The Territory’s Constitutional review, which was due in 2017, but was derailed by hurricane Irma, is expected to commence next year.
This announcement was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie both in a statement he delivered on the Anniversary of the 1949 Demonstration and in the budget address that was delivered on November 19.
The matter of Constitutional reform became a trending topic in the Territory last year May when thousands of Virgin Islanders and residents took to the streets in a sign of opposition to UK’s decision to impose public registers of company beneficial ownership.
The residents marched to the Governor’s residence with placards stating “end colonial rule,” and “I want to rule my destiny.”
At that time the Constitutional review were already due and the UK’s decision seemed to galvanize the Territory to consider what changes are to be made for the Territory's future relationship with the UK.
The then government announced that efforts will be made to move forward with the process; and the now Premier is announcing that the process will soon commence.
In his address on Sunday November 24 in observance of the Anniversary Of the 1949 Demonstration, the Premier used the opportunity to provide an update on the pending constitutional matter. The BVI Leader said, “People of the BVI, I acknowledge the desire of our forefathers that we would be able, today, to govern our internal affairs. Hence provisions are made in this 2020 Budget to request the commissioning of a Constitutional Review.”
The Premier pointed out that an allocation of finance is being made for the process.
Hon. Fahie said, “Today as we gather here to present the Budget Address for these Virgin Islands, I acknowledge the desire of our forefathers that we would be able, today, to govern our internal affairs. Hence provisions are made in this 2020 Budget to request the commissioning of a Constitutional Review.”
This is not the first time since he has taken office that the Premier has mentioned that government will be pushing forward with the constitutional review. The most recent of the previous mentions was on September 3 while the Premier was a guest on the Honestly Speaking With Claude Skelton-Cline radio talk show. In that discussion Hon. Fahie disclosed that opinions on the long overdue Constitutional review would be garnered at an informal meeting of the House of Assembly that was to be held within a short time of his announcement.
In mentioning plans for the informal meeting and Constitutional review, Hon. Fahie said, “We are going to be having an informal meeting very soon of the members of the House; and that is going to be one of the things on the agenda -- in terms of the Constitutional Review because the time is now to push for that.”
“Our aim is at least by the end of September to name a chairman for the Constitutional Review and also to get input from the other members in terms of the makeup of the membership. Also, what the target points are going to be in terms of what we are looking for towards the Constitutional Review, because the time is now,” the Premier said.
Meanwhile, Hon. Fahie pointed out that the review of the Constitution is not expected to be done overnight.
“It is important to know that a Constitutional review of these Constitution go beyond the life of a sitting government. It is not a political Constitution, this is a Constitution for the people of the Virgin Islands, so the input of the entire Virgin Islands would be sought in terms of the areas of the Constitution that we need to improve upon.”
Oversight and transparency seem to be areas that will be looked at during the Constitutional review process.
In making that disclosure Hon. Fahie said, “How do we improve upon the accountability and transparency, not only of elected officials, but of Governors and also how do we make sure that we continue to strengthen our self-governance in a way. We are not talking independence, but that we make sure that we continue to show that we are continuing to mature.”
Prior to that the Premier announced during the Questions and Answers segment of the July 25 sitting of the House of Assembly that the review will be bipartisan.
“These types of exercises transcends politics and political party lines. Hence, we will need “all hands on deck” for an initiative such as this. Upon completion of the informal House meeting with all 13 elected officials of the House of Assembly, then a formal announcement will be made on the way forward and the time frames envisaged,” he noted.