REMARKS BY PREMIER OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
43RD ANNUAL USVI/BVI FRIENDSHIP DAY
RIECHHOLD CENTER FOR THE ARTS
ST. THOMAS, USVI
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2016
I am truly delighted to be here today, to join in this annual celebration of the common cultural and family ties between the people of both our territories. We trust that successive generations of Virgin Islanders will honor this history, and foster deeper ties for our future.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the cultural presentations here this morning. It is wonderful to see our history come to life in this dramatic display, with such vivid accuracy. This evokes a sense of pride in us all as Virgin Islanders.
It was in 2006 that the format for Friendship Day was changed to be a more relaxed event, focusing on the historical and cultural ties between our people.
A more cultural feel was appropriate because when we come together as family and friends, we see the features of our family in each other’s faces. Then we hear the names Turnbull, Maduro, Smith, Hodge, Penn, Lettsome, Thomas, Blyden, among many others, and we cannot deny that we are one people.
I want to thank Governor Mapp and his team for the very warm welcome we received this morning. We had a nice chat this morning over breakfast and on the drive here to the Riechhold Center, and I am enjoying the day so far.
Earlier this month, Governor Mapp and I convened the Seventh Meeting of the Inter Virgin Islands Council, here in St. Thomas. Indeed the Governments of 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 continues to be a very useful mechanism for dialogue and intervention on issues of mutual concern across successive administrations, in both our territories.
During our meetings we received reports from the Committees on Health, Education, Mutual Disaster Preparedness, Tourism and Law Enforcement, among others.
Governor Mapp, I publicly pledge the commitment of the Government of the British Virgin Islands to continue to work with you and the members of your administration as we dialogue and seek solutions to the various challenges affecting our people.
Today, however, we are taking time to reflect on the rich history and culture of our islands. And it is important for us to do so as we approach the Centennial of Transfer Day here in the USVI.
I too, look forward to celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Transfer Day with you, next year. The official transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States also marked a significant turning point in the History of the BVI.
Under Danish rule, Virgin Islanders moved freely throughout the two sets of islands, and many people migrated to the Danish West Indies from the British Islands. Thus on Transfer Day in 1917 many BVIslanders also became US citizens.
Following the purchase, we lived through the prohibition period; we exported livestock, ground provisions, and charcoal, ensuring our mutual survival during difficult times. In later years we saw the emergence of Tourism in the USVI. We also saw the BVI, being granted permission to use the US dollar to facilitate our deep trading relationship. The development of Tourism in the USVI, facilitated the emergence of the Tourism Industry in the BVI as well.
Last year we were pleased to welcome Governor Mapp and his delegation to Tortola, for the 42nd Friendship Day Celebrations. We welcomed his announcement that the Territorial flag of the BVI was being flown on government buildings across the United States Virgin Islands.
Today in the spirit of Friendship, I am pleased to follow the lead of the Governor, and advise that the flags of the United States and the United States Virgin Islands have been flying on the Grounds of the Central Administration Complex in Road Town and will continue to fly until Sunset on Sunday 18th September.
I trust that this display will help all Virgin Islanders to appreciate the peaceful and friendly relations between our territories and encourage them to do their part, to preserve this relationship for the benefit of future generations of Virgin Islanders.
Friendship Day gives us a chance to renew old acquaintances, discuss old times, and to reflect on how we survived and flourished as a people, despite the many challenges we have encountered in the past.
This day also gives us an opportunity to discuss challenges we will face in the future. This we must continue to do together, in the spirit of unity which has served us well over these many decades.
Our ties of kinship and culture transcend our borders. That has always been the fundamental truth of our relationship, and this remains so today.
To all the members of the Planning committee we thank you for all your hard work, in preparation for this spectacular event, and we look forward to welcoming you to the BVI next year. Thanks again for your warm welcome this morning. We are enjoying the day so far.