CARICOM members ‘deeply concerned’ by Britain’s response to BVI

Georgetwon – The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping Tuesday said it is “deeply concerned” at the recommendations by a one-man Commission of Inquiry that called for the British Virgin Islands (BVI) government to cease to exist in its current format for at least two years.

In a statement, CARICOM said it has taken “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”.

It said that the BVI, a British Overseas Territory, has been an Associate Member of the grouping 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,” it added.

Last Friday, Governor John Rankin said that the Commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom, had recommended “a return to Ministerial Government and an elected House of Assembly as soon as practicable, with the Governor taking regular advice from the Advisory Council and others on the earliest practicable date on which such government can resume.

“Secondly, the Commissioner recommends an early and speedy review of the Constitution with the purpose of ensuring that abuses of the type he has identified do not recur, establishing a Constitution that will enable the people of the BVI to meet their aspirations, including those in respect of self-government within the context of a modern democracy.”

Rankin said overall, the Commissioner, in his report, finds that the elected government, in successive administrations, “has sought to avoid good governance” and that “in terms of governance the people of the BVI have been served very badly in recent years and that almost everywhere the principles of good governance such as openness, transparency and the rule of law are ignored”.

“He concludes that it is highly likely that serious dishonesty may have taken place across a broad range of government . . . . He makes recommendations for further investigations and possible criminal prosecution in several areas.”

The Governor said that the COI made 45 specific recommendations on how to address each of the areas of concern that his report identifies.

On Monday, people in the BVI took to the streets outside the Governor’s official residence protesting the recommendations. Their actions coincided with planned meetings involving UK Overseas Territories Minister, Amanda Milling, with local stakeholders on the COI report.

“We come here today because we are serious and we are determined you will not suspend our constitution . . . we are not going back to 1949,” said Bishop John Cline, who had organised the protest, adding “the fight is about our homes, our legacy, the fight is about our political progress, the fight is about our future.

“So let’s say to you with God’s help we will win by any means necessary we will win,” Cline said, urging London and CARICOM said it  is “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,” it said, adding that 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.” (CMC)

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