ST THOMAS, USVI -- On Tuesday, US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh hosted the fifth meeting of the Inter Virgin Islands Council, bringing together government leaders from the US and British Virgin Islands to work together to solve mutual concerns and advance common interests.
The Council was formed through a joint memorandum in 2004, and this week’s assembly marked the first time the USVI has hosted the meeting since de Jongh took office.
The governor began his remarks by welcoming BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith, his fellow co-chair of the council, and the entire BVI delegation. The governor said he shares with Smith “a common vision for cooperation and mutual progress, and a belief in the same approach to realizing a vision for the benefit of our territories’ peoples.”
“We must continue to engage each other in this way, because our islands are inextricably connected by their geographic proximity, the close ties of their citizens and a binding historical legacy,” de Jongh said.
During a day of meetings, updates and presentations, counterparts from multiple agencies in the US and British Virgin Islands governments discussed topics ranging from the development of clean energy resources, cultural preservation, educational and higher learning opportunities for young people, commercial fishing and marine regulations, combatting crime and gangs, and the development of common tourism interests.
They discussed cooperative efforts in the areas of law enforcement, pleasure boating and fishing, tourism, energy, higher education, and archives and record management.
British Virgin Islands officials also briefed the USVI representatives on the completion of the new Pockwood Pond Incinerator Plant, a project mitigating air pollution that was once affecting St John. De Jongh thanked his British counterparts for advancing their project and keeping his administration informed on its progress throughout construction.
“Among our shared resources is the very air we breathe, and political borders cannot contain environmental problems,” de Jongh said. “We have a responsibility to honor each other’s environmental integrity, and I am confident in our progress on this issue,” the governor added.
The meeting took place just days before BVI and USVI citizens celebrate the relationship between the two territories on St John at the 39th USVI/BVI Friendship Celebration.
“The diverse topics that will be addressed today are vital to the economic, social and cultural health of the US Virgin Islands. We are eager to hear the plans of our British counterparts, and their insights into our own efforts,” de Jongh said.
The governor praised the Council for the positive developments it has contributed to both territories since its inception. He shared his belief that the “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States first described by Winston Churchill in 1944 is nowhere in the world more special than it is in the Caribbean, where the two great nations have only a slight geographic and cultural divide.
At the conclusion of the meeting, de Jongh and Smith sat down with the two heads of their respective police departments to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding the analysis of DNA evidence.