A Beaconite applauds the government’s move to eliminate arrival testing and quarantine for vaccinated travellers. However, she has observed that one of the major sources of frustration for travellers — the BVI Gateway portal — still remains. She knows this because of her own experience, her friends’ complaints, and and countless Facebook posts from frantic travellers calling on BVI Tourist Board Marketing Manager Lynette Harrigan — who deserves a medal — to intervene last-minute on the eve of their flights when their applications have not yet been approved. Apparently, one problem is that a human needs to read and approve each test result, which is understandable due to the real risk of fraud. But the portal seemingly can’t keep up. A friend recently pointed out that eliminating the five-day pre-arrival testing and the portal in favour of a rapid test on arrival might actually cut down on the bottleneck. Another option might be artificial intelligence that can scan and evaluate each application. Without some sort of solution, the Beaconite thinks the frustration is likely to continue.
Emancipation has long been commemorated as a public holiday in the Virgin Islands and other countries across the Caribbean. The United States is now catching up, with the Senate passing a bill Tuesday that would establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day to commemorate the end of slavery in the US. The bill passed with unanimous consent in the Senate, and it is headed to the House of Representatives before it will reach the president’s desk. “Freedom Day,” as the observance is also known, commemorates the date in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom. Though the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery in 1862, enforcement relied on Union troops. General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas.
When chatting with people about the Commission of Inquiry, a Beaconite has heard a wide range of perspectives on what the outcome should be. Some residents say they favour a full takeover by the United Kingdom for a period of time, as seen after the Turks and Caicos Islands investigation in 2009. Other residents oppose the investigation entirely. They describe it as damaging to the reputation of the Virgin Islands, and they hope it will end promptly without finding anything. After watching the hearings this week, the Beaconite predicts the outcome will be somewhere in the middle, where the COI recommends making changes to certain systems like the Register of Interests but stops short of calling for a total UK takeover. The Beaconite hopes that leaders continue to actively engage with the inquiry to achieve the strong institution building so passionately discussed at the House of Assembly’s 70th anniversary. This can be an opportunity for comprehensive governance reforms that the territory so badly needs. The more that VI leaders engage with questions like “What did you find ambiguous about this form when you were filling it out, and what recommendations would you make to change it?” the stronger the VI’s voice will be in shaping these reforms.
Over the winter, a Beaconite spent much of his free time surfing at Josiahs Bay. While waiting for waves, he would stare at the gleaming, tempting shore of Guana Island. So close yet so far away, there was something about the island that seemed just idyllic. On Sunday, after endless conversations about how to best reach the island, the Beaconite and some friends borrowed a couple kayaks and paddled into the open ocean. Well, not exactly. They first hugged the northern coast of Tortola, paddling into deep water only after they passed Lambert Bay so that they could avoid a strong current and wind for as long as possible. The passage was arduous but instantly worth it. The Beaconite and his friends first tied their kayaks to a mooring line in a rocky cove, where he experienced some of his best snorkeling in a long while. Then, they were off to the beach, which was just as beautiful as the Beaconite had imagined. From under the shade of a grape tree, he could see what seemed like every bay on Tortola’s northern coast. After a quick nap, he and a buddy each plucked a coconut off a low-hanging tree and spent a solid half-hour smashing it against a rock and peeling off its layers of skin, until he cracked open the shell and drank the water inside. Never had he tasted anything so rewarding.