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Sunday, Dec 04, 2022

Direct rule or Indirect Rule

Direct rule or Indirect Rule

Post the Commission of Inquiry Report, there are only two options for British Virgin Islands governance short term: the next 4 years. There will be either direct rule or indirect rule. Both types will see the UK cabinet and Foreign and Commonwealth Office play an active role in BVI Governance.
It has become evident that for the next 2-5 years there will be either UK Direct Rule or a partnership between the Governor and Premier, with the Governor as Senior Partner: Indirect Rule.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, a new order is already in place with the Governor as Direct Overseer of BVI governance. Better stated, with the UK Governor much more interventionist than in recent decades. In past years, the Governor has played a silent role. However, the Governor has always possessed enormous power: reserve power as the Queen’s Representative in the overseas territory.

The COI report and recommendations has given the Governor the power – albeit not clearly defined- to suspend the constitution and impose Direct Rule at his choosing. Obviously, the Governor will consult the UK Cabinet before taking any such action. That is this writer’s take on current governance and current affairs in the BVI, post the COI Report.

Direct Oversight by the Governor will be equivalent to Indirect Rule. The BVI did not have Indirect Rule, not until after the Governor announced the release of the Commission of Inquiry Report on April 28, after the arrest of the Virgin Islands Premier on drug conspiracy allegations in Miami

The BVI has essentially had self-rule for decades, but with the caveat that the Crown through the Governor has reserve powers to intervene under specific circumstances.

The preceding is what has happened with the allegations of rampant corruption and criminal misconduct in the land, and the consequent COI, and the COI Report and Recommendations.

Suddenly we are all seeing just how powerful the Office of the Governor is.

The BVI is a Territory of Great Britain, and until it is independent, it will be subject to UK Cabinet Oversight through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Now the COI has recommended that ‘one or more independent units be established to conduct needed investigations.’

The Commissioner further stated that ‘steps should be taken to ensure that appropriate measures be used to secure money, land, or other assets, pending the outcome of criminal or civil recovery or confiscation proceedings.’

The Commissioner emphasized the ‘independence, impartiality, and integrity of such a unit as crucial; and that such an office is properly resourced to foster public confidence.’

The establishment of an independent, honest, and scrupulous agency to investigate criminal misconduct in Virgin Islands governance may have prevented the Virgin Islands from being plunged into the constitutional abyss. However, such an agency would have had to be very active to prevent the type of activities that have led the country to this very bad place it finds itself.

The imperative of a powerful check on executive impunity in the Virgin Islands, and democratic countries with a culture of corruption and impunity is the one true guarantor of accountable, transparent, and honest governance, in a free society.

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