Special Envoy to the Premier, Benito Wheatley, said he believes the political opposition will have to work closely with the newly formed government if it wants to achieve its agenda.
While speaking with 284 Media recently, Wheatley said he agreed that a foundation has been established for the BVI to segue towards a new era of political representation.
He further contended that this was an offshoot of the Commission of Inquiry
) reform process that is currently being implemented.
According to the Premier’s envoy, two key reforms emerging from the COI
process will change ‘politics as we know it’ in the territory — namely the House of Assembly Assistance Grants and Ministerial Assistance Grants, both being shifted to the Department of Social Development.
“Constituents will no longer be able to simply go to their Representative to ask for financial support for whatever reason,” Wheatley explained. “They will be directed directly to Social Development and I think we cannot underestimate how important the assistance grants were to the political process.”
Wheatley said this changes everything for members of the government as well as for the political opposition, whether they were elected as District or Territorial At-Large Representatives.
“You now have to work with the government on an agenda to deliver for your district and your constituents the opposition members will have to work with the government if they want anything done in their ministries. The government will have to work in all the districts via an actual agenda to deliver results,” Wheatley expressed.
In the meantime, Wheatley reasoned that there may be a greater need for advocacy in the legislature than before s things can get accomplished on either side of the political aisle.
He also argued that the electorate will have to adjust to a new dispensation where they look to institutions and not politicians as their source of relief.
“If you are in the House of Assembly, you will have to make your case by advocacy for your constituents,” he argued. “You’re not going to be able to simply get support because you can offer financial assistance [through] an assistance programme. That’s over now.”
He added: “This changes everything and the voter will have to adjust to this new reality. The institutions of government are what will have to support constituents who need help, not politicians directly. That’s a big change for us.”
Wheatley said there is now a need for capacity building at the Social Development Department with all the public assistance now shifted to that agency. He said it was useful that the Department is now the focal point for assistance given there there are specific criteria in place.