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Monday, May 16, 2022

CARICOM Heads of Gov’t express ‘deep concern’ with UK-sponsored CoI in VI

CARICOM Heads of Gov’t express ‘deep concern’ with UK-sponsored CoI in VI

Regional leaders who attended the 33rd Inter-Sessional Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM in San Pedro, Belize last week have expressed ‘deep concern’ with the lack of transparency and the manner in which the United Kingdom-sponsored Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was called in the [British] Virgin Islands.

Further, it said the CoI was operating without obtaining all the “legal required approvals” and called for the democratically elected government to be respected and for self-governance in the territory to not be impeded.

According to a Communique from the Heads of Government meeting held from March 1 to March 2, 2022, “Heads of Government expressed deep concern about the lack of transparency and the manner in which the UK-backed Commission of Inquiry into the British Virgin Islands was called and is operating without having obtained all the legally required approvals.”

CoI violated VI laws


Three UK lawyers working for the CoI were found to be working illegally for the commission, since they were not called to the BVI Bar as is required by the Legal Professions Act of 2015.

During a CoI hearing in June 2021, Commissioner of the CoI Mr Gary R. Hickinbottom had said the lawyers were not required to be admitted to the BVI Bar in order to carry out their duties for the CoI. The Commissioner; however, directed that the three lawyers make an application to be admitted to the BVI Bar.

During a CoI hearing in June 2021, Commissioner of the CoI Mr Gary R. Hickinbottom had said the lawyers were not required to be admitted to the BVI Bar in order to carry out their duties for the CoI. The Commissioner; however, directed that the three lawyers make an application to be admitted to the BVI Bar.


‘Self-governance should not be impeded- CARICOM Heads


Further, according to the Communique issued on March 3, 2022,, “Heads of Government reiterated their call for the constitutional position of the duly elected Government to be respected and for self-governance to be upheld and not impeded.”

There are suspicions, and many political analysts and commentators agree, that the CoI was a ‘charade’ with the UK final report already written, since the UK’s intention is to suspend the VI constitution and impose direct rule.

The Virgin Islands Government under Premier and Minister of Finance Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has been pushing an agenda of self-determination, which it believes is inevitable and is only seeking to prepare its people for it.

What was real motive for CoI?


It is also believed that the CoI was only called by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert as a ‘clapback’ to the VI Government who had resisted his attempts at violating the VI Constitution.

It was known before and revealed during the CoI hearings that Mr Jaspert and Premier Fahie shared a ‘strained relationship’.

Meanwhile, Heads of Government called for the implementation of the UN resolution on the question of the [British] Virgin Islands adopted by the 76th UN General Assembly on December 9, 2021, which calls for self-governance and self-determination in the Virgin Islands to be respected.

“Heads of Government agreed to adopt a unified position at the relevant UN decolonisation fora in support of the self-determination of the [British] Virgin Islands.”

The CoI was called on Martin Luther King Day, January 18, 2021, by Mr Jaspert, mere days after he exited the territory. It was scheduled to have finished in six months, with the lone Commissioner expected to deliver his final report by July 18, 2021.

In January a new deadline of April 2022 was given for the submission of the final report by the CoI Commissioner. It was the second extension for the CoI to deliver its final report.

And, according to reports reaching our newsroom, even after the Inquiry has closed the Commission has been requesting information from Heads of Department in the Public Service.

It is also believed that the CoI was called by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert as a ‘clapback’ to the VI Government who had resisted his attempts at violating the VI Constitution.


Who attended the CARICOM Heads Meeting?


The Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was presided over by the Prime Minister of Belize, the Honourable John A. Briceño.

Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston A. Browne (virtually); Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Honourable Philip E. Davis; Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C; MP; Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr the Rt. Honourable Keith C.I.H. Mitchell; President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali; Prime Minister of Haiti, the Honourable Ariel Henry; Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew M. Holness (virtually); Premier of Montserrat, the Honourable Joseph Easton Taylor-Farrell; Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr the Honourable Timothy S. Harris (virtually); Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, the Honourable Phillip J. Pierre (virtually); and President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines was represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Works, Lands and Physical Planning, the Honourable Montgomery Daniel; Trinidad and Tobago was represented by the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Senator the Honourable Dr Amery Browne.

Associate Members in attendance were: Bermuda represented by the Hon Walter H. Roban Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs; [British] Virgin Islands represented by Deputy Premier, the Honourable Dr Natalio D. Wheatley; and the Turks and Caicos Islands represented by Premier the Honourable Charles W. Misick.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) is seen here arriving in Belize for the 33rd Inter-Sessional Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM.

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