FIRST BELONGER STATUS FORUM HELD

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Following days of lobbying by a small group, all interested Virgin Islanders were able to attend a meeting where they had the opportunity to lay-bare their concerns regarding the Clear Path to Regulation initiative. This initiative aims to confer Residence and Belonger status to expatriates living in the Territory for 15 years of more.

The meeting took place on 20 May at the College Auditorium and before inviting the citizens to speak their mind Premier, Hon. Andrew Fahie told the audience that the gathering was democracy at work. He also mentioned that the meeting arose because the government decided to yield to public request for consultation on legislation: “The original proposal, the reason why we removed the amendment from the Order Paper for the Second and Third reading to be done is because we value and respect the views of our people. The people’s voice and opinion must be respected,” the Premier noted.

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.

The second speaker of the night was a well-known woman who said: “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 BV Islander aside. They were doing that mainly with the trust industry. When we started to equip ourselves educationally they came up with some nonsense, but you got to speak German, you got to speak Russian and all kind of language and it needs to stop. This is a English speaking country…we are like second class citizens in our own country.”

One of the reiterated points by the citizens was that they are treated poorly by expatriates who they say deliberately exclude indigenous Virgin Islanders from various things. One young man said: “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.”

He further echoed a point that was repeated constantly since the matter of regularization arose – the ability of Belongers to freely purchase land.

At least three persons dubbed to be expatriates spoke at the meeting. One of the most notable contributions of the night was made by a woman who identified herself as an expatriate. She sought to allay specifically the land purchasing fear and stated that the expatriates who have means to purchase lands are already doing so and those who do not will still not have the means.

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