Dr. the Hon. Natalio D. Wheatley
Premier and Minister of Finance
Virgin Islands Day 2023
“Virgin Islands Day Celebration: A Cultural Experience”
3 July, 2023
My dear Virgin Islands people, a pleasant good day to each and every one of you.
I regret that I am unavailable to be with you in person on this very important occasion. As many of you would know, I am off-island representing the Virgin Islands at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting where a number of matters that are critical to the region are to be discussed. I, however, join with you in spirit to celebrate our beautiful Virgin Islands and our great people.
Virgin Islands Day is a very significant day for us. When Cabinet opted to make the change from Territory Day to Virgin Islands Day on 2 December, 2020, our objective was to set aside a special day to promote national consciousness and celebrate the unique identity of the Virgin Islands.
Some persons may ask, “Why is it important to have a focus on national consciousness and Virgin Islands identity?”
The reason for that is quite simple. We are a special people. We are unique. We have been shaped by unique circumstances across hundreds of years and spanning generations, each incident and influence molding us, our values, our beliefs, our way of life, our food, our music, our dances, all of our heritage and culture, into a unique identity. Our identity and our way of life may have similarities to that of persons from other places, but when all the elements are brought together as a whole, to produce is something that is not replicated anywhere else. And this is what makes us special, and why it is important for us to devote time to reflect on the journey of our burgeoning nation and the history and vision of our people.
Today, as it has been throughout our history, our culture, traditions and way of life, are being bombarded by forces from all directions. Some of these interactions and influences can be positive, and some can be detrimental to the survival of our identity and everything that goes with it. And even where the influences are positive, we must be careful that the traits that make us unique and special do not fade away.
One of the most valuable things that we possess is our Virgin Islands identity. In fact, identity is important to all people. Often persons who say your identity is not important, jealously guard theirs. Because your identity secures your space in the world, and those who are wise and aware understand this.
Virgin Islanders have earned our place in this world, and to be appreciated as a unique people. Our identity has been shaped by centuries of violence upon our fore parents, their struggles – both the bids that were successful and the countless others that were unsuccessful. It was shaped by having hope and determination in the face of hopelessness and despair; by resourcefulness, innovation and ingenuity. It has also been shaped by the journey of our political development; from being a part of the Leeward Islands colony to being a stand-alone colony to a Territory with our own political institutions and where decisions on our governance are made by elected representatives with the exception of a few areas reserved for the Governor. We must include here too our social and economic development.
Our people have made a lot of progress in our journey to nationhood, and therefore we must take time to reflect on where we have come from and where we wish to go. Recognising and appreciating our uniqueness, and being conscious of our identity, are essential for us to define our destination and to ensure that we stay on course. As we continue along our journey, and when we get to our destination, many things will change but we must still be recognisable as Virgin Islands people, and our story and our special identity must live on.
As I have said, our culture and heritage are very intrinsic to this process. This is why the Government has ensured that we have developed and approved a Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Policy and Strategy, which will ensure that attention and resources are directed to the preservation of our culture and heritage and the development of our cultural and heritage assets, ensuring that our people are culturally conscious, and making sure that our unique identity does not fade or get lost.
Virgin Islands Day presents an opportunity for us to fully embrace and appreciate how our history and cultural heritage have shaped our character as a people. Our cultural expression has implications for our ethical framework, our resilience, our spirit of togetherness and essentially what keeps us interconnected.
In this vein, the theme for this year’s Virgin Islands Day celebration: “A Cultural Experience”, is very fitting, as is the programme of activities. I encourage you to immerse yourselves in this cultural experience. Let it renew and refresh your Virgin Islands spirit and elevate your cultural confidence and your consciousness.
Use this opportunity to remind yourselves of the values, beliefs and motivations that define us as Virgin Islanders – our moral, spiritual and democratic values; our belief in God and the dignity of the human person; respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law; our quest for social justice, economic empowerment and political advancement; our free and independent spirit; and our qualities of honesty, integrity, mutual respect, and self-reliance; our kinship with our Islands; and our love for peace and harmony.
Have a happy and reflective Virgin Islands Day. Thank you and may God continue to protect our beautiful Virgin Islands and may he always favour its people.