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Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley has affirmed that the Territory’s relationship with the Caribbean “is as strong as it has ever been”.
Speaking at the Sixth Sitting of the Fourth Session of the Fourth House of Assembly on July 21, Premier Wheatley referenced the Virgin Islands’ relationship with CARICOM, OECS, Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and engagement with other Overseas Territories, both within and outside the Caribbean.
CARICOM Heads of Government
Premier Wheatley said he had the honour of engaging with political leaders at the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.
Discussions focused on regional transport, food security, and the steps being taken to address challenges in those areas.
To that end, Premier Wheatley said, “These are issues that affect us here in the Virgin Islands and it is important that we are a part of such important discussions, especially the issue of regional transportation.”
The Honourable Premier shared that the CARICOM Heads expressed their full support for the Virgin Islands and the Government of National Unity, adding, “I have participated in several CARICOM Heads of Government meetings in the past three years and I can say with confidence that our Caribbean family supports us. We are a part of them and they are a part of us. By working together, we will accomplish more as a region.”
Honourable Wheatley said that the CARICOM Heads will continue to offer technical assistance as the Virgin Islands undertakes reform.
Regarding the OECS, Premier Wheatley said the Virgin Islands is firmly engaged with the regional body.
“OECS remained fully engaged with us as we navigated the recent political turbulence we experienced here in the Territory,” the Premier said. He stated that Director General Dr. Didacus Jules was “steadfast in his support” since the crisis period, and the Territory has remained meaningfully engaged with the organisation.
The Premier also referred to the 9th Meeting of the Council of Ministers where participants discussed advancing sustainable development.
Virgin Islands relations with Latin America
Honourable Wheatley affirmed that the Territory continues to participate in the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) an organisation that brings together the countries and territories of the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
The Premier reported: “I have had very good recent discussions with the ACS Secretary General His Excellency Mr. Rodolfo Sabonge on the importance of the participation of Associate Members in the work of the organisation. Presently the Virgin Islands is involved in internal discussions on restructuring how the ACS engages with its members.”
Relationship with fellow UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs)
In speaking about the VI’s relationship with UK Overseas Territories, Premier Wheatley said the Pre-Joint Ministerial Council of OT Leaders involved productive discussions.
He highlighted the consensus for “a thorough discussion on the parameters of [the UKOTs] constitutional relationship and the way forward”.
“Greater clarity is needed for all concerned. For several OTs, they want greater flexibility in the constitutional relationship so they can continue to grow.”
Premier Wheatley also affirmed that the Caribbean OTs Caucus is active. He commended Premier Washington Misick of the Turks and Caicos Islands for his leadership in “guiding the OTs as a whole through this very turbulent period. I am personally very grateful to him and he has my full support.”
To watch the Premier’s full statement, go to ‘House of Assembly VI’ on YouTube and Facebook.
NOTES TO EDITOR(S): Photo collage is attached.
Photo 1 (far left): Premier of the British Virgin Islands Dr. Hon. Natalio D. Wheatley, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Hon. Keith Rowley
Photo 2 (top middle): Premier Dr. Honourable Natalio Wheatley and Prime Minister Honourable Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda
Photo 3 (bottom middle): Premier Dr. Honourable Natalio Wheatley and Prime Minister of Barbados Hon. Mia Mottley
Photo 4 (far right): Premier Dr. Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley, Special Envoy Benito Wheatley and Prime Minister of Grenada Rt. Hon. Dickon Mitchell