STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
at the Ninth Sitting of the Second Session of the
Fourth House of Assembly
Thursday, 11th June, 2020
Resignation of the Chairman of the Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to make a statement on Festival and Fairs.
Mr. Speaker, moments ago, I received an email from the Chairman of the Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee, Mr Carnel Clyne, where he indicated his wish to resign from his post. Mr. Speaker, after reading his reasoning, I have reluctantly decided to accept his resignation.
Mr Clyne made mention of unforeseen personal responsibilities which would impact his performance as Chairman. He felt that under those circumstances, he would have been challenged to devote the level of attention that the Committee would require and deserve.
Mr. Speaker considering that COVID-19 has presented certain challenges that will affect our festivities, now would be an appropriate time for someone else to have an opportunity to execute the Government’s vision for Festival activities.
Mr. Speaker, let me celebrate Mr. Clyne’s contribution to the 2019 festival and fairs. Mr. Speaker, for the first time in 3 years, we have a Festival report, which was noticeably absent under the last administration. Let me make it clear that the Festival and Fairs Act required a report, and we were in contravention of this important legal requirement. During those years, we did not have a good account of how taxpayers money was spent, and Mr. Clyne helped to restore transparency and accountability with this report, which will be laid in just a few moments.
Mr. Speaker, under Carnel Clyne’s leadership, we have cleared all outstanding bills from as far back as 2017; Mr. Speaker, this is the first time in many years that we are going into the festival season without any bills hanging over our head.
Mr. Speaker, under Carnel Clyne’s leadership, we have seen outstanding entertainment from local and international artists. Primetime, OMG, Extreme, Vibe, Showtime along with Popcaan, Marshal Montano, Tarrus Riley, Mr. Killa, Kes and the Band were among the high quality performers that brought some of the biggest crowds that the Virgin Islands has ever seen.
Mr. Speaker, under Carnel Clyne’s leadership, we introduced new cultural activities to complement our existing events. We introduced innovations, such as two story booths. Mr. Speaker, we payed our local artists in good time. Mr. Speaker there is a lot to celebrate with Carnel Clyne’s leadership.
Mr. Speaker, by no means, is Carnel Clyne a perfect man. He is a man of action and dislikes when things move slowly. Mr. Speaker, given his zest and given our late start due to a new government getting in place in March, he perhaps rushed ahead in some instances where he should have slowed down and involved everyone. But Mister Speaker, his heart was always in the right place.
Mr. Speaker, it saddens me sometimes when I see Virgin Islanders tearing each other down. Sometimes we maximize our faults and minimize our strengths. Mr. Speaker sometimes we choose not to see the best in each other. We become suspicious of each other, and we, at times, tarnish each other’s good name.
Mr. Speaker, some of these persons are members of Carnel Clyne’s community. Some of these persons are Carnel Clyne’s family. Some of these persons even profess Christianity. Mr. Speaker the Bible tells us, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Mr. Speaker, I pray as Virgin Islanders that we stop throwing stones at each other.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to say also that the Opposition seems to believe that the 2019 Festival is their way to bring down the government. Mr. Speaker, after being a part of an NDP government that did not produce reports in the final three years of their administration, I would be embarrassed to criticize the lateness of this report, which will be laid in a few moments.
Mr. Speaker records will show there was more money spent under the previous administration in some years than 2019. Mr. Speaker records will show that the money spent in 2019 includes hundreds of thousands of old bills from the previous administration.
Mr. Speaker, as opposed to engaging on a witch hunt, let us have a conversation about how we improve our festival celebrations—how we teach more of our history, heritage, and culture, how we have more meaningful participation of our local artisans, how do we become more efficient and effective with our management of money.
Mr. Speaker, the Festival and Fairs Committee, under the leadership of Carnel Clyne, developed financial protocols to guide the responsible use of tax payers money. Other recommendations have been made about buying assets as opposed to renting and booking hotel rooms and flights at an earlier stage.
Mr. Speaker, while the Opposition harp on and on about the money spent on festival, they seem to ignore the economic stimulus that festival provides to the wider population to earn a living and to share in the wealth. It helps to build our tourism product, so we can attract more visitors who will fill hotel rooms, patronise restaurants and other establishments; it supports our rental car operators, supports our taxi drivers, supports our craft vendors, our food vendors, our clothing stores, our tailors, our bar owners, our barbers and hair salons, and much more.
Mr Speaker, let me take this opportunity to thank Carnel Clyne for his service to the people of this Territory. Mr. Clyne has indicated to me that he remains supportive of the vision of your Government, and he remains available to serve his Territory based on his availability.
Mr. Speaker, Festival and Fairs Committee Co-chair, Mr. Khalid Frett, will assume responsibilities as acting Chair until Cabinet can appoint a replacement for Mr. Clyne. The Festival and Fairs committee will soon engage the public about plans for the 2020 Emancipation Festival.
Mr. Speaker, let me also take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Executive and Sub-Committees for their hard work on the 2019 Festivals. Mr. Speaker, these individuals worked tirelessly and without pay to ensure that we had Festival celebrations last year. Mr. Speaker, I will ensure that we have a better way to show our appreciation to our dedicated volunteers.
Mr. Speaker, I will end my statement urging all persons to focus on the true meaning of our celebrations. This year makes 70 years since our Legislative Council was restored. We must all reflect on the struggles of our ancestors, from the plantations to the legislature, and on to our future advancement. Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder and build a stronger BVI!
Mr Speaker, I thank you.