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UNICEF report sparks fiery debate in BVI

Rhondi’ Skelton and UNICEF logo

A report produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has sparked a fiery debate in the British Virgin Islands about various issues raised by the international organization, as well as the credibility of the said 2016 report entitled Situation Analysis of the British Virgin Islands.

There have been mixed reactions.

The 123-page report, which was tabled in the territory’s House of Assembly this month, touched on various controversial issues including discrimination against expats as well as poverty.

Well-known marketer and events promoter Rhondi ‘Ra’ Skelton, who was among the first to put UNICEF on blast in a Facebook post, wrote that he is “P*ssed and annoyed’ about the UNICEF report, which he said is “fake news” partly because “no real research was done”.

Skelton, for example, suggested that ordinary residents of the BVI should not be counted among the territory’s population when the issue of poverty is being measured.

The UNICEF report called for – among several other things – children born in the territory to automatically attain citizenship and residency, for an end to the ‘abuse’ of expatriates, for the age of criminal responsibility to be increased from 10 years, and for an end to discrimination based on immigration status regarding the distribution of social services.

UNICEF also said, based on interviews it conducted, it has observed – among other things – that a number of boys are perpetrating robberies to support their mothers, that many people are living ‘fake’ socio-economic status, and that adultery is ‘common and socially accepted’ in the territory.

UNICEF, throughout its report, raised concern about the serious shortage or lack of crucial Government statistics to help inform its situation analysis. The international organization however cited interviews it conducted with people locally, and other researches such as the territory’s 2010 Population and Housing Census.

But Skelton, as indicated in another post on Facebook, is not impressed. Among the persons liking his comment below are Government lawmaker Alvera Maduro-Caines and President of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party Dr Natalio ‘Sowande’ Wheatley.

Skelton’s social media posts have attracted mixed opinions – some people supporting UNICEF and others taking the international organization to task.

Shereen Flax-Charles said: “I too wondered. We do have issues. However, I to am concerned as to how they came up with these findings.”

Cathy said: “Ra Skelton, I would seriously recommend you re-examine your comments in this post. Put the anger aside and really re-read your comments. Remember this is a document Government tabled in the House of Assembly and UNICEF is an internationally recognized and respected organisation for decades – tried, tested and proved to be one of the most authentic representations of children’s/Human rights world-wide. Go back also and listen to what [Minister of Health and Social Development] Hon Ronnie W. Skelton said about this issue…”

Joseph Mathieu Rosan said: “My issue is not the findings of the report, but I feel like UNICEF is reaching. This is not the type of behavior I expect from an ‘independent’ and ‘un-biased’ organization.”

Reba posted: “I am so afraid to comment but this [report] is actually true….Services are rendered to Expats once Locals don’t need the service. Locals are given first priority. A lot of boys that get caught in crimes use the ‘excuse’ that they are doing it to support their mother/parents, which we often know is not the case, but these are the reports they have to go off. I haven’t read the report as yet. But, based on what I’ve heard so far, the report is not totally wrong.”

Dwayne Straun wrote: “What I want to see is a petition signed by as many mothers in the BVI as possible denying, debunking, discrediting that report. I haven’t read/heard it personally, but I have heard enough comments from persons to know that this is serious and paints a less than positive image of the country. Majority might rule, but that doesn’t make them or it right. Can someone please get an online petition or an interview done to bring out the truth? Thanks.”

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