Message by Hon Andrew A. Fahie
Premier of the Virgin Islands
29 June, 2020
Territory Day 2020
People of the Virgin Islands, Good Day and God’s Blessings to all of you.
Today is an important day in the life and legacy of Virgin Islanders and the Virgin Islands.
It is Territory Day!
Virgin Islands Day!
The observance of Territory Day is usually marked with us putting on a display of our culture and talents, followed by a ceremonial gathering that includes speeches, poems, historical readings and other forms of reflections.
This year, COVID-19 makes it impractical for us to meet physically to do these things, but thanks to technology, we are able to gather in a virtual way to reflect, celebrate and to give God thanks for our milestones.
While virtual has its obvious drawbacks, it does highlight to us the fact that the world is in a state of constant change, and therefore, whether we like it or not, we have to adjust to those changes and keep going.
Similarly, Territory Day came into existence in 1956 with the dissolution of the Federation of Leeward Islands and the designation and formation of the Colony of the Virgin Islands.
In those days, the occasion was called Colony Day. In the following years, the Virgin Islands began to be referred to as a Territory.
And, in 1978, the Public Holiday Act was amended replacing Colony Day with Territory Day.
The purpose of this day is for us to reflect on our journey as a Territory—a journey that we are still on.
We will continue to move forward in oneness with our similarities and differences.
We will continue to move towards our destination, walking proudly with pride.
Even with setbacks like floods, hurricanes and COVID-19, as a people we push forward with the spirit of our forefathers in us on our journey.
As part of our journey, the Virgin Islands currently has its fourth written Constitution in 70 years, and we are preparing for a Constitutional Review exercise, which will commence shortly. This is all part of our evolution as a people and as a Territory, as we continuously update our operating framework to ensure that it is suited to the time and the task ahead.
In order to make the decisions that will shape our future, we must do some reflection.
We must look back at the past with a critical eye.
We must reflect on the historical factors that have directed our journey to the present point.
We must continue to look internally to understand who we are as a people – as Virgin Islanders. What is our identity?
Inescapably, our identity is linked to the atrocities endured by our foreparents during the period of chattel slavery; for we are here as a result of them being forced onto the ships that brought them here.
We are connected to the suffering that they and their generations endured until Emancipation.
Emancipation was not voluntarily given to them, but it was something that had to be fought for, with lives being lost.
It was not a one-off event, but numerous events that involved failures which had dire consequences for trying.
But this struggle was for a purpose.
It was to satisfy a yearning for freedom and justice.
It was about reclaiming the space and security to be free spirits, in charge of their destiny.
The persona and characteristics of the Virgin Islander, our distinct cultural identity which has evolved over centuries, our values, our aspiration to regain control over the affairs of our country, and our quest for social justice, economic empowerment and political advancement, are documented in the preamble of our current Constitution.
But what we must now do is to scrutinise the Constitution to determine whether there are any impediments to us achieving those goals.
Once we have identified any obstacles, we can then move forward with the process of overcoming those challenges.
In doing so, we must confront the real question of whether and to what extent we are in control of our own destiny, or whether and to what extent we are being held back – whether by accident or by design.
What is clear, however, is that no-one can better understand the mind and aspirations of Virgin Islanders than Virgin Islanders ourselves.
And that is why one thing that we must achieve in this Constitutional Review exercise, if nothing else, is to ensure that Virgin Islanders are put back into control of the development and direction of our Territory.
Our vision cannot be crafted by anyone else. Nor should anyone else’s agenda be imposed upon us. This is something we have to do together as a united people.
Virgin Islanders are modern, majestic and sophisticated people.
We have some highly educated Virgin Islanders in our midst—men and women who were and continue to be locally and globally educated.
We have real talent that has helped us to develop one of the most competitive tourism industries in the region and a leading world-class international finance centre.
So, we know our abilities.
Our track record shows that we are capable of doing and achieving great things.
I am reminded of the parable that says if you put a shark in an aquarium, it will stop growing when it runs out of space in the container. But the same shark, in the ocean, can grow to a monstrous size.
We must ask ourselves if our growth is being limited by the boundaries that we have allowed others to set for us.
We must examine whether our growth is being held back by what we are told is our place and our space.
And, if this is found to be so, then we have to ask ourselves, where do we go from here?
Do we remain content, stuck in a little corner living off rations and scraps, or do we open up the windows and doors, stretch our legs and our arms, and start reaching for the sky?
Territory Day 2020 meets us at a crossroad.
We have some serious decisions to make, many of which some of us might have been content to defer to a later date.
But COVID-19 has revealed to us that we cannot delay facing these issues and these questions. Procrastination and timidity can lead to our demise; and we cannot and will not have that.
Our responsibility to our forefathers and our unborn generations is to do our fair share of the work in advancing our people and our country in this journey – this march towards greater autonomy, shaping a legacy based on collective pride.
This Territory Day let us reflect on the journey of our people and let us begin to think about the great future we have ahead of us.
I ask of God to continue to be in our midst.
I ask God to be the eyes and heart of this Territory.
I ask God to help us as a people to work together, and that He continues to open our eyes to things that are designed to try and blind us from working together, one as a hand.
But this is year of vision—the year 2020. But it is also a year of crossing over from adversity to prosperity, but using hat Moses did, using what we have in our hand.
I love the people of the Virgin Islands and I appreciate Territory Day.
Let us remember the most important message: The Virgin Islands is on a journey, and we will progress with great success, moving forward together.
So it is with great joy, I say to all my people of the Virgin Islands Happy Territory Day.
I thank you.