Fourth District Representative and Virgin Islands Belonger, Hon Mark H. Vanterpool says it remains discriminatory that, according to the Virgin Islands Consitution, Order 2007, some Belongers have been disenfranchised from running for office in the Territory.
Hon Vanterpool was speaking at today's July 28, 2020, 13th Sitting of the Second session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) at Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duff's Bottom, Tortola, where legislators are debating a motion for constitutional reform.
Discrimination! - Hon Vanterpool
"I was grandfathered in, Mr Speaker. If I wasn't on the voters' list before 2007, I couldn't run for office and I recognise that, but is that right?" he questioned.
Hon Vanterpool further went on to ask, "Are those category of persons going forward since 2007, who may not have been grandfathered in, but live here and belong here, are they going to be excluded from running for office?"
Mr Vanterool argued that while he recognises that the rights of Indigenous Virgin Islanders must be protected, he said as a Belonger himself, other Belongers must have the right to run for office.
"They can vote, but they cannot run... they are Belongers of the Territory, they belong to the Virgin Islands
though they are not indigenous they belong... they contribute," he said.
Policy can haunt VI - Hon Vanterpool
Hon Vanterpool said Belongers pay taxes, go to school and even grow up in the VI yet cannot run for office under the constitution, unless they were grandfathered in as a belonger before 2007.
"That is discrimination, let's be careful because it can come back to haunt us, we might not see it now," Hon Vanterpool further warned.
The former Minister for Communications and Works also said the late John R. Lewis, who fought for civil rights and equality alongside the late Martin Luther King Jr in the United States, said 'if you see something, say something'.
"I see something Mr Speaker, and I am going to speak up about it. I know I am going to get beat up for it but I am saying it because I am here to represent those people. It's discrimination that you can vote but can't run for office."
Hon Vanterpool continued, "Something is wrong there, I don't know how it can be fixed, but it needs to be fixed because it [is] going to be a problem."
He noted that had he not been married to a Virgin Islander his two children would not have been eligible to run for office if they weren't on the voter's list before 2007.
"Do you understand that, Mr Speaker? That is discrimination. My two boys would not have been able to run for office if I was married to someone else from another country," Hon Vanterpool emphasised.
The people will decide- Hon Vanterpool
The Opposition Member also pointed out that, according to his interpretation of the VI Constitutional Order, 2007, when he retires "soon" he cannot become the Deputy Governor.
"Discrimination, Mr Speaker. There are different forms of it."
"Yes, you telling me that in the constitution you putting certain things to protect certain rights for indigenous people, but be careful, one day a minority might be running a majority. These are the facts, and no representation for the majority will be in the House of Assembly if this appertains and continues."
Hon Vanterpool questioned how the issue was going to be addressed.
"Are you going to say take that, go back Anguilla, whatever you want to say, that's alright, but I am just stating the facts. We make you Belongers but you discriminate against them? It is not right.
"But I will leave that there to ponder because the constitution isn't just what we say here. We have to go out and hear what the people say. If the people want it that's the people."