In what might very well be a first in Virgin Islands history, leaders of the main political parties in the territory participated in a political debate ahead of the upcoming general election.
The Virgin Islands
Party’s (VIP) Dr Natalio Wheatley, the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement’s (PVIM) Ronnie Skelton, the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) Marlon Penn, and Julian Fraser of Progressives United — all chairmen of their parties — gathered inside the auditorium at H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) last evening and shared their political ideologies for the territory.
Organised by HLSCC’s Virgin Islands Studies Institute, the debate gave voters a chance to watch in real-time as leaders faced off on multiple issues such as fiscal policy, social welfare, and healthcare. They were even made to answer to decisions they’ve made during their time as a political representative.
Perhaps most importantly, though, yesterday’s successfully staged debate signalled a development of Virgin Islands politics. The value of political debates cannot be understated as they are important for voters to see their political leaders on the same stage responding to the same questions or addressing the same topics.
They not only allow voters an opportunity to learn more about a leader’s brand of politics before going to the polls, but debates also allow voters to see how well these leaders are able to think on their feet beyond scripted campaign messages. During yesterday’s debate, the four political chairmen had an opportunity to deliver a short opening and closing address, and respond to questions in front of a live audience of supporters and HLSCC students, among others.
The 2023 general election is scheduled to happen on April 24 and has been described in several spaces as the most important election so far in the territory’s history. If this is true, the political leaders’ collective willingness to participate in these debates this time ’round — after neglecting to do so in previous years — may not have come at a better time.
BVI News will report on the issues arising from yesterday’s chairman debates in subsequent publications.