TORTOLA – Dr Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley was sworn in as the new Premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a few hours after the House of Assembly unanimously passed a no-confidence resolution evoking the appointment of Andrew Fahie as premier of the British Overseas Territory.
Fahie, 51, was arrested last Thursday during a sting operation at the Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport, along with the managing director of the BVI Ports Authority, Oleanvine Maynard and her son Kadeem.
On Wednesday, a United States judge ruled that Fahie can be released on a US$500,000 bond pending his trial on cocaine trafficking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges, despite a prosecutor’s arguments that he should face pre-trial detention.
Fahie would have to remain in monitored confinement in his daughters’ apartment, Judge Alicia Otazo Reyes of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled.
Wheatley had proposed the resolution on behalf of the new National Unity government that states members lack confidence in Fahie.
The resolution noted that Fahie, who was appointed premier following the 2019 general election, had been arrested and charged with money laundering and conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States.
It said also that the arrest and the charges against Fahie had brought “the integrity and sanctity of the role of the premier to public and international disrepute and demonstrates a lack of character and suitability to operate in a public leadership role and manage the affairs of this government”.
The resolution noted that the “charges and the ongoing investigations and trial will undermine the international confidence and reputation of these Virgin Islands” and that Fahie has “not stepped down as premier and remains in custody outside the Virgin Islands and unavailable to perform his functions and lead the government”.
The resolution indicated that the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 provides that “If a motion on the Order Paper that the House of Assembly should declare a lack of confidence in the Government of the Virgin Islands receives in the House the affirmative votes of a majority of all the elected members of the House, the Governor shall, by instrument under the public seal, revoke the appointment of the Premier”.
“Now therefore be it resolved by the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands that it does declare a lack of confidence in the government led by honourable Andrew A. Fahie”.
Wheatley said he had noted the concern voiced by members of the financial services and tourism sectors about the future of the territory.
“They would have been very concerned with what they were reading in the international news,” he said, adding, “It is vital … that we take a stand and do what is right for the people of the Virgin Islands,” he said, adding that Fahie “has lost the moral authority to lead the Virgin Islands.
“It does not mean that I condemn him, but it means that he in his private moments will have to pray to the lord and ask for repentance. He will have to accept the consequences of his actions,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley was recommended to replace Fahie by other elected officials and Governor John Rankin, confirmed him as the new premier. He was later sworn into office. (CMC)