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Tales from Tortola- Part III

Thomas C. Famous. Photo: Provided
Speaker of the Bermuda parliament The Honourable Dennis Lister Jr. JP MP (2nd from left). Photo: Provided
Speaker of the Bermuda parliament The Honourable Dennis Lister Jr. JP MP (2nd from left). Photo: Provided
House of Assembly of Bermuda. Photo: Provided
House of Assembly of Bermuda. Photo: Provided
Thomas C. Famous

On Monday March 19, 2018 I attended the reading of the [British] Virgin Islands Budget 2018-2019. Having just finished our own budget session in Bermuda, I was interested in witnessing their procedures.

Whilst sitting in the gallery I was sent a note asking me to sit within the hallowed chambers of their parliament. With my mother being from Tortola, walking into their chambers I was not only representing my mother’s family but also:

  • representing the people of Bermuda
  • representing the Government of Bermuda
  • essentially, representing all my fellow MPs.

Indeed, it was a moment of great pride for multiple reasons.

What made it even prouder was that I was sitting in the same chamber as my Uncle, the Honourable Julian Fraser RA, who is the representative for the Third District, which encompasses my family village of Sea Cows Bay. Serving the people, via politics, runs on both sides of my family.

Observations

Whilst in their chamber, a few key things stood out:

  • Pictures of former parliamentarians adorn their walls, giving a sense of legacy to be upheld.
  • Their sessions are not only broadcast on the radio but fully televised and recorded on YouTube.

Of great interest to some of my parliamentary colleagues, will be the following two points:

  • There is no time limit on their question time.
  • There is no limit on the amount of questions one member may ask.

What will serve as a key point of comparison will be that there is absolutely no time limit on how long a member can speak on any given topic. Some of those members were on their feet for two hours straight. Something that am sure would find favour with a few of our very own members.

When I informed them we are only given 20 minutes to speak, they told me that we must lobby the Speaker to change that rule.

Gratitude

At the end of the session the Premier of the [British] Virgin Islands, Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith OBE, expressed high praise for our very own Premier the Honourable David Burt JP MP. What stood out the most, was that all 13 of their parliamentarians insisted that I convey their heartfelt thanks for the assistance that Bermuda had sent during their recent hurricane devastation via:

  • Police officers
  • Belco linesmen
  • Medical professionals
  • Financial Donations

There was special message to our very own Speaker, the Honourable Dennis Lister Jr. JP MP and Madame Clerk of the Legislature, Mrs Shernette Wolffe, sent by their Speaker, the Honourable Ingrid A. Moses-Scatliffe.

“Please tell the Speaker do not be afraid to drop the gavel when needed!!”

Regretfully, I had to inform her that he has no fear whatsoever to drop the gavel and or showing members the door as needed.

Commonalities

You see, we the parliamentarians of the English-speaking Caribbean, are joined by a few commonalities:

  • Economies based on Tourism and or Financial Services
  • Various variations of the Westminster Parliament system
  • A horrific legacy of Colonialism and Slavery

Most of all, we are joined by this thing we called blood, as we are all related, no matter which island we currently reside. Not surprisingly, most MPs who sit in parliament in Bermuda are of direct Caribbean heritage.

Prime examples:

  • Premier Hon David Burt- Jamaica
  • Deputy Premier Walter Roban-St Vincent
  • Opposition Leader Jeanne Atherden- Bahamas
  • Hon Member Patricia Gordon Pamplin-Trinidad
  • Hon Member Craig Cannonier-St Kitts
  • Hon Member Lawrence Scott-Jamaica
  • Hon Member Neville Tyrell-Nevis
  • Hon Member Rolfe Commisiong- Trinidad
  • Hon Member Michael Scott- St Kitts

We must continue to remind the Bermudian people, that despite our mid Atlantic geographic location, we are truly Caribbean by nature.

Indeed, our islands now dominate both global Track and Field and Triathlon events.

We have a lot to learn from our Caribbean cousins, and they have much to learn from us. So, it is incumbent on us to continue to assist each other in any way we can.

Some areas of needed cooperation:

  • Climate change awareness and preparation
  • Civil Service efficiencies
  • Gender equality
  • Law Enforcement
  • Electoral reform
  • Food Security
  • Building standards
  • Environmental protection
  • Growth of Tourism
  • Growth of small businesses
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Public Education

As Caribbean people we must stick together. Just as the leaders of CARICOM did recently during the Commonwealth conference in London, UK.

It was their act of solidarity in standing up against the immoral and shameful treatment of children of the Windrush generation that forced British Prime Minister Theresa M. May and her cabinet to make a U-Turn on a policy that saw thousands stripped of benefits and or deported to the Caribbean.

The mentality of ‘small island vs big island’ does not help us in these times when unity is needed for our survival.

My fellow West Indians, we must continue to be proactive; locally, regionally and globally. Our collective short and long-term goals must be about moving ourselves and each other forward. Indeed, as the cricket term commands, “Rally round the West Indies”.

4 Responses to “Tales from Tortola- Part III”

  • yes (26/04/2018, 10:03) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    This is deep
  • usa (26/04/2018, 10:27) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good read Hon Christopher
  • Rally,yes (26/04/2018, 14:29) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Yes, we need to hear more of this. Let's stick together as Caribbean people. We are just one people, united by a common cause, purpose and destiny.
    • yrral (11/06/2018, 13:20) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Virgin Island are American ,they are entitled to the same benefits as American ,living in the United States


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