Chair of the Organizing Committee pleased with outcome of Royal visit
Sophie, Countess of Wessex planting a tree during a visit at the Botanic Gardens
April 29, 2022

Chair of the Organizing Committee pleased with outcome of Royal visit

Saturday’s official visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex was a detailed undertaking that saw preparation spanning approximately two and half months and the mobilising of hundreds of personnel on the day.

Chair of the Organising Committee, René Baptiste (left) CMG in conversation with Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex

“I think the visit went fairly well, quite well as a matter of fact, I was very pleased with how things turned out at the different venues,” the Chair of the Organising Committee, René Baptiste CMG, noted when contacted on Wednesday, April 27.

Governor General, Dame Susan Dougan has sent a letter to the Committee indicating that she was also pleased.

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex visited the nation on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II as part of a Caribbean tour to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

On landing, the couple was presented with a bouquet of flowers by a student from the Argyle Government School, a red carpet greeting, inspection of a Guard of Honour, the playing of the national anthem by the police band, greetings from dignitaries, uniformed groups and the South East Steel Orchestra.

The Earl and Countess were then escorted to separate locations for the second leg of the visit.

Prince Edward witnessed two 70m races by female and male athletes at the Sir Vincent Beache Stadium, spoke with the coaches, and gave medals to the young sprinters.

“The athletes seemed to show off on the new track. That was wonderful, wonderful experience and something good has come out of that. I wouldn’t say anything more on it at this time. Something good has come out of that and Mr Cato and his team from the Ministry of Sports did a good job in trying to organise because they were doing their regular work of organising for the primary school and the secondary school sports meet coming up to the time,” Baptiste said.

Following on from this, the Earl visited the Arnos Vale Sports Complex where the Montreal Garden Bloomers and the Balliceaux Warriors played a 10/10 cricket match; he also met with representations from other disciplines including table tennis and swimming. He was in the company of Vincentian professional cricketer, Sunil Ambris and Minister with responsibility for sports, Frederick Stephenson.

Epic Sounds Steel Orchestra set the tone for the Countess’ visit to the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Community College (SVGCC) and La Gracia dance company took centre stage.

The Renaissance Dance Company performing a traditional Maypole dance

Discussions were held with female entrepreneurs from Brio Che, Isla Antilles and Ronz Organic Seamoss Gel, followed by a closed session discussion with women who played an integral role in the recovery process from the eruptions of La Soufrière.

These were the Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), Michelle Forbes; Country Head of ABI for Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Shafia London; Audrey Walters-Butler and Hazzard Joseph, farmers from South Central Windward and North Windward respectively; and graduate teachers, Keisha Ballantyne, LaToya DeRoche-John and Ikarmola LaBorde.

“Broad representation from different aspects of social and productive life in St Vincent to have conversation, real conversation and not just news reports on what somebody say but to have a one on one conversation so that that information could be taken back to have some additional value,” the Chair submitted in reference to the entirety of the discussions that took place on Saturday.

The couple rejoined each other at the Government House where they were hosted by the Governor General.

There was an award ceremony for the 13 Duke of Edinburgh awardees who met the gold standard.

“I’m very pleased with those young people,” Baptiste commented, “I mean it is just fantastic what they are doing. People need to know more about these types of young people who are there doing such wonderful work and the Girl Guides movement that is moulding these young leaders, young female leaders, excellent job.”

“The cadets as well, it’s really admirable the work that they have put in as an organisation,” she complimented.

The ensuing luncheon hosted at the House was exquisite, Baptiste said.

Following this was a meaningful walk through the Botanic Gardens and the greeting of school children who had come out.

In what has become a tradition during visits from royal guests, the Earl and Countess planted a tree, a Burmese Pink Cassia tree in the Gardens.

While this is viewed derisively by some on the Internet, Baptiste defended the environmental consciousness.

“All the organisations in St Vincent should be out planting 100 trees, they should be doing that. They need to be looking at those issues,” she said.

The Royal couple also paid a visit to the aviary, followed by the viewing of a dance by the Renaissance Dance Company.

“I’m very happy with the Ministry of Culture, what they’ve been able to produce in the way of the different styles of traditional dance,” the organising committee chair commented, that included the Maypole, Garifuna punta dance and the quadrille.

The Starlift Steel orchestra also provided some musical entertainment for the Earl and Countess before they made their way to the Curator’s House to view a photo and video exhibition depicting the effects of the 2021 eruptions of the volcano.

The Agency for Public Information (API), and Paul Cyrus were some of the contributors for the exhibition.

The couple then conversed with groups on the country’s response to COVID-19 and the eruptions.

The convoy then moved on to the Prime’s Minister’s residence for a private meeting.

“I was very pleased that he had the opportunity to have a good conversation with the acting prime minister, (Montgomery Daniel) and members of Cabinet and the prime minister (Dr Ralph Gonsalves) at the official residence of the prime minister, a conference call. It went well,” Baptiste concluded.

The Committee which put together the entire visit numbered between 40 to 50 people.