Photo Credit: Ronnielle Frazer/GIS
Virgin Islanders are being marginalized in their own Territory. This was the main complaint that was communicated to Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie and the members of this Government during the lively meeting that was held at the Eileen Parsons Auditorium on May 20.
The meeting was held to discuss Government’s Clear Path to Regularization initiative, which aims to present Residence and Belonger status on expatriates who have lived in the Territory for 15 years or more.
This two-day discussion came as a result of protest from Virgin Islanders, who noted that the initiative was being rushed, and that there was no consultation on the matter.
In opening the meeting, Premier Fahie admitted that the meeting was in response to the public outcry and he noted that his Government is keen to listen to the views of the people.
“The original proposal, the reason why we removed the amendment from the Order Paper for the Second and Third reading is because we value and respect the views of our people. The people’s voice and opinion must be respected. We can’t build the BVI without the people and our future, which are our children,” he said.
As the meeting rolled on, the recurring message or complaint was that Virgin Islanders are unhappy about the way they are treated by those who come to live and work in the Territory.
One female Virgin Islander commented that she feels like a second class citizen in her own homeland. She told the Government, “We are not really talking about Caribbean people either; we are talking about caucasian as well. Some of these jobs they come here and they push the BVIslander aside. They were doing that mainly with the Trust industry. When we started to equip ourselves educationally, they came up with some nonsense...you got to speak German, you got to speak Russian and all kinds of language, and it needs to stop. This is an English speaking country…we are like second class citizens in our own country.”
Another Virgin Islander said that locals are not usually invited to certain events being held by a particular group of expatriates.
“Some groups just don’t exclude or limit Virgin Islanders from certain work opportunities, but from social opportunities as well. We Virgin Islanders love a good party and when you see us not going to a party, it’s because we are not welcome there so we just don’t go.“
The same resident also lamented that conferring Belonger status to expatriates with more finances will allow them to purchase more lands. This point of land grab was echoed repeatedly during the night, with one woman noting that there are already Virgin Islanders who cannot afford to purchase land.
During the meeting, a few expatriates also spoke.
One woman in particular pointed out that she has been living in the Territory for 25 years and would not want to disenfranchise Virgin Islanders in anyway. She also noted that the expatriates who have means to purchase lands are already doing so and those who do not will still not have the means.