Opposition Leader Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) has said he had the opportunity to speak to the Minister for Overseas Territories Lord Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith during his recent visit to the Territory and is optimistic the Order in Council will be lifted, once the Virgin Islands (VI) continues to follow through on implementing the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) recommendations as promised.
The ‘wolf outside the door’
Speaking during a Community Meeting held at Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre in Sea Cows Bay on Thursday, February 16, 2023, Hon Fraser disclosed that he met with Lord Goldsmith on February 1, 2023, and that his number one priority was to impress upon the UK Minister the need for the VI to be relieved from the pressures of being under the Order in Council, which he said gives the Governor the right at any moment to suspend the constitution and impose direct rule.
“It’s like having a wolf outside your door. The door is closed, of course, but that wolf can come through the glass and window every time he wants and no matter how you ask the guy who put the wolf in the yard to move him, and he keeps assuring you that wolf is not going to bother you, one thing you know for sure is you cannot go out in the yard.
“And that’s where we are right now,” Hon Fraser stated.
‘We can be trusted’- Hon Fraser
He said he told the Minister that this Territory has just celebrated 189 years of emancipation from one of the most heinous conditions an individual can be placed under, which was slavery, and he also told him that the VI was just in the process of celebrating 72 years of the restoration of the legislature and was experiencing the joys of having an elected legislature in the territory.
The Opposition Leader said he let Lord Goldsmith know that the people of the Virgin Islands
have been footing their own bills ever since the VI came out of Grant-in Aid in 1978, and matters didn’t get any better for them when the United States decided to dissolve the treaty on double taxation.
“So what did we do? We did not fold. We got ourselves involved in financial services in 1984. We have never defaulted on a debt. So no matter how anyone would tell you we need to have that Order in Council as a means of insurance, a guarantee that we are going to follow through on the recommendations that we promised that we are going to settle, I said no we don’t need it. We are not a group of untrustworthy people. We can be trusted. We are people who have proven ourselves over time.
Hon Fraser said the VI’s financial services, up until he met Lord Goldsmith on February 1, was sound despite all the threats and the onerous regulations the EU and the OECD have been placing on it. He said the local legislature has passed every piece of legislation that was necessary to ensure the VI was compliant.
“So it’s not as if we are a bunch of rogues out there that no one can trust. We don’t need to have an Order in Council hanging over our head in order for us to deliver on promises that we have made.”
Hon Fraser disclosed that Lord Goldsmith asked him how he would explain that only 12 of the 48 CoI
recommendations have been delivered upon so far.
“I said that is not a fair assessment, because those 12 of the 48 were done during the time we were setting up, because the implementation team had to be set up, had to be formed. Watch what’s going to happen after that period. And there was consensus with what I said. He understood and his team understood.
“I think what you going to see though is some UK folks coming under the guise of working under the implementation of the plan, those 48 recommendations.”
The pressure is ‘untenable’
Hon Fraser lamented that the Government has been under pressure and is still under pressure. “That is not the position that we want to be in. We want to find ourselves in a place where we can operate freely as we have in the past, serve our people freely and I think that time is coming, as you heard the Governor said that elections are coming soon.”
He said there will be a next Government and the only thing they have to do is make sure they follow through on the implementation of CoI
“But the kind of pressure that this government is under is untenable. We have to get out from under it.”
Hon Fraser said he asked Lord Goldman to use his influence and his good office to have the Order in Council reversed.
“So we can look to see something happening as longs as we can ensure we are going to meet those deadlines going forward and show the seriousness that the Unity Government put forward in order to have the Order not implemented.”
‘We too want to see reforms through’- Lord Goldsmith
Lord Goldsmith, in a statement on February 3, 2023, had said he was aware of the feelings of Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) surrounding the Order in Council and that of the people.
"We too want to see these reforms seen through, such that the Order can be lifted."
Lord Goldsmith had also said he will continue to support the [British] Virgin Islands, both in the next few months and after the general election, in taking these reforms forward "so that we can realise the Premier's vision of the BVI as a beacon of democracy.”
Lord Goldsmith, in a statement on
February 3, 2023, had said he was aware of the feelings of Premier and
Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7)
surrounding the Order in Council and that of the people and that ‘We too
want to see these reforms seen through, such that the Order can be
Deputy Speaker and Territorial At Large
Representatives Hon Neville A. Smith makes a contribution to the
discussion at the community meeting at Valerie O. Thomas Community
Centre in Sea Cows Bay on February 16, 2023.