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USVI p#ssed over Obama visit, BVI parliament told

Dr Hubert O'Neal. File photo

Dr Hubert O’Neal. File photo

A government lawmaker today had to retract the word ‘p#ssed’, which he used in the House of Assembly while claiming that the neighbouring US Virgin Islands (USVI) is envious of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) due to recent developments including the visit of former US President Barack Obama to the BVI.

“They (USVI) are also p#ssed, I am sure, Madam Speaker,” Dr Hubert O’Neal blurted out before other legislators quickly jolted him to realization that he had used un-parliamentary language.

“Sorry, sorry Madam Speaker. Let me retract that word (p#ssed),” the first-term lawmaker said during his contribution to the budget debate today, February 23.

Meanwhile, Dr O’Neal, who represents the Ninth Electoral District in the House, also apologized recently in another parliamentary sitting for another controversial remark. In that previous siitting, he apologized for suggesting – during a community meeting – that he would have physically attacked then Opposition leader Julian Fraser for criticizing him (Dr O’Neal).

I support airport project, airlift

Before his contribution to the 2017 budget debate was interrupted today, Dr O’Neal defended the government’s controversial decision to extend the runway at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport.

He also said he supports the government’s contentious decision to invest $7 million into the privately owned BVI Airways to facilitate direct flights between the BVI and Miami in the United States.

Dr O’Neal argued that the developments are necessary, adding it is foolhardy to continue allowing visitors to the BVI to travel through the USVI which is a major tourism competitor.

“I want to note that the US Virgin Islands is also our competitor, and it would be foolhardy for us to depend on a foreign country for access for our visitors to our country. First of all, the USVI is in fact a little unhappy to see that we have developed the Tortola Pier Park and it is now rivaling what they now have in the USVI,” Dr O’Neal reasoned.

Left to right: Governor John Duncan and his wife Anne-Marie, Mr Barack Obama, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith and his wife Lorna, and Mrs Michelle Obama. Photo credit: GIS/ Ronnielle Frazer

Left to right: Governor John Duncan and his wife Anne-Marie, Mr Barack Obama, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith and his wife Lorna, and Mrs Michelle Obama. Photo credit: GIS/ Ronnielle Frazer

The BVI lawmaker continued: “They (USVI) are also upset – I am sure – that the Former President of the United States [Barack Obama] and the First Lady [Michelle Obama] chose to vacation here in the BVI; and they spent 10 glorious days here. I am sure that that didn’t go down very well with our neighbours in the USVI. So they are already envious of us. And, if we decide to develop or expand our airport, that is even more jealousy I am sure from our neighbours.”

Other islands expanding airports

Dr O’Neal, in the meantime, said some of the criticisms about the government’s push for the expansion of the airport runway are legitimate.

But he does not think the BVI can afford not to proceed with that capital project.

“I have listened to the concerns of the critics and even my colleagues. They have legitimate concerns. But the legitimate question here is: Can we afford not to develop the airport? It is more important in my estimation to deal with that question… While we are hesitating, what’s happening is that the other islands in the Caribbean are also expanding their airport facilities as well.”

“I note that St Vincent just opened a brand new airport just a few weeks ago. But we also have to look at the big giant to the north of us – which is Cuba. Cuba – although it has now become liberalized and so on – is going to become our competitor and we have to look at this very seriously,” added Dr O’Neal.

He also stated that he does not support the argument that, instead of developing the airport, the BVI should improve the ferry service and its sea ports.

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