Some time before Hurricane Irma, I was standing on the roadside waiting for a bus. An impressive looking vehicle pulled up and the driver offered me a ride. I was happy to accept because the bus was taking forever and I didn’t want to be late for my class. I didn’t get the chance to look at the gentleman’s face properly and if I should see him again I probably wouldn’t recognise him, but our encounter left a lasting impression on me. When I reached my destination and I thanked him for his kindness, he said to me, “Your husband used to give me a ride when I worked up the hill years ago.”

Here was a man who had done well for himself and was still humble. How would you not love such a man? He remembered the love that flowed between immigrant and ancestral Virgin Islander before economic greed and political prostitution destroyed almost everything that made the Virgin Islands a pleasant place to live.

Check it for yourself. Why did the population increase to the point where ancestral Virgin Islanders are outnumbered? The greater the number of people coming into the islands, the greater the need for accommodation. The greater the need for accommodation, the greater the need for construction workers and other artisans. The greater the number of people on the islands, the greater the stress on the health and social services, including education and schools, and the greater the need for professionals in these areas. But don’t worry. The more people on the islands needing to eat, to drive, see the doctor, sleep, find recreation, then the more opportunities for people to make money, and even for a few to become rich. Why not? Who cares about what happens here? Who cares about anything apart from money and what it can buy? Who cares about the future of the ancestral Virgin Islander? Certainly not the politicians!

‘Power and more power’

The politician’s stock in trade is power, power and more power. So get as many as are likely to support you into the voting pool. Give belonger’s status to as many as possible. Why not? Use the Immigration Act to hand out residency status to as many as possible. Why not? If the proper road to citizenship is taking too long, hand out the rights of citizenship to whom you will anyway. Why not?

Between the years 2000 and 2003, I raised concerns about the number of people who were being given the privilege of voting in the general elections. I had gone to Geneva to complete a diploma in human rights education and had taken a special interest in the Convention for Civil and Political Rights. That convention specified two rights of citizens that caught my attention: the right to return to one’s own country, and the right to vote in general elections. I deduced that if non-citizens are given the privilege of voting in general elections, by default the right of the citizen is being violated.

In bringing this concern to the attention of the attorney general at the time, I offended a number of people and the matter died a natural death.

‘Irresponsible government’

Then, after 2004, the UK made the mistake of allowing a constitutional commission to be locally constituted, and we know how that turned out. That commission was biased against ancestral Virgin Islanders, and it is not difficult to figure out why. Do the research and check the “affidavit” of each member of that commission and see for yourself. Then check the “affidavit” of the government that appointed that commission and you will see why that government couldn’t have done any better. The government was biased against ancestral Virgin Islanders.

By that one act, the government that was formed in 2003 established itself as the most irresponsible government since the restoration of the Legislative Council. I will offer a perspective on the matter.

Biblical lessons

Human nature is what it is and has been since the Fall. A sinful nature encourages disharmony between and among people, and leadership should strive to encourage harmony. We are not unaware that cultural differences can be a stumbling block when people from different cultural backgrounds occupy the same “small space.” History, ancient and modern, informs us.

Cain killed Abel because their offerings to God were different and God accepted Abel’s. Esau and Jacob struggled for primacy as they came out of their mother’s womb. Eventually Jacob stole the birthright of Esau and set the stage for enmity between them. After the death of Joseph and his brothers, the Israelites in Egypt multiplied and grew exceedingly strong. So the new king said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them… .”

In more modern times, some 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis were murdered by the Hutus in Rwanda. The Bosnian War allowed about 100,000 people to be killed during an ethnic cleansing campaign. More to the point is what happened in Fiji. The Commission referred to what happened in Fiji when a coup followed the election of a majority Indo-Fijian government to the exclusion of the indigenous Fijians. So the commission was not unaware of the kind of tensions that might come about as a result of allowing non-ancestral “Virgin Islanders” to run for political office. Yet the expressed wishes of the people were ignored.

The lame excuse given for this blatant disregard for the “ancestral Virgin Islanders” was a game of semantics. The term “indigenous” could not be applied to ancestral Virgin Islanders. Please! It doesn’t matter what you call them. The reality is that they were here when nobody else was, when there was nothing here but land and sea. There was only struggle, hard work, sacrifice, selflessness, trustworthiness, determination, the will to survive, faith in God, hope and the triumph of the human spirit. These were elements that helped to shape the VI character, and in the face of economic greed and political prostitution they counted for nothing. So we are where we are, with ancestral Virgin Islander pitted against non-ancestral Virgin Islander, and storm clouds gathering. A true story of paradise lost. A mess!

So there is really no excuse for what has happened here. Local government over the last 30 years played its role, and the United Kingdom government is not without fault. When laws and policies no longer serve a useful function in the UK they are repealed. Why should that consideration not have been applied to the VI when it became evident that we were headed for troubled waters? In that situation, isn’t there a role that a “parent” should play? There are those who would cry “colonialism,” but if it’s what we deserve, and it would make these islands a pleasant place in which to live again, I welcome it. That has to be better than the sociopolitical dilemma which I see on the horizon. Ancestral Virgin Islanders are waking up, and I can’t help thinking of what was said of the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. “We have awakened a sleeping giant.”

What will the outcome be? Steeped in our sinfulness as we are, we can’t do a thing to save ourselves. It is important for us to recognise that we are not wrestling against each other, frail creatures of flesh and blood. We are wrestling against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore, we need only to be still and let this battle be the Lord’s.