HON. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
REMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
7TH SITTING OF THE 4TH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
25 OCTOBER, 2022
GOVERNMENT REMAINS COMMITTED TO COMBATTING CRIME
Madam Speaker, last Friday, 21 October, 2022, the Virgin Islands witnessed yet another senseless, reckless and outright despicable act of gun violence, which resulted in the loss of two lives and injuries to two other persons in Fat Hog’s Bay. The deceased are Kawa Cornwall, aged 38, of Long Bush, and Kadeem E. Frett, 28, of Long Look. The incident took place shortly after 8:30 pm in a very busy and crowded area in Fat Hog’s Bay.
Firstly, I want to join in offering prayers for the victims of Friday’s incident, for those other persons whom we have lost to violence in the recent past, and also for their families and loved ones who are burdened with trauma and grief. I also want to offer condolences to those who have suffered loss in these incidents. I pray that God gives them comfort and strength in these difficult times.
As Premier, as a Member of the National Security Council, as the Representative for District 7, as a member of Cabinet and the House of Assembly, and as a patriotic Virgin Islander, I also wish to reiterate my condemnation of violence in all its forms, especially, where it is done with reckless disregard for the sanctity of life and safety of persons.
Madam Speaker, the Government of National Unity and I are firmly committed to our responsibilities in supporting law enforcement in the fight against crime. We are outraged to see the path that some persons have chosen to follow, and we will not stand for it. We are committed to continuing to make resources available to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, as the present and past Administrations have been doing, so that the police can perform their law enforcement and public safety functions – whether it is by preventing and deterring criminal activity, or ensuring perpetrators are identified, held and brought before the court for justice. We will also soon be bringing the Police Act before this Honourable House, which aims to strengthen the legal framework to detect, arrest, and prosecute crime.
As a Government, we are also committed to continuing to develop and implement policies, programmes and initiatives to give our people, of all ages and backgrounds, the options to lead productive and upstanding lives as honest, law abiding citizens. Ultimately, however, it comes down to the individual’s choice of doing right over doing wrong; and the vast majority of our people choose to do right and to live in peace.
I want to take this opportunity, Madam Speaker, to urge our people, especially our young men and women, to reject a life of crime and violence. Such a life has no future. Such a life will only be filled with regret. Such a life will only bring pain and grief to you and the people who care about you when you end up in jail or, worse, dead. There are better, more productive and positive things to do with your time, your energy and your intellect.
The Virgin Islands is one of the most beautiful places to live. One of the things that we are envied for is having a safe community and a harmonious way of life. Traditionally, the people in our community have lived as one family, looking out for and helping one another. The behaviour and activities being displayed and pursued by a small minority is damaging and hurting the peace of our community, tarnishing our reputation and jeopardizing the vision that our ancestors held for us when they embarked on the journey to achieving self-determination over 70 years ago.
It behoves each of us, Madam Speaker, to cherish our loved ones and our Virgin Islands, and to take personal measures to protect them both. This is why I reiterate, if you see something say something. If you know something, say something. Do something!
There are anonymous channels for you to pass information to the authorities.
Passing on information can save a loved one’s life – whether from them becoming a victim of crime, or by them being an intended perpetrator. If you know a family member, a friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend is engaging in wrongdoing, plead with them to stop. Let them know you disapprove of their wrongdoing. Let them know you will not accept anything they bring you that was not legitimately obtained or which was not bought with clean money. Because when they court danger, they put you in danger; they put your family in danger; they put your children in danger; and they put all of us in danger. Tell them to stop it.
Encourage them to get help and counselling. We have so many churches and other organizations that are always willing to help persons in need of direction. There are so many community activities and sporting activities organized by the Government, by the Elected Representatives and by private and community groups, for our people to be positively engaged and to earn an honest living.
Madam Speaker, the Government of National Unity, and myself as Premier, have not given up hope - and I know the people of the Virgin Islands are also filled with hope. We believe that as a community, with each of us doing our part, and working towards a common vision, our beloved BVI will conquer this scourge. As a responsible and concerned Government, we will do all that we can with the resources we have – whether it is to empower our people to reject the life of crime and to choose the positive path, or to ensure the police are equipped to deter and prevent crime, and to ensure that those who insist on doing wrong receive the just deserts for their actions through the criminal justice system.
May God continue to bless and protect our beloved Virgin Islands and all her people.
I thank you.