Tuesday, August 05, 2008

BVI Premier Suspends the Director of Tourism Board, Opposition Reacts Sharply

During the last week we could watch the conflict between the premier Ralph O'Neal and the opposition, which arose as a result of premier's decision that Tourism Director Janis Braithwaite-Edwards would be sent on six months leave. Ralph O'Neal, who is also tourism minister, in the announcement made on Saturday July 26 stressed the importance of tourism to the territory, and spoke about his personal involvement in recent months with the Tourist Board and Ms. Braithwaite-Edwards.

By his words, being involved in the work of the Tourist Board, he was able to observe and get a good idea of what was happening in the organization. Mr. O'Neal also added that the new acting chairman of the Tourist Board Terrance Ford has begun an investigation into the status of the organisation, and has found ”many operational and tactical flaws.”

Mr. O'Neal said that “given the desperate economic situation of the world and the serious operational issues plaguing the Tourist Board, there is need for restructuring and reorganizing the Tourist Board, and this cannot be done properly while the present director of tourism is active.”

The announcement has drawn much critics from the opposition's side. Its leader Dr. Orlando Smith reacted sharply to the radio message of Ralph O'Neal, saying that he was really shocked with it. He noted that Tourism Director has not received any verbal or written communication on the subject before the premier made public statement on it.

Dr. Smith also has the experience of work with Ms. Braithwaite-Edwards, when he was tourism minister, and characterized her as trained and qualified, having lots of experience. He said that the premier had no authority to dismiss anybody working at the Tourist Board, because it is the statutory body, and any dismissal would have to come from its chairman.

Hon. Ralph O'Neal already paid attention to financial situation in the BVI Tourist Board, soon after his victory in the elections. Less than a year ago, he banned traveling overseas by employees of the BVI Tourist Board, and addressed the territory's community saying that the organisation needs tighter fiscal management.

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