Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Non-belongers and Down-islanders

I have been struck by the use of these two terms on the island.  They are self explanatory as they describe a type of people that can be found on the BVI.

BVI-Islanders, those native to the Islands are known as belongers.  In order to protect the prices of real-estate, curb overdevelopment and reduce unemployment, belongers have statutory rights that other people do not.  For example, if a person wants to sell a house, they need to advertise it in the local press stating their price.  A belonger will have right of first refusal to that property at the stated price before a non-belonger can make an offer.  This is a perfectly valid way to avoid precious land resources from falling to foreign investors and thereby also ensuring that those properties that are put up for sale do not escalate beyond the reach of locals.

Similar arrangements exist for trade licenses, work permits etc.

It is not that the law gives these rights to locals that I find upsetting, it is the mere use of the word that I find strange.  Can you image using such a term in the UK when referring to a Polish immigrant?  Whoever used it would be shot on the spot (just reading today that the children’s story of the Three Little Pigs cannot be used anymore because it would cause offence to Muslims, so they decided to change "the three little pigs" to "three little cowboys" and now the construction trade is complaining that it discriminates against them!).

The term non-belonger should not be confused with “locals” as used by the expat community who use the latter term to describe themselves (much like I am an expat in this community).  “local” in this sense refers to expats who live and work here. Unlike “locals” used by belongers who refer to belongers… confused?  So am I!

The second term is “Down-islander” which relates to non-belongers from Caribbean countries further south from the BVI but also encompasses those people from islands north of the BVI (more confusion here).  These are people who are economic migrants performing jobs in the BVI which other nationalities don’t.  For example construction workers from the Dominican Republic, maids from the Philippines (I now it is not in the Caribbean), waiters from Jamaica, etc.

What gets me about this term is the “Down” prefix which although it is meant to be southern it is used in the context of “less than” and that makes me fell uncomfortable.

Am I being too paranoid about political correctness in this day and age?

No comments: