The Territory observed 11 December as a public holiday in mourning of the passing of former Premier and Member Emeritus of the House of Assembly Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal. However, a call has been made for the holiday to become an annual day of remembrance and reflections.
Deputy Premier, Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration and Ninth District Representative Hon. Vincent Wheatley announced during the special sitting that was held in homage to Hon. O’Neal on Tuesday 3 December that he intends to lobby to have a Ralph T. O’Neal holiday every year in the BVI.
Hon. Wheatley told his colleagues, “I served for many years on the H. L. Stoutt Commemorative Birthday Committee and I always advocated for a general leader’s day, as opposed to one single day. I have always been turned down. They said no, no, no we are not going to expand Lavity’s birthday to anything else more than Lavity Stoutt birthday; so Mr. Speaker I will be advocating for a Ralph O’Neal holiday.”
The Deputy Premier, who is also Hon. O’Neal’s son-in-law and is currently representing the District Hon. O’Neal represented for 40 years said, “I for sure would be one advocating for a day to his memory. His memory, his life, his legacy should never ever be forgotten.”
Additionally, Hon. Wheatley said that next year he hopes to have the “Ralph O’Neal Memorial Park” in Virgin Gorda, or in the Ninth District.
In echoing the call for the public holiday Second District Representative Hon. Mitch Turnbull said, “Mr. Speaker I am going to state, and this is my position that on 15 December, 2020 that we make a public holiday in honor of this man, which would be his birthday.”
Hon. Turnbull said that he anticipates that not all might not be in favor of the holiday, but he stated that it would be a good thing to do. “It has nothing to do with what people might think. There will be all the arguments about the businesses and what it cost, but when you look at the sacrifice that this giant of a man made none should argue,” the Second District Representative said.
Prior to the ending of the sitting Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie said that he supported the call for a Territorial holiday, but said that it should be a holiday celebrating “all” past leaders. Hon. Fahie told the House, “I agree with those when they said that we needed a holiday, I call it the ancestors/leaders day, because we need a day when we could remember our ancestors and our leaders and we will discuss that more.”