Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool says the time has come for the BVI to begin discussions locally that will lead to self-governance, rather than depending on guidance and instructions from the United Kingdom (UK).
Speaking passionately about the issue during the annual Freedom March and Emancipation Service at the Sunday Morning Well yesterday afternoon August 5, Minister Vanterpool said after 178 years since the declaration of the Emancipation of slavery, the Territory is still not free to determine its own destiny.
Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Minister for Communications and Works and Fourth District Representative speaking at the annual Freedom March and Emancipation Service on August 5, 2012.
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
Minister Vanterpool, who is also the Fourth District Representative, said he is merely stating a fact that "we are not in control of our own", destiny in this day and time of our history.
"We come here from year to year under this Sunday Morning Well commemorating or celebrating our freedom so to speak, but sometimes I stop to reflect: freedom from what? How determined are we as a people to believe in ourselves that we can govern ourselves. This is a serious conversation ladies and gentlemen here in the Virgin Islands which need to begin among ourselves here in the Virgin Islands now. The Last time we received grant in aid from our mother country the United Kingdom might have been sometime in the early 1980s, yet I must say 30 years later we still consider it necessary to be dictated to by the wishes and rule of United Kingdom Government," he lamented.
Hon. Vanterpool went on to state that persons must know what is the real meaning of the Territory´s flag, and hope that one day soon its national song will be changed to a National Anthem.
"It's time that we understand that the management of our own affairs should be in our hands rather than depend on guidance and instructions from those who live away from us, who may wish us well, but should not tell us what is well for us. It is time," he asserted.
Also present at the event was Acting Governor Mrs. Inez Archibald, Premier Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith, Hon. Myron Walwyn, Education and Culture Minister and Guest speaker out of Maryland US, Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr.
Minister Vanterpool began his remarks by stating that they are celebrating 178 years since the emancipation of slavery yet today their destiny is still shaped, managed and controlled by `our´ colonialist head the United Kingdom.
"With whom they have great respect, but I want you to Coin it how you like, whether by a "White Paper", a Governor representing her Majesty the Queen, or by Protocols of Financial Management, or by acquiescing to a United kingdom Minister in charge of Overseas Territories, such as our Virgin islands, or through the division among ourselves sometimes referred to as a "divide and a conquer" motive or philosophy," Hon. Vanterpool stated.
The Fourth District Representative argued that strangely the conversation he is speaking about began many years ago in the United Kingdom.
"In fact we were just reminded of it on July 24, 2012 when the Deputy Speaker of the House Of Commons and Chairman of Ways And Means, Mr. Lindsay Hoyle, MP, in delivering his key note address at the London Art Show at our own London House Territory Day reception stated- "it is time for a grown up relationship between the United Kingdom, and the British Virgin Islands. The Overseas Territories such as the Virgin Islands should determine their own future and not have it imposed by Britain." The Works Minister quoted Mr. Hoyle.
He added, "The question ladies and gentlemen is what is this grown up relationship that the United Kingdom Government continues to speak about?"
Minister Vanterpool went on to opine that the day should not be another ritual of Emancipation celebration but it is a crucial time for them to begin the conversation in earnest.
"We must begin to shape our own destiny as a people just like other countries did in the past such as the United Kingdom, The United States, and many other Caribbean nations who have become rich in their own identity, self determination, pride and destiny," he reiterated.
His remarks were met with applauds from persons present at the service.
Meanwhile, Rev. Dr. Melville Turnbull, Chairman of the VI Heritage Month Committee which spare heads the annual event, said it was a good decision to have a national song and dress, noting that they must have a true sense of identity and if we do not protect our freedom `we´ will soon slip back into slavery.
"And by the way slavery is still among us, it has only changed its face. Many of us are still mentally enslaved. When you are afraid to march, and demonstrate your freedom, something is wrong with the mind, when you are afraid to say I am a Virgin Islander and stand up, it suggest to me that you may be afraid of who you are...I am proud of who I am, I am proud of my ancestry, I am proud of my heritage and I believe I have some witnesses...," Dr. Turnbull stated.
Premier Smith stated that freedom is much more than the absence of oppression. He said as a people they must not play tug-a-war but play the game of tag-team and stand, pray and work together.
"It´s a realization of the full potential of the individual...Working together to make a difference in the lives of each other. I encourage all of us to allow each other to realize the fullness of our God given abilities. This means we must first come to see our own work, and recognize our own possibilities," the Premier stated.
Minister Walwyn during his remarks said the community must continue to call on God but not only in the time of need.
"A central part of our heritage as Virgin Islanders is our connection to God. As a territory we cannot get too big, too advance and too far ahead as who we are as Virgin Islanders to know when to call on God. The challenges that plague our society presently tells me that as a community we need to call on God, not only in the times of need but also to give him the glory. As we continue to reflect on our freedom, let us remember that our freedom comes with responsibilities," he stated.
Guest Speaker Rev. Dr. Hicks Jr during his remarks urged persons not to give up in life despite how hard things might get at times. He said one most believe in angels.
"...Don´t give up. Yes sometimes things can look bad but don't give up...There is somebody you didn´t know, and there is somebody that your ancestors did not know that decided to write a declaration of your liberation and declare for you and the rest of the world that you have been set free. And my bible tells me something else; it says if the sun has set you free then you are free indeed. So I came to tell you this afternoon that whatever you do in these islands don´t give up. The horizon looks bleak and black, but don´t give up..." he implored on persons.
Known as a 'Preachers' Preacher' and designated by Ebony Magazine in 1993 as one of America's "Fifteen Greatest African American Preachers," the Reverend Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr. is the Senior Servant of historic Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and Largo, Maryland. Since his election in June 1977, Dr. Hicks has served as the fifth senior minister in the congregation's one hundred and forty six year history.
Mr. Dwight Pickering read the Emancipation Proclamation which was first read on the 1st August 1834 at the Sunday Morning Well. Janice Stoutt read a poem and there was a selection from the Joseph Sisters.
The event ended with the singing of 'We Shall Overcome'.
The Sunrise Service was held this morning, August 6 at the Central Admin Complex at 7:00 am. Rev Hicks also spoke at that service where there were featured praises and worship poetry.
The theme for this year's Emancipation Festival is 'Bringing Back Our Cultural Past; Let's Celebrate BVI Festival With Class', while the slogan is 'Emancipation: A Golden Story To Tell; Enjoy VI Festival 2012'.