Commentator and consultant, Mr Claude O. Skelton-Cline has called on the Government of the Virgin Islands (VI) to review the original sale agreement of Necker Island to British billionaire Sir Richard C.N. Branson, following revelations he plans to mortgage his VI property to aid in the bailout of Virgin Atlantic airline.
Mr Skelton-Cline made the call on the Monday, April 21, 2020, edition of his 'Honestly Speaking' radio show, alleging that because Mr Branson is holding Belongership status in the Territory, he can do as he likes with the land in terms of having the same rights as locals; however, the commentator urged Government to explore if they can have a say in his proposition.
Cabinet approval not required - Skelton-Cline
"We, on one hand, can get up in arms about that... because Sir Richard Branson is now a Belonger, he doesn't have a Non-Belongers landholders licence [therefore] anybody who has [that] licence, any change of hands, anything at all that has to do with that particular piece of property, always will require Cabinet's approval."
"But if Sir Richard and anybody else who has been deemed to belong to this country holds a piece of property, they do not need government's approval," Skelton-Cline implored.
According to the 'Man of the Cloth', "What now needs to happen when we see matters like these, our government now needs to review that agreement to see what if any conditions are in that sale, and what they need to be looking for, is that do we as a country have first right of refusal," he said.
COVID-19 & saving job
Branson plans to use the Necker Island property as security to raise a £500m loan from the UK Government in order to offset the drop in Virgin Atlantic's business as a result of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This he says will save as many jobs as possible.
Skelton-Cline said the VI, therefore, should have the right to be able to have oversight in a deal like that, "but you see you can't do these things when the paste is already, out of the tube. First of all, I am never in favour of selling islands. I don't know what that was about back then."
He said going forward, VI properties should instead be leased and the Virgin Islands on a whole should work on securing as much land its as possible, "When you lose your land, you lose your country," urging the people 'responsible' to analyse the original sale agreement.
'Just a Loan' - Branson
Branson in correspondence to Skelton-Cline on the impacts of COVID-19 on his business assured that the proposal to the UK Government is only a loan.
"It is just that, a loan that would be repaid [and] as the Premier [Andrew A. Fahie (R1)] has said in our fight for the BVI, together we will come we will come through this, together we will win."