HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR JOHN S. DUNCAN, OBE REMARKS AT SWEARING IN CEREMONY
FOR THE NEW VIRGIN ISLANDS GOVERNMENT
10 JUNE 2015
I recognize the protocol already established.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests. Good afternoon
It is an honour and a privilege for me as your Governor to officiate at this formal ceremony to hear the oaths and affirmations by the new Premier and Ministers of the new government of the Virgin Islands.
These oaths and affirmations are a reflection of the solemn and serious obligations, which those who are elected to Official Office and as leaders of this Territory, will undertake on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.
But first I would like to offer my congratulations to the people of these islands for once again renewing the proud heritage of our community and our democracy by choosing to turn out in such large numbers to vote for their elected representatives.
It should be a matter of pride to our community that no matter how much our views may differ, our democracy allows everyone to express their views, freely and without fear. If this election has been passionate and hard fought, it has also been peaceful and fair.
The mantle of government has now been passed to the Honourable Premier, Doctor Orlando Smith OBE and his team and I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Smith for this significant victory at the polls.
I would also like to offer particular congratulations to Miss Juliette Penn, our Supervisor of Elections and her team of returning officers and election officials who have worked so hard to ensure that our elections were handled as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Equally, my thanks go to the Royal Virgin Islands Police for ensuring the integrity of the election process and that it was held in good order.
I would also like to thank the team of election observers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The Virgin Islands have one of the longest established democracies in our region and we are pleased to welcome international observers to see our democracy in operation and to offer suggestions on how we can strengthen it still further.
We should heed the mission’s advice that further improvements are needed “To streamline the cumbersome voting and counting procedures as well as to address the deficiencies in the regulatory framework, particularly in relation to the registration of political parties, and campaign financing.”
I also note from the mission’s report that many members of the public voiced concerns about “The campaign having too much inflammatory and defamatory rhetoric, rather than a positive discussion of the major political issues” and voters also expressed concerns about “Online coverage of the campaign being used to incite and fan the flames of the electorate”. These are comments from the voting public and I am sure that all political parties and editors of our local media will take heed.
I am very pleased to note that the Observer Mission concluded that “The Virgin Islands 2015 election was genuine, vibrant and competitive” and that “The election met key international standards”. This is as it should be.
In this context I would like to congratulate all the candidates who have had the courage to stand up before the public and set out their vision for the future and to seek the support of the electorate. Their commitment to the democratic process is worthy of our applause. I hope they will continue to engage in the wider political process.
In a vibrant democracy like ours the role of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition is important. I congratulate the Honourable Julian Fraser and the Honourable Andrew Fahie on being returned to office. I look forward to working with both Government and Opposition over the coming months
The task of government is indeed one of partnership; in a Territory such as our own between the Governor, the Government of the day, the elected representatives and the public service.
Each of us has our role to play and our duties to fulfill. The challenges ahead of us, be they economic, social or political, will require us always to put the interests of the Territory and the communities who have made it their home at the top of our agenda.
Doctor Smith has set out an ambitious, yet realistic and practical vision for the future of the Virgin Islands and he has received the backing of its people. To achieve this vision will require us to work together in partnership, to be transparent and open about the decisions we take and the reasons for them.
Open Government is the foundation stone to a modern democracy. The time for backroom deals and opaque decision making is well past, particularly in this 21st digital age of social and online media and a number of Territories are now ahead of us on this agenda. All of us in the service of the public, whether we are elected or appointed are accountable to the people of this Territory and the trust they have placed in their leaders today.
To conclude I would like again to offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Smith, his ministerial team and all the elected representatives of the House of Assembly.