An eleventh-hour sleight of hand intended as a clever bit of political manoeuvring proved instead to be a cruel charade, as Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley romped to victory for the post of Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) at its convention late yesterday.
Premier Wheatley upset his lone challenger, Territorial At-Large Representative Carvin Malone — a past-President and longtime VIP stalwart — by a whopping margin of 60-12 congressional votes at Malone’s Pockwood Pond stronghold.
According to Dr Wheatley, the party made a very clear and decisive vote in returning him to the post of Chairman of the party.
The Premier graciously described Malone’s showing in the contest as a ‘very formidable challenge’ but signalled that the party wanted to demonstrate a show of unity as it approached what may be the Virgin Islands
’ most highly anticipated elections contest yet.
“I have a great deal of respect for [Malone], for the work that he put in, but in the end, of course, I believe Congress wanted to ensure that we go into the general elections as a united body,” Premier Wheatley offered.
He said this message was clear from the congress and shared that Malone was also on board with the new mantra.
Malone had just days ago flip-flopped to his old seat as a backbencher on the government’s side of the aisle in the House of Assembly (HOA), offering the justification that his mission on the Opposition benches had been accomplished.
And although Malone’s crushing defeat may signal a change of the guard for some, Dr Wheatley — who is himself a relative newcomer to the VIP’s ranks — quickly adopted a congenial tone and wasted little time in attempting to snuff out any seeds of discord as he moved to set things in perspective.
“We are very happy to have his support and we’re going forward as a united team,” he told reporters last evening.
In the meantime, as the party heads to what it described as a ‘special convention’ to determine additional candidates, Premier Wheatley promised that a date for the general elections will be shared with the public very shortly.