Virgin Islands Governor's Swearing in and Welcome Ceremony, 15 August 2015: Speech given by HM Governor John S Duncan
Honourable Premier, Your Ladyship Honourable Madam Justice Vicki Ann Ellis, Madame Deputy Speaker, Honourable Ministers, Honourable Attorney General, Madame Deputy Governor, Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Other Honourable Members of the House of Assembly, Members of the Clergy, other distinguished guests, members of the media and the listening and viewing audience, good morning.
Firstly, my thanks to the Honourable Premier and the Honourable Leader of the Loyal Opposition for their warm words of welcome.
It is a great honour to have taken today the formal Oaths of Allegiance and for due Execution of Office, which complete my formal appointment as Her Majesty the Queen‘s Governor of the Virgin Islands. It is also a particular personal pleasure to be here amongst you with my family on these beautiful islands.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Governor is appointed by Her Majesty. However as the Oath of due Execution of Office makes clear I am also your Governor.
The role and task of the Governor is to strike the balance between the views of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, those of the Government of the Virgin Islands, your elected representatives and the aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands.
In carrying out this responsibility I will seek to bring even-handedness, professional integrity, a willingness to listen to the views of others, coupled with the readiness to make the right decision, even if that is not always the easy, or the popular one.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my journey to these Islands has been a long one, and not just the recent detour to the South Atlantic to take on the role of Acting Governor of the Falkland Islands.
Last week you celebrated the 60th Emancipation Festival. As you may know I grew up under the big skies, wide open landscape and the warm sun of Africa. My childhood friends were African people and I was proud, but also humbled, when my African colleagues at the United Nations referred to me as their “Brother”. But Africa was a long time ago for all of us. It is right to remember our heritage, as the Honourable Premier has just said it is important to celebrate and preserve the many past achievements of the Virgin Islanders. But we need also to look forward to the challenges ahead
For the past 30 years as a public servant I have striven to make the world a better and fairer place, whether it was on the battlefields of Kosovo, the refugee camps in Sudan, the committee rooms and corridors of the United Nations, or helping business men and women towards success in their investments and developing their export potential.
This is the commitment I bring to the role of Governor of the Virgin Islands – to work together with your government and your elected representatives, with the support and commitment of the talented men and women of the public service to make the Virgin Islands a still better and fairer place - so that the citizens of this territory have greater opportunities to reach their full potential.
There is indeed much to be proud of in what the Virgin Islands have achieved over the past 50 years - the Honourable Leader of the Opposition referred to the long tradition of hard work and entrepreneurship of these islands and the Honourable Premier referred to the importance of young people who have shown only in the last few weeks their ability and determination to strive for excellence, notably in their exams and the Commonwealth Games. But as the age old saying goes “Time and tide wait for no man”. There are challenges as well as opportunities ahead in our 21st century society.
For example the important role that the Virgin Islands play in the modern global economy as a well-regulated centre for financial services under English law, is not always well understood.
In part this is because the global communications revolution, which the Premier has referred to, that has brought us all together and created new ways of doing business to a degree few ever imagined, has also provided greater scope for people to question and call to account; whether it be how we meet our collective responsibility on climate change, or the need to regulate our businesses effectively. Governments and the public service need to acknowledge and respond to both the opportunities and the challenges this new environment brings.
These changes also bring the need for new ways of thinking. The Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom are both island communities, with all that entails. But, as John Donne observed nearly 400 years ago “ No man is an island”.
In the 21st century communities need to value their diversity, to put behind them the temptation to remain insular in outlook, or to blame “The Other” for their problems. Communities that succeed in doing this will better capture the opportunities and master the challenges.
I very much look forward to visiting all parts of the Virgin Islands ,meeting you all in person, learning your perspectives on how together we can work in partnership to meet the challenges the Virgin Islands will face and help the Virgin Islands people seize the opportunities ahead.
Thank you for your attention.