“This is our land. This decision can’t stand,” were the words chanted as protesters marched today (May 24) to Government House, where British Governor Augustus Jaspert resides.
The chants were directed towards United Kingdom (UK) legislators who this month decided to impose public registers of company beneficial ownership (see editor’s note below) on the British Virgin Islands.
The decision has been described as a breach of constitution and it is feared the said decision will have major negative impacts on the territory’s main revenue earner, the financial services sector.
Coupled with the ‘Decision March’, protestors have been affixing their respective signatures to a petition that will be presented to the UK.
The petition will first be given to Deputy Governor David Archer, Jr who will eventually hand it over to Governor Jaspert who had a pre-planned trip outside the territory.
While addressing protestors who have gathered by the hundreds, local activist Patsy Lake appealed to Her Majesty the Queen to intervene and defend the BVI.
But, in a more radical statement, Deputy Premier Dr Kedrick Pickering said the march is sending a message that the BVI is “divorcing itself from the UK”.
Dr Pickering is just one of the majority of local legislators participating in the march.
Premier Dr D Orlando Smith and Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie are other participants out of the BVI’s House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, protestors from all four of the territory’s main islands have congregated in the Road Town capital.
Up to press time, the protest was still ongoing.
Imposing public registers is an amendment to the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act. These registers mean the BVI and other Overseas Territories are required to publicise the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in those jurisdictions.
Effectively, beneficial owners are persons who own property rights to a company even though the legal title of the property is in another person’s name.
Publicising the names of these beneficial owners could discourage them from doing business with the BVI as it relates to financial services.
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