Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley
Premier and Minister of Finance
27 May, 2022
Press Conference – Updates on Current Matters
Good afternoon ladies and gentleman of the press corps and persons listening via social media and radio.
My Administration remains committed to engagement with the press and the public, so I am very pleased to have this press conference today.
I will begin with a brief statement and then open up to the press corps for questions.
Today, I had the pleasure of chairing my first National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Coordinating Council meeting as Premier of the Virgin Islands, where we deliberated on matters relating to the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing, proliferation financing and other financial crimes. In this regard, I want to confirm my Government and the Territory’s commitment in fighting against money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing and all other illicit financial crimes. A detailed press release will be issued shortly on the deliberations and on our commitment to this fight.
Yesterday, was also an important day for the Virgin Islands as we continue taking important steps to renew our democracy and move this Territory forward.
We held the first session of the House of Assembly since the swearing in of the Government of National Unity under my Premiership. We confirmed a new Speaker, the Honourable Corine George-Massicote, who has taken up her office with dignity and grace. She reflects the high principles and core values of our society. I again want to thank her for heeding the call to serve and congratulate her on being confirmed Speaker of the House of Assembly.
I thank the Deputy Speaker and Territorial At-Large Representative, the Honourable Neville Smith, for filling the gap until the new Speaker was confirmed.
I also want to congratulate the new Leader of the Opposition and Representative of the Third District, the Honourable Julian Fraser, on his appointment. He is already proving to be a formidable Opposition Leader and is also the senior member of the House.
During the proceedings, I along with the other Ministers of Cabinet, fielded many questions in our effort to keep you the public informed about the activities of government. Where more information is needed, we are committed to providing it. The House of Assembly is the people’s legislature, and we will keep the people updated on what Government is doing and how we are doing it.
I want to briefly touch on the implementation of the COI Report recommendations. As you will recall, earlier this week, I explained that the Government of National Unity has conceptualized how implementation can be achieved under continued democratic governance. The recommendations call for a number of things to be done, but there was no prescription in the COI report for how to proceed under the existing system. I set out the envisioned roles and responsibilities of the various actors that would be involved and how they would work together to implement the recommendations.
In particular, I want to highlight the House of Assembly. This is because it would be one of the primary institutions for public engagement. The people’s elected Representatives would still have a democratic responsibility to hear the voices within their communities on issues of reform important to them. I stress this because I want the public to know that they would not be absented from the process of implementing the COI Report recommendations. We are committed to discussing with the public in greater detail how we believe implementation can work with respect to the Governor, Premier, Cabinet, Ministries and House of Assembly.
I want to touch on one other matter. The Government of National Unity wants to ensure the public has good reference material in this new era of democratic governance as changes are made for the betterment of these Virgin Islands.
Since its handover, I have advocated for the release of the Self-Governance Assessment of the Virgin Islands completed by independent governance expert Dr. Carlyle Corbin. The assessment was done to give the public additional information that would be helpful in preparing for a Constitutional Review. The document to date has not been shared in any public forum, but only noted for the record at the United Nations Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization.
I am pleased to report that, now as Premier, I am taking the self-governance assessment to Cabinet, which was not previously done. It will then be officially published for the public’s consideration.
The Government of National Unity firmly believes in public engagement. For that public engagement to be meaningful, the public has to have proper context and relevant information. We will try assist in this regard as best we can.
I will close by saying, reform is not just about changing processes and structures; it is about changing culture, and the Government of National Unity is doing just that.
I thank you for your kind attention and will now take questions from the members of the press corps.