- Written by FREEMAN ROGERS
- Published: 07 October 2017
BVI London Office Director Benito Wheatley has been attending meetings abroad in order to garner support for the Virgin Islands’ ongoing effort to recover from Hurricane Irma.
The sessions included a round of conferences of the major United Kingdom political parties, concluding with the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester from Sunday through Wednesday.
There, he met with government ministers including International Development Secretary Priti Patel MP; Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon MP; and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, according to a statement from Mr. Wheatley’s office.
He also spoke with Tom Tugendhat MP, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the UK House of Commons.
“It was essential to attend the conference to update attendees on the BVI’s recovery and the importance of the territory’s reconstruction with UK assistance,” Mr. Wheatley said. “There is clearly political support for the BVI in the ruling party.”
The director also attended the Labour Party Conference in Brighton from Sept. 24-27, where he met with senior members of official opposition party, as well as London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Before that, Wheatley attended the Liberal Democrats Party Conference in Bournemouth from Sept. 16-19, where he engaged party leader Vince Cable and other senior party members.
“I am very pleased that there is cross-party support in the UK for the BVI’s economic recovery and reconstruction,” Mr. Wheatley said. “We have been able to effectively communicate the extent of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in the BVI and the importance of UK support for the territory in the near and long-term.”
Mr. Wheatley also helped facilitate meetings with members of the VI diaspora in the UK and the United States in recent days.
Town hall meetings were organised in partnership with the BVI London Office in the UK in Manchester on Oct. 3 and London on Sept. 15; and also in New York on Sept. 19 in association with BVI Family & Friends New York.
At those sessions, Mr. Wheatley said, members of the diaspora discussed their plans to assist the territory through supply drives and fundraising events.
“The BVI communities in the UK and US have been doing everything in their power to assist relief efforts and are planning more events and fundraisers to support the territory’s recovery,” he said. “An international BVI diaspora network will certainly be of great value to the territory as we rebuild.”
Premier calls in
In London, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith updated the town hall meeting by phone on the government’s recovery efforts and commended the diaspora for their support.
Meeting attendees also discussed ways in which they could assist the territory in the reconstruction process with their professional experience, business networks, financial resources and ideas.
“I was moved by how committed BVIslanders in the UK and US are to the BVI and impressed at how well they have already organised themselves in cities such as London, Manchester and Bristol in the UK; and in the US in New York, Washington DC, Atlanta and in North Carolina,” Mr. Wheatley said. “There is a deep desire by our communities abroad to be directly involved in recovery and reconstruction.”