Bermuda Post

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020

BVI Governor Augustus Jaspert addresses VINO's-George-Floyd-cartoon

BVI Governor Augustus Jaspert addresses VINO's-George-Floyd-cartoon

Governor Augustus Jaspert has condemned local news website VINO's controversial cartoon with him kneeling on the neck of radio talk-show host Claude Skelton Cline. He obviously has the right to condemn it, and VINO obviously have the right to express their opinion. Our opinion is at the end of this article.

"I was made aware of the cartoon published by VINO today and comments by the host of Honestly Speaking and was appalled and disturbed by what they depicted and insinuated.  
 
The horrific death of George Floyd in the United States has moved us all and sent shockwaves around the world.   There should be no place for racism in any society, and I actively stand with those who oppose racism, and who are highlighting injustice and prejudice in the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd.   I hope we can come together as a community to say no to racism in any form.
 
It is grossly offensive and unacceptable to use George Floyd’s tragic death in this way.   Freedom of speech is an important and vital principle of our society.  The media carries a responsibility to ensure that principle is not abused or operates outside the bounds of decency.    

Augustus J.U. Jaspert
Governor"


Saying nice words in British-English is one thing - however the Governor did not offer to take any action to support his words or to prove that he really meant what he said. For example, to take action to ensure that the Governor is democratically elected by BVI people for the BVI people, and not appointed by the white-elite in London for the white-elite in London, as he publicly stated just one month ago that he is in BVI to protect the UK's interest and to report back to the UK government.  And secondly to make sure that the Governor is a  local person that is part of the same society and culture, and not a totally outsider that coming "from up" to control the local government. But nice words are a good start, anyway, and maybe the George Floyd tragedy really has opened his eyes and made him realize what is wrong with him being Governor while declaring he is against racism. The fact that he is there "by the law" is just a reminder that also slavery was "by the law" yet the whole world agree that it was an organized crime against humanity.


Our opinion and standpoint;

This cartoon is disturbing indeed, especially at such a sensitive time.

We are great advocates of the maximum protection of free speech. 

The value of freedom of expression is not examined in the expression of pleasant and comfortable views. The value of freedom of speech is measured precisely in relation particularly to the expression of offensive and disturbing views.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” (George Orwell).

However, freedom of expression does not abrogate the responsibility that verbal or visual humour can be translated by some extremist into dangerous action.

It is both very fine and very relevant to oppose the colonialism that the Governor Augustus Jaspert is part of, and represents. And it is also very relevant and definitely appropriate to link the anti-colonialism voices in (B?)VI with the George Floyd protests, the same as it must be okay and very welcome to express the opposite voices, that appreciate Governor Augustus Jaspert service and contribution to BVI people and territory. Both opposite opinions are legitimate and must enjoy the same freedom of expression.  

It is also very relevant and definitely appropriate to link the anti-colonialism voices in BVI with the George Floyd protests even if obviously we all know that there is not much to compare between the built-in racism in major U.S. institutes and society, that almost do not exist in BVI, despite of what is left from the British colonialism. While UK is fighting constantly and effectively against it's traditional racism (it's just a question of time before we will see that the "second class citizens" in UK will control the whole political system) - U.S. is still 150 years behind.

So leveraging the George Floyd momentum to amplify the anti-colonialism movement in BVI is justified. Somehow. However, this must be done in a way that does not risk anyone's personal safety.

And such a cartoon is, in my personal opinion, a strong and powerful way to deliver the message, but also creates a risk that this will lead to unwanted and dangerous action against the Governor (or VINO). So we join the call for removing it at this sensitive time, but we are absolutely against boycotting VINO just because they think or say something that we believe its wrong. 

We suggest to remove this cartoon not as a must and not by the law, but as an act of responsible journalism.

Mature society do not need a law to guide them how to act properly. Anyway as we all know, not all what is legal is moral, and not all what is moral is legal (for example: Slavery was legal but not moral, and Nelson Mandela acts against his apartheid government wasn't legal but absolutely moral...).


VINO responds to backlash

VINO responds to Governor’s statement over cartoon as the following:

Mr Jaspert claimed that the cartoon was “grossly offensive”; however, after the recent murder in the United States of George P. Floyd Jr and more recently Rayshard Brooks, he did not find the same time and courage to release a statement condemning the murder of blacks in the USA by racist police mobs.

We take it that the good Governor was also outraged, but did not get around to a public position via a statement!

Be consistent

It is not our role to judge Mr Jaspert or pronounce on his motive; however, we never heard a statement when young blacks were tased a few months ago by local police or even the result of the investigations, but the Governor found time to get into the conversation over a cartoon. Should we conclude that he cares about Black Lives Matter issues?

His alleged disrespect and unprofessional behaviour against some of our leaders may need a statement, but we will leave that to his good conscience.

I trust the Governor will use the time remaining in the Virgin Islands to help fight racism and all forms of discrimination in many private sector businesses and many industries, and truly let actions speak louder than words.

End of VINO's respond.


Claude O. Skelton-Cline responds:

In that episode, Skelton-Cline had told his listening audience, "every time the United Kingdom uses its cohesive powers, that's a knee on our collective neck. Every time the United Kingdom threatens us or gives us an ultimatum, that's a knee on our collective necks."

The office of the Governor was a remnant of systematic and institutional racism against Virgin Islanders maintained by the British Empire.

"Every time in this recent history where this Governor overrides the Public Service Commission and their recommendations to honour the requests of the newly elected government for their own PS's," he said that is a knee on VI's collective neck.

It was in August 2019, when Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert usurped this function entirely upon himself when he rejected the recommendation of the Public Service Commission (PSC) with regard to the appointment of Permanent Secretaries and made his own appointments. This was seen as a slap in the face of the VI at a time when the Territory was celebrating Emancipation from slavery.

The man of the cloth, Mr Skelton-Cline, further said it is not just George Floyd who couldn't breathe, "we can't breathe, our Premier [Andrew A. Fahie] cannot breathe because we have a Governor with his knees on our necks."

"The depiction of the governor, is a depiction, a reflection that represents the United Kingdom in our Geo-Political construct... that's the way I see it, that's the way I took it," he further explained.  

A small section of the VI community had reacted in outrage to the social commentary and the visual depiction. A few persons connected to political parties in the Opposition had also publicly vowed to shut down VINO and have called advertisers bullying them to discontinue advertising on our news site.

Mr Skelton-Cline; however, urged those individuals to channel their passion and anger into identifying companies utilising slave labour and institutional racism. 

"And so, what I want you to hear me say, I am not interested in a boycott against the local agency [VINO]. I'm in favour of looking at companies in our midst, across the Americas, across the UK and other countries in the earth who have systematically and institutionally deprive people of colour for promotions, for new hires, who support slave type labour."

He urged those who are upset by his comments to do the research, identify the systematically racist companies and boycott the goods they sell.

British colonisation was built on racism and the VI, now classified an Overseas Territory, is still a colony of the UK, and overseeing that colony is the Governor's office with a Governor appointed by the British monarch to act as the de facto head of state.

As part of his role, the Governor also has certain powers to make and remove appointments in the VI while Britain maintains its political, economic, and social influences through neocolonialism in the OTs and around the world.

Mr Skelton-Cline said; however, that he does not believe the sitting VI Governor is a racist although he is empowered by the Crown, "I don't know him that well, I don't believe that, and that's why I took the cartoon as simply a representation," of the UK he said regarding his commentary.

At the same time, the man of the cloth said he believes Britain has other motives, "The United Kingdom continues to demonstrate to us in ways, where they do not intend to substantially, materially, factually, in any way, support these Virgin Islands or its OT territories in the forward motion and progress of self-determination."


Website denies racism, distances Speaker from cartoon


Management of the site also sought to distance House of Assembly Speaker Willock from the cartoon, adding that VINO rejects acts of racism. The website said it was not trying to “downplay the seriousness” of the global ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests that have been happening since the May 25 killing of 46-year-old African-American, George Floyd.

VINO’s cartoon was inspired by the controversial circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death. He was killed on the streets of Minneapolis, USA when a caucasian police officer kneeled on his neck for just under 9 minutes.

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