Following three days of hectic meetings between the United Kingdom’s Minister for the Overseas Territories, Rt Hon Amanda Milling and local BVI representatives, Ag. Premier Hon Wheatley is expected to address the territory imminently with a report on the outcome of the meeting, according to Hon. Vincent O. Wheatley the 9th District Representative and Minister of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration.
Milling arrived on the British Virgin Islands on Sunday, May 1, 2022 to hold discussions seated around the early publication of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report, and more importantly, the recommendation that the BVI House of Assembly be suspended and the territory brought under direct British rule for two years. Sir Gary Hickinbottom who is the Sole Commissioner in the British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry, who has has more than 45 years experience in the legal profession and who has served as a full-time judge for 20 years, most recently a Lord Justice of Appeal said, “I have concluded that the only way in which the relevant issues can be addressed is for there to be a temporary suspension of those parts of the Constitution by which areas of government are assigned to elected representatives. The suspension should be as short as possible to enable principled elected government to be restored.”
Hundreds of protestors carrying placards depicting anti-colonial slogans gathered outside the governor’s mansion in Road Town, Tortola on Monday culminating in a roadside public meeting with speakers addressing the issue.
Fahie not entitled to immunity
Meantime, local media, The Virgin Islands Consortium has reported that “The federal government in a filing late Tuesday said that British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie’s request seeking immunity as head of state of the BVI has no legal effect, and that the United States does not recognize the BVI — a territory of the United Kingdom — as a sovereign state.”
Lawyers for the premier of the British Virgin Islands, Andrew Fahie, had requested his immediate release from US prison citing diplomatic immunity. Premier Andrew Fahie could face as much as life imprisonment if convicted of the drug and money laundering charges laid against him in Florida, USA last Thursday. The acting Premier Hon Wheatley has reacted to the allegations against Premier Fahie actions described in affidavit as “Deplorable, Disappointing and Shocking.” He is expected to announce imminently the outcomes of the meeting with Amanda Milling who yesterday has had meetings with “Christian Council Representatives, key figures in the finance sector, and representatives of community groups” Milling had said that she recognised that, “these are difficult times for the people of BVI. I am here to listen, and to understand,” adding, “It is important that we are honest and open with each other when discussing the COI Report and the issues it has identified,”
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) issued a statement on May 2nd, 2022
The sub-regional grouping, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the regional organisation CARICOM Community in a show of Caribbean solidarity have thrown in their support for the BVI government to retain its control in the face of the suggested direct rule from Britain as the Commission of Inquiry (COI) recommended.
Monday, May 2, 2022 — The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has noted with great concern the evolving situation in the British Virgin Islands involving the arrest of Premier Andrew Fahie on alleged drug conspiracy charges and the release of the UK Government report on the Commission of Inquiry (COI).
Like all persons charged with a criminal offense, Andrew Fahie is entitled to the presumption of innocence, procedural fairness, and a free and a fair trial within a reasonable time.
The OECS has noted the position taken by the duly elected Government of the BVI which, while welcoming the recommendations arising from the Inquiry, rejects the intention of the British Government to impose direct rule on the BVI. It is clear to us that, in principle, it is ill advised to impose direct colonial rule and the history of such imposition in the Caribbean has never delivered the desired result.
The OECS concurs with the elected representatives of the people of the BVI that abolition of Parliament with direct rule from London represents a retrograde step in the evolution of the democratic process that is inconsistent with the United Nations Proclamation of Human Rights to be free of colonial rule. The UN Declaration on granting independence to colonial countries and peoples – Resolution 1514 of 1960 is an international commitment to which Britain is itself bound.
The historical responsibility for strengthening governance in the BVI must rest on the shoulders of the elected representatives and the people of the BVI themselves. That ultimately will be the guarantee of good governance and full, transparent accountability.
We strongly urge the British Government to work with and support the elected Parliament in this process of rectification.
The OECS for its part, is willing and ready to provide technical and other support required by the BVI as an Associate Member State in addressing the governance issues that need attention.
CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY STATEMENT ON THE RELEASE OF THE REPORT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM’S BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) takes note of the release on April 29, 2022, of the Report of the British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry (COI) with its far-reaching recommendations. The British Virgin Islands (BVI), a British Overseas Territory, has been an Associate Member of the Community since July 1991.
CARICOM supports the decision of the duly elected Government of the BVI to welcome the recommendations for improving governance and their commitment to work with the United Kingdom to address the weaknesses identified in the COI report. CARICOM agrees that the people of BVI and their duly elected representatives have the responsibility to ensure good governance with full transparency and accountability and should work together to achieve mutually acceptable solutions to address the concerns highlighted in the COI report.
CARICOM is however deeply concerned by the Report’s recommendation to suspend “those parts of the Constitution by which areas of government are assigned to elected representatives” and taking the retrograde step of restoring direct rule by the Governor in Council as existed in Her Majesty’s colonies during the colonial period. CARICOM supports the BVI government and people in their objection to this recommendation.
The imposition of direct rule, and the history of such imposition in the Caribbean, was never intended to deliver democratic governance or to be an instrument of economic and social development of our countries and peoples.
CARICOM believes that any action to suspend the House of Assembly in the BVI and impose direct rule from London would be inconsistent with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Accordingly, CARICOM reminds the United Kingdom of its international obligations in respect of United Nations Resolution 1514 of 1960 – the United Nations Declaration on The Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
British Virgin Islands 2021 Commission of Inquiry – Wikipedia (2022). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Virgin_Islands_2021_Commission_of_Inquiry (Accessed: 4 May 2022).
Caribbean Community Statement on the Release of the Report of the United Kingdom’s British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry – CARICOM (2022). Available at: https://caricom.org/caribbean-community-statement-on-the-release-of-the-report-of-the-united-kingdoms-british-virgin-islands-commission-of-inquiry/ (Accessed: 4 May 2022).
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean (2022) Statement of the OECS Authority on the Situation in the BVI, Pressroom.oecs.org. Available at: https://pressroom.oecs.org/statement-of-the-oecs-authority-on-the-situation-in-the-bvi (Accessed: 4 May 2022).
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States – Wikipedia (2022). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_of_Eastern_Caribbean_States (Accessed: 4 May 2022).