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HoA to validate status of some 688 persons from Fast-Track programme - Premier

HoA to validate status of some 688 persons from Fast-Track programme - Premier

Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has announced that legislators will be heading back to the House of Assembly as early as Monday, April 17, 2023, to handle a matter with implications in the democratic process of the 2023 elections in the Virgin Islands.

This comes following an announcement from the Governor on April 14, 2023, that he intends to re-convene the House of Assembly after an audit has shown that some six-hundred and eighty-eight (688) persons who were simultaneously approved for Residency and Belonger status, under the Fast-Track program, should have been free of immigration controls twelve months prior to applying for Belonger status, according to the law.

Premier Wheatley in his support of the move said, “Democracy is a sacred trust. We all have a responsibility to protect and uphold democracy. It provides the legitimacy on which Government rests. The rule of law is the best way to ensure that we can participate in an orderly and meaningful way in a democracy.”

He said the Cabinet’s approval of those persons was done on the basis of the legal advice provided by the former Attorney General, Baba F. Aziz, however, the recent audit of the Fast Track Programme identified what appears to have been an honest oversight.

Governor John J. Rankin, CMG in his statement said it was not the fault of the individuals concerned, most of whom have lived in the VI and contributed to the community for more than 20 years and have legitimately operated in the belief that their status granted is valid.

No Fault of the Individual - Premier

Governor Rankin in his statement said it was not the fault of the individuals concerned, most of whom have lived in the VI and contributed to the community for more than 20 years and have legitimately operated in the belief that their status granted is valid.

“I agree with Governor Rankin that this was not the fault of any of the applicants. We live in a democracy, and it is important that no one who is qualified is disenfranchised because of this error.

Further, the Premier said he supports the Governor in recalling the House of Assembly so that this matter can be appropriately and immediately addressed.

“The House of Assembly has the power to validate the grant of the Residence and Belonger Certificates made by Cabinet and this is what we will seek to do as early as Monday the 17th April, at the beginning of next week. A Bill will be introduced in the House of Assembly to validate the Residence and Belonger status of the 688 persons identified in the audit report.”

The Premier assured that the issue is not one for “politicking” with a further assurance that in consultation with the Governor and advice from the Attorney General, Dawn J. Smith, the scheduled General Election of April 24, 2023, will proceed as planned as well as advanced polling day on the April 20, 2023.

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