12 May 2014

Inter-Virgin Islands Council meets to strengthen BVI-USVI ties

Caribbean News Now

USVI Governor John de Jongh (L) and BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith
at Sixth Inter Virgin Islands Council meeting in Tortola

ROAD TOWN, BVI -- The British Virgin Islands (BVI) and United States Virgin Islands (USVI) continued to strengthen ties as senior government officials met and reported on areas of shared interests during the sixth Inter-Virgin Islands Council (IVIC) on Thursday.

Executive director in the International Affairs Secretariat, Sylvia Moses stated, “The IVIC is the formal side of the BVI-USVI relationship where our legislators and policy makers explore different ways to support or enhance the relations between the BVI and USVI, and monitor or introduce policies designed to improve the quality of life for the people of the two territories.”

At the House of Assembly meeting held on March 13, BVI premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, stated, “Our territories’ mutual commitment to the Inter-Virgin Islands Council demonstrates that both our governments recognise the need to build an even more effective framework for continued meaningful and productive social, economic and political exchanges. It is a forum for mutual consultation and collaboration between the respective governments.”

Smith added, “Today our territories’ mutual interests and challenges are different than in 1951, but the spirit of family and oneness are the same.”

A number of initiatives have arisen from the council meetings. These include gang awareness sessions in the community and at the Elmore Stoutt High School and information exchange between law enforcement personnel in both jurisdictions.

Smith headed the BVI delegation which included permanent secretaries and relevant senior officers. 

The council received updates on law enforcement, pleasure boating, tourism and education. Also discussed were initiatives to explore the scope of cooperation in BVI musician work permits.

Other developments include: joint territorial training on newly acquired microfilm equipment to digitize historical documents and data; meetings to discuss a US Customs and Border Protection patrol facility at the Red Hook marine terminal on St Thomas instead of St John, a US pre-clearance facility in the BVI, earlier operating hours for Customs and Border Protection to accommodate BVI residents and visitors travelling on early flights from St Thomas.

USVI Governor John de Jongh said, “I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Premier Dr Smith and the BVI delegation to discuss these issues of great importance to both territories. Today’s meeting follows on previous meetings of the council held in 2012 and 2011 in which many of these same issues were discussed.” 

“These are core issues that affect the well-being of the people of both territories and I am pleased that through the council, we have developed a collaborative effort in addressing these various concerns ranging from law enforcement to solid waste management and the very important challenge of energy costs,” he added.

The BVI government’s representation at the Inter-Virgin Islands Council meeting reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening regional and international relations, as well as maintaining its close ties with the USVI.

The Inter-Virgin Islands Council was established on Saturday, 29 May, 2004, when former USVI Governor Dr Charles Turnbull and Chief Minister Dr Orlando Smith signed a joint memorandum of understanding. The Council’s first meeting convened on St Croix in April 2005.