Some politicians in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have paused to pay early tributes to the late businessman and former chairman of the BVI Tourist Board, Neil ‘Mr Melee’ Blyden, who himself tried unsuccessfully to serve in the territory’s parliament.
The BVI, hours after stepping into the New Year, was struck with the news of Blyden’s death on January 1. He was reportedly found unresponsive at his Tortola residence, but BVI News Online is yet to ascertain the cause of death.
Leader of Opposition and representative of the Third Electoral District Julian Fraser, in a post on social networking site Facebook, remembered Blyden as a firm supporter of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP).
“Neal pushed himself to the limits and sometimes beyond. When the British decided it was time to screw our politics up by introducing the At-Large system, a young and fearless Neal Blyden was more than ready for the challenge in 1995 by becoming one of the first to run [in the election]. He did so as a VIP.”
“Neal did not win a seat in that election, but he went on to serve the territory in the capacity of Chairman of the Tourist Board. Neal was a VIP unlike everyone else. He served, he gave, and never ever complained. We [are] going to miss that man not only because he won’t be there when we need something, but because he was just a good guy,” Fraser wrote.
He went on to state that Blyden was a significant contributor to the VIP’s victory during the 2007 general election campaign.
“For over a year, one day in each week, 15 minutes was afforded to a member of the Opposition to do a broadcast on his radio station free of cost for campaign purposes,” Fraser recalled.
He also described the late Blyden as a ‘home boy” of Sea Cows Bay, which is located in the Third District.
“As a matter of fact, he would always let me know how his father was from Sea Cows Bay – never an argument here,” Fraser said, adding that Blyden was a generous and fearless man.
The late Blyden was also a radio announcer, events promoter, and owner of ZVCR 106.9 FM.
“When some people die, they take more than just memories with them. To know what I’m talking about, you had to be someone who not only listened to Neil, but someone who knew what he was talking about when you listened. It would be too much of a loss to the territory if Neil was to take more than just memories with him,” Fraser said.
Blyden may have been a supporter of the VIP, but his political orientation did not keep members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) from paying respects to him.
“Neil Blyden was one of a kind, a special man, a gifted man, and he will be greatly missed,” said Mark Vanterpool, who is the minister of communication and works under the NDP government.
Vanterpool added that Blyden was his friend and business associate.
Government lawmaker and representative of the Sixth Electoral District Alvera Maduro-Caines said she also has fond memories of Blyden.
“Just about every time he saw me, he would say ‘you are too much of a nice person for politics’ – last time being a week ago at One Mart store. I will truly miss you,” Maduro-Caines said on social media.
She added: “I will truly miss you, especially at festival times when I would get you to do ads for Prince&Princess [Show]… Tortola has lost an icon and myself a good friend. RIP my brother, Mr Melee. You will be missed by all.”
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