According to reports, the objection to direct rule is a position shared by many in the Virgin Islands as they believe the VI has worked without much UK help to develop its economy and democracy for the UK to now return and setback the territory by decades with the suspension of the 70-year-old VI constitution.
According to Pastor Hugh B. Thomas of the God’s House of Prayer in East End, Tortola, the UK should work with the democratically elected government to fix the issues identified in the CoI Report, rather than just impose direct rule.
“A period of grace should be given, a period in which now that we [UK] have shown you your shortcomings we give you a period of time to fix it, and if you don’t then we will intervene and fix it,” Pastor Thomas told Virgin Islands News Online.
According to the CoI Report, serious dishonesty may have taken place in Government and by Members of the House of Assembly (HoA) over recent years.
It further stated that unless the most urgent and drastic steps are taken, the current situation with elected officials deliberately ignoring the tenets of good governance will go on indefinitely.
It noted that the people of the BVI deserve better and that the UK Government owes them an obligation to protect them from such abuses and assist them to achieve their aspirations for self-government as a modern democratic state.
The CoI Report also suggested that the continuation of the current situation will adversely affect those aspirations and that the only way in which the relevant issues can be addressed is for there to be a temporary partial suspension of the constitution.
The CoI Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom, a UK national who was handpicked by the controversial former governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert to head the CoI, recommended dissolution of the House of Assembly and the cessation of Ministerial Government for an initial period of two years.
It was also recommended that a Governor-led administration, with such assistance as the Governor considers appropriate, be put in place.
According to Pastor Thomas, it would be “wrong to just suspend the constitution.”
Similar sentiments have been shared by clergyman Bishop John I. Cline, who has always said there must be other options on the way forward.
‘My position stands, we do not believe that direct rule is necessary, we don’t believe its advantageous to the country as a whole, we believe that it contradicts the UN Charter and Convection for Decolonisation, we believe that it takes us back to 1949 where we had to march and fight for our own autonomy,” Bishop Cline said on April 28, 2022.
According to him, there are ways to achieve the recommendations in the ‘document’ (CoI report), which do not result in the suspension of the local constitution.
“It is our firm belief, mine and others that we can work hand-in-hand with the United Kingdom to achieve the best possible outcomes for the BVI.”
The Virgin Islands Acting Premier Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), along with political leaders in the Opposition, is scheduled to discuss the CoI recommendations with Minister of Overseas Territories Hon Amanda A. Milling on Monday, May 2, 2022.
Dr Wheatley also holds the view that direct rule should not be imposed, as the VI Government is willing to work with the UK to address the issues outlined in the CoI Report.
Popular local clergyman Bishop John I. Cline has said there must be other options, other than direct UK rule, on the way forward for the [British] Virgin Islands.