British Virgin Islands

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2021

Premier Appears Before CoI

Premier Appears Before CoI

With several top public servants as well as well-known figures such as businesswoman Patsy Lake being summoned to testify before Commissioner Gary Hickinbottom in the ongoing UK-backed Commission of Inquiry (CoI), it was Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie’s turn to do the same.
Messages to Premier Fahie yesterday went unanswered, but Secretary to the Commission Steven Chandler confirmed to BVI Platinum News that the territory’s leader was grilled yesterday, May 18.

“Premier Fahie did give evidence today to the Commissioner,” he said to our query.

He added: “A transcript of the hearing will be published on the CoI’s website in due course.”

When asked the reason why the Premier’s hearing was not streamed live, Chandler pointed to the reasons in previous Press Notices of the CoI.

The Premier had been advocating for hearings to be live-streamed in the interest of transparency.

In Commissioner Hickinbottom’s opening statement on May 4, he said: “In respect of documents which have been produced, various Ministers through the Attorney General have reserved their position on whether information and documents they have produced – and are continuing to produce – may be made available to the public.”

He continued: “Consequently, some of the initial hearings will be held in private; so that, if there is a reference to information or documents in respect of which privilege or confidentiality is maintained, such issues can be considered before the relevant material is made public.”

He, however, explained that at each hearing, having heard any submissions on the point, he would determine whether the hearing (or part of it) needs to be kept private; or whether it can properly be made public and, if so, how.

“I have well in mind both the understandable interest that the public has in the CoI, and the importance of the principles of transparency and openness. However, in respect of a private hearing such as this, until I make a declaration that the hearing (or part of it) can be made public in some way, everything that occurs at the hearing will remain strictly confidential. Everyone involved in the hearing is subject to the obligation of confidentiality.’

The Commissioner further stated that unless and until he declares otherwise, no one is allowed to publicise any part of it in any way.

“If there is any such publicity, then I can – and usually will – investigate the cause of the leak and take appropriate action against anyone who has caused or facilitated the breach of confidence. Further, it is important that I emphasise that no recordings can be made of any hearing – public or private – save for the authorised recording that I am causing to be made. A transcript will be made of each hearing. If the hearing is private, then a transcript may be provided to participants on the basis of a confidentiality undertaking. If a hearing is public – or if I direct that a private hearing be made public – then the default position will be that the relevant transcript will be posted on the COI website.”

The CoI is probing allegations of corruption, intimidation and the like in public office and other statutory bodies in the Territory in the past few years.

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