Remarks By His Excellency The Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert
At The British Citizenship Registration Ceremony
13th March, 2018
Reception Hall, Government House
It is an absolute honour for me and a great pleasure, as your Governor, and as her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II representative in the Virgin Islands to have given you your Certificates of Registration as British Citizens.
Today you have made your homes here in the Virgin Islands but you have also taken a decisive step. And I will talk a little about what that means. You have probably been familiar with similar ceremonies, when you were presented Certificates of Naturalisation as British Overseas Territories Citizens.
A few moments ago you gave the Oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and the Pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom. This is a formal promise as you embrace your new nationality and consider the opportunities it offers.
By reaching and obtaining British citizenship you have exercised the right you enjoy as British Overseas Territory Citizens under the 2002 legislation. Though it is a right, it is nonetheless an important decision you have taken to seek British Citizenship by registration, and it is proper that the fulfilment of that process should be marked in a formal way. The process, and the ceremony today, is a matter of great importance to both Her Majesty, to Ministers, to myself and that’s because it is not just about what’s in that envelope.
Taking of new nationality is a matter of great significance for any individual. You took an oath that you will uphold the Democratic Values; you will observe laws faithfully and fulfil duties and obligations as a British Citizen. British law requires that those who acquire British Nationality in this way must not only demonstrate a commitment to the United Kingdom, but also knowledge of its history, institutions and language. But think about that oath and think about what that means. Actually what you’ve said is that you pledge to uphold democratic values, respect for others, the rule of law, tolerance, respect for diversity, those are common values not just British Values. And that’s what you have taken that oath to do. I know each of you will have different reasons for why you have decided to become a British Citizen but do try hold in your head that oath and that pledge you made and what being a British citizen in a modern day means. It is about that tolerance and respect for diversity, the rule of law and making sure that we continue to focus on democracy and respecting those institutions.
As an Overseas Territory here and as part of the Realm of her Majesty, the Virgin Islands has a special links with Great Britain. Our economic success in the global economy is founded upon the fact that we share a common legal system. But our connections go much further than that through our history, our people and our culture and these Islands have chosen to remain British. Today you have reaffirmed your desire to achieve that collective ambition.
So I congratulate you all on having persevered with the process, and on us changing the dates which I apologize for, but also for having demonstrated that your allegiance to the United Kingdom as well as to your home the Virgin Islands. This is not a choice; it is actually about growing in your world outlook and growing in your opportunities that are there for you. The British Citizen’s passport, to which you will now be entitled, does of course enable you to enjoy rights of residence and employment across the European Union, and entry to the United States under the visa-waiver programme. To the extent that this opens up opportunities for study or professional development, I hope you will grasp them with both hands.
But the new freedoms you will now enjoy also come with new responsibilities, and as I said earlier these are moral responsibilities rather than legal ones. To uphold our shared values –courtesy, a respect and concern for others less fortunate than ourselves. And as I said earlier, those values that you have pledged allegiance to, in both the oath and the oath to the United Kingdom. And as The Good book reminds us “You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land”
I hope as you exercise your new freedoms for travel and employment, you will never forget that you will be ambassadors for your home base, the British Virgin Islands, where all of you have put down roots, where your contribution to the development of this community has I am sure already been substantial, and I hope will be even more so in the future, and where, as we collectively seek to seize the opportunities of the global economy, that contribution will be increasingly valuable.
So congratulations on achieving your certificate today, hold in your heads and your hearts the oath and think about what more that means for you both in your personal opportunities but what more you can do to support others in the community as well. Thank you very much!