HON. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
7TH SITTING OF THE 4TH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
25 OCTOBER, 2022
BVI/USVI FRIENDSHIP DAY 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
Madame Speaker, 21 October is a significant day in the Virgin Islands.
On that day, 50 years ago in 1972, the first observance of BVI/USVI (British Virgin Islands/United States Virgin Islands) Friendship Day was held here, specifically on Tortola.
This followed the proclamation issued one month earlier by the then Acting Governor, His Excellency Norman Derek Matthews, OBE, when he enjoined all residents of the BVI to actively support and cherish this day.
The origin of this celebration is rooted in the tradition of close ties between the two sets of Virgin Islands. The start of the annual observance was designed to strengthen and build upon that bond of friendship, highlighting the commonalities, the shared history and the shared culture of Virgin Islanders.
Madame Speaker, as you and Honourable Members are aware, last Saturday, 22 October, 2022 we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of our celebration. Saturday’s celebration was humbling and significant for me because my grandfather, the late Willard Wheatley, was the Chief Minister at that time when the first BVI/USVI Friendship Day was held.
I had the opportunity and the privilege to welcome Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and his delegation to this year’s observance of BVI/USVI Friendship Day, on behalf of the people of the BVI.
Madame Speaker, on this auspicious occasion, both groups of Virgin Islands celebrated in kinship under the theme, Our Golden Jubilee: A Resilient Bond of Friendship.
As we reflect on these celebrations, I pause to pay tribute to the BVI Hotel and Tourism Association (now BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association) and the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce for their foresight in recommending the observance of the first Friendship Day.
Madame Speaker, friends are those with whom we share joys and sorrows, the ones who guide, help, and support us when we experience the highs and lows in our lives and our countries.
As such, BVI/USVI Friendship Day signifies the importance of a harmonious friendship between the Virgin Islands, a friendship where close knitted ties are strengthened, and cultural heritage bonds and practices are celebrated as deeper links of friendships are forged promoting love, peace, and mutual understanding among the people of the two Virgin Islands.
Given the significance of this occasion, the Premier’s Office worked diligently with other Ministries, Departments and Statutory Bodies to organise the events to commemorate this year’s observance at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park. We also ensured to invite the public to join in the celebrations, and to don their Territorial wear for a magnificent show of its versatility.
Programme participants, Madam Speaker, were drawn from across the Territory from our young students to our golden seniors. The BVI’s presentation was a cultural showcase highlighting various aspects of our Virgin Islands’ culture. The programme included a mini parade, dance, poetry, drama, music, various cultural displays and demonstrations, and a skit featuring Ms. Janice Stoutt, local playwright, and other local actors in a skit titled, Binding Ties.
Another feature of this year’s celebration was a commemorative booklet reflecting on our journey of friendship through the past 50 years. In addition to messages from some of the leaders, it highlighted past and present political leaders on both sides, reflections on sports, food, quotes and pictorial displays through the years, as well as benefits of the relationship between both sets of islands.
Madame Speaker, I wish to thank Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office, Mrs. Carolyn Stoutt Igwe, for coordinating this year’s event supported by Dr. Lavon Chalwell-Brewley, Chair of the Planning Committee and officers drawn from the Premier’s Office, the Deputy Governor’s Office, the Department of Information and Public Relations, the Immigration Department, the BVI Ports Authority, the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Ministry of Communications and Works, and the House of Assembly.
I thank them for their dedicated efforts in planning this milestone celebration and seeking to ensure that this year’s events were most memorable for all – as it indeed was.
Thank you, Madame Speaker.