Two protests simultaneously took place at the House of Assembly on 17 May. One of the protests involved residents of the Fourth District and was aimed at pleading with Speaker of the House of Assembly Julian Willock to swear in Fourth District Representative, Mark Vanterpool. The other protest was held by concerned Virgin Islanders and was aimed at dissuading the House from amending and passing the Passport and Immigration Act by having all three readings that day.
The two groups occupied opposing ends of the compound, with the concerned citizens adopting more of a lobbyist approach; while the Fourth District residents with placards in hand peacefully encouraged legislators to help their cause.
As the crowd increased members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force asked the Fourth District residents to do their demonstrating outside the gate of the House of Assembly. This however, did not sit lightly with the Fourth District residents who complained that they were being asked to leave while the other group was allowed to stay.
Results for Fourth District Residents
The Fourth District Residents were hoping to speak with Premier Andrew Fahie before the sitting commenced however, no one saw when the Premier entered the building. It wasn’t until after the residents were told that Hon. Fahie was already inside the Chambers.
Nonetheless, Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock, in whose hands the swearing-in of the Representative stands did acknowledge the protesters. He acknowledged the group and told them: “I respect democracy.”
The man at the center of the protest, Mark Vanterpool, was in attendance at the sitting and prior to the start of the House he told the media that he was proud of the manner his constituents conducted themselves: “I was really happy today to see the protest being very peaceful. All people are doing is their democratic right to ask that their elected representative is sworn in.”
The elected Fourth District Representative further stated that he was unhappy that the matter was dragging on: “The court has ruled, the judge has ruled, the Governor has ruled, the Attorney General has advised; and I don’t know what else we are waiting for. It is unfair to have the District Four people not represented and I am anxious to represent them. It all started…but we’ve gone past that and we want to get on with things. I want to represent our people and hopefully that can happen,” he said.
However, the sitting proceeded without Vanterpool being sworn-in and he and his constituents ended up leaving the compound of the House on Assembly on Friday with the matter still unresolved.
Nonetheless, the Chair of the Fourth District Grievance Committee Raymond Fonseca told reporters that they were not disappointed with the outcome as he said that the constituents feel that their views were heard.
Results for Citizens Protest
The citizens who were protesting the amending of the Immigration Bill left the sitting that day on a happy note as their pressure produced results.
In pulling the Bill Premier Fahie said: “I rose to say that the people’s voices, I promised them that amendments would be made and one of the amendments that I am asking to be made right now Mr. Speaker, is that there isn’t a second and third reading…I have heard their voices in terms of us having some more discussions in the coming week so that we can move forward as together as can be, given the nature of the issue.”
He further added: “I’ll never disenfranchise my people or do anything to destroy the BVI. I would not do anything outside the law. Mr. Speaker I realized that we want more public dialogue on this matter and we are willing. Mr. Speaker based on the voice of the people and sitting with the people for and against to make sure that we hear the people a little more, especially this week with more public meetings, more collaborations on the issue on the way forward that can be agreeable by all.”
As a result, two public meetings were held this week aimed at having consultation with the citizens of the BVI which was one of the requests the protesters made.