Good morning to the Press Corps and people of the Virgin Islands.
I am very pleased to hold this press conference, which is the first by the new Government Administration that I lead. Today kicks off our plans for bi-monthly press conferences to ensure regular communication with the press. We are fully committed to transparency and keeping the public informed on what is taking place in government.
Before going any further, I want to extend my heartfelt and deepest condolences to the family and friends of my cousin Mr. Kemo Lettsome, another young man lost to gun violence. His murder has deeply hurt his loved ones and the wider District 7 community. The murders we are experiencing are a very worrying development for us as a Territory.
Yesterday, His Excellency the Governor Mr. John J. Rankin, CMG convened a meeting of the National Security Council which I attended, along with the Minister for Communication and Works Hon. Kye Rymer and other members of the Council, to discuss the situation.
We are resolved that more must be done to arrest crime and solve murder cases. I have requested of the National Security Council an action plan to confront the challenge of violent crime in our community, so it can be rooted out from these Virgin Islands. Later today, the Governor and I will be making a joint statement making a firm commitment to tackling crime and preserving our security. These senseless deaths must stop! It is imperative that we remove illegal guns from our Virgin Islands now. It is time for action, and your Government will make this a priority.
I call on everyone to do their part, including providing information to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, which can be done anonymously. I also urge you to report any suspicious activity that you see taking place in your neighbourhood. The fight against violent crime cannot be won without the support of the community.
Ladies and gentleman, I would now like to provide a post-election update on where things stand following the incident-free General Election held on 24th April 2023. I again want to thank everyone who exercised their right to vote and will do everything in my power to restore the confidence of those persons who did not in the general elections. The only way to accomplish this is to ensure the political system delivers for everyone, which I am committed to achieving.
Following the General Election, the new Government was sworn into office on 25th April. Subsequently, Ministerial appointments were confirmed on 28th April.
I remain the Premier and Minister of Finance, and I am also the Minister with responsibility for Natural Resources that now sits within the Premier’s Office.
I will be supported in my Ministerial responsibilities by Dr. the Honourable Karl Dawson, Junior Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Honourable Luce Hodge-Smith, Junior Minister for Tourism and Culture.
The Honourable Lorna Smith, OBE is Deputy Premier and Minister for Financial Services, Labour and Trade. This a new and necessary Ministerial portfolio that places these three interrelated subjects and others under one Ministry, which will allow for greater policy coherence in their administration. We had discussed the establishment of a Ministry for a long time. Hon. Smith is highly qualified and competent to successfully lead and oversee the new Ministry.
The Honourable Kye Rymer remains Minister for Communication and Works and is a member of the National Security Council. He will lead on our much needed infrastructure development and improvement.
The Honourable Sharie de Castro remains Minister of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports. Her competency will deliver better outcomes in education, youth development and athletics, among other sports.
Finally, The Honourable Vincent Wheatley is Minister of Health and Social Development. He will lead our efforts to fix the National Health Insurance, to deliver better medical care in the Territory including the Sister Islands, and fix the incinerator problem once and for all.
Our Ministerial team is ready to serve the people of the Virgin Islands. Yesterday, an orientation session for Members of Cabinet was conducted to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what is required and what is expected of them.
At the level of the Public Service, Permanent Secretaries are in the process of being briefed on their assignments and their respective Ministries, as well ongoing initiatives which are taking place within the Ministries. They will soon initiate the process of converting the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) manifesto, which has been mapped to the National Sustainable Development plan into a Government policy agenda, which the Public Service will be tasked with delivering over the course of our term.
The Government’s overarching policy framework is the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP). Implementation of the Plan will begin later this year, supported by the United Nations (UN) system in the Eastern Caribbean.
I look forward to detailing our comprehensive policy agenda in a statement in the near future.
Ladies and gentleman, in terms of the legislative branch of government, I am very pleased that on 18th May, all District and At-Large Representatives will be sworn in at the First Sitting of the First Session of the Fifth House of Assembly.
The wheels of democracy are turning as we continue the new era of democratic governance.
More immediately, I will travel to London on Wednesday to attend the coronation of King Charles III. I will then attend the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) between the United Kingdom (UK) and the Overseas Territories Ministers. I will be joined at the JMC by Deputy Premier Lorna Smith, whose wealth of experience as a former Director of the BVI London Office and Executive Director of BVI Finance, will add great value to my delegation.
Honourable Smith and I will also resume engagement with our United Kingdom partners to continue the process of building a new modern partnership that is stable and supports the aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands. Among other things, we will meet UK OT Minister Lord Goldsmith, other UK Ministers and the BVI All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in the United Kingdom Parliament to discuss how the UK Government can support my Administration’s agenda on reform, economic resilience, infrastructure, sustainable development, climate change, environment, education, health and security.
Ladies and gentleman, this wraps up my introductory statement and I am happy to take any questions the press may have.
I thank you.