The issue of land falling into the hands of non-belongers due to bank foreclosure or directly from locals, worries Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering. He told his colleagues during Tuesday’s House of Assembly sitting that land ownership is what gives BV Islanders a say in their country and that this new trend is threatening to leave Virgin Islanders landless.
The Minister spoke about the issue passionately and told his colleagues, “Land is vitally important for our survival as a people. We have a problem that some of us don’t want to talk about, but we have got to talk about it. The policy of continually giving BV Isanders land and they are selling it or losing it by way of bad decisions; it is a trend that we have got to cease, otherwise we are going to wake up one day and we are going to be a minority, but we are going to be landless. We have got to face head on.”
The Minister said that other Members of the House of Assembly have thrown out the idea of building homes for Virgin Islanders, but he said that perhaps the building of homes might be a better option than the straight handing over of land. However, the Minister opined that the topic is a matter that needs to be discussed on a territorial level via a debate.
“Is it more important now? Is it more important in the medium and long term that we get involved in the whole question of building houses? Are we going to use three or four acres of land and develop a complex where BV Islanders can buy homes? It can be done through private public partnership, but it is a debate that we have got to have.”
The Deputy Premier disclosed that Government has asked the Committee that was appointed to deal with the North Sound land distribution to look at the issue: “We have asked the Committee that we have put in place to look at North Sound to look at (this) particular issue, specifically because you can use five acres of land that can probably house 25 to 30 families, and they can purchase a home at reasonable price. As opposed to giving one individual a half acre of land, and they go and build a home that down the road they can’t afford to pay the mortgage for and the banks are just selling.”
“…We cannot continue along that road any longer, because the reason why we still have a say in our country is because we still own land. We still own real estate, but it is a trend, it is happening.”
The Minister added that there ought to be a change in the thinking among BV Islanders, and opined that if this is not done BV Islanders will be a landless people.