Former Bermuda Premier Sir John Swan urged the Virgin Islands to “guard against selling off its dreams in the quest for quick capital” as he addressed the 30th anniversary dinner of the BVI Investment Club at Treasure Isle Hotel on Oct. 29.

Instead, he said, the territory should “preserve its uniqueness” and “seize its unique opportunity to look out for the next generation.”

Praising the sense of pride in ownership he sees in the VI, Sir John warned against selling off land the same way he said he has observed in other countries such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, according to a press release from the club.

He also claimed that “88 percent” of economic activity in Bermuda is owned by foreigners, which gives them “power to dictate or threaten,” the release stated.

Sir John also defended the VI’s financial services industry from what he claimed were unfair attacks from abroad.

“Stressing that the wrongdoers are the users of the services rather than the territory, he pointed out that banks are not charged for the actions of their clients,” the release paraphrased. “Instead of doing nothing, he said that the territory should identify an intermediary to help in addressing the issue by making necessary accommodations before the British take action.”


Turning to politics, Sir John noted that they are “often dictated by money, which leads to corruption,” the release paraphrased.

Urging a move away from divisive politics, he suggested that policies, laws, practices and ethics must relate to the people of the VI and that part of the solution to current problems is “clean, upstanding government which communicates with the people and so can speak on their behalf.” Although politicians typically mean well, the former Bermuda premier said, they can make “dumb decisions that can cause a lot of damage.”

He called on leaders to put aside their egos and political agendas and close ranks to do what is best for the territory, according to the release.

In closing, Sir John stressed two points he sees as important for the future of the VI.

First, he said that young people should be given the best possible education. Then he advised that they should have “strong hearts so that they can grow up and feel the same pride in the territory that their parents feel,” according to the release.

Club’s origins

The Investment Club was launched in 1992, when 26 Virgin Islanders and belongers each contributed $1,000 to obtain a loan to purchase shares in CCT Boatphone, a small VI-based telecom startup that became Caribbean Cellular Telephone.

Today, the club’s investments are valued at more than $100 million, and include stakes in Ocean Conversion, Coral Isle Insurance, Village Cay Marina, and Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, according to club President Meade Malone.

Those companies employ more than 140 people and have more than 1,500 shareholders, Mr. Malone said in the press release.

Several awards were also presented as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations.

Kristin Fraser, owner of Trefle, and Sinclair Flemming, owner of P3 – Paper Plastic Products, were awarded for their entrepreneurship.

Judith Charles, president of the Family Support Network, and nurse Bernet Scatliffe were honoured for their work within the community.

CCT CEO Averad Penn received an award for corporate leadership.