Statement By Premier And Minister Dr. The Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley On Uk Ot Minister Visit To Virgin Islands

I would like to make a statement to this Honourable House on the recent visit to these Virgin Islands by the United Kingdom (UK) Minister for the Overseas Territories (OTs) The Right Honourable Lord Goldsmith.

Madam Speaker, Lord Goldsmith visited the Territory from 31st January to 2nd February to familiarize himself with the Virgin Islands and to have bilateral meetings with Government. I am pleased that he made the Virgin Islands his first visit to any of the OTs and fulfilled his commitment to come see our beautiful islands at the COP 27 climate change talks in Cairo last year.The bilateral meetings between Lord Goldsmith and the Government were constructive and positive. He held an individual meeting with me to resume the discussion we began in London. He also met the entire Cabinet and Leader of the Opposition. A range of issues were discussed, but largely focused on how the UK could be a more supportive partner of the Virgin Islands. We identified education, health and environment as key areas where the partnership can be strengthened for the benefit of the people of the Virgin Islands.

In the area of security, Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and grateful for the provision of new Rigid Inflatable Boats to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force funded by the UK Government which the Minister announced while here. These assets will help to boost our maritime security capabilities.

In the area of reform, Madam Speaker, the Minister acknowledged the progress that has been made over the past nine months and the firm commitment of the Cabinet and wider Government to continue building the Virgin Islands into a model democracy. However, advised that implementation of reforms should go further before the lifting of the Order in Council can proceed. Toward this end he committed to additional UK technical assistance to support reform efforts.

On the environmental front, Madam Speaker, Lord Goldsmith got an opportunity to see first-hand some of the natural beauty of these islands during his visit to Anegada with the Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Hon. Melvin Turnbull and Hon. Vincent Wheatley where he tagged turtles. While on Tortola, he toured the Botannical Gardens with Deputy Premier and Minister of Communications and Works Hon. Kye Rymer to see the good work being done there in partnership with Kew Gardens based in the UK. He also visited the Centre for Applied Marine Studies at HLSCC where he saw work on mangrove restoration.

I am also very pleased the Minister was able to meet with NGOs on the ground and to engage young people about the environment.

Finally, Madam Speaker, Lord Goldsmith also toured the Dr. Orlando D. Smith Hospital with Minister of Health and Social Development Hon. Marlon Penn where he met staff, including personnel who were on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Members of the House of Assembly, senior Public Servants and civic leaders in our community also got an opportunity to meet the Minister at his reception at Governor’s residence.

Madam Speaker, the Minister’s visit marked the culmination of the efforts of this administration to restore stability to the Virgin Islands relationship with the UK that has created more favourable conditions in which to discuss difficult issues such as the Order in Council, while engaging on how to build a new modern partnership that supports the Territory’s aspirations for greater self-determination.

We will continue to pursue a policy of stability and engagement and to do what is in the best interests of the people of the Virgin Islands.

Thank you Madam Speaker.

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