From our House to yours
On March 19, I was given the rare and distinct privilege to be invited to sit within the parliamentary chambers of the House of Assembly of the British Virgin Islands during its 2018-19 Budget Statement.
As someone with maternal roots in BVI, it gave me a great sense of pride to be representing both the people and Government of Bermuda in such a manner.
As a show of appreciation, the following correspondence was submitted to the Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly of BVI, Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe.
Madame Speaker, the Honourable Premier Dr D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Honourable Ministers, Honourable Members and staff of the House of Assembly of the British Virgin Islands. I wish to take a few moments first to thank you for the courtesies extended to myself and, by extension, the Government and people of Bermuda over the course of my visit.
As sister-island territories with shared customs and heritage, it is extremely welcoming to be treated as a fellow parliamentarian. You can be assured that when, not if, any of you eventually travel to Bermuda, we will ensure reciprocal treatment in our House of Assembly.
Our Honourable Premier, David Burt, and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Honourable Dennis Lister Jr, will have it no other way.
Honourable fellow parliamentarians, please allow me to speak from the heart for a few minutes.
My great-grandfather was Canute Fraser of Sea Cow's Bay and my great-grandmother was Alfina Fraser (née Thomas), also of Sea Cow's Bay. I am also related to the Turnbull family of the Myers region.
My mother, June Fraser, who shared the same class as the Honourable Premier Dr Smith, was raised between Harrigan Hill and Sea Cow's Bay.
My aunt, Florence Maduro, is cousin to both the Honourable Hubert O'Neal and the Honourable Alvera Maduro-Caines.
The Deputy Clerk of the Legislature, Joann Vanterpool, is my aunt.
My uncle, Earl Fraser, served in this very House, as did his brother, my uncle, Julian Fraser, proudly representing the 3rd District. You see, if we peeled back the onion layers enough, we will find common ancestors with ease.
Suffice it to say, my navel string may not be buried here but my heart is here.
We are all kinsfolk.
Essentially, I am not just your fellow parliamentarian from another island, but I am a belonger and, more to the point, I am literally your cousin, Meshon.
So, today, I address you as a family member deeply proud of our heritage, our tenacity, our vigilance.
Notwithstanding the differences in individuals and ideologies, we as British Virgin Islanders, and as leaders in the Caribbean region, face unprecedented challenges.
Whether it be the changing winds of OECD, G7, G20, Brexit or as the Honourable Deputy Premier Kedrick Pickering noted, “Trumpism”, we must remain vigilant to protect our diverse financial sectors.
Whether it be the Zika virus, cruise line challenges or airline prices, we must remain vigilant to protect our diverse tourism sectors.
Indeed, we must become not just “greener”, no political pun intended, but we must become adaptable to the new norm.
Let it be known that the “Inconvenient Truth” that former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore spoke of is real. The events of August and September of 2017 have put to rest any doubt that our region is under threat.
Essentially, climate change is here to stay.
As I sat in Bermuda fearing for the lives of my family in BVI, we saw the first images of Scotiabank, or what was left of it, and my heart sank. I knew immediately that we had to begin mobilising help for you.
Honourable Members, please let it be known that we in Bermuda have always stood ready to assist you in your time of need via the following resources:
• Medical assistance
• Electrical restoration
• Police and military assistance
• Financial assistance via various aid organisations
However, let us not wait until we must react to a negative situation. Let us act proactively and find ways to share our culture, expertise, resources and skilled personnel. We have an opportunity, or dare I say moral responsibility, to help to shape the future of not just our individual islands but our entire region. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
My fellow parliamentarians, my fellow belongers, indeed, my family.
For two days I sat in this Honourable House in awe of your deliberations and deportment. Despite whichever side of the aisle you sit on, I have learnt much about ways to modernise and improve some of our parliamentary procedures in Bermuda.
In closing, I wish to once again thank you for the outstanding hospitality shown to myself. I truly have felt extremely honoured to sit in your hallowed chambers.
Ps. Please forgive me if I wrote too much. I can't help myself; I am a Fraser.
The Honourable Thomas Christopher Famous JP MP
Government of Bermuda
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com