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COMMENTARY — VI’s political history reviewed

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On Aug. 26, 1854, the United Kingdom government replaced the Virgin Islands’ House of Assembly with a Legislative Council of only nine members following the Cattle Tax Riots (as recounted in my June 15 commentary “Taxes and death: a cautionary tale”). Then three natural disasters that struck the colony in 1867 in quick succession resulted in its complete loss of representative government.

The hurricane that wrecked the Royal Mail Steam Packet Rhone off Salt Island on Oct. 28, 1867 devastated the VI. According to VI President Sir Arthur Carlos Henry Rumbold’s official report to Governor Hill in Antigua on Nov. 12, 1867, it resulted in 37 deaths: 23 in Road Town, six elsewhere on Tortola, six in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, and two on Peter Island.

In Road Town, 60 of 123 houses were totally destroyed. Of the rest, 23 were severely damaged and 39 were partially damaged, with the only other remaining country residence on Joes Hill. All the public buildings were destroyed except one that was rented.

Elsewhere on Tortola, most houses of the labouring classes and all the sugar works except two were swept away.

 

Sister island

On Jost Van Dyke, 25 houses were destroyed, but Anegada escaped except for “tales of woe,” according to the letter. On Virgin Gorda, 100 houses were destroyed, and no boat was available to send it supplies. The scripture reader was the only resident magistrate there.

Crops were blighted and nature was like winter in the tropics, with trees and vegetation withered (like the VI after Hurricane Irma).

Sir Arthur had hoped to visit the other islands when the government ship arrived back from St. Thomas, but urgent business had kept him in Road Town. He was greatly helped by Colonial Secretary George H. Porter, but the other officials were too old and infirm to be of use, according to his letter.

 

Earthquake

On Nov. 18, 1867, the colony suffered a massive earthquake, followed by a deadly tsunami, news of which reached England via the transatlantic cable telegraph the same day. A headline in The Liverpool Daily Post dramatically announced “the submersion of Tortola, … the most important of the British Virgin Islands.”

On Feb. 25, 1868, The New York Times reported that Sir Arthur was taking his wife’s remains to her family in France. She had died after the storm had given her a “shock to the system” (from a heart attack perhaps?). During his absence, the colony was being administered by Mr. Porter.

Sir Arthur soon followed his wife in death. The next year, on Nov. 30, 1869, the High Court of Chancery instructed a London firm of solicitors to insert a notice in the (London) Times concerning the estate of “Sir Carlo Arthur Henry Rumbold; President of the British Virgin Islands, commonly called Sir Arthur Rumbold,” who had died on June 12, 1869 on St. Thomas.

 

Later history

In my research, the first reference to this territory that I had seen prior to the United States VI’s Transfer Day was to a notice regarding the death on Tortola of the wife of an earlier president.

In 1871, a single federal colony of all the Leeward Islands was created, without a VI seat at this assembly. The local VI legislature and council were abolished (neither had met for years). The Legislative Council was reconstituted into an assembly of three official members and three appointed members, with none elected.



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Fahie steps down, resigns his seat

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Almost seven months after former Premier Andrew Fahie was arrested in Florida and accused of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States, he resigned his First District seat and said he had retired from politics as of last Thursday.

The announcement came five days before he was facing likely removal for missing too many HOA meetings without leave from Speaker of the House Corine George-Massicote.

During an HOA meeting last Thursday, Ms. George-Massicote read aloud a letter from Mr. Fahie that marked his first public statement since his April 28 arrest.

In the letter, the former premier did not mention the charges against him or apologise for his actions, but he wrote that “the bright and prosperous future of the modern-day Virgin Islands” requires a “laser” focus on unity rather than discord.

“Allow God time to do what only He does best with time, which is to be the only true and fair judge while healing all wounds,” wrote the ex-premier, who is under house arrest in Miami pending a trial scheduled for next year. “As the journey continues, our Virgin Islands must approach a future head-on, because the future is coming with or without our permission.”

Mr. Fahie also referenced the vision of the territory’s foreparents, the difficulties the territory faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the importance of being prepared for the challenges ahead.

HOA rules

If Mr. Fahie had not resigned, he likely would have lost his seat on Tuesday under rules that require elected HOA members to vacate their seat if absent for more than three consecutive sittings without the speaker’s leave.

In July, Ms. George-Massicote said she would not excuse any further absences from the HOA because of Mr. Fahie’s inability to attend due to his house arrest. A new sitting started on Tuesday.

23-year career

Mr. Fahie’s resignation marks the end of a 23-year career in politics.

He was first elected to the First District seat in 1999 at age 28, and he held it without interruption until his resignation last Thursday.

During that time, he served as health, education and welfare minister from 2000 to 2003 and education and culture minister from 2007 to 2011.

He was appointed premier in 2019 after leading the Virgin Islands Party to a sweeping victory in that year’s general election.

Ousted

However, HOA members ousted him from the premiership a week after his arrest, and he was replaced by his deputy, Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley, under the current National Unity Government.



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Expo spreads word about diabetes

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Foot care, medication management, and mental health were among the topics covered by a panel of healthcare experts during the Living Well with Type II Diabetes Expo on Nov. 17 at the St. Mary’s Church Hall on Virgin Gorda.

The BVI Health Services Authority organised the evening session — which was also available virtually to residents on other islands — both for people with type two diabetes and for others who wished to learn ways to reduce their risk of develop- ing the disease.

Several speakers took the podium during a series of interactive presentations that incorporated techniques designed to engage attendees, including multiple-choice questions and discussions of case studies.

BVIHSA Medical Officer Dr. Shana Kay Fraser explained how to define diabetes and identify its early signs and symptoms. She also stressed the importance of early action in preventing the disease.

Mental health therapist Kya Huggins McKenzie spoke about tools for managing stress, among other topics.

Dr. Calisa Cruickshank offered tips for blood sugar testing, such as where to inject insulin, how to use a blood sugar monitor, and how to treat hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Dr. Jamal Wintz, a clinical pharmacist at the BVIHSA, explained diabetes medication. Resident nutritionist Anthonia Mathews taught attendees how to count carbohydrates and offered tips to help diabetics balance their diet to control their blood sugar.

Later, attendees got on their feet for some physical activity with Raynecia Simmons of Razor Fitness.

Attendees received raffle tickets at the door for a prize-giving at the end of the expo. Free informational handouts were distributed as well.

The expo also included blood sugar and blood pressure screening, a mental health station, and a nutrition centre.

Attendees thanked the BVIHSA for organising the event.



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History & culture of the eastern Caribbean islands

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The Eastern Caribbean is a region that includes a number of small island nations and territories in the Caribbean Sea. These islands have a rich history and culture that have been shaped by a variety of influences, including African, Caribbean, European, and indigenous peoples.

The first inhabitants of the Eastern Caribbean were indigenous peoples who migrated to the region thousands of years ago. These people included the Arawaks, Caribs, and Tainos, who were skilled farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen.

The first European explorers to reach the Eastern Caribbean were the Spanish, who arrived in the region in the late 15th century. The Spanish claimed the islands for their own and began to establish settlements, plantations, and mines. However, they were soon challenged by the English, French, and Dutch, who also wanted to control the region.

The Eastern Caribbean became a battleground for these European powers, who fought over control of the islands for more than two centuries. The islands were eventually divided among the European powers, with the English, French, and Dutch each controlling a number of islands.

During this period, the islands became a melting pot of cultures, with African slaves brought to the region to work on the plantations, and Europeans, Africans, and indigenous peoples mixing and intermingling. This led to the development of a unique culture and identity for the Eastern Caribbean, which is still evident today.

Today, the Eastern Caribbean is a diverse and vibrant region with a rich history and culture. The islands are known for their beautiful beaches, stunning natural scenery, and vibrant music and dance traditions. The region also has a thriving tourism industry, with many visitors coming to the islands to experience the unique culture and beauty of the Eastern Caribbean.

In addition to its rich history and culture, the Eastern Caribbean is also known for its natural beauty. The islands are home to a variety of landscapes, including white sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and mountains. The region is also home to a number of protected areas and national parks, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including many species that are found nowhere else in the world.

The Eastern Caribbean is also an important economic region, with many of the islands relying on tourism as a major source of income. The region is also known for its production of spices, particularly nutmeg, which is one of the main exports of the region. In addition, the islands are home to a number of small-scale industries, including fishing, agriculture, and manufacturing.

The Eastern Caribbean is also a popular destination for sailors, with many of the islands offering excellent sailing conditions and a number of marinas and yacht clubs. The region is also home to a number of major sailing events, including the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and the Caribbean 600 race.

Overall, the Eastern Caribbean is a fascinating and diverse region with a rich history, culture, and natural beauty. The islands offer a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy, from relaxing on beautiful beaches to exploring the region’s vibrant culture and history.

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