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Ex-health chair questions removal – The BVI Beacon



Last year, the Commission of Inquiry blasted then-Premier Andrew Fahie for overstepping his authority and unlawfully revoking the membership of the Climate Change Trust Fund Board before the end of members’ appointed tenure. The COI also recommended extensive reforms designed to prevent such actions at any boards in the territory.

But now, the former head of another statutory body is claiming that he was removed in a very similar manner this month. Moleto Smith Jr. — who in July 2021 was appointed chairman of the BVI Health Services Authority for a three-year period — told the Beacon that he learned of his termination early this month when he read a news report about the pending appointment of Ron Potter.

Shortly thereafter, he said, he received a letter from Health and Social Development Minister Marlon Penn explaining that Cabinet had decided to terminate his appointment “effective immediately.” The letter, which is dated March 8, continues, “This decision was reached after careful consideration of your performance and conduct as board chair, which have fallen short of the expectations for this role.”

Though the letter goes on to thank Mr. Smith for his service, it doesn’t provide further details about why he was removed.

Mr. Smith, however, noted that the reason provided by Mr. Penn is not among the list of reasons for which the minister is authorised to remove a board member under the BVI Health Services Authority Act 2004. Those reasons include missing meetings; bankruptcy; being of unsound mind; being convicted of an indictable offence; being “unable or unfit” to discharge board functions; or breaching any condition of appointment.

Mr. Smith also said that none of those reasons apply to him.

“While I’m not doing any kind of public challenge around what happened, I think it is in violation of the law,” he said. “I do believe it is rooted in something other than what is statutorily provided under the act. And the documentation that would support any of that action, I feel, is non-existent.”

‘Not crawling back’

Mr. Smith also stood by his record at the board, claiming that he and other members had met about 70 times since he took up the post and worked very hard under challenging circumstances.

“I’m not crawling back for a position: I just want to make that clear,” he added. “But I think we owe it to ourselves and this community to respect the independence of statutory boards pursuant to the law, and to respect the letter, spirit and intent of the law — but also exercise our actions based on professionalism and professional courtesy.”

The COI report released last April made similar points.

“In respect of all statutory boards, the independence from executive government that has been ascribed by the legislature is constitutionally vital,” COI Commissioner Gary Hickinbottom wrote. “As I have described, in the BVI, the evidence is overwhelming that that independence has been severely — and, at times, cynically and with apparent disdain — eroded. … In my view, it is imperative that that interference ceases, and steps are taken to protect statutory boards as important, autonomous arms of government.”

2021 appointment

The 2021 appointment of Mr. Smith, a Virgin Islands belonger who lives in the United States VI, was not without controversy. At the time, then-Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone argued that Mr. Smith was best suited for the task of guiding the territory’s health care services through the pandemic. But others questioned the need to appoint a USVI resident.

This month, however, House of Assembly members were unanimous in voting in Mr. Smith’s replacement. During a March 10 HOA meeting held two days after Mr. Smith was terminated, Mr. Penn moved to appoint Mr. Potter as chairman of the BVIHSA Board.

HOA members then unanimously agreed to appoint Mr. Potter for a period of three years effective March 15.

During the HOA meeting, legislators did not say why Mr. Smith was removed early, but they lauded Mr. Potter.

Mr. Penn, for instance, said he was “honoured” to present Mr. Potter as a candidate at “this critical point” due to his “welcomed experience.”

Pandemic difficulties

He also spoke briefly about the difficulties the organisation has faced during the pandemic and about plans to improve health care in the territory with Mr. Potter serving an integral role in the process.

“Having worked in accounting and organisational leadership for over 30 years, his expertise and proven leadership make him the ideal candidate for this position,” Mr. Penn said.

As the chairman, Mr. Potter will be responsible for developing and implementing a strategic vision for the body; setting and communicating clear objectives; building key relationships with internal and external stakeholders; ensuring that the organisation operates in compliance with all standards; presenting timely reports and audits in accordance with the BVIHSA Act 2004; recruiting senior level managers; and more, Mr. Penn said.

Selection process

The minister added that he has full confidence in Mr. Potter to carry out his duties. The selection process involved a comprehensive review of all applications, Mr. Penn said.

He didn’t say how many applications were received, but he noted that shortlisted candidates were interviewed by a panel.

“In the course of this recruitment and vetting process, it was agreed that Mr. Ron Potter possessed the attributes required for this leadership role given his broad and nuanced perspectives for the complex issues involved in governing a statutory body,” Mr. Penn said. “He displayed knowledge of the principles, practices and theories of governance, as well as an ability to apply this knowledge to practical situations.”

Previous board experience

Mr. Potter served as chairman of the board of directors for the National Bank of the Virgin Islands from 1999 to 2007; a member of the BVIHSA board from 2011 to 2013; and chairman of the board of directors of the BVI Electricity Corporation from 2013 to 2019, according to the minister.

Under his direction at the BVIEC, three new generators were installed at the power plant in Pockwood Pond, upgrading the territory’s power generation and supply network, Mr. Pennsaid.

HOA support

Both Opposition Leader Julian Fraser (R-D3) and territorial at-large member Vincent Wheatley (R-D9) spoke in favour of the motion, taking the opportunity to express their concerns about the territory’s healthcare services.

Mr. Fraser said he would like to see the new management “fix the ills of the hospital.”

“I have no reservations about Mr. Potter’s competence,” he said. “But you have to tell us how you’re going to equip him. You can’t put him in that place to fail.”

Mr. Wheatley made similar comments.

“The challenges in the healthcare system in this territory are phenomenal,” he said. “The new chairman has his work cut outfor him.”
Messrs. Penn and Potter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Senior Public Officers Recommit To Serving



Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley has said that the recently held retreat provided Ministers of Government and senior Government officials with an opportunity to explore avenues aimed at achieving optimal performance.

Premier Wheatley stated, “We came together to engage, interact, and dialogue, which will be critical in assisting us in becoming more efficient and effective in delivering for the people of the Virgin Islands.”

The Premier said the sessions attended by Government Ministers, Junior Ministers, the Attorney General, Deputy Governor, Financial Secretary, Cabinet Secretary and Permanent Secretaries proved to be informative and inspirational and will have direct implications on improving governmental systems and processes.

The overall object was to further functional and productive professional relationships between ministers and senior public officials. 

Former Permanent Secretary Mr. Clyde Lettsome delivered the keynote address while the session was facilitated by former Deputy Governor and Senior Public Officer in Anguilla Mr. Stanley Reid.

Mr. Lettsome challenged participants to fully utilise their capacities to promote the Government’s legislative agenda. He also discussed the relationship between Ministers of Government and Permanent Secretaries as outlined in the Constitution and provided insights on how to they could practically improve these partnerships.

Mr. Reid offered advice based on his experience and led guided interactions that allowed for roles and responsibilities to be clearly reiterated and expressed.

Premier Wheatley said the presentations were extremely powerful and illuminating,” adding, “I believe that the session formed the basis for planned ongoing solution-driven engagement to occur throughout this Government’s term in office,”

During the retreat, the need for open and honest communication in maintaining successful working relationships was emphasised. To this end, public officials committed to their responsibilities with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication.

Meanwhile, Junior Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Honourable Dr. Karl Dawson, said, “Those who were involved in the retreat felt that it was a very worthwhile exercise. It promoted enhanced understanding about roles, and will contribute towards improving working relationships.”

The Government of the Virgin Islands’ mandate is to envision and foster the development of the people of the Virgin Islands through mobilising its resources towards providing the highest levels of service.

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A question of import

A Beaconite who imported a Toyota jeep from Japan shortly after Hurricane Irma was confused by a recent claim made by the director of the Department of Waste Management. “Many persons bring vehicles from Japan and so forth and it is very difficult to get parts when it starts giving problems, and they would take these vehicles and put them on the side of the road and in public parking lots,” the director said in a government press release. “It is a nightmare — a safety issue — and it breaks down the beauty of our territory. If people bring in these vehicles, they need to be more responsible and do not put them on the side of the road for the government to deal with.” The director was partly correct: Derelict vehicles are certainly a major problem in the territory, and owners should properly dispose of them. But the Beaconite sees no reason to blame the issue on Japanese imports. Indeed, very few of the many derelict vehicles he sees on the roadsides are Japanese, and in any case the problem long preceded the popularity of such imports in the Virgin Islands. In his view, the root of the problem is much simpler: The government has doggedly refused to enforce its own laws. Currently, the law allows government to charge owners for the removal of any vehicle they abandon. But the Beaconite wonders if this has ever actually happened. He suspects not. In recent years, he has also heard politicians complain about Japanese imports, and he strongly suspects that they sound this refrain in the service of influential car dealers irked that potential customers are sidestepping their services. Perhaps there is a good reason to restrict imports. But if so, the Beaconite hasn’t heard it yet. So if leaders move forward with that plan, they should first find a better excuse than illogically blaming Japanese imports for the derelict vehicle problem. And in the meantime, they should enforce their own laws, even if it upsets a constituent or two. By the way, the Beaconite’s 2008 Japanese jeep is running fine, and he has never had any problem finding parts for it. He was also very glad for the option to buy it, because the prices charged by many car dealerships in the VI are sky high.


Up, up and away!

The Virgin Islands certainly offered a warm welcome last Thursday to the passengers arriving on the first direct flight from Miami. A Beaconite was among the packed crowd that eagerly viewed the arrival of the plane from the second floor of the Beef Island airport, pressing up close to the windows to view touchdown. Like many would-be travellers, the reporter is hoping to take advantage of the more convenient travel option — if the cost comes down and availability goes up. She is in her first long-distance relationship, and it at least offers some peace of mind to know that she and her boyfriend are only one flight apart now. Though this week has been rocky for the airport, she hopes the new service heralds a moment of positive progress for the territory.


The famous Foxy

A Beaconite recently had a brush with fame as she got to meet Feliciano “Foxy” Callwood in person for the first time. She was celebrating a friend’s birthday a few weeks ago at the Willy T when she encountered a small crowd by the boat’s entrance. Mr. Callwood was enjoying a day out on the water with family, and the Beaconite got to enjoy a brief chat with the well-known founder of Foxy’s Tamarind Bar. It was a pleasure to finally shake hands with someone who has done so much to promote the Virgin Islands, and it’s certainly a moment she’ll treasure.


The post REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK (June 8, 2023) first appeared on The BVI Beacon.

The post REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK (June 8, 2023) appeared first on The BVI Beacon.

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Message By Dr.The Honourable Karl Dawson



Happy World Oceans Day!

Legendary caribbean musician Harry Belafonte sang the famous line, “Oh, island in the sun, willed to me by my father’s hand, all my days I will sing in praise of your forest, waters, your shining sand.”

Being surrounded by water is part of the very definition of a being an island. As islands, we don’t exist without the ocean.

In fact, we are more ocean than land! When we consider The Virgin Islands’ 200 nautical-mile Exclusive Fisheries Zone, we have more than 500 times more ocean real estate than land.

Our ancestors had a very close and personal relationship with the sea. We come from a long line of sea-faring people for whom our waters were a means of survival. Those traditions are reflected today in The Virgin Islands being the sailing capital of the world. Yet, today we do so much to impact our marine environment, we know so little about our waters – the life that inhabits them and the other resources that lurk beneath the sea, and we have yet to really capitalize on our “Blue Economy.”

As we join the world in celebrating World Oceans Day, today June 8, under the theme “Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing,” let us pause to reflect on our marine environment in The Virgin Islands. How is it changing; how can it better serve us; and how can we better protect it to ensure its benefits can be reaped for generations to come?

So, how it is changing?

The truth is, we don’t have nearly as much data as we should but we do know that the general state of our marine environment is declining. We see the symptoms in sensitive ecosystems like coral reefs which are bleaching, becoming diseased and covered in algae due to a myriad of impacts, many of which we can control.

As one indicator, we know that Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease has now infected coral at more than 45 of our dive sites, including sites that are fisheries protected areas and RMS Wreck of the Rhone, our only marine park.

I am pleased to say that by World Ocean Day next year, we should have a much better understanding of coastal water quality in the Territory through expanded and new testing that will be supported under the project “Strengthening The Virgin Islands’ Water Quality Monitoring Programme” with the European Union (EU) funding through the Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity Programme (RESEMBID).

The second question – How can it better serve us?

You’ve probably heard the buzz term, the “Blue Economy”. According to the World Bank, the Blue Economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health

of the ocean ecosystem.” The Blue Economy has been recognized as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries.

What does the Blue Economy mean for The Virgin Islands specifically?

  • It could be mean the growth of fisheries as a third pillar of our economy.
  • It could mean harnessing marine renewable energy – that is energy harnessed from the natural movement of water, including waves, tides, and ocean currents.
  • It could also mean exploring the tourism potential of our marine environment outside of sailing, swimming and diving. For example, very initial research by Beyond the Reef has found over 4 species of whales and 2 species dolphins in the waters north of Anegada. We are just starting to understand the extent and behaviour of these magnificent creatures in our waters and their presence may hold potential for eco-tourism.

In November 2022, Cabinet approved the Strategic Blue Economy Roadmap, which was developed with support from the United Nations Development Programme.

The Blue Economy Roadmap outlines the direction and development pathways for future investment in and development of a sustainable ocean-based economy in The Virgin Islands. Specifically, the Roadmap aims to create a revitalisation process that results in healthy ecosystems that are able to sustain growth in a number of economic sectors and provide an opportunity for building equitable societies. In other words, the Roadmap provides the framework to ensure that the sort of opportunities highlighted a few moments ago can be realized, and this Government commits to its implementation.

And the third and most important question – How can we better protect it?

As signatories to the St George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organishation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) ,better protection of our marine environment is incumbent upon us.

When the Premier shared his message for World Environment Day just a few days ago on June 5, he highlighted that he looks forward to sparking an Environmental Revolution in The Virgin Islands over the next 4 years and will be soon coming to the public to outline that vision and how you can be a part of it.

Leveraging and better protecting our marine environment will be part of that Environmental Revolution and, today, I’ll highlight just a few things that will include:

  1. Reconnecting the youth to the ocean – If our efforts to protect and harness the benefits of our waters are to be sustainable, we have to reconnect our youth to the sea. Every child’s education should include environmental education, including experiential learning at sea. No child should, for instance, grow up without the awe-inspiring experience of seeing a coral reef.

       2. Increasing the percentage of our marine real estate that is protected. There is a global movement to protect            30% of our blue planet by 2030. Over 50 countries have committed to the goal of 30% marine protected                  area  by 2030. You may be shocked to know that the percentage of the Territory’s marine environment that              is protected is just 0.06%. Virgin Islands – we can and will do better than that! Under this Administration, we            will work through the National Parks Trust and the Ministry of Environment, National Resources and Climate            Change to significantly increase that percentage by crossing the finish line to declare proposed national                   parks under the Protected Areas System Plan.

          The science and evidence on protected areas is clear. They are critical to ensuring the overall health of our              marine environment and actually serve to enhance our fisheries.

      3. Investing in marine monitoring and restoration programmes, including for coral reefs and related                              ecosystems, including seagrass beds, mangroves and salt ponds.

      4. Unlocking resources from the Environmental Protection and Improvement Fund to support this important                  work. Just earlier this week we saw the re-establishment of The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund              Board which will receive a percentage of the Fund as well the National Parks Trust.

       5. As I close, let’s remember that these beautiful islands and the ocean that is an integral part of our existence             were willed to us by our fathers’ hand. Let us not take our land and our waters for granted.

Remember that you have an important role to play as individuals. Kids, remember the words from Finding Nemo, “All drains lead to the ocean.” Whatever you dispose on land ultimately ends up in the sea! And, landowners, homeowners and farmers, remember that all soil, debris and pollution that washes from your land also ends up in the sea. Let’s all be better stewards of our ocean by being better stewards of our land! Again, Happy World Oceans Day!

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