The United Kingdom has faced another tongue-lashing in the territory’s parliament, with Minister of Education Myron Walwyn declaring that courageous leaders are needed to touch on the issue of independence for the British Virgin Islands (BVI), even if it means paying a political price.
“There are some decision that we have to make in the Virgin Islands as a people. And the words of the Territorial Song keep coming back to my mind – ‘courage for great leaders’. In this time in the 21st century, 2017, we have some courageous decisions that must be made by people who are in leadership positions, and decisions must be made not thinking about whether you gonna win the next election or not.”
“The decisions must be made in the best interest of the country. If you have to be a casualty during an election to make sure that your country survives 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, so be it – and let the chips fall where they very well may… It is time for an awakening of the spirit and the souls of the people of the Virgin Islands, or we are going to lose our country trying to hold on to a relationship that perhaps might not have any value in years to come,” Walwyn told the House of Assembly last Friday, May 12.
He made the comments while he and some other lawmakers blasted the United Kingdom, which they implied is forcing the BVI to pass the controversial Secure Search (Beneficial Ownership) System Bill 2017. The proposed law will – among other things – enable law enforcement much easier access to the names of people behind companies in the financial services industry.
Walwyn, who does not believe the proposed law is in the benefit of the BVI people, threw out the issue of independence for consideration.
Most of his speech suggested that he wants independence, but he said he was not speaking for or against the issue.
“It is time for an awakening of the soul and the minds of the people for the Virgin Islands in relation to our relationship that we have right now with our mother country. We can run all we want from it; this is what it’s coming to. I am not saying to go one way or another; I am not saying that. I am saying it is time for serious conversation to see whether or not this relationship is serving us well,” Walwyn told the House.
Walwyn suggested that the BVI is being used as a pawn in the United Kingdom’s political games.
“How is it that we are a dependent territory of the United Kingdom and the authorities [in the United Kingdom] don’t have a clue that we exist? But the bad part about it is, they are the very same ones who are driving the agenda for what happens in our country.”
“There are some NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and so on up there [that] don’t know ‘B’ from bull foot, but they are pushing their politicians up there to make decisions. They want to maintain their constituencies and maintain their power. Decisions made further afield are affecting us in the Virgin Islands – by people who don’t even know where we are on the map; it’s a serious matter,” added Walwyn.
Some don’t like to hear ‘independence’
Territorial representative Archibald Christian, adding his voice to the debate, agreed that the BVI must confront the issue regarding its relationship with the UK.
“The discussions regarding where we go as a country in the future is something that we cannot run away from. Some don’t like to hear the word independence; some don’t like to hear the word self-determination; some don’t like to hear the word advancement; some don’t want to hear the word constitutional review. But when you are building a nation, those are avenues that you have to go down. Those are roads that you have to cross; those are streets that you have to walk,” Christian further told the legislature.
Minister of Health Ronnie Skelton, in the meantime, lamented that the BVI still has to follow the United Kingdom’s dictates, although the territory does not get financial support from it.
“If we don’t do what they say, you know we are going to be in trouble. You got to do what they say, like the Governor [John Duncan] that just show with a warrant for no apparent reason, take out money [forcefully from Government’s coffers] that he ain’t put in there. They don’t give us any money. Something has to give; the pot is boiling; something must give,” Skelton said.
At that moment, it appeared Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, who was in earshot, did not like the heightened anti-United Kingdom sentiments.
But Skelton pushed on. “We understand that the premier – he’s spoken to us about this, but we cannot sit down and everybody out on the streets thinking we doing it on our own free will. This is not free will. We are becoming slaves again. We are becoming slaves again.”
Meanwhile, member of the parliamentary opposition, Julian Fraser, lamented that the United Kingdom does not appear to be acting in the interest of the BVI. He further said: “I don’t know where this whole thing is taking us. Somebody has to pull the brakes because, along with our prosperity, we are selling our people in exchange for prosperity.”
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