In an article written several weeks ago, I put forward the view that the Virgin Islands is in a mess on every level. I still believe that this unfortunate situation is attributable to actions taken, or not taken, by the United Kingdom government and the local government. In my mind and to their shame, they were both motivated by their respective sociopolitical agendas.

I have already indicated that in a number of ways ancestral Virgin Islanders were disenfranchised by the British Nationality Act of 1948. Then the 1976 VI Constitution Order, driven by local political opportunism and approved by the UK government, intentionally or not, laid the groundwork for the imbalance which now exists between ancestral Virgin Islanders and other residents, in the belongers provision (Section 2(2)).

As if that were not bad enough, the same 1976 VI Constitution Order (Sections 28 and 31) permitted other residents to vote in general elections and to seek elected office. Whether it was personal shortsightedness, wickedness or a combination of both, those two provisions created the conditions for the gathering storm which is imminent in the sociopolitical reality of the VI.

According to Sections 28 and 31 of the 1976 Constitution Order, the privileges of voting and seeking elected office were extended to any British subject deemed to belong to the VI, and qualified as a voter under Section 31. According to Section 31, to be registered as a voter a person had to be domiciled and resident in the VI, or domiciled in the VI and resident in the United States VI. The age requirement for seeking elected office was 21 and above, and for voting it was 18 and above.

 

‘Wickedness’

But that wasn’t good enough! Clearly it would leave out somebody who had a friend who had a cousin who had influence. Look at the short sightedness and the wickedness! They proceed to kick the can down the road and add a proviso to the section. The essence of it follows: “Provided that any person who is registered as a voter on the date on which this order comes into operation and is a British subject and on the qualifying date is domiciled and resident in the Virgin Islands or on that date is domiciled in the Virgin Islands and resident in the United States Virgin Islands may be registered as a voter notwithstanding that he is not deemed to belong to the Virgin Islands” (my emphasis).” You see the shortsightedness and the wickedness!

The proviso means that any British subject domiciled in the VI, belonger or not, could be registered to vote in the general elections. At the same time, third generation ancestral Virgin Islanders born outside of the VI, like my great-granddaughter, could not be registered because she was born an American citizen and is not a British subject under the British Nationality Act 1948.

Remember that a British subject is a citizen of the UK and colonies. That would include all of the British Caribbean territories prior to independence, and some other parts of the former British Empire specified in the British Nationality Act 1948.

In 1976 the immigrant population was not big enough to flex its political muscle and get the attention of the sleeping ancestral Virgin Islanders. Between 1980 and 2016, 25 years of irresponsible government later, ancestral Virgin Islanders were ready for the repeal of constitutional provisions which had brought the territory to an unexpected and unwelcomed place, but the ruling party gave us the 2007 Constitution Order — the real kicker!

 

To be continued.


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