Premier Smith said it is being rumored that the government has been dissolved.
"Following the passage of Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, September 6, a state of emergency was declared for the Virgin Islands. What this state of emergency does is allows us to receive assistance from the United Kingdom and other agencies, to support the response efforts to serve our people," he clarified in a statement on September 12.
"While the Governor is responsible for security during a state of emergency, please know that your elected government is still hard at work, doing our very best in the response efforts," Premier Smith said.
He reemphasised that the elected government has not and will not be dissolved.
Premier's Full Statement
During my daily brief today, I would like to take the time to address a rumor head on. Following the passage of Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, September 6 a state of emergency was declared for the Virgin Islands. What this state of emergency does is allows us to receive assistance from the United Kingdom and other agencies to support the response efforts to serve our people. While the governor is responsible for security during a state of emergency, please know that your elected government is still hard at work, doing our very best in the response efforts. Your elected government has not and will not be dissolved.
Cabinet which includes the Governor meets daily to address a multitude of items pertaining to the overall response efforts and along with the governor we are all working to coordinate relief to residents. My government remains committed to fulfilling our obligations to you, the people of the Virgin Islands. I take this time to thank each of the members of government and all of our district representatives who have performed exceptionally well coordinating relief to our various districts. Several have had meetings with their constituents and they will continue to do so. We all stand united as we do the work to rebuild the Virgin Islands. We are all right there with each and every one of you.
I realise that in the absence of information, it is easy for rumors to start. This is one of the reasons I’ve planned this daily briefing, so that we can come to you directly and share information we all need to spur on our rebuilding process and get our islands back to normalcy. We continue to have challenges with our regular means of communication, but I am happy to report that both ZKING and ZBVI are now up and running and you will be hearing from me daily, along with updates from other members of Government and your elected representatives. For those of you with internet access, the web pages bviddm.com and bvi.gov.vg all have timely and accurate information on Government’s response to Hurricane Irma.
Various forms of aid have arrived on island and we are utilizing distribution points on all islands to ensure residents have an adequate supply of food and drinking water. The major supermarkets have also confirmed that they will continue to open daily, and their supply channels are up and running. At present on island we have food supplies for three weeks and weekly more will be coming in. Thanks to these businesses and donations from various agencies we will not run out of food or drinking water. In addition, I can confirm that we have on island, diesel and gas for three to five months and our gas companies are continuing their regular shipment and supply to our islands. We do not foresee any rationing of gas or food.
On Tuesday morning, I had the chance to visit Virgin Gorda and was truly encouraged by the strength of Virgin Gordians from North Sound to the Valley. It was also my first time on the ground following the disaster and I also had a chance to hear from residents their account of the hurricane, their present struggles but also the various ways that community has rallied together to ensure each other’s well-being. Food and water is now coming directly to Virgin Gorda and Government’s efforts are being spearheaded on that Sister Islands by Sister Island Coordinator, Vincent Wheatley.
On Thursday, I will be hosting the first in a series of meetings with members of the business community which will include hoteliers, retailers, marine operators and the like, to hear from them about their losses and concerns, but also to address matters such as business continuity and how Government can support their rebuilding. I will also be announcing a business liaison officer that will specifically be working to get our businesses throughout our islands opened and operating. At these meetings, I look forward to hearing various perspectives as we find solutions to strengthen our business community and our economy.
I take this time to thank the members of CARICOM and the OECS who have continued to demonstrate that we are one Caribbean family. I share with you their well wishes for a speedy recovery, but also their pledges of support. On Sunday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica visited and today, Tuesday:
- Prime Minister of Grenada and the Chairman of CARICOM, Hon Dr Keith Mitchell,
- Secretary General of CARICOM, His Excellency Irwin Laroque,
- Resident United Nations Development Programme Coordinator for the OECS, Mr Stephen O’Malley,
- Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Mr Ronald Jackson,
- And Executive Director of the Regional Security System, Captain Errington Ricardo Shurland visited Tortola and did a brief assessment of a few communities.
Hurricane Irma has left our islands in a state that we are not at all accustomed to, particularly scenes of debris at every corner of our streets and along our hillsides. The Solid Waste Department has quickly begun to collect garbage from accessible communities. I myself have permitted the dumping of zinc on my personal property at Coxheath, and many other business leaders are supporting the effort to clean up our islands. Shortly we will have a greater supply of machinery such as chain saws to assist the Solid Waste Department and community leaders in further clearing larger downed trees.
I would like our young people, youth groups and service organisations to consider this challenge from me and my office. Come out and organize in teams and help us clean up our capital and our communities. The quicker we can do this, the faster we will all feel a little bit more like ourselves and like we are still living in Nature’s Little Secret, the Virgin Islands.
As I meet more and more persons and hear their heroic stories of surviving Hurricane Irma, I am given more strength and encouragement to do as much as my Government can, as quickly as we can to begin the rebuilding process and get our islands back to normalcy. I will continue to ask that all of us, remain BVI Strong.