Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has described government minister Vincent Wheatley’s recent response to criticism of the $40 million grant from the Social Security Board (SSB) as ‘unbecoming’ and ‘borderline defamatory’.
Wheatley had accused Penn of wilfully trying to “block legitimate assistance from reaching the BVI citizens” after the Opposition Leader raised concerns about the manner in which the SSB gave government the sum to use as an economic stimulus for COVID-19.
Responding in the House of Assembly Monday night, June 8, Penn said: “There are things that are being alleged and persons continue to call me … It means persons are believing some of the things that are being said and I need to clarify some of the stuff said.”
He said if Wheatley’s claims go unchallenged, it can affect people’s perception of him locally.
False insinuations on my character
Penn said the concerns he had outlined in his initial May 30 statement was simply asking for transparency and accountability on the matter. He said he disagreed that he was trying to block persons from receiving government assistance.
“It is false and it creates an insinuation of my character and I think it is unbecoming and something that needs to be addressed. It is important for us to be transparent, open and accountable with the people’s funds. Those statements are very suggestive and borderline defamatory,” Penn argued.
The Opposition Leader also said despite Wheatley’s attempt to point out various other donations that the SSB had given to the previous NDP administration under which he (Penn) served, the highest was just a little more than million dollars to the BVI Health Services Authority for equipment.
He said that cannot be compared to $40 million given to the VIP government. Penn then went on to defend himself from other claims made by Wheatley, who is the minister responsible for Social Security.
Premier fires back!
In the meantime, Premier Andrew Fahie fired back at Penn for his statements on the issue.
Fahie said: “You see this social security money? This thing is going to cause an issue. Some say don’t go back there, but I didn’t hear this voice from the Leader of the Opposition when he was over here (government), and they took his $8 million for the sewerage project in East End/Long Look and put it in the Pier Park. I didn’t hear it, even if you said a whisper there, I didn’t hear your voice when they went with the $7.2 million for the plane.”