Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has denied that his government was responsible for the months-long delays in publicising several reviews emanating from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report.
Dr Wheatley suggested that the delays in bringing the reports on those reviews to the House of Assembly (HOA) were related to corrections requested by public servants.
Governor Rankin, while threatening recently to publish the reports if this was not done by the government, had explained that some reviews were received as far back as December last year and in January of this year.
“Some of these reviews had things that some of the public servants who were there, thought needed to be corrected before it went out… So, it’s really not fair to make it seem as though we were seeking to delay the publication of these reports,” the premier explained on the VIP Let’s Talk radio programme yesterday, April 18.
He noted that both himself and the governor had been calling for those corrections to be made for some time, and said he had also made calls for the reports to be sent to Cabinet and brought before the HOA.
“So, it’s very misleading to make it seem like we did not want the people to see these reports,” he added. “So, unfortunately the House of Assembly had dissolved before we had the opportunity to lay them on the table of the House of Assembly and it was certainly misleading.”
According to Dr Wheatley, when his Government of National Unity was able to stave off the suspension of the territory’s constitution, it did so with the intent of allowing residents greater participation in the democratic process.
“We did not sign on just to implement recommendations and shove them down the throats of the people of the Virgin Islands
. They had to be a part of the process,” Premier Wheatley said.
Dr Wheatley explained that, following the submission of those reviews, there had been tripartite meetings involving the Deputy Governor, Permanent Secretaries, Financial Secretary, ministers of government, Cabinet Secretary, and others on how the reports will be addressed. The premier also related that there had been a consensus from those meetings that the reports will be laid in the HOA and argued that he was not in favour of publishing the reports without them being brought to the House, as the governor had threatened.
He argued that the reports also needed to go to the HOA before they were made public and said they needed to be debated by lawmakers.
“It’s not just a matter of publishing them and saying you publish them,” Premier Wheatley said. “It’s important when you lay these reports on the table to have the opportunity to debate them with the people of the House of Assembly.”