By Mellica McPherson
The BVI is not rolling over and playing dead in the wake of the United Kingdom Parliament’s acceptance of an amendment, which allows for an Order in Council to impose public registers of beneficial ownership on the BVI and other Overseas Territories by 2020.
The concerns in the BVI about the devastating move has not subsided and has resulted in a decision to stage a protest march on 24 May that spans from the Sunday Morning Well to the Governor’s House. The march which has even attracted support from sister overseas territories is said to be organized as a public show of the BVI’s disagreement with the heavy handed approach the United Kingdom took via the amendment.
Bishop John Cline, who is one of the persons behind the decision to march, announced during the 15 March Speak Out BVI radio program that this protest is the manner in which the people of the BVI choose to stand for their economic freedom: “This vote in the House of Commons was clearly a violation of our economic independence and it trampled upon our economic viability so what then should we do if we are not standing up and saying we think this is wrong?” he asked.
Executive Director of BVI Finance, Lorna Smith OBE who appeared on a ZBVI radio program on Saturday 12 May along with Ayana Hull, and Zoe Walcott to discuss the march pointed out that financial services directly and indirectly contribute to eighty cents of every dollar the Territory makes.
She firmly stated that misinformation is a key factor to the position that is being taken against the Territory. “We need to make it clear that this is not a group of people or a country that is trying to hold on to something that is illicit, that is criminal. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of our reputation. The fact that the British Virgin Islands has been so ahead of the curb in every year,” Mrs. Smith pointed out.
The Executive Director of BVI Finance also mentioned that the Territory has not needed granting aid for many decades and noted that this move will be a critical blow to the BVI. “If this happens it robs us of our self-respect and it robs us of our dignity and that is why we cannot let it happen,” Mrs. Smith said.
Ms. Hull announced that the march transcends politics and personal views or opinions. “We have to unite together on this point about this constitutional over reach…We expect to be able to explain to people of this Territory that when it comes to what has become our nest egg that all of us are together totally. So whatever the issue is, whatever views let’s all sit down and reason together. When we make that trip from the Sunday Morning Well …and we get down to the Governor’s House we want all of us to be together whether you are from the BVI, Jamaica, Barbados…regardless of where we come from all of us must go down there black, white, yellow or red and show the United Kingdom that we are unified and solid on the issue,” she said.
Meanwhile Ms. Walcott stated that the march is not a call for independence as she explained that self-determination is a whole other subject and requires separate discussions. She also mentioned that the United Kingdom’s acceptance of this amendment comes across as unconscionable.
The community’s support was best described by the comment made by a caller to the 15 May Speak out BVI radio program. The woman in sharing her opinion on the demonstration said: “We have to get into the habit of marching at some point, this is as good an opportunity as any because when things go wrong in this country you all sit back and you do nothing you say nothing. We say everything on the blogs but we cannot work up the courage to say something on the streets for reasons such as victimization and such. We have to go in the habit sometime, we might as well start now.”
Both Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith and Leader of the Opposition Hon. Andrew Fahie have endorsed the march. In fact, both legislators travelled to the United Kingdom as a team to lobby on the Territory’s behalf.