Beautiful Virgin Islands

Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

CARICOM wants UK to remove 'sword of Damocles' over VI

CARICOM wants UK to remove 'sword of Damocles' over VI

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has emphatically called on the British government to remove the "sword of Damocles" over the [British] Virgin Islands (VI) that it says addresses the question of “a potential re-imposition of direct rule” from London.

“We view that as anachronistic and a return to Crown colony government. It is unbecoming of the British government in the third decade of the 21st century to have the sword of Damocles hanging over a free people in this manner,” St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph E. Gonsalves told reporters at the end of the 43rd summit of the CARICOM leaders that ended in Suriname on Tuesday night, July 5, 2022.

'We have to stop this kind of hypocrisy & nonsense'- Dr Ralph E. Gonsalves


“I am quite sure they would see the inconsistency, the hypocrisy, the behaviour of certain persons in the British Parliament and the way things have happened there in relation to the BVI,” Gonsalves said, adding “the book of Mathew tells us you must take the mote out of your eye when you trying to take the beam out of somebody else’s own.

“We have to stop this kind of hypocrisy and nonsense. The British are our friends and we must talk frankly and straightforwardly to our friends on this issue,” Gonsalves added.

'Strong statement of support' for VI


Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister, Fred A. Mitchell Jr said that the CARICOM leaders had issued a ‘strong statement of support” for the VI.

“We were quite forceful in speaking to the British about the whole idea of imposing direct rule on the Virgin Islands. I myself had a meeting, other ministers in the margins of the Summit of the Americas (held in Los Angeles last month) to talk about the BVI and the British have decided that they will not at this point impose direct rule, but they have reserved the possibility of doing so.

VI was built up by VI people


“This, therefore, hangs over BVI like the sword of Damocles and we think that ought to be removed. The people of BVI ought to have an honest fair opportunity to straighten out their own affairs and we think they are capable of doing so,” Mitchell said.

He recalled Gonsalves had earlier indicated that “the wealth which exists in BVI today was actually built up by the population in the BVI.

They constructed it and they have a right to be able to set right whatever went wrong without the interference of an outside power,” he added.

Last month, the Governor of the British Overseas Territory, John J. Rankin, said London had decided against imposing a partial suspension of the VI constitution and has accepted the National Unity Government’s proposal on how to implement the other recommendations outlined in the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report.

He said following discussions, the Government of National Unity submitted a final proposal to the UK Government outlining, with clear timelines, how they will deliver the COI recommendations but without the need for a temporary partial suspension of the Constitution.

“I can inform you …that UK Ministers have agreed to the proposal submitted by the Government of National Unity. The Premier and Government of National Unity have shown the will and commitment to improve governance in the BVI and therefore it is right that elected officials here should have the opportunity to implement the COI recommendations,” the Governor added.

Premier Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) said his government welcomed the UK Ministers’ agreement and that his government will work closely with Rankin, and “in the spirit of partnership with the United Kingdom, to deliver for the people of the Virgin Islands.

“Our success will be the result of doing the hard work of reforming our institutions and systems of Government and engendering a new culture in the handling of the peoples’ business.”

CoI Commissioner recommended direct rule of VI


In the recently released Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report, Commissioner Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom 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.

The Commissioner is also recommending 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 VI to meet their aspirations including those in respect of self-government within the context of a modern democracy.

VI capable of handling its own affairs-CARICOM


CARICOM leaders in May said they had taken note of the release on April 29, 2022, of the CoI Report and “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 said with regards to the BVI, an Associate member of the grouping (CMC).

The Virgin Islands continues to face the threat of suspension of the constitution and being re-colonised by the United Kingdom.


Last month, the Governor of the British Overseas Territory, John J. Rankin, said London had decided against imposing a partial suspension of the VI constitution and has accepted the National Unity Government’s proposal on how to implement the other recommendations outlined in the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report.

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