In my previous three commentaries, I imagined the Virgin Islands of 2030 through the eyes of a 10-year-old Guyanese girl named Maria, her older brother Zak, and their father Troy. This week, the VI family’s chronicle continues.
Troy concluded his recommendation to the director of the BFC (formerly the BVI Film Commission) that she seek expressions of interest in a biopic of Dr. William Thornton’s life as part of a project on Jost Van Dyke, his birthplace. Troy whispered <go!> and his screen cleared.
Dr. Thornton had been introduced to Benjamin Franklin by his cousin Dr. John Coakley Lettsome. Later, he became the amateur architect of the United States Capitol Building in Washington DC after a bitter rivalry with a professional competitor. He also was befriended by the US’s first president, and stopped British troops burning down the Patent Office in DC during the War of 1812.
When Troy stood up, the door opened and the passage light came on. His study closed down after the door shut behind him because his wife always applied the time lock to it when they were entertaining. His watch reminded him that in the morning he would be taking a cousin from New York’s Anegada Progressive League to the family funeral. He must remember to connect his hovercraft’s battery to a recharging point on Anegada before the service.
Troy’s family all had Right to Return certificates (RTTs) incorporated in their Virgin Islander passports. Zak and Maria acquired citizenship at birth, but their parents had been granted theirs after completing three successive biennial work contracts, displaying exceptional talents in posts which no Virgin Islander had been as well qualified to fill.
The need for what was commonly called the RTT Act arose after various legal challenges to the deportation of unemployed non-nationals went to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Its ruling noted that the matters would have been brought to speedier and more humane conclusions if successive VI governments had not ignored their obligation under the 2007 VI Constitution to create a Hunan Rights Commission.
The UK government made the passage of a robust RTT Act — and the VI government’s fulfilment of all its commitments under the 2007 Constitution — essential precursors to any meaningful discussions on the components of a new constitution, while unofficially admitting they may make provision for a referendum on independence.
Zak felt so challenged by his father’s accusations he had allowed his views to be influenced by false news that he did a full minute’s search on references to the VI in the overseas news media in the year 2020, then whittled them down to under 100 which appeared to show negative views of the VI. He was shocked to find how isolated the territory had become by the end of summer 2020.
Worst of all, most politicians and the general public appeared unaware of the negative opinions and showed little concern for what others thought of the VI. It was like the householder who was too busy sweeping out the water after Hurricane Irma to listen to the radio, so didn’t know about the threat of Hurricane Maria until a relative rang and told him to take cover.
For example, a commentary in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette purportedly by a Virgin Islander demanded to know why the UK government in 2017 would not provide direct grants for reconstruction of the VI after its devastation by two Category Five hurricanes in 2017, when only two years earlier British taxpayers completed repayment of the loan borrowed to compensate British slave owners for the loss of their African slaves.
Clearly, the writer did not recognise the resentment among British taxpayers of the means by which the VI’s financial services enable clients to deprive the state of revenue which might be used to fund the National Health Service more adequately. Parliamentarians made that crystal clear when they refused to bail out companies which had chosen to be based in British overseas territories they consider to be tax havens.
The writer also claimed that nothing had come of the UK’s offer of a loan guarantee on which to borrow for recovery at low interest rates. But a review of the VI media reports showed agreement on the guarantee was being held up, rightly or wrongly, by the VI government’s objection to certain of its terms.
The commentary’s publication suited the Bermudian aim to exploit its location between London and New York to become the unchallenged leader of offshore financial services in the western hemisphere, as Singapore was in the east following Hong Kong’s debacle. Its next step was to set up an international arbitration centre.
During the 2020 pandemic, many people learned to prefer working and holidaying at home or were unemployed. That resulted in intense pressure on the internet from streaming movies to participating in online conferences, with a corresponding increase in complaints about the telecom services.
Zak concluded that the VI s transformation by 2030 — into a prosperous community bound by privileges and responsibilities based on its cultural values of mutual respect — should be credited to the influence of a few open-minded, forward-looking leaders and public officers who urged the government to accelerate its plans to bring the fifth generation of mobile services to the territory.