Premier Andrew Fahie has made it clear to the United Kingdom that issues such as Belongership should not be abolished or taken out of the hands of the local government.
Fahie said he shared that position at the recent Overseas Territories (OT) Joint Ministerial Council meeting with the UK government.
Fahie also noted at the two-day meeting that happened earlier this month that no immigration or electoral changes that will change the political landscape and upset the social balance of the Virgin Islands should be imposed on the territory.
The issue of Belongership has been a major topic in recent weeks and Fahie said it was a main talking point during the OTs meeting; not only with the Virgin Islands but among other British Overseas Territories.
“One of the questions that the OT ministers had across the board was the concern about Belongership status. It was hinged on concerns from a foreign affairs committee report a few years ago which stated that one of the recommendations is for British citizens to be able to have status in all OTs and be able to become a Belonger of that OT because they are British. They would be able to vote and even hold office,” the Premier stated.
Fahie said this concerned OT leaders because the UK’s population is approximately 66 million people and this might pose a threat to the individuality of the OTs.
“You don’t even need 66 million people. You just need one million to come and absorb all the OTs and then if that happens you wouldn’t have any more Anguilla, anymore Bermuda, anymore Virgin Islands. Wherever there is an OT, that ethnic background which makes up the indigenous people wouldn’t be there anymore,” Fahie added.
He said there were questions on whether the recommendations on Belongership in the report were an indication of Britain’s Global Strategy. However, the Premier said the UK government has since said they would clarify the information provided to alleviate the concerns of the various leaders.
He further said there was no clear indication that the recommendations in the report would be followed through.
“We just want them to know that is a concern we are having and people of Anguilla, Montserrat and the Virgin Islands are concerned about that. This was a holistic concern by the OTs. Another concern was how do we continue to keep our ethnicity as a people of these territories while still adhering to what we need to adhere to by the UK being that we are still an Overseas Territory for now,” the Premier said.
“That is what precipitated the discussion into how we look at our future relationship with the UK. We have had fruitful and positive discussions about that. However, I’m going to wait on the information to be provided to the Governor which they promised to me as the Premier. Then we are going to be able to come to the people and say this is definitely something off the table or what direction they are going to take. That is what the Belomgership discussion came to,” Fahie added.
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