Governor John J. Rankin, CMG has assented to the Immigration and Passport (Validation) Act, 2023 and the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act, 2023, allowing the 688 residents, whose Belonger status are now valid, an opportunity to exercise their franchise on Advance Polling Day tomorrow, Thursday, April 20, 2023, and Polling Day on Monday, April 24, 2023.
“Today I assented to the Immigration and Passport (Validation) Act, 2023 and the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act, 2023. This legislation, which was passed by the House of Assembly on Monday, validates the Residency and Belonger status of individuals following the concerns raised in the recent Audit Report and Addendum on the Fast Track Residency and Belonger Status Programme,” Governor Rankin informed via a press statement today, April 19, 2023.
Premier Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley
(R7) in his support of the move to recall the House of Assembly to
validate the status of some 688 persons said, 'Democracy is a sacred
trust. We all have a responsibility to protect and uphold democracy.'
‘Relevant Acts are now in force’- Gov Rankin
He said he can therefore confirm that the relevant Acts are now in force ahead of Advance Polling Day tomorrow.
“I look forward to a free and fair election in which all registered voters can participate.”
The House convened on Monday, April 17, 2023, following the findings of the Audit Report and Addendum on the Fast Track Residency and Belongership Programme. Legislators then met to validate the status of 688 persons who were granted simultaneous Belongership and Residency Certificates under the Government’s "Fast Track’ process when they did not qualify for both.
The Immigration and Passport (Validation) Act, 2023, was passed after a heated debate in which legislators in full campaign mode highly politicised the matter in an attempt to vilify the Virgin Islands
Party (VIP) Administration and to score political points.
There was a division of votes and all eight legislators present voted for the bill.
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), Hon Neville A. Smith (AL) and Hon Sharie B. de Castro (AL), whose spouses or significant others were mentioned in the audit report of the Residency and Belonger Status Programme, had recused themselves from the debate to avoid all claims of conflict of interest and therefore were absent during the vote.
It is unclear why Hon Shereen D. Flax-Charles (AL) was absent.