Candidates have been making their final appeals for voters’ favour over the past weeks in the leadup to the April 24 general election.
The Progressive Virgin Islands Movement and National Democratic Party launched the last few of their district candidates, while the Virgin Islands Party focused on holding meet-and-greet events and at least two independents hosted launches.
Candidates also appeared at community events including the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival, and party leaders took part in two public debates. The flurry of activity provided opportunities for candidates to pitch a variety of visions for the future of the territory.
PVIM in D-5
Marvin Blyden, the PVIM District Five candidate who was previously tight-lipped about his platform, held his campaign launch on April 5 in Huntums Ghut.
Mr. Blyden — the only candidate challenging incumbent Kye Rymer — touted his experience as an entrepreneur who has established several businesses, all but one of which are based in District Five.
“As I drive through the district, I am saddened by the lack of attention, progress and basic necessities,” he said, bemoaning issues with water-and-sewerage systems.
“Not only are these things plaguing the district, but the entire territory.”
Mr. Blyden said PVIM would commit to fixing those systems, as well as addressing the “disastrous” roads in the district by commissioning the asphalt plant previously approved more than three years ago by Mr. Rymer as minister for communications, works and utilities. Regarding threats to the stability of infrastructure like the Huntums Ghut bridge, he called for swift remedial action.
He also promised to find ways to drive down the cost of health care.
Looking to the future, he said the party would work toward supporting young people in seeking “blue economy” jobs, particularly with the territory’s largest charter company, The Moorings, which is located in District Five.
Also during the launch, former legislator Eileene Parsons endorsed Mr. Blyden and PVIM leader Ronnie Skelton.
Fellow candidate Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe shared her memories of working with the late District Five representative Delores Christopher, who served as deputy speaker of the House while Ms. Moses-Scatliffe was the speaker. She credited Mr. Blyden for supporting the former legislator and helping her become the third woman ever elected to the House of the Assembly. Fellow PVIM party members also highlighted their infrastructure plans for the district, including street lighting and better sidewalks.
NDP in D-4
NDP District Four candidate Dr. Sandy Harrigan-Underhill held her launch on April 8.
She faces three other candidates for the open district race: VIP candidate Luce Hodge-Smith, PVIM candidate Ian Smith, and independent candidate Rosita Scatliffe-Thompson.
Former legislator Walwyn Brewley, who preceded outgoing District Four representative Mark Vanterpool, endorsed Dr. Harrigan-Underhill on April 8.
Fellow NDP candidate Renard Estridge cited a need for the decisive leadership he said she demonstrated while serving as principal of Elmore Stoutt High School. “Our teachers are frustrated,” he added.
“Our teachers are striking. They are overworked and underpaid. We need to pay our teachers the salaries that they deserve.”
Dr. Harrigan-Underhill said any government should be measured by economic growth, infrastructure development, structural advancement of education, easy access to social support, and the overall success seen from policy decisions.
She also touted her 27-year record in education, noting that as ESHS principal she had to contend with fights, gang-related activity, drugs and cyberbullying.
“During this time, I would be called ‘The Iron Lady,’” she said. “I believe I was given this name for the courage to dig deep and to understand that building strong partnerships and relationships with the community would be the key to turning the school around.”
As a district representative, she said she would work to rebuild communities, starting with an “intense” clean-up campaign targeting derelict vehicles and improvements to bush cutting and trash disposal.
She would also aim to streamline social support services, modernise Road Town, address sewerage issues, make roads more accessible, do more comprehensive city planning, revamp school curriculums, and address other issues in schools, she said.
One capital project she envisions is a boardwalk connecting Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park and Main Street, she added.
Independent at-large candidates Mitsy Ellis-Simpson and Karen Vanterpool also hosted launches over the past week.
Ms. Ellis-Simpson launched her campaign on April 5 in Long Bush, promising dedicated service to the community, peace, stability and economic growth.
She is the founder and managing director of the financial research and consultancy company MJS Associates Inc. and author of Secret Code: British Virgin Islands.
The launch was a family affair, with her husband emceeing and their daughter, Chelsea Simpson, introducing the candidate. She lauded her mother’s experience in finance, real estate, spa services and volunteerism.
Ms. Ellis-Simpson said her primary goals include “bridging the gap between the poor and the wealthy, improving our education and health care systems supporting our people, and ensuring that these Virgin Islands have a social protection system that works for the most vulnerable, marginalised, single parents, the elderly, and our youths.”
She also called for more opportunities for the youth, education reforms, infrastructure improvements, stronger social protections for residents, and a minimum-wage review.
Ms. Vanterpool, a first-time candidate, held her launch on April 8 in The Valley, Virgin Gorda.
After an opening prayer, she explained that the government’s approach to challenges that arose during the last four years — particularly from the Covid19 pandemic — prompted her to run for office.
“I am here to create new opportunities, opportunities to bring about change in the handling of our country’s business and finances,” she said.
She also called for reshuffling the civil service; establishing an income level threshold for determining public assistance needs in the community; and other economic reforms.
Ms. Vanterpool said she would also seek to establish three new oversight committees to assess financial concerns and hire a “village warden” in each district to monitor residents’ needs and report back.
“They will not be paid consultants’ exorbitant fees, but rather a monthly stipend,” she added.
She also touched on high unemployment and underemployment rates, and a minimum wage that she said “doesn’t cut it.”
Businesses, she added, should be working to train Virgin Islanders to fill roles otherwise filled by expatriates.
Her other priority areas include agriculture investments, public assistance reform, mobile medical services, support for senior living facilities, National Health Insurance adjustments, completing the outfitting of the Nurse Iris O’Neal Medical Centre, and better support for meeting families’ basic needs, she said.