STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE DR. THE HONOURABLE ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
DURING THE SIXTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON TUESDAY, 18TH APRIL, 2017
AT THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
ROAD TOWN, TORTOLA
AT 10:00 A.M.
50th Anniversary of the Ministerial System of Government
“…the year 1967 represents a significant step towards shaping our destiny for a lifetime”
Madame Speaker, the passage of time has resulted in many noteworthy anniversaries and milestone for the Virgin Islands.
This year, in particular, is a special one for us.
Just yesterday, we concluded the 50th anniversary celebration of Easter Festival on Virgin Gorda. The weekend of activities were very well attended. The hotels were filled to capacity, and residents and visitors enjoyed themselves. The festivities continues to be a prime opportunity to showcase and pass on our cultural traditions and how they the festival came to be.
Madame Speaker, our golden jubilee celebrations does not stop there.
It was 50 years ago, 1967, that the Ministerial System of Government was established under the Constitution Order of the Virgin Islands marking the beginning of self-government for this Territory.
The new ministerial system would comprise ministers of Government, representing varying ministries and subjects.
Prior to this system, the BVI was governed via a Presidency under the Leeward Islands colony. Then over the years, our people made their voices heard for constitutional advancement and representative government.
The change came, following general elections on April 14, 1967.
H. Lavity Stoutt, whose party won the first election under the ministerial system, became the first Chief Minister and Minister for Education. Ivan Dawson became Minister for Natural Resources and Public Health, while and Terrance B. Lettsome was Minister for Communications, Works & Industry.
The introduction of the ministerial system of government meant considerable advancement in managing our own affairs.
I must also add that the introduction of the ministerial system of government in 1967 also meant the addition of two electoral districts, bringing the total to seven.
The new constitution also saw the adoption of the United States dollar as the official legal tender in the Virgin Islands; making 1967 the year of political and economic reform.
From 1967 to date, we have been leading the charge in developing and modernising our economy in many ways.
With a greater degree of self-governance, we were empowered to read the Budget Speech, which was piloted through the House. This eventually led to the Chief Minister becoming the Minister of Finance some 40 years ago.
With the demand for upgraded and essential public services, the portfolios of ministries were expanded and ministries were added to meet the demands of the public.
Along the way, we would have experienced political advancement with the introduction of an at-large Territorial system. Now today we have junior ministers to assist ministers with delivering strategic objectives and the work of the people of the Territory.
Over the years, our economy and our people have been achieving and receiving global recognitions in financial services, tourism, music, education, sports, maritime, and more.
Education which was once reserved for some would become for accessible to all.
We became more and more involved in regional and international affairs.
We have a story to tell, a rich legacy of success and advancement.
Madame Speaker to commemorate this occasion, this Honourable House will have a special sitting of the House of Assembly to commemorate this achievable milestone that has set us on a path to ensure further constitutional advancement.
Madame Speaker, we have a lot to be thankful for in this Territory and the year 1967 represents a significant step towards shaping our destiny for a lifetime, and we must continue to tell our children and share our stories with those who come to live among us, about how the economy of the Virgin Islands evolved to where it is today.
Thank you, Madame Speaker