British Virgin Islands

Friday, Sep 24, 2021

CARICOM looking on with 'concern' @ CoI in VI

CARICOM looking on with 'concern' @ CoI in VI

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which the Virgin Islands (VI) is an Associate Member, has been paying attention to the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) sponsored by the United Kingdom (UK) and continues to express concerns.

The regional body has issued a statement on the VI as part of their communique at the conclusion of the 42nd Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government from July 5-6, 2021.

According to the CARICOM statement, it is concerned that the CoI may be preventing the democratically elected government from effectively carrying out its constitutional responsibilities.

According to the statement, “The Caribbean Community has noted the ongoing Commission of Inquiry in the British Virgin Islands announced in January 2021, backed by the UK Government. It notes with concern some indication that the democratic political institutions in the British Virgin Islands have not been allowed to fully perform their constitutional functions.

CoI accused of disrespecting Constitution & HoA


Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Julian Willock has blasted the Commission as having no regards for the constitution and the House of Assembly.

He said the lone Commissioner Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom violated parliamentary sovereignty, norms, traditions, convention and the rule of law by asking Honourable members to appear before him on dates the House was scheduled to have Sittings despite being told about the schedule.

“Even today many of our Members are not attending this workshop because again they are asked to appear before him on, the day of a Parliamentary activity after we told him in advance of this event,” Hon Willock said at the opening of the Virgin Islands Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Members Training on Monday, June 14, 2021.

VI Gov’t urged to take a pause from CoI


Meanwhile, host of the Honestly Speaking Radio Programme on ZBVI 780 AM, Mr Claude O. Skelton Cline has said the Government of the Virgin Islands is completely sidetracked and distracted from the core business of doing the people's work, especially as it relates to this COVID-19 global pandemic.

There are currently 558 active cases in the territory and while the numbers have been rising the CoI continues as normal, even as the UK Government has dodged an inquiry into its own handling of the pandemic, citing it being an ill opportune time due to the global pandemic.

According to Skelton-Cline the eyes of government “are not on the ball, not because they don't want to, but because there is an obsession, a preoccupation of efforts and energies that is being expended to the CoI.

“And one of the reasons why I believe and this is Claude Skelton Cline speaking that we are in the predicament that we are in today is because our guys and gals eyes are not on the ball, and might I add, we as a people, our eyes are not on the ball either. Because we are so busy obsessing with the mele and the salaciousness and the gossip of stuff we already know but is coming out through the CoI, that we aren't even paying attention to what's happening to our country, we are not paying attention to what's happening to each other."

The clergyman argued that the government should write to Mr Dominic R. Raab, the UK Foreign Secretary for the Overseas Territories, informing the UK that effective immediately they are suspending cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry.

He said this is until the VI can get their heads and hands around the ongoing challenges of this pandemic.

CARICOM dismayed @ manner CoI was established


Meanwhile, CARICOM also said it recalls its dismay as expressed at its Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting held in February 2021, “at the manner in which the Commission of Inquiry was established with no consultation, or prior communication, between the UK government and the duly-elected government of the BVI.”

According to the statement, as a Region committed to democracy, transparency and the rule of Law, the Caribbean Community salutes the full cooperation of the Government of the VI with the Commission of Inquiry.

“Heads of Government urge that every effort be made to ensure that the constitutional functions to be carried out by the Government can be undertaken without hindrance. They look forward to an early conclusion of a COI that will lead to a just outcome.”

Deputy Premier Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) attended the meeting on behalf of Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1).

CARICOM family standing with VI- Dr Wheatley


Commenting on the outcome, Dr Wheatley said, “This was a very important CARICOM meeting that covered many issues facing the region, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, tourism, financial services and other matters. It is a difficult time for the Caribbean and we stand in solidarity with our neighbours as a part of the CARICOM family, just as they are standing with us here in the BVI during our period of challenge.”

Heartened by solidarity expressed- Premier


Commenting on the CARICOM statement on the VI, Premier Fahie said,“I am heartened by the solidarity expressed by CARICOM. As the regional body that stands up for democratic values, human rights and the rule of law across the Caribbean and beyond, they want the BVI constitution to be respected and for self-governance to be upheld and maintained. We will remain engaged with CARICOM and keep them updated on our situation.”

The Deputy Premier was joined by Financial Secretary Mr Jeremiah Frett, Assistant Secretary for External Affairs Ms Dwynel Davis and Special Envoy of the Premier Mr E. Benito Wheatley.

Deputy Premier Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), in photo, attended the CARICOM meeting on behalf of Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1).

Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Julian Willock, left, has blasted the Commissioner of Inquiry Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom, right, as having no regards for the constitution and the House of Assembly.

CARICOM said it recalls its dismay as expressed at its Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting held in February 2021, ‘at the manner in which the Commission of Inquiry was established with no consultation, or prior communication, between the UK government and the duly-elected government of the BVI.’

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