(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Amidst ongoing debate in the Virgin Islands about the pathway to citizenship and voting rights, the British Government has rejected a parliamentary committee proposal to come up with a timetable for talks that would see the implementation of a process that would allow expatriates the right to vote in the Overseas Territories (OTs).
The Foreign Office said that it recognised the importance of a “reasonable qualifying process” to allow expatriates a place at the ballot box. The Foreign Affairs Committee had recommended consultations that would bring about a plan for a “pathway for all residents, UK and British Overseas Territory citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office in overseas territories.”
“The UK Government understands the committee’s concerns and continues to impress upon OT governments the importance of allowing people who have made their permanent home in the territories the ability to vote and engage fully in the community, but recognises the desire of island communities to maintain their cohesion, hence the need for a reasonable qualifying process,” the UK stated.
Further, the UK stated, “We understand the OTs’ concerns, sensitivities and historical background on this issue…in the spirit of a relationship based upon partnership, we will continue to support and encourage consistent and open political engagement on belongership and its territory-specific equivalents, while respecting the fact that immigration decisions are primarily a matter for OT governments.”
Its report, Global Britain and the Overseas Territories: Resetting the Relationship, had stated that the Foreign Office should set a timetable for the process and “set a deadline for phasing out discriminatory elements of belongership, or its territory-specific equivalents”.
Here in the BVI, the Hon. Andrew Fahie administration is having ongoing public meetings on the Clear Path Regularization Programme so that the relevant information can be disseminated along with hearing the concerns of persons for or against the initiative. Thus far , the public discourse is going smoothly.