The government said in a statement yesterday evening that all the documents it provided to the COI are accessible by the governor in unredacted form and could be supplied by the Commission to the governor immediately and without any change.
“It is understandable that the Commissioner wishes to prepare a report in publishable form, but it is also surprising that the Commission should complain about delays in ministerial indications about which parts of thousands of pages of documents should be withheld for good reasons such as national security,” the government’s statement read.
The government recalled that Inquiry Commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom, had said on October 22 that in recognising the scale of the task, he would let ministers know which documents he would quote or rely on in his report.
“Despite requests from the Attorney General on 25 November 2021 and 2 December 2021, as well as on 30 December 2021, this has yet to be done,” the government further noted.
It continued: “The ministers are anxious to enable as full and fast publication of relevant documents as possible and expect, as they have already promised, to be able to obtain Cabinet consent for any redactions which are needed within 10 days of being informed by the COI which documents they should be looking at.”
“Therefore, if this is really the only issue causing this delay, then notification by the Commissioner about those documents on 4th January 2022 would still enable the Report to be published by the previous 19 January 2022 deadline.”
The government then noted that it continues to seek to co-operate with the COI in every way possible but said, “it is regrettable that this further delay in the process, which already consumed very considerable amounts of government time and resources in 2021, means that there will be further calls on these well into 2022 – and further unnecessary harm may continue to be done in the meantime to the reputation of these islands”.
Earlier this week, Governor John Rankin announced he had informed the Premier that he had granted the COI an extension to April 2022 to enable the Commissioner and his team to prepare and deliver his final report.
The governor said he believed it is right that this process is completed carefully and methodically to ensure that a complete report is delivered into the areas of concern that the COI is addressing.
He mentioned good governance is paramount to the success of any country, and he remains committed to supporting the COI in helping to achieve this for the Virgin Islands.
According to the governor, the extension is because of what he indicated to be the large volume of documents the COI must comb through to deliver the final report.