It was the FCDO and ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert who allegedly collaborated with the UK press to announce the CoI to the VI and the rest of the world.
The CoI was schemed without the knowledge of the elected Government who was caught off guard and was unable to counter in a timely manner the negative international press that immediately came with the CoI announcement on Martin Luther King Day, January 18, 2021.
There is growing concern that the CoI, apart from being a demonstration of colonialism and ‘governance in the abstract’, is already a written conclusion.
Former United Kingdom Attorney General and attorney for the Executive branch of the Virgin Islands Government, Sir Charles Geoffrey Cox QC also raised concerns about the FCDO’s involvement in the CoI and the lack of local involvement.
Sir Geoffrey, speaking during submissions on Day 5 of hearings by the Commission on Thursday, May 13, 2021, at the International Arbitration Centre on Wickham’s Cay II, Tortola, stated: “May I again be candid. I see you looking, how shall I put it? This is not an attack.
“These are statements of fact. The office that you've [the Commission] set up for your Inquiry was in the Foreign Office. The server that your Inquiry is using is a Foreign Office server. The Foreign Office is a joint Data Controller of the data that you're collecting, which returns to the United Kingdom. Mr [Steven] Chandler, your Secretary, is a Foreign Office secondee. I'm sorry, but these are realities which your Inquiry needs to be sensitive to.”
He pointed out that it is well known that there is wariness about the UK Foreign Office since in the past it has “also resorted to other means by which to gain their objectives inside the overseas territories.”
Sir Geoffrey added that while he was not casting aspersions on the Inquiry, “I am submitting that what it needed is an understanding and an embrace of the voice of the local institutions in a manner that is cooperative and helps us make that voice heard. Otherwise, it will, I submit, lack public confidence in certain quarters.”
According to Secretary of the Commission Steven Chandler, via a press statement today, June 3, 2021, the CoI has revised its Privacy Notice to reflect the fact that for the purposes of applicable UK data protection legislation, the CoI is the sole data controller of the data it collects and holds.
The Commission also claimed that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO’s) role is restricted to providing IT infrastructure (with its sub-processors) to the CoI and that such has been the case since the CoI was established.
“The FCDO’s role throughout has thus been as a data processor,” the Commission claimed.
It also said that at the hearing yesterday the lone Commissioner Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom reiterated that his is an independent inquiry and that as the sole “data controller” under UK data protection law, the CoI exercises overall control over the purposes and means of the processing of personal data.
According to the Commission, a ‘data processor’ under UK data protection law cannot decide what to do with personal data and that all personnel who process data on behalf of the CoI only do so on instructions from the CoI and owe a duty of confidentiality to the Commissioner.
“Throughout the course of his inquiry, the Commissioner has ensured that all information provided to him is held securely. The IT systems used by the CoI have been robustly tested to ensure they meet the required standards of data security.
“Those who have made contact with the CoI or who wish to do so or to submit information to it can continue to do so in the knowledge that any information provided will continue to be held securely and safely,” the Commission stated.