A gathering of hundreds converged at the Multipurpose Center on 16 December for one of the largest Belonger and Residency certificate handover ceremony the Territory has ever seen. The massive gathering consisted of persons who have been living in the Territory for more than 20 years.

The large group of recipients comprised of 648 persons receiving certificates of Belonger status and 542 who would receive certificates of Residency and Belonger combined from the Fast Track programme, and persons from the applications backlog that included 129 for residency and 204 for Belongers.

During the more than three hours ceremony Minister for Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley told the new citizens of the Territory, “With this new status which you have applied for and was graciously granted, comes some responsibilities. Accepting this new status should mean and I certainly hope it does, that you have accepted BVI’s Values, Customs and Culture, and these are too guarded, protected, celebrated and shared with great pride and enthusiasm. You as new ambassadors will be a reflection of all of us, and we will all be judged by your actions, attitudes and behaviours. We ask you, to take this very seriously.”

Both the Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie and Hon. Wheatley told the gathering that some of the persons who were receiving their certificates were part of the BVI community for decades. They said, “This recognition has come from your having lived among us for more than 20 years and in some cases more than 40 and 50 years.”

Baseless Raw Mischief

Similarly both the Premier and Minister Wheatley mentioned that persons were spreading false information about the Fast Track programme. “From these numbers you can see that the rumors and fearmongering that have been spread by a handful of persons have been disproved as untrue baseless and raw mischief.”

Further piggybacking on Hon. Wheatley’s mention that certain individuals were mischievous and intentionally spreading rumors about the number of  persons who were presented with Belonger certificates the Premier said that he can understand why some persons decided to make such allegations. “I respect anyone’s view who decide that they want to make a stance in what they believe in and I can understand the root of why they said what they said, but I also want to say that as leaders you have a choice. You can face the problems that are there and do nothing and let them become worst or you can make a decision, one that would not only solve the problem but unite the BVI forever. We chose to unite the BVI forever,” Hon. Fahie said to a backdrop of cheers and applause.

Additionally, Premier Fahie told the huge gathering that the certificates they received were visible demonstrations and tangible acknowledgement of them as part of the BVI community. “This certificate is more than just a piece of paper. It is our government’s statement and the people of the Virgin Islands statement that we recognize you as a member of our community and as a person that is a Virgin Islander now — in our context of definition it is known as Belonger. This recognition has come from you living among us for so many years,” Hon. Fahie stated.