Premier's Office
House of Assembly
Release Date:
Tuesday, 11 June 2024 - 2:07pm




10TH JUNE 2024

Madam Chair


Ladies and gentleman

A pleasant good morning.

Madam Chair, Excellencies, I have made the journey here to New York under very challenging circumstances. Five days ago, the British Virgin Islands experienced torrential rains that caused severe flash floods and landslides across the islands.

A great deal of our infrastructure has been impacted. The government, private sector, and people are working together in communities around the Territory to clean up in the aftermath of the rains.

Thankfully no lives were lost.

Excellencies, this is the second extreme weather event we have had to endure in five weeks. In early May we also had torrential rains and flash floods that affected our infrastructure, particularly roads.

These two recent events are a setback to our hurricane recovery efforts which have continued ever since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the British Virgin Islands in 2017, causing $2.3 billion in damage.

We are very vulnerable at this time, which is just the beginning of what is forecast to be a very active Atlantic hurricane season.

Madam Chair, this is the new reality of a warmer planet. Climate change is an existential threat to the existence of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the British Virgin Islands.

We are fresh off the heels of the Fourth International SIDS Conference superbly hosted by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

At that once in a decade conference, I called on the international community to consider the vulnerability of the British Virgin Islands and other Associate Members of the United Nations (UN) regional commissions when determining eligibility for climate finance. This includes most of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories under the remit of the C-24.

Presently we are locked out of climate finance, which is unjust. Climate justice demands that we are given access to concessional financing and grants based on our vulnerability to help us build our climate resilience to cope with the negative impacts of climate change on our societies.

The new SIDS Programme of Action will mean very little to us without it.

We need UN support and that of the Administering Powers to help address this critical issue. The same can be said for sustainable development.

It was helpful that at the Caribbean regional seminar on decolonization, climate change and the sustainable development goals featured on the agenda.

I am very pleased that the UN system is engaged, particular in the case of the British Virgin Islands. We have successfully partnered with the UN to bring all the relevant parties together to find solutions.

Excellencies, permit me to now turn to the British Virgin Islands relationship with the UK.

As you are aware, the British Virgin Islands and UK agreed to a governance reform framework two years ago in response to the political crisis that ensued in 2022.

Late last month, the UK Governor stationed in the Territory published his office’s sixth quarterly review on the implementation of governance reforms.

Importantly, it focused not only on the reforms being led by the duly elected government, but also those under the responsibility of the Governor himself.

The quarterly review was largely positive and my colleagues and I welcomed the more balanced presentation provided.

It also acknowledged that both the Governor and the duly elected Government require more time to complete the governance reform programme.

The UK and British Virgin Islands have agreed to complete the entire governance reform programme by the end of August 2024.

My Administration sees governance reforms as a vehicle by which to better position the British Virgin Islands to achieve a full measure of self-government as we continue on the path of self-determination.

However, we remain opposed to the UK policy of holding an Order in Council in reserve over the Territory to suspend our constitution if triggered. This is not in good keeping with the spirit of a modern partnership.

My Administration will continue to encourage the UK Government to lift the Order without delay.

The UK position remains that the Order will be lifted when the governance reform programme is completed, whereas we believe there should be no prerequisite to doing so if there is a genuine desire for partnership.

Excellencies, I wish to say a few brief words about the upcoming C-24 visiting mission to the British Virgin Islands.

First, Madam Chair, I want to sincerely thank you and the Special Committee for your persistence and dedication in making the visiting mission a reality. I also want to thank your predecessor Ms. Keisha McGuire for the groundwork done during her tenure.

The visiting mission is a very important tool that the Special Committee has at its disposal to support the decolonization of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing-Territories (NSGTs).

The British Virgin Islands is extremely grateful to the CARICOM and OECS Members states that sit on this committee for their sustained support, as well as the support of the wider committee and other interested states and Territories, particularly in the Caribbean.

I also wish to thank the UK Government for agreeing to the visiting mission and acknowledge the important role played by Ambassador James Kariuki.

The visiting mission will be very timely as the people of the British Virgin Islands are actively engaged in the process of considering their constitutional future, which cannot ignore the question of self-determination.

The British Virgin Islands Parliament, the House of Assembly, will debate the recommendations of a Constitutional Review report that covers they key issues.

Shortly thereafter the Government will engage the public further on constitutional reforms in preparation for negotiations with the UK.

The visiting mission will serve as a strong example that the Special Committee can be effective in spite of the diplomatic and political challenges involved, and that the decolonization process remains incomplete in the Caribbean.

Madam Chair, I look forward to receiving you and your delegation in late August.

Excellencies, I thank you for your attention and humbly ask for your continued support as the British Virgin Islands continues on its journey toward a full measure of self-government.

I thank you.