Remarks by Premier of the Virgin Islands
Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE
7th Meeting of the Inter-Virgin Islands Council
Marriott Frenchman’s Reef
St. Thomas, USVI
Friday 2nd September, 2016
“OUR LONG HISTORY OF COOPERATION”
First, let me also take this opportunity to thank you, Governor Mapp and your team for the gracious welcome this morning.
I was pleased you were able to visit the BVI last month for the August Tuesday races. We were able to meet and chat, and I look forward to the continuation of our discussions today.
Today we are beginning Chapter seven, a new chapter in the long history of cooperation and neigbourly relations between our territories.
It was about 12 years ago that Former Governor Dr. Charles Turnbull and I signed the Memorandum of Understanding to create this forum as an avenue for sustained dialogue and cooperation, through which issues and matters of concern could be addressed.
Indeed, the British Virgin Islands and the United States Virgin Islands have never ceased to recognise the need for a consultative framework of this nature.
The Inter Virgin Islands Council has built upon its predecessor instrument - the Inter Virgin Islands Conference, which was first established on the 9th May 1951.
At that time in our history, the issues of mutual importance being discussed related to trading in fruits, vegetables, charcoal, and poultry from the BVI.
Over the years however interest in its establishment waned to the point where it ceased to be an effective instrument for continued cooperation and development.
I must, therefore, say that the Inter Virgin Islands Council continues to be a very useful mechanism for dialogue and intervention on issues of mutual concern across successive administrations in both our territories.
This is indeed an achievement for which all Virgin Islanders can be proud.
In recent years, we have been able to agree on measures to conduct joint research projects and exchange through the cooperation between the H.L. Stoutt Community College and the University of the Virgin Islands.
We have also been successful in cooperating to build capacity between VITEMA and the BVI Department of Disaster Management in the area of Disaster Preparedness.
Our respective Law Enforcement agencies have a strong relationship, working together almost on a daily basis, both at the local and federal level.
Our history of cooperation also includes cooperation at the federal level. This is evidenced for example, by the Memorandum of Understanding between the BVI Government and the Government of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the facilitation of the temporary movement of Horses between the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Without this MOU the horse racing activities which we all enjoy so much, would not be possible.
Furthermore, our efforts to continue to deepen our cooperation also today extends to climate change, renewable sources of energy, and Communication on Diseases control, for diseases such as Zika and Chikungunya.
Our mutual commitment to the Inter Virgin Islands Council over the years, demonstrates that both our Governments, recognise the need to build an even more effective framework for continued meaningful and productive social, economic, and political exchanges.
It is hoped that one of the signal outcomes of this meeting today will be the beginning of a process to further strengthen the principal elements of the framework document, the Memorandum of Understanding which was signed in 2004, establishing this Council, allowing our respective agencies to work even more closely together to resolve some of the areas of dispute.
Many of challenges we face are often brought about as a result of our differing political and governance structures. For, while we share the same waters and a common heritage we are part of two separate sovereign countries.
It therefore requires us all to continue to work together to ensure the practical implementation of policies and laws, particularly those which emanate from our respective administering authorities. These are sometimes out of step with the situation on the ground here in the Virgin Islands.
Today, we are here to engage in candid discussions. I encourage all of us, on both sides to engage each other in the standing committee meetings, as dialogue followed by a commitment to action is the key to the success of this council.
I am truly pleased to join you Governor in convening this 7th Meeting of the IVIC and look forward to the deliberations we will have today.
I look forward to us renewing our commitment to build a council which will evolve and grow with us, ensuring its relevance as a vibrant framework engagement between our territories for years to come.
As we come together today to discuss areas of mutual concern, I am confident that we do so in a spirit of togetherness and unity for the betterment of all our people.
Thank you and may God continue to bless our Territories.