin, but defended the contract given to EZ Shipping for the usage of barges for border security during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Wheatley, among other things, had said the consultancy contracts offered to Skelton-Cline were a mistake by the former Premier Andrew A. Fahie.
Hon Turnbull had recused himself from the previous debate of the Report on Skelton-Cline’s contracts, stating that he was Skelton-Cline’s cousin.
“There is a contrast, Madam, in the way that the Premier would have given his position regarding one issue that dealt with the spending of public funds and then a complete, almost 360 right about turn…that I am puzzled at.
“Because, on one hand, you crucify a man and on the other hand you praise another," Hon Turnbull stated at the Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth HoA in Road Town on Thursday.
Hon Turnbull accused of hypocrisy
Dr Wheatley, during his wrap-up of the debate on the static marine platforms, said he can recall one time when Hon Turnbull was in the Opposition and he gave his own cousin, Mr Skelton-Cline, “a real tongue lashing.”
Hon Wheatley asked what was the difference then and now, for Hon Turnbull to recuse himself from debating the AG’s Report on Skelton-Cline’s contracts.
“Has he just discovered that this is his cousin? Did he do a DNA test?...wasn’t he cousin with the same cousin when he gave him a good tongue-lashing? Yes, he was, and don’t force me to play the tape, because the tape is right there. We on Youtube.”
‘Uncle Ronnie & Uncle John say ‘no, no, no, no, no’- Premier
Premier Wheatley then alleged that Hon Turnbull opted not to debate the AG Report involving Skelton-Cline because he was instructed to do so.
“So let me explain what really happened. All that really happen, Madam Speaker, is that Uncle Ronnie and Uncle John say ‘no, no, no, no, no…hear what, you don’t say a word. And that is all that happened there, and so my good friend recused himself, so to avoid speaking about the Claude Skelton-Cline issue.”
Premier Wheatley was about to move on with the debate when Hon Turnbull stood up on a Point of Order.
‘I will not yield!’
However, Premier Wheatley stated: “I will not yield,” seemingly mocking Hon Turnbull, who has portrayed himself as the moral authority in the HoA and has stated that he had always been critical of the contract for the barges and had stated since then that he would not "yield" on his position.
Hon Turnbull repeated he was rising on a Point of Order and Hon Wheatley repeated: “I will not yield.”
Speaker Hon Corine N. George-Massicote then abruptly called for a brief recess.
On the resumption, Hon George-Massicotte reminded the Members to be mindful of their behaviour in the House.
Hon Turnbull continued that he was requesting the Premier to show the evidence where “Uncle Ronnie and Uncle John” instructed him not to speak, “because I speak and have been speaking in this Honourable House on principle.”
Hon Wheatley said he was going to refrain from a “back and forth” with Hon Turnbull since the people of the Virgin Islands
would have wanted him to focus on the task at hand.
It was during the debate of the Auditor
General’s Report on COVID-19 Border Security Contracts for Static Marine
Platforms [COI R23] when Hon Turnbull accused Premier Wheatley of
double-standards since he, Hon Turnbull, believed the Premier was
heavily critical of the contracts offered by Government to Claude O.
Skelton-Cline, who is Hon Turnbull’s cousin, but defended the contract
offered to EZ Shipping for the usage of barges for border security
during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.