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Local Gov't should have oversight of Disaster Management

Local Gov't should have oversight of Disaster Management

In a lengthy presentation to kick off the 2021 legislative year, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has focused on the need for the Virgin Islands to continue on the path to self-determination and for local government to have oversight of disaster management under the proposed Disaster Management Act, 2019, rather than the Governor.

The Disaster Management Act is one that provides for the functioning and powers of the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and regulates the establishment of the National Disaster Management Council and other emergency provisions.

Speaking at the continuation of the Fifth Sitting of The Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly at the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duff's Bottom today, January 5, 2021, the Premier pointed to the make-up and funding of the DDM, along with the United Nations Self-Determination Charter, as some of the reasons why the powers of the Governor to declare a state of emergency under the proposed Act need to be revisited.


In a lengthy presentation to kick off the 2021 legislative year, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie  has focused in on the need for VI self-determination, and for local government to handle disaster management under the proposed Disaster Management Act, 2019, rather than the Governor.

DDM is manned & funded by BVIslanders – Premier Fahie


“Mr Speaker, the DDM is a BVI Institution, it is a Department within our BVI territorial Government for delivering the Government’s service of Disaster preparedness mitigation response, and part of the recovery agenda.”

Hon Fahie continued, “and BVI personnel within the DDM and the other departments of government have the necessary abilities, and they have been demonstrating [the ability] to transition administration of disaster preparedness and management to the BVI government on behalf of the Virgin Islands people.”

He said the DDM is being manned by people of the territory via local funding, staffing and management; however, it was some neglect of duties that caused a policy shift that resulted in the department having external oversight.

Premier Fahie also argued that the current administration's effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic as another reason why disaster management should fall under local government.

Powers to declare a state of emergency


The Premier said regarding the powers of the Governor to call a state of emergency, the constitution is clear.

Section 27, subsection (1) (a) & (b) of the VI Constitution Order 2007 says, "(a)the Governor may only declare a public emergency when the well-being or security of the Virgin Islands is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, public disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency; [and] (b) The declaration is considered necessary by the Governor to maintain or restore peace and order."

The Premier pointed out that such powers should only be used after consultation with the Cabinet, as exercised by the previous Governor; however, he said that interpretation has created some contention that must be ironed out in the constitutional review to commence this year.


The Premier said regarding the powers of the Governor to call a state of emergency, the constitution is clear.

Local Gov't & Disaster Management


“Mr Speaker, I have sought legal advice on this matter numerous times, and the advice that I have received is that the proper placement for Disaster Management under the current 2007 Constitution, is under the administration of the territorial government and we just have to amend the act to follow suit,” the Premier said.

The Premier the powers of the Governor in the Disaster Management Act should be revisited to put the administration in charge of disaster management, with the proposed changes not affecting the work of the department.

Further, the Premier said that disaster management is not a subject reserved for the Governor under section 60 of the Constitution, as such, he said those powers would be better suited under the purview of the Premier and his government.

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