STATEMENT FOR THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY BY THE DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND LABOUR
DR. THE HONOURABLE KEDRICK D. PICKERING
ON THE LAND REGISTRY DEPARTMENT IN RESPONSE TO STATEMETNS MADE BY THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
DECEMBER 20TH 2018
The staff members of the Land Registry Department learned of certain statements made by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the House of Assembly on or around 14th October, 2018. The House was at the time debating the Human Rights Commission bill.
In substance, the statements conveyed the impression that there were different versions of official documents held by members of the public versus those which are held by the Land Registry. The statements insinuate that the staff of the Land Registry Department engage in the practice of arbitrarily and unlawfully altering or tampering with official documents, for which the Department acts as custodian.
The said statements were widely circulated and repeated having been aired on Radio Station ZBVI’s evening news on 15th October, 2018 and on the morning news of 16th October, 2018. They were published in at least one local newspaper, to wit, the Island Sun of 24th October, 2018. The text of the latter publication reads in part:
“The complaint that somehow land registration documents leave the Land Registry Department looking different than the owner’s copy was made by The Leader of the Opposition as be bemoaned situations which he said are affecting Virgin Islanders.
In noting that somehow documents that enter the Land Registry sometimes look different upon return The Leader of the Opposition explained that he has received complaints about this phenomenon. “I have met a lot of persons whose rights have been violated in Land Registry, they can’t understand how documents have been changed on them and they have one document saying something and then another document is in the Registry,” he told the House.
As he further mentioned complaints on the matter the Opposition Leader said: “They are showing me these things and they have nowhere to turn and depending on who it is alleged to be involved they cannot get a lawyer to fight their case. Every lawyer you look for they run go leave you because they don’t want trouble the person that’s involved.”
“It is a lot of persons’ human rights being violated: Virgin Islanders right here being robbed of their land. Being robbed of a lot of other things. They have nobody to turn to Madame Speaker and this has to be addressed”, the Leader of the Opposition stated.
The members of staff are dismayed at the insinuations contained in the statements: for, (a) in the estimation of the staff the statements implicate the staff of impropriety, unprofessionalism and dishonesty; and (b) to the best of the staff’s knowledge the statements are totally baseless and unwarranted.
This situation brings into question by the public the credibility of the Department. Further, it can potentially undermine the character of each and every member of staff.
Members are of the view that if an alleged irregularity were brought to the attention of any Honourable Member of the House, more appropriate channels could have been used to fully investigate the complaint.
It must be made known that the alteration of any official document is governed principally by the Registered Land Act (Cap 229). Because the Department is concerned about the possible implications of the statements, the Department hereby seeks to have the statements clarified.
In the meantime, the hard-working and dedicated members of the Land Registry Department will remain focused on giving their utmost best to protect land ownership in the Territory, to uphold best practices, and to support commercial activity within the country.