MESSAGE BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 1949 GREAT MARCH AND
THE RESTORATION OF THE LEGISTLATIVE COUNCIL
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2022
Greetings people of the Virgin Islands.
Today we celebrate the Great March of 1949 which led to the restoration of the Legislative Council in 1950. This march was incredibly significant to us as a Virgin Islands people because it was an overwhelming pronouncement of the people's desire for democracy, for the right to have a voice in their society, to play a leading role in their governance, to become a more autonomous and self-determined people. 1500 people marched on the 24th of November 1949 at a time when the population was under 7000 persons. This means between 20 and 25 percent of the population marched at a time when we had no social media, no ferries, none of the modern conveniences that we have today. They marched because the right to rule their destiny was important to them. Their actions helped us take a giant leap forward for the restoration of the Legislative Council, eventually allowed the people to vote and select representatives who worked on behalf of the people and jump started the development of the modern Virgin Islands. They worked to help develop our economy; they partnered with pioneers in the private sector to build a tourism and financial services industry. They made laws; they passed policies; they designed systems that would improve our healthcare, our education, our environmental protections, our labour practices, and so much more. They became the architects of the Virgin Islands we have today, which remains one of the most successful societies in the world despite what you may have been told. We have highly educated people; we have low crime; we are polite and hospitable; we are hardworking and innovative; we are entrepreneurial with a high degree of land and home ownership. No we are not perfect. Yes we have our faults, but we have done a good job of building our society, which attracts people from all over the world. We can be proud of what we have achieved.
This government administration was successful in staving off the threat of direct rule following the release of the Commission of Inquiry report. We believe very firmly that democracy is the key to improving our systems of governance. The hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the people must be at the heart of the reform process. They must participate in the conversation about what must be improved and how it will be improved. This must not be imposed by local or foreign officials. We must respect the intelligence, the morality, and the good intentions of the Virgin Islands people, and we must trust them to make choices in their own best interest.
Let us not take our democracy for granted. Theodolph Faulkner, Isaac Fonseca, Carlton deCastro and the 1500 worked too hard to claim it. We must not allow our House of Assembly to be taken away. Hope Stevens and the Civic League worked too hard. We must not allow our Cabinet to be taken away. Those who ushered in ministerial government toiled too hard. We must raise up a new generation of leaders who will reform and strengthen our institutions and lead us to our ultimate destination on the road to self-determination.
I do hope that everyone has a restful, safe, and enjoyable holiday and please take some time to view the documentary, titled “March On Virgin Islanders", produced by the House of Assembly, the Virgin Islands Communal Association, and the Virgin Islands Studies Institute of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in commemoration of the 1949 Great March and Restoration Day. May God pour his richest blessings upon the people of the Virgin Islands.