Premier Andrew Fahie was called before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) today, October 21, to explain why Cabinet made that decision.
He replied stating that the matter was not simple and straightforward as it may seem. He further said Cabinet heavily considered the issue, especially because the person in question lived in the BVI all their life and knows nowhere else.
“The larger question which was a discussion [we had] is how do you eliminate persons for life that made a mistake when they were young?. When would they ever be [eligible again] … The law as far as we were looking is silent on that aspect of it,” the Premier explained.
He added: “It was not just a cut and dry case … When does the good character start? Do they have to be of ‘good character’ all their life without any blemish?”
News that the convicted felon was granted residency became public recently when the COI questioned Immigration Minister Vincent about the irregularity.
“So it appears to be that you have an application where someone has a criminal record. The [Immigration] Board says ‘we can’t recommend it because of Section 18(1a) and the need for a good character’. And Cabinet then decides not to accept that recommendation. In fact, [it] decides to grant a Certificate of Residence,” COI counsel, Bilal Rawat told the Minister when he appeared.
“What’s the basis on which Cabinet can make that decision?” Rawat asked.
According to Minister Wheatley, whose response was made through attorney Edward Risso-Gill on his behalf, even though members of Cabinet were aware of the individual circumstances of the offender, they considered it was nevertheless appropriate to grant a Certificate of Residence.
Meanwhile, Governor John Rankin, who chaired the Cabinet meeting in question, said he was appalled by the decision when he appeared before the COI recently.
“The Board of Immigration had made a clear recommendation that a Certificate of Residency not be granted in this instance,” Governor Rankin said.
According to Rankin, one of the offences committed by the applicant was not a minor offence and he made it very clear in Cabinet that in light of this, the recommendation of the Board should be followed.
He told the COI that he thought it was a very poor decision as it was contrary to the criteria which would normally be applied and contrary to the recommendation of the Board.
The Governor conceded that the decision was left to Cabinet’s discretion and ultimately they had the final say.