Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and Fifth District Representative, Hon. Delores Christopher announced that the time has come for legislators to pass a law that will protect Virgin Islanders who are facing injustice in the marine sector with no recourse.
In what can be best be described as a plead for help, Hon. Christopher told her colleagues that Virgin Islanders continue to complain; and cry out for intervention into the way they are being treated in the marine sector, but no help is given to them.
The Deputy Speaker further told the House during the debate of the Cruising Permit (Amendment) Act, 2017: “One of the injustices is that our people are often laid off from the marinas while other people come into the BVI to fill those positions, and it is being said that we don’t like to work…Cleaning boats, painting, all these things are part of the industry that has been gradually taken away from BV Islanders on purpose, because there are some other people who want to take everything for themselves.”
Hon. Christopher opined that locals are being kept out of the industry through deceptive job descriptions: “We have come to the point where our local captains are groaning because of some cock eye story that the captain, mate or cook must now be together and share one cabin…It’s a trick because some outside persons coming in with their families and their whomever, and they are sharing the room on the pretense that it creates a room for guests.”
The Legislator reiterated that there is a hopelessness among citizens especially those being squeezed out of the industry. She said that many locals don’t know where to seek recourse:
“All these things are wrong and it just seems as if there is no place to take your complaint, because I have heard this thing around for quite some time…We have to correct these things…We have to, in the very near future, bring another bill that is going to ensure security for our own people in this industry…God has blessed us with these waters…We should be the one capitalizing on this benefit, but every day it seems to be slipping and slipping further away from us,” Hon. Christopher added.
Opposition Member and Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser explained that locals have been facing discrimination in the marine industry for years, and he noted that legislation might be the best way to remedy the problem.
In sounding his voice for protective legislation Hon. Fraser said: “Everyone in this room knows what happens in the industry out there…We have to be bold; we have to be courageous; we have to look out for our own people.”
The Third District Representative noted that the sector that is now thriving came from humble begins. He announced that these days the industry is booming, but BV Islanders are not reaping the rewards: “It has turned into one of the most lucrative ventures in these Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, Virgin Islanders don’t benefit from it as they should…We can’t even get our people to be captains out there or crews on the yachts without some form of hassle – without some form of discrimination. It should be seamless. As a matter of fact, the only crew out there should be our trained people as long as they have been trained,” the Third District Representative said.
While agreeing that legislative intervention is warranted, Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that it appears that lawmakers are afraid to pass laws to safeguard Virgin Islanders: “There seems to be a fear to put legislation in place to protect our people,” he said.
Similarly, Junior Minister of Trade and Investment Promotion Hon. Marlon Penn bemoaned the fact that there are trained locals that can fill various vacancies in the marine sector, but he noted that they are not being hired.
He therefore lent his voice to the call for laws to be implemented to assist in getting BV Islanders into the industry: “We have a lot of newly trained captains especially in my community in East End… We have the capacity but we as a government should ensure that the laws and the policies are put in place to ensure that our people are not sidelined and are not left behind.”
“We have the hospitality expertise as well. We’ve been in the hospitality industry for years. So we just lose that skill all of a sudden? I don’t want to sound cynical, but I think there is something happening here, and what is happening we need to get to the bottom of it, and we need to ensure that whatever portion of this industry is still available must be preserved for our people,” Hon. Penn declared.