The less than 100 persons that marched from the Sunday Morning Well to the Administrative Complex in protest of matters of leadership, have given the government 30 days to provide answers to their 70 concerns. The organizer, Floyd “Heritage” Burnett announced that the government’s failure to respond will result in a Commission of Inquiry.
The protest, which was dubbed “The People’s March”, was scheduled to commence at 2:00p.m, but never started until after 3:00 in the afternoon. The poor turnout however, did not dissuade the gathering that chanted “where are our leaders” as they arrived at the complex, to discover that except for the two opposition members and Acting Premier Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering, no other representative was moved to attend.
The absence of the legislators apparently struck a chord with the protestors, who asked that 13 chairs be placed on the platform to emphasize the absence of the legislators. The organizer even shouted, “Can any of them missing ones get an X from you?” His question as greeted by a chorus of ‘Nos” from the gathering on the complex lawn. Meanwhile, public servants stood at doors and windows of the building observing the demonstration.
Officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force were out in numbers and even the Commissioner of Police, Michael Matthews was seen in the crowd watching as the gathering calmly and peacefully delivered their message in a ceremonial manner.
As the speakers spoke, the protesters held firm to their handwritten placards that stated messages such as “The Plane or The Money Forthwith” and “We Are Crying Out For Leadership, Where is Our Leadership.”
Dr. Quincy Lettsome gave a historical overview of the Territory’s journey, and told the gathering that marches have played a large part of the Virgin Islands’ history. He therefore urged residents to continue to march.
Shereen Flax-Charles spoke of the concerns of the sister islands, and declared that sister island representation should “be fair and consistent, not sparodic.” She also demanded representation for all and not only the outer islands.
The Virgin Gorda resident stated that the goods and services offered by government should be provided on the sister islands as well and not only Tortola. Likewise, Flax-Charles demanded that elected officials cease doing things that would affect the sister islands and stop making decisions that would impact these islands without consultation.
Flax-Charles noted that there was reason to march. “We are here because our islands belong to us…We are here because it is our right and duty.”
Sam Henry accused the government of not delivering on their election promises. He implored the gathering to pick up a copy of the National Democratic Party’s manifesto, as he explained that the government has not stayed true to their printed words.
Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
While encouraging the group to read the manifesto, Henry said, “It (the NDP manifesto) has all kinds of nonsense in it, some of it good.”
Henry also attempted to jog the gathering’s memory of the government’s campaign promises. He said, “They said they have the best team to lead, now we leading from behind.”
He further told the group that campaign season is approaching and that they should beware of promises. “When they come tell dem we hear that already.”
Julian Willock in his address to the gathering pointed out that the march was occurring on the third anniversary of the government’s election. He also criticized the government’s handling of various issues.
In speaking to the march of the day, Willock said that the protest was necessary and rubbished the claims by some that the demonstration came too soon after the march against the United Kingdom’s parliamentary decision on 24 May.
Willock also identified matters of concern to the marchers, such as the BVI Airways saga, the Pier Park overrun and the transfer of funds from the East End Long Look sewerage project.
In response to all that was said, Hon. Pickering congratulated the marchers and told them that they were exercising their democratic right.
“It is important for me to say that in any democracy it is the right of the people to protest and have their voices heard. I congratulate each of you this afternoon who came here to protest peacefully and to make your voices heard on the issues of the day. It is important for us to understand that there are all different persons in a society and that we must all work together because each individual part, is a part of the whole.”
Hon. Pickering also extended greetings to the gathering on behalf of Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith, who he pointed out was in Asia promoting the Territory.
“I will endeavor to ensure that I convey the messages that I have listened to,” the Acting Premier added.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie greeted the gathering saying, “I am not surprised by the turnout, but I am not daunted.” He endorsed the protestors’ questions regarding the BVI Airways matter and stated that in the past, public servants have been imprisoned for less under the charge—Abuse of Power. However, he said the government has not only abused its power, but also neglected its duties.
“When you have these kinds of inconsistencies and those of us who go to church and talk about truth and talk about justice, but put the bible down and hide the 10 commandments because we love some of the elected officials--so much that we can’t tell them when they’re wrong; but you could meet Fahie and tell he is wrong because you know you won’t be victimized,” he pointed out.
The Leader of the Opposition further told the gathering that once elected to government, he will pilot legislation that will enforce accountability and integrity. He mentioned such legislations as a Whistle Blower Act and a Campaign Finance Law.
Other speakers at the event were Kishmet Daniels, Bertrum Lettsome and Edmund Maduro.