Under Increasing Scrutiny For Official Corruption, BVI Premier Delivers Longest Speech In History of the BVI
THE FOLLOWING IS A TRANSCRIPT OF A SPEECH DELIVERED BY PREMIER ANDREW FAHIE OF THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS:
Good day and God’s Blessings to all the people of the Virgin Islands, from Districts One to Nine.
Of course I can’t come home and not tell my people a special hello and I love you.
I love all the districts with BVILOVE, but you know you have been the one who has nurtured me from the time I was a little boy.
It has been a tradition over the in the 1st District for most of the 21 years that I have been the elected Representative for this District, to come to you the people on an annual basis and to report on the work of the previous year.
As you know, your man on a mission never waits until an election year to report to you. Your reports always come once a year.
And when I was elected into Government and appointed Premier of the Virgin Islands – thanks to you, the people from Districts One through Nine, I promised that this tradition would not only be continued in District One but in all of the Districts.
Hence, over the past few weeks, your Government has been visiting all the communities in all of the nine Districts to report on our stewardship.
A promise made, a promise kept, and a promise delivered.
This is one of the ways in which we remain transparent and accountable to the population for the trust that you have placed in us by electing us as your Government.
We are now at the end of the first month of the New Year 2021, and approaching your Government’s second year in office. So, we are here this evening for your Government to report to you.
It is a fact that the last two years have had constraints and challenges for your Government, and also for us as a Territory.
2 Chronicles 7:14 reminds us of the promise of the Lord, that in the face of pestilence and hardship:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will I heal their land.”
So, with faith in our God, your Government has been unrelenting in our task of delivering the mandate which you have given us.
This is why you elected us – to work for you. And we are resolved to deliver on your expectations.
Despite the challenges, there has been progress.
Your Government has accomplished a lot. And may I say that this was only possible with the support and dedication of our public officers.
Preparing three budgets in under 21 months – two in just eight months – is not an easy feat.
Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, by developing and implementing policies and protocols during this constantly changing and fluid pandemic, required many long days and nights drafting, redrafting, consulting, researching, negotiating and more. This has not been an easy feat.
There have been many unseen and unsung heroes, and I want to say thank you to all of them, and to their families who have been understanding and supportive.
Your work in this COVID-19 era is an inspiration for us to have confidence in our abilities as Virgin Islanders; because it is our Virgin Islands people who have done these things.
It is our BVI people who have managed and continue to manage COVID-19 in the BVI, and who have brought us to this point where our tourism industry can be reopened with control measures that allow our economy to resume functioning while minimizing health risks.
Simply put, we continue to do our best to balance lives with livelihoods.
To briefly forget what is happening, or to even try to forget what is happening would not do justice to what really is happening.
To briefly recap, you would recall that on 25 February, 2019, you the people of the Virgin Islands went to the polls in free, fair and democratic elections.
The majority of the electorate voted for a change in Government, bringing into office the team which I now lead as Premier. The team behind me right here now.
You would recall that your Government’s first task in 2019 was to pass the overdue 2019 Budget by April – which we did.
The 2019 Budget was a transitional budget – meaning that for the remaining eight months of that year, your new Government had to carry out a legislative and fiscal agenda that was created and already set in motion by the old Administration.
Many of your new Government’s priorities had to wait for the new Budget in 2020. But this is how the Government system works.
So in the interim, we tackled those issues which we could, given the limitations of the system.
Your Government piloted and passed legislation to clear up the backlog of Immigration issues so that we can begin reforms to the Immigration and Labour systems and ensure that Virgin Islanders are treated fairly in the job market. This is your government working for you.
To further assist our people to get meaningful employment, your Government launched the 1,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days Programme in partnership with local businesses. This is your government working for you.
We also initiated a number of training programmes in collaboration with the H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC), such as the marine training programme and the more recent solar training programme, to equip our people to take advantage of opportunities, both present and emerging. This is your government working for you.
The world is moving towards green, clean and renewable energy and we must ensure that our people are ahead of the curve instead of having to play catch-up.
I always say, the future is for the prepared. So, we have to prepare for the future.
Your Government also passed legislation to support the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSs) to strengthen regulation and transparency in our Financial Services Industry, and compliance with Economic Substance requirements.
The BOSSs, as you know, is BVI built, and has been heralded as a world-class search engine in the industry.
We also passed a number of pieces of legislation to further strengthen the regulation of business in the BVI.
One important area that Your Government also immediately focused on was re-energizing tourism.
The Territory’s tourism industry had not yet recovered from Hurricane Irma roughly 18 months before, and tourism is one of our two main economic drivers that generates revenues and creates thousands of jobs and business opportunities.
You would recall that, in the early months of our term, I had to rush off to the Seatrade Cruise Global event in Miami to speak with our international cruise partners and to get them to put the BVI back on their routes.
Cruise line executives, along with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), visited the BVI in October 2019, and held a number of meetings, including one with our on-the-ground stakeholders such as taxi and tour operators and vendors.
The result of this intervention was an immediate increase in bookings that positioned the Territory to go into 2020 with a very positive outlook for cruise arrivals.
In November, 2019, your Government, with the support of our public officers across all the Ministries, prepared and passed the 2020 Budget – a Budget that was designed to transform our Virgin Islands into a leading regional economy by 2025 through entrepreneurship, innovation and local and foreign investment.
This vision included goals for diversifying our economy, empowering our Virgin Islands people, and transitioning the Territory to 60 percent clean energy by 2030.
All things being equal, the BVI was positioned for 2020 to be a miraculous year for recovery and development.
But then, something unexpected happened.
COVID-19 came on the scene and shut down global tourism and travel. Economies around the world were affected – much in the same way that we in the BVI were affected.
As you now, we had to make some tough choices – and in some cases we did not have a choice in the matter.
We had to close our borders to international arrivals. But then, we must remember that other countries were also closing their borders as well.
We had to institute curfews to make sure that we did not get any outbreak of COVID-19.
We had to make sure that our health systems were not overwhelmed.
And we have seen how even in the more developed countries when measures were not taken the healthcare systems became stressed and could not cope.
It was tough on everyone, but we can safely say that with God’s help, we were able to save a lot of lives here in the BVI, and to prevent a lot of people from getting sick with COVID-19.
It was a difficult time for our business owners and their employees, but we were able to save the economy from complete collapse.
Many other countries have been in and out of lockdowns. Every time they begin opening up they get outbreaks, people die and they have to shut down again.
I do not want to name countries but look at what is happening with many of our neighbours. Look at what is happening with the European countries.
They are scrambling to get a handle on their situation. They are closing their borders once again. They are sending their people back into lock down.
But, thanks be to God, in the BVI we began gradually reopening businesses since around June and we have progressed to reopen our borders for visitors to come in.
The evidence shows that the protocols that your Government has put in place, with the guidance of our professionals at the Ministry of Health and other agencies, are quite effective so far.
Air arrivals are picking up and we are optimistic that – based on the COVID-19 situation, which is still very fluid – once the time comes for sea borders to reopen, then tourism will continue to pick up even further.
COVID-19 has not gone away. The situation is still fluid. We are seeing new variants of the virus being detected in many countries. So, we still have to be vigilant and we have to proceed with caution.
Simply put, we are not out of the woods with COVID-19 as yet.
May I tell you that your Government’s strategy for coping with COVID-19 was not done by guess.
From the inception of this emergency, your Government joined forces with you the people and increased our prayers and faith.
We brought together a Task Force of Government officials and the private sector to plot out different scenarios for how the pandemic could affect the BVI and what we should do in the different scenarios.
The recommendations from this Task Force helped us to plot the course for the reopening of the borders, starting with our air borders first.
It also guided us with how to approach measures such as economic stimulus and social support for the vulnerable families affected by the COVID-19 restrictions.
As you could well imagine, COVID-19 has hampered us in a lot of the work we had planned. It affected Government revenue. It occupied a lot of our time and attention.
We had to shift priorities and resources, because when we planned and passed the 2020 Budget, the world was not aware of this disease called COVID-19, and no one could have imagined that in a matter of weeks it would shut down the world.
So, in response to the COVID-19 threat, your Government focused most of our resources and energy on boosting up our health capabilities.
Your Government established a secure ward at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital for treating COVID-19 patients.
We equipped a CARPHA-certified lab so that we can do testing for COVID-19 on-island. We needed a lab because if we are inviting tourists to come, we have to be able to get their tests and their results as quickly as possible.
It also means that we can detect cases in our own population and get persons to treatment sooner rather than later, and also that we can do the contact tracing faster and cut off any community spread.
Your Government and the Ministry of Health also put a lot of effort into sourcing heath equipment and supplies.
You would recall that during the initial lockdown period, when persons were unable to work, your Government provided food supplies to needy families.
Each Member of the House of Assembly (HOA) was allocated $300,000 to assist their constituents.
With this pandemic and its effect on the social situation in our society, I intend, through the Cabinet, to ask the Minister for Social Development to set up a Special Committee to inform on the social impact of COVID-19 in the BVI, and to make recommendations on how to reach affected person so that they can get the support they need.
Sanitation is important for health, so we instituted the house-to-house collection so that people could dispose of their household waste.
The BVI Social Security Board (SSB) stepped forward to provide a grant of $40 million to support the Territory’s economic stimulus plan.
Of this sum, $7.5 million was for strengthening the NHI and $10 million was for temporary income support due to special circumstances such as the COVID-19 Pandemic. These two initiatives were to be administered by the Social Security Board.
Let me repeat that, even though we have made this information public from the very first day.
From the $40 million Social Security Board grant, the $17.5 million, of which $7.5 million is to strengthen the NHI and $10 million is for temporary income support, these funds are to be administered by the Social Security Board.
The remaining sum included:
- $2 million for grants to boost the agriculture and fisheries industries;
- $6.5 million in grants for local businesses affected by COVID-19;
- $1 million in stimulus grants for hotels and villas affected by COVID-19;
- $10 million to assist persons to watertight homes damaged by Hurricane Irma;
- $1 million for other social needs;
- $1 million in assistance to churches, daycares and private schools; and
- $1 million to fund a transportation initiative to transport persons arriving into the Territory to their secure quarantine locations.
This is your Government working for you in the middle of a pandemic.
As the impact of COVID-19 became clearer, the Social Security Board allowed for us to make some adjustments to these allocations – although there was no change in the overall sum of the grant nor changes in the supervision of the funds.
These funds were to be administered through systems as approved by Cabinet and the Social Security Board.
The Government is required to provide regular reports to the Social Security Board on how the funds were used, and to be audited weekly by the internal auditors.
The Government was required by the Social Security Board to put measures in place to ensure that the money is spent according to the agreement and that there is no abuse of these funds.
And the Social Security Board retained the right to cease the release of funds if it finds that the funds are being abused.
I say this to remind the public that these funds are subject to rigorous checks and balances by the Social Security Board and the internal auditors to ensure that they are accounted for.
Your Government continues to be thankful to the Social Security Board for stepping up to assist the BVI public, and for helping us to monitor the checks and balances, and providing the extra layer of accountability in the economic stimulus programme.
As at September 2020, 1,423 businesses applied for the business grant and were evaluated according to the set guidelines. Of this number, 1,039 businesses were successful in qualifying for grants ranging from $1,592 to $7,955.
Additionally, your Government was able to secure a $40,000 grant from the UNDP to assist 10 food businesses distributed across Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.
These are just some of the ways your Government was able to assist our people during this COVID-19 pandemic.
And we have not considered the infrastructure and systems that were put in place for our children to continue their education; measures such as providing the tools such as laptops for them to attend online classes.
It does not include the support we have given to HM Customs, Immigration and the Royal Virgin Islands Police to secure our sea borders during COVID-19 and to improve public safety.
It does not include the measures implemented at the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport to create a safe environment for us to receive visitors and to reopen tourism.
At the airport, we have constructed a new Welcome Centre where arriving passengers can be tested before they are geo-tagged and then sent to their approved quarantine accommodation.
The BVI Airports Authority (BVIAA) has also implemented the BVIGateway online app to manage the approval process for persons wanting to come to the BVI.
The BVIAA has received accreditation for its COVID-19 health protocols from Airports Council International (ACI) – the leading standards body for the global airport industry.
Apart from Puerto Rico’s airports, no other airports in our part of the region have this accreditation for COVID-19 safety. This improves our international reputation as a safe destination during COVID-19 and our competitive advantage in regional tourism.
Your Government worked with the BVI Tourist Board and the HL Stoutt Community College to get our tourism businesses Gold Seal certified to safely receive guests during COVID-19.
This is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.
And there is a lot more that can be said about what your Government did to further boost the Territory’s resilience in COVID-19, but we were working equally hard in many other areas.
For instance, the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR) is on its way to becoming ISO-9001:2015 certified which will not only improve the Registry’s operational efficiency but will help us to meet our international obligations.
As we work towards fulfilling these obligations, it is worth mentioning that your Government, before the start of the pandemic, passed the Merchant Shipping Act to further strengthen our maritime laws. This law addresses safety on the water and protecting the environment from pollution, among other provisions.
On the legislative side, while we were dealing with COVID-19, your Government still managed to take a number of important pieces of legislation to the HOA.
We brought forward the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Virgin Islands) (Amendment) Act, the Nurses and Midwives Act, the Trade In Endangered Species (Cites) Act, the Supplementary Appropriation (2015) Act, the Virgin Islands Trade Commission Act which incorporated Consumer Protection laws to be implemented during pandemic and disasters. This will empower your rights as consumers to quality services and goods during the times when you are at your most vulnerable.
All these and many more were passed in the HOA during your Government’s tenure of 23 months. And most of these were passed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also passed the Asset Seizure and Forfeiture Act, which has been in effect since July 2020, so that proceeds of crime – including white-collar crime – can be restrained if necessary.
This further strengthens our legislative framework for the financial services industry, and other areas, because any illicit money passing through our economy can be blocked and seized, following, of course, the due process of the law.
Your Government, without any prodding from anyone, has passed laws to deal with money laundering and anti-trust, again further strengthening our systems and making it clear that the BVI economy and financial services industry will not support dirty money, corruption and transnational crime.
The Virgin Islands (Gaming and Betting) Control Act has been passed. We have some adjustments to make to this Act and then we will move forward with implementation so that we can create more economic opportunities for our people.
The Virgin Islands Cannabis Licensing Act and the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) (Amendment) Act have been passed in the HOA, and your Government is committed to working through whatever challenges may exist, so that we can proceed with establishing the BVI’s medical marijuana industry and create more economic opportunities for our people.
This is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.
During the 23 short months of our term in office – despite having to work for eight months with a transitional budget and despite having to battle COVID-19 for nearly half of our time in office, your Government has done a lot of work throughout the Territory, across all of the Ministries and in all nine Districts.
The Ministers who are here tonight elaborated on the work in their Ministries. But since we are in the 1st District, permit me to highlight some of what has been happening in the 1st District and some of the plans that your Government has in store for this District:
- The West End Community Centre, which was damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017, is being repaired through your Government’s efforts.
- Temporary port facilities at West End/Soper’s Hole were constructed and opened, having also been destroyed by Irma.
- Contracts for design of new and modern West End facility are now being worked on. Contractors that submitted bids are now being evaluated and a decision regarding the award will be made by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) through the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA) shortly.
By early March 2021 for the latest, the contract for the design for the new modern West End/Soper’s Hole port facility will be signed.
The bid for the construction will be a few months after, paving the way for construction of the new modern West End/Soper’s Hole Jetty to start by the 1st Quarter of 2022.
- Recently, forty (40) 1st District youths were trained by the Tortola Toastmasters Club in public speaking and leadership. This initiative was spearheaded by the District Representative and the 1st District Committee.
- The Carrot Bay Basketball Court was repaired, with more repairs to be done soon.
- The Capoon’s Bay Basketball Court and bleachers were repaired.
- The Capoon’s Bay Recreation Ground, pavilion and fencing have been repaired.
- In order to solve the water issues in the 1st District, currently the Zion Hill and Carrot Bay reservoirs are undergoing major repairs.
- Many persons in the 1st District have received assistance to further their education in areas such as Associates, Bachelor and Master’s degree and other technical areas and the like.
- The Isabella Morris Primary School building, after being destroyed by Hurricane Irma, is not structurally sound.
We are in the process of having the building demolished.
Negotiations are in progress so that the contract for the design of the new Isabella Morris Primary School can be finalized, with the construction phase projected to follow by the end of 2021.
- The sea defense and sea wall project for the Carrot Bay area is in the process of being designed and the works to start thereafter.
- Within two weeks, there will be the final public meetings to discuss with the people of Carrot Bay and the entire 1st District the plans for the development of the Cultural and Tourism Village slated for the reclamation in Carrot Bay.
- The Ministry of Transportation Works and Utilities along with the Public Works Department has started to review fresh solutions, once and for all, to address the drainage issues in Capoon’s Bay. A public meeting for this will be held soon.
- The process of naming public structures and recreational areas in the 1st District is important and we will be dialoging more on how we will proceed with accomplishing this task.
- Similar to all the other eight districts, the 1st District has also benefited from COVID-19 stimulus assistance for the churches, private schools, small businesses, farmers, fishermen and transportation-wise through some of our taxi operators.
This is your Government working for you the people.
Just a few days ago, we launched the BVILOVE e-Magazine, and “Your Government and you moving forward together”, is its subtitle and we will be publishing this magazine on the 25th day of every month so that you can be updated with the work that your Government is doing.
I want to thank the staff at GIS for their hard work for this.
In this month’s issue of the BVILOVE e-Magazine, we have highlighted some of the major projects that are completed or underway, such as the traffic turnaround and beautification in Road Town, the Market Square Project, repairs to infrastructure such as basketball courts and community centres, the commencement of the long-awaited East End-Long Look Sewerage Project, road works on all the islands, and much more.
So, I recommend that you get a copy each month from the Government website and you stay informed. We will do our best to make hard copies available to the public when this is possible.
As we look towards 2021, your Government is aiming at a very packed agenda.
On the legislative side, your Government will be bringing forward a number of pieces of legislation to further strengthen Good Governance.
These are commitments that we made in our Manifesto. This is not anything that we are being made to do by anyone. It is something that we have been consistently committed to doing and you can see that in the Speeches from the Throne for 2020 and 2021.
You can go back and find them on the Government’s website and read them, because knowledge is power.
So, for instance, your Government has been proactive in drafting an Integrity in Public Life Act and Code of Conduct for Public Officials which is before Cabinet, and which we expect to be taking to the HOA in the very near future.
Your BVI Government did this. For months we were working on this and last December we placed the first draft of this legislation before Cabinet.
A new Procurement Act is being worked on to further strengthen accountability and transparency in public procurement. We are also targeting to get the Contractor General Legislation and Whistle Blower Legislation brought forward as well.
The Police Act is going to be brought back to the HOA, and I assure the public that after the First Reading, there will be extensive public consultations, so that you, the people, can tell us what is your input on this legislation.
And may I say, your Government is fully in favour of Good Governance legislation. We fully support further strengthening our independent institutions. We fully support transparency and accountability. And your Government is walking the talk.
Because, in order to move forward with self-determination we must have resilient and effective institutions and Governance systems.
We have to be able to show the United Kingdom, the world, but more so ourselves, that we can govern ourselves.
We have to show that we can police ourselves.
We have to provide the solid assurances to the entire world that the BVI is a safe place to live and to do business.
And, if we do it for no other reason, we have to do these things to ensure that we protect the rights of our people and we ensure that taxpayers’ money is not abused.
To thine own self be true! So these things cannot be cosmetic. They must be genuine. They must work. And our people must experience them working and have confidence in these systems.
The future is for the prepared and we have to prepare for the future.
So, your Government is in favour of further strengthening Good Governance, and we are being proactive in getting it done.
We are also lining up to amend the Customs Act to revise the framework for export tax so that we can generate revenues from exports and to extend the zero tax on renewable energy equipment for a specific period of time. We have to push the transition to green energy.
Your Government will also be extending the stamp duty waiver for the purchase of property by Belongers due to high demand from our youth who have expressed such interest during our many public meetings. Our Virgin Islands people must be able to own their own homes and this will help this dream become a reality.
Legislation will also be coming to merge the BVIAA and the BVI Ports Authority into a single entity. This will reduce the operations cost for these two bodies.
We also plan to bring forward the legislation for the Water and Sewerage Department and VISR to become Statutory Bodies. This will help them to become more profitable.
And, the e-Government suite of legislation, which is also down to be completed by the House of Assembly, will make it more convenient for you, from district one through nine to abroad, to conduct business with the Government Departments.
To strengthen the already-passed Virgin Islands Trade Commission Legislation, your Government has already introduced the Virgin Islands Investment Act and the Business Licensing Act 2020 in the House of Assembly for First Reading.
Junior Minister for Trade, Honourable Shereen Flax-Charles, will be spearheading this task and therefore will be holding a series of public meetings, accompanied by the requisite Government authorities, to gain your input in these historic pieces of legislation that will revolutionalise the way trade and investment are done in the Territory.
This is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.
The Constitutional Review exercise will be commenced this year and it is very critical that everyone participates.
It is time for us to realise that our future lies in our hands. So we must not drop it, but rather we must lift it up to a new level of prosperity.
Our new Constitution must be informed by the vision that our people hold for themselves, so we need you to tell us what you want in the Constitution and what you do not want.
And we must bear in mind that the Constitution will be our guiding document for at least the next 10 years.
This exercise transcends political parties.
In the upcoming year, your Government will be completing the National Sustainable Development Plan, which will be the roadmap for our Territory’s development. Everything we do, in terms of development, whether it is infrastructure or the economy, will be linked back to this master plan, and there will be many public meetings from district one to nine for you to give your input on how you want this BVI to look and perform within the next 10, 15, 20 years under this National Sustainable Development Plan. Your input means everything to us.
Your Government has already established a Special Tourism Committee, which is chaired by the Junior Minister for Tourism the Honourable Sharie de Castro. This Committee has representatives from all the stakeholder groups and all the Sister Islands, and its job is to complete the National Tourism Plan and have it ready for the next Budget cycle.
This is a government working for you the people.
We have also established a number of Committees to advise us on how to improve the efficiency of the public service operations and chart our economic development including diversification.
On the advice of the new Acting Financial Secretary, Mr. Jeremiah Frett, we have established a special in-house Finance Advisory Committee, which is comprised of officers from across the Ministries and Statutory Bodies. The Committee’s mandate is to identify ways to save the Territory money by cutting unnecessary expenditure, and to find new ways to generate revenues including new industries.
We have assembled a Committee from the private sector to examine what new industries are a good fit for the BVI.
And we have also put together a Special Committee made up of retired senior public officers to review the recurrent expenditure and to make recommendations for how we can lower Government expenses.
We have a wealth of experience on our shores; people who love our Territory and who want to see us progress. And, as I always say, we have to do as our ancestors and use what is in our hands to develop ourselves.
This is innovation in Government. This is progress. This is your Government working for you and with you.
We have a number of projects that we are targeting that will create jobs and other economic opportunities, and development opportunities.
For instance, we will be moving forward with the Palm Grove Complex in partnership with private entities. We will also be prioritizing the redevelopment of Prospect Reef.
The BVIAA is preparing to put forward a plan for the expansion of the airport at Beef Island so that we can improve our positioning as an air transportation hub, accommodate larger aircraft and direct flights from major cities, and expand our tourism sector.
So, you can see that as we further strengthen our Governance systems, our economy and our people, we are preparing the BVI for a new, brighter and more resilient future.
We cannot just live for today and your Government cannot just govern for today. We have to prepare ourselves and our generations for the future. The future belongs to the prepared.
The future of the BVI involves our self-determination and, when that day comes, it is either we have prepared for it or we have not.
And if we have not done the work to prepare ourselves, and to develop our institutions, our economy and our people, then we will be weighed and we will be found wanting.
We will deprive ourselves and the future generation of Virgin Islanders of the opportunity to take those next steps.
The eyes of the future are looking back at us, hoping that we get it right. And the eyes of the past are looking ahead at us, hoping that we do not get it wrong.
It has been the dream of all the generations of our forefathers for us to be able to confidently grab on to that opportunity when it comes. I am sure that it will be the wish of our children to face that moment with confidence.
But the duty lies with us today to do our part to make as much preparation as we possibly can.
Can I tell you, my people of the Virgin Islands, that we cannot grab the prosperous future that God has for these Virgin Islands if we continue to keep our hands and hearts filled with the apprehensions from the past.
We have to cast the vision for ourselves and for our Virgin Islands and we have to work towards it.
As the new President of the HL Stoutt Community College Dr Richard Georges reminded us just a few days ago, “Our tomorrow begins today”. And, in the words of one of my mentors, and in the words of one our great educators and visionaries, Mr. Elmore Stoutt, “Our tomorrow only begins today if we have the courage to move from a state of inertia and rest to a state of movement and purpose. Tomorrow only begins today if we are ready and willing to work for it.” And, what we do today, determines our future.
Psalm 128-2 says: “For you shall eat the fruit of [the labor of] your hands, You will be happy and blessed and it will be well with you.”
I say this to remind us all that it is important to reach for the stars as much as it is to keep our feet on the ground.
We can aspire and we must work for that which we aspire to.
We have to be mindful of the big picture and we have to be persistent and consistent in working towards it.
This is why, as a people of the Virgin Islands, we sing with pride:
“Out of the huts of history’s pain
Our ancestors bled and died!
But with strength and will power we overcame
To restore Beautiful Virgin Islands pride!
To preserve our beauty we devised a plan
To retain ownership of your precious lands!
Educating our people is the golden key
To maintain the success of this Territory!
We shall protect your bountiful shores
And uphold your dignity!
We shall fight to preserve your culture
Your splendour and integrity!
And we shall never fail to understand
How blessed we are to possess this land!
So we shall unite standing proud and tall
Let none divide us, lest we fall!
Oh Beautiful Virgin Islands!
Your qualities can never be denied!”
Once we put all of this in place, once we prepare ourselves, once we put in good governance, once we unite as a people, once we take care of each other, once we understand that we must stand on the promises of the God of our forefathers, one we understand that the future is in our hands and once we package this Virgin Islands in such a way that future generations will be proud, then we can, like Stevie Wonder says, when we turn it over to the future generation say, “here you are BVI: signed, sealed and delivered. This is yours.”
Good evening and God’s Blessings.
Long live the Virgin Islands and her people.
Speech by: Andrew Fahie, Premier of the British Virgin Islands
Capoon’s Bay Recreation Ground, Road Town, Tortola, January 30, 2021