BVI, Caribbeanand International News

Lands in hands! Wheatley pushes for greater land ownership

Lands in hands! Wheatley pushes for greater land ownership

Ninth District Representative Vincent Wheatley has appealed for a greater distribution of lands for the people of the BVI, especially on the island of Virgin Gorda.
“We have to get the lands in people’s hands. There’s only one thing left to do — to get the criteria published,” the former Minister for Natural Resources said while appearing on the Virgin Islands Party’s (VIP) Let’s Talk show earlier this week.

Wheatley said infrastructure such as roads are already in place for the community and argued that the issue of getting lands distributed is of critical importance to him and to the people of Virgin Gorda.

Wheatley, who served as portfolio Minister during the Andrew Fahie led-VIP government, said work on the Gun Creek area in Virgin Gorda must also be sorted out with some level of urgency. “We got to get Gun Creek Harbour taken care of. Again, enough of this talk. Let’s get it done,” Wheatley said. “I’ve been hearing this talk for the last, probably 15, 20 years. Let’s get it done.”

While noting that there is a need for bathrooms in the Savannah Bay area, he said that he could not forgive the previous National Democratic Party (NDP) administration for not extracting land at Savannah Bay from a lease that the party reportedly renewed while it was in office.

“It could have been almost like a little Cane Garden Bay, but I guess persons didn’t see it fit to empower the people of Virgin Gorda to get that back,” he stated.

Unfettered discretion

Wheatley came under scrutiny during the Commission of Inquiry (COI) for his handling of some land matters while serving as the Natural Resources Minister, including a $10 million land deal with an unnamed developer that the Attorney General said back then was brought to Cabinet prematurely as well as a parcel of land leased by Delta Petroleum.

Wheatley told the COI that the urgency of the land deal matter centred around the lack of commercial activity during the middle of the global pandemic and explained that the then-Fahie Administration had been trying to inject economic activity into the territory.

The COI concluded in its report that the disposal of Crown Land is an area where decisions were taken by Ministers without any published criteria about the assessment of applications. It added that assessments are made in the unfettered discretion of the Minister, and approved by Cabinet in their unfettered discretion.

“Under pressure from successive Governors (who have consistently expressed concern about the lack of proper process for these disposals), the Ministry is now reviewing the framework, mechanisms and overall governance with a view to bringing the management of Crown Land within a statutory framework. Such a review is long overdue,” the report stated.

Wheatley is seeking re-election in the Ninth District as a candidate for the Virgin Islands Party.

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