UPDATE: No overseas invitations extended for London House celebrations- Malone
The now Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal OBE recently spoke with Virgin Islands News Online about what he described as his greatest achievement and vision, the idea and execution of the BVI London House - now the pride and joy of the Virgin Islands, when he expressed his disappointment of not being invited to attend the ceremony which was held in London on December 3, 2013.
At a press briefing held on January 14, 2013 at the Office of Premier, the question was posed to Director of the London Office Mr. Kedrick E. Malone as to why Hon. O’Neal was not invited to the ceremony and according to Malone, no overseas invitations were extended for attendance.
According to a recent press release issued by Government Information Service (GIS), the ceremony attracted over 150 guests and dignitaries that included Heads of Government, High Commissioners, former Virgin Islands’ Governors, members from the private sector and Members of the UK Parliament among others.
However, the architect of the London House, former Premier Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal OBE, told Virgin Islands News Online that; “I was never invited to the ceremony in London.” Hon. O’Neal was asked to make a contribution to the anniversary booklet just as the former Directors of the BVI London House were asked to.
In his message as printed in the anniversary booklet, Hon O’Neal said that the establishment of the BVI House of London grew out of the need for greater representation of the interest of the Virgin Islands in the United Kingdon and Europe. He stated that at the time the international business and political interest, particularly in financial services were evolving quickly and required greater international presence and engagement.
“While our many friends and partners did a good job keeping us abreast of the developments and ensuring our positions and development and ensuring our positions and views were registered, my administration felt that the time had come for the Government of the Virgin Islands to take on the responsibility of representation and a physical presence was important in that regard."
According to Mr Malone, “It is very well known that the Honourable Ralph O’Neal was the Chief Minister at the time of the establishment of the London House and it was under his administration that the BVI London House was opened and certainly his role in that was recognized,” said Malone. “The recognition was done here in the BVI and there were approximately fifteen persons in the territory that were recognized at the presentation of the medallion,” added Mr Malone.
In his address to members of the media, Mr. Malone said the BVI London Office was able to play a key and significant role in supporting the VI Government's international agenda, particularly as it relates to the United Kingdom and Europe and recorded one of the busiest and most demanding years as it celebrated its 10th Anniversary.
The London House Director is also confident that the VI is positioned to play a key role in the relationship between the EU and OCTs as it will become Chairman of the Overseas Territories and Countries Association in December 2013. The VI Chairmanship will be tasked with leading Overseas Territories on the implementation of the new OAD that will enter into force in January 2014.
See previous story posted on January 14, 2013
Hon. O’Neal snubbed for 10th Anniversary celebration of BVI London House
- “One of my greatest achievements was the BVI London House”- Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- As the now popular BVI London House celebrated its 10th anniversary of opening its doors, controversy loomed over the celebration and the treatment of the one who is single handedly credited for its coming into being, the first Premier of the Virgin Islands Honourable Ralph. T. O’Neal OBE.
In an exclusive interview with this news site, the now Leader of the Opposition Hon. O’Neal spoke about what he described as his greatest achievement and vision, the idea and execution of the BVI London House - now the pride and joy of the Virgin Islands.
It was on December 3, 2012 while attending the joint Ministerial Council in London that Premier Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith held a ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the BVI London Office. The event, according to a government press release, attracted over 150 guests and dignitaries that included, Heads of Government, High Commissioners, former Virgin Islands’ Governors, members from the private sector and Members of the UK Parliament among others.
However, the architect of the London House, former Premier Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal OBE, told Virgin Islands News Online that; “I was never invited to the ceremony in London.”
Hon. O’Neal was asked to make a contribution to the anniversary booklet just as the former Directors of the BVI London House were asked to.
How it all started
It was in 2002 as then Chief Minister under a Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government that Hon. O’Neal got the support of his colleagues in the then Executive Council to move forward with the idea for the Virgin Islands (VI) to have a permanent physical presence in London, England.
When asked what was the motivating factor for his vision for the BVI London House, Hon. O’Neal said “while going to school in England as a student I was impressed where I was taken to the different African and West Indian houses by fellow students, however there was no where I could have taken my friends as there was no BVI House.”
He further stated that while being the Chief Minister “there was a need for greater representation of the interests of the VI in the UK and Europe…our international business and political interest particularly in Financial Services were evolving quickly and required greater international presence and engagement…you needed to have direct representation all the time…,” the longest serving member of the English speaking Caribbean Parliament told this news site with much pride.
The 9th, district representative said that one of the benefits of the London House established by his government was “the ability for the BVI to be members of some of the European Union committees that affected our interest so we could have had a voice at the table.”
Hon. O’Neal further stated that part of his vision “was for a place where our students and scholars could meet, in London, as more and more of our students were taking advantage of the opportunity to study there so the need for a presence in London was vital and in cases of emergencies or sickness to have the support of a BVI London Office.”
NDP Opposition to BVI London House & Asian Office a VIP idea
The former Premier recalled clearly that when he brought the motion before the then Legislative Council for the establishment of a BVI London House some 11 years ago the then National Democratic Party who sat in opposition was opposed to the idea and labeled it as a “waste of money”, but today he is proud that the building can pay for itself as there are tenants renting office space.
Hon. O’Neal said there will always be opposition to good ideas, but today even the critics will agree that his vision and his Administration’s foresight have benefited the people of the Virgin Islands tremendously and “our physical presence has gone a far way in cementing the good name and reputation of the Virgin Islands.”
Research shows one of the leading critics of the BVI London House idea at the time was now Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. the Honourable Kedrick D. Pickering.
When asked about the Asia Office idea announced by Premier Smith in his 2012 Budget Address to be set up in Hong Kong, Hon. O’Neal told Virgin Islands News Online that “this was a Virgin Islands Party idea as they had already done all the research to move forward with that idea.”
BVI London House History
It was in 2002 when the BVI London House opened its doors for business. A couple months before that former Premier O’Neal appointed his then Permanent Secretary (PS) M. Bennet Smith and retired PS Lorna Smith, OBE who were assisted by Mr. Derek Dunlop with the responsibility of identifying a suitable building in London to house the VI presence.
The team selected No. 15 Upper Grosvenor Street as the home for the BVI London House. The House also has an apartment where the Director usually lives.
Former Member of the UK Parliament, Mr. P. Bowen Wells, was appointed as the inaugural Director of the BVI London House in 2002-2003. He was followed by Mrs. Lorna Smith, OBE (2003-2004) Ms. Hadassah M. Ward (designate) 2004-2006, Attorney Dawn J. Smith (2006-2009) and the current Director Mr. Kedrick E. Malone (2009 to present).
Today, the Director and staff actively engage the UK Government and the European Union on Overseas Territory affairs and represent the Territory on strategic bodies such as the Overseas Countries and Territories Association and United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association.
In addition to its diplomatic function, the London Office has also served as a centre of Virgin Islands culture, exposing UK supporters to the best of the VI traditions through related programmes and initiatives.
The BVI House in London, a vision started by the Virgin Islands Party Government, also houses the BVI Tourist Board, and the VI Shipping Registry. It has about 7 full time staff, inclusive of the senior exchange management officer from the local civil service.