OPENING STATEMENT BY PREMIER OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, HON. ANDREW A. FAHIE AT
THE 8TH MEETING OF THE INTER- VIRGIN ISLANDS COUNCIL
Maria’s by the Sea, Road Town, Tortola
British Virgin Islands
Governor Albert Bryan Jr.
Members of the USVI delegation
Members of the BVI Delegation
My Colleagues Ministers of Government
Good morning and God blessings.
Today is a signal honor for me to welcome the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, the Honourable Albert Bryan Jr. and the members of his delegation to the British Virgin Islands for these important discussions.
Three years has passed since our Territories have been in a position to hold talks and come together in this way, due to the unprecedented level of disruptions wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Today’s meeting is the first meeting of the Inter-Virgin Islands Council under our respective administrations, and we are indeed grateful for this opportunity.
This year the BVI is celebrating 70 years since the enactment of our First Modern Constitution in 1950.
This Constitution provided for the restoration of the Legislative Branch of Government, bringing the law making function for the Territory back to Tortola from Antigua, the Seat of Government of the Leeward Islands Federation, at that time.
Following that step in November of 1950, six months later the very first Inter-Virgin Islands Conference was held on 9th May, 1951.
This Period in 1950 marked a significant turning point in the History of the Virgin Islands.
It is important for me to highlight this milestone as this year we will also be where we are launching a review of the 2007 Virgin Islands Constitution Order, with the aim of taking further steps toward self-determination.
As a Territory, we recognise that the world is changing around us and we too must continue to establish ourselves, towards the fulfillment of our highest aspirations.
Since my Government took office, we have been on a steady mission—PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST.
We are a Government of inclusion.
We are a Government who believes strongly in empowering the people to have a stake in the growth, rebuilding and development of this economy—their economy.
We do not believe that the status quo must take only and take all, for status was built on the common man.
So, we are focused on helping our people to reclaim our lives in ways that make us better than before.
It’s about regaining control of a few things we had lost before the hurricane like good financial management, an abundance of stored resources so we could be our own help in the time of need and the encouragement of citizen input in all government-led initiatives.
As a Government, we are committed to adapting to Climate Change as we see that more powerful hurricanes appear to be the norm, along with other catastrophic events. We also note increase, as I said, in seismic activity in our region, another catastrophic event.
For us, recovery is on the move. There are those who would say ‘get on’, ‘crack on’ and there are those who would say, ‘take the short cut’, sometimes this is not the best way. But there are those who think that the short cut is, but that is not so. When you take the short cut, you miss the story. When you take the longer road, you see opportunities. You see the vision clearly and you gain more knowledge, perspectives and big wins than you would taking the short cut where you would not have time to see how to put your people ahead.
So, recovery for the BVI is about putting the future first and ahead of instant, microwave quick wins. It must be made clearly to both the BVI and USVI that unless the people of the Virgin Islands recover, then the Virgin Islands will never recover. For what a man does in a jiffy, he pays for in the long run because he failed to anticipate and properly prepare for the future.
As a Government we are helping our people and communities to be even more resilient than they have been in the past.
Sobered by this thought, I am still feel a sense of joy each time I see personal recoveries happening: People finding new jobs after their former work places were devastated, refurbished hotel properties opening their doors again; proudly displaying that they’re open for business and seeing students, once again comfortable in their learning environment the refurbished Block at the Elmore Stoutt High School, as a basic part of restoring the sense of normalcy which young people need to be successful.
All these involve the direct or indirect Government intervention or assistance, because we are in this together.
Those things were swift and joyful wins with a lot more greater victories, emblems of a renewed, fully recovered and radiant BVI to come.
As a Government we are focused on our blue economy and we are making our marine sector a stronger pillar for us in the BVI. In fact, while we are diversifying our economy we are focused on making fishing, one of our next strong economic pillars.
Additionally, through the ‘Back to the Sea’ Programme we are supporting a new generation of Virgin Islanders to be trained in the various aspects of the Marine Sector. Through the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College we have launched the Marine training programme, which will become a Regional Center for Excellence in Marine Studies as a part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Very shortly the Territory will be audited by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) the global standards set by the IMO Instruments Implementation Code. This audit is a critical component of ensuring that the Territory remains its Status as a Category One Shipping Registry under the International Maritime Convention.
This audit has been prepared for a while, in terms or our preparations, and we will continue to make sure, that we do our best, that we are ready to maintain our status as category one.
Our Territories have for centuries been impacted by economic and political developments in the International sphere.
Once again the winds of change are blowing due to forces beyond our borders.
Today is no different.
As you all know the United Kingdom has now left the European Union, and negotiations will shortly begin on the future relationship. This step will certainly have an impact on the BVI as the Territory benefited significantly from the UK’s membership to the EU.
Though there are many uncertainties we will face as a people, in this new period, we are certain of a few things that the God of our forefathers is still the God of us, and that our future will remain interwoven; inextricably linked together by kinship, friendship and geography, as one Virgin Islands.
The Virgin Islands (BVI and USVI) are not just a group of islands; we are a blessing from God. We are already Great. We just have to work on bringing out the greatness.
Together we can set policies to help the people of the British and United States Virgin Islands to be able to contribute and benefit from our respective destinations and jurisdiction with a shared purpose, where possible or necessary.
I believe that once our people after fully involved in the economic success of the Virgin Islands then and only then are when the VI will realise its greatness through the people.
Our history has been one in which the people of the Virgin Islands has always use their faith. They prayed to God to give them new energy and ideas on how to move forward the Virgin Islands.
This is evident from our past where people from the BVI would use farming or fishing of having a barter system with the USVI and that ended up to be currency in terms of physical cash.
A lot of our people were able to go to the USVI and start to make up the USVI and our friendship came not from government to government, but it came between people to people.
That is where the strength of the Inter Virgin Islands Council comes from, people to people.
That is where the strength of the Inter Virgin Islands council comes from people to people. The strength comes from the people not the governments, our governments are an extension of the people.
So when we meet, it is about how the greater Virgin Islands through the people can use what we have in our hands to build each other.
As we forge ahead, we will remember our shared experiences and continue to work together in pursuit of our highest collective aspirations.
I am certain that our continued spirit of Friendship, economic advancement and good will, which has served us so well in the past will continue guide us through this new period of Transformation.
May God continue to Bless the People of these Beautiful Virgin Islands.