Premier's Office
Release Date:
Friday, 1 March 2024 - 4:16pm




1 MARCH, 2024






Good afternoon to the Press Corps and the people of the Virgin Islands.

I am holding this press conference today to update you on my recent attendance at the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Georgetown, Guyana from 25th -28th February.

However, before I provide my update, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family of the late Dr. Quincy Lettsome who will be laid to rest tomorrow.

Last year during our National Heroes Day celebration, we honoured Dr. Lettsome alongside other educators for his tremendous contributions to the Virgin Islands in the field of education. Among other things, Dr. Lettsome served as Chief Education Officer, Principal of the BVI High School, and was a veteran teacher of many years.

Dr. Lettsome was also an accomplished author whose books and publications capture a great deal about our history, culture and progress as a people.

Not only was he one of this Territory's stalwarts in education, he was also a very close relative of mine and someone I knew all of my life as a very dear cousin of my mother and the father of his son, my friend Sym.

Dr. Lettsome will be greatly missed by the East End Long Look Community and wider Territory, for his staunch commitment to nation-building.

On behalf of my wife Carolyn and I, and the Government and people of the Virgin Islands, I again extend deepest condolences to his children Tracy, Stacy and Sym, and all of his grandchildren who survive him.

Now in terms of the recent meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Guyana, let me provide some context for my attendance. The Heads of Government of CARICOM's full members and Associate Members gather twice a year to advance the regional agenda for growth and development of the Caribbean.

I am obliged to participate in these meetings as one of the Heads and take my responsibility very seriously, as do the other Heads.

On this most recent occasion, we addressed a number of critical issues.

The first was Haiti. CARICOM Heads and high-level representatives from the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), France, Canada and United Nations (UN), discussed the deteriorating situation in Haiti and agreement was subsequently found with the Prime Minister of Haiti Ariel Henry on holding a General Election no later than August 2025.

Unfortunately, the situation in Haiti has since deteriorated even further, even as international efforts are being redoubled to mobilise an international force to help stabilize security on the ground.

Everyone is agreed that the situation must be urgently addressed to stop the suffering of the Haitian people. That very suffering is what has caused so many Hatians to flee from their home by very dangerous means in the hope of finding a better life. Many have made the dangerous journey across the waters right here to the Virgin Islands. Sadly, in the process some of our Haitian brothers and sisters lost their lives along the way.

We must all recognize that until conditions on the ground are stable in Haiti, the Virgin Islands and other places throughout the Caribbean will have to cope with the outflow of Haitians fleeing Haiti for safety, security and a livelihood by which to survive. Here in the Virgin Islands we must treat our Haitian brothers and sisters with the humanity they deserve.

My administration will remain engaged with CARICOM, the UK and other Overseas Territories on the situation in Haiti that affects the Virgin Islands and other CARICOM Associate Members.

Importantly, I also participated in a special session between CARICOM Heads and our highly respected Latin American partner the President of Brazil, His Excellency Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who is currently the Chair of the G20.

The deliberations with President Lula were warm and friendly and both sides committed to strengthening the partnership between Brazil and CARICOM. The areas identified for cooperation were regional security, transportation, infrastructure, sustainable development, climate change, global governance, and trade.

For the Virgin Islands, we are particularly keen on establishing tourism links with Brazil, especially sailing and the wider marine sector. Brazil is the biggest market in Latin America and we need to tap their market as we diversify our tourism source markets.

CARICOM Heads also discussed regional transportation. I am very pleased that progress is being made toward the launch of LIAT 2024 and inter-island fast ferry service between CARICOM Member States to help address the regional transportation challenge that we face in the Caribbean. Traveling from the Virgin Islands to other parts of the Caribbean, especially going south, can be very difficult and these types of solutions are desperately needed to improve transportation connectivity.

Of course we also discussed climate change, sustainable development and the need for greater support to Small Islands Developing States from the international community to support our response to these issues. More advocacy work must be done in the lead up to the next COP Meeting, including gaining international acceptance for the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index as a new metric in considering concessional financing to SIDS.

It is unfair that the Virgin Islands and other countries and Territories in CARICOM categorised as middle or high income are locked out of this international support because of our GDP per capita that does not capture our high vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change. CARICOM is concerned that 2024 is forecasted to be a highly active hurricane season so the region has to be vigilant in preparing.

Food security was also discussed and it was agreed that all of CARICOM has to continue taking steps to boost food security in the ways in which they can.

In the margins of the CARICOM meeting, I participated in a trilateral meeting with UK Overseas Territories Minister Hon. David Rutley and Canada Minister for International Development Ahmed Hussen. We discussed cooperation between the Virgin Islands and UK and Virgin Islands and Canada in the areas of tourism, trade, infrastructure, research and development cooperation, which was very positive.

I will be following up on these discussions to see where there are opportunities from which the Virgin Islands can benefit.

Finally, I held a bilateral meeting with Minister Rutley in which we further discussed governance reform, among other things. Our talk was positive and I will remain engaged with him on relevant issues, including exploring where the UK can support my administration as we pursue sustainable development, climate resilience, and diversification of the economy.

In closing, I want to state again that the annual CARICOM Heads of Government meetings is an important meeting for the Virgin Islands. CARICOM is a pillar of our international affairs and regional cooperation. It is in our interest to be engaged with our neighbours on the peace, security and prosperity of the region that benefits us as a part of the Caribbean.

Thank you for your attention and I am happy to take any questions you may have.


Department of Information and Public Relations (GIS)

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