The BVI’s current COI Act dates back to 1880 and has been repeatedly referenced by the Premier and other government officials as an antiquated law being used to shine a spotlight on the inadequacies of the government.
The Premier said the 131-year-old COI law, as it currently stands, does not allow attorneys to cross-examine their own witnesses or to present their own documents or evidence.
He suggested this was a failure within the legislation itself and was not a result of any rules of the COI or its current commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom.
“You can’t tell us that our other laws and good governance need to improve but you hang on to the one that is antiquated that does not bring democracy and govern us by that,” the Premier said in a weekend interview on ZBVI radio.
He said this is evidence that the BVI’s partnership with the UK requires balance.
According to the Premier, his government wants to ensure that both parties – the UK and BVI – realise a partnership that each can be proud of, coming out of the COI.
He insisted that a COI partnership should also be beneficial to both parties, in that the BVI gets what it needs for its people and the UK gets the improvements they wish to see for the territory.
He also shared that his government has nothing to hide, and said once a shared outcome is achieved by the COI, it will make the territory better.
“We have to look at the very law that calls for the Commission of Inquiry to make sure it’s modernised to allow due process,” the Premier stated.
Established by former governor, Augustus Jaspert, the COI’s purpose is to determine whether there is evidence of corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty that has taken place in public office in recent years, and if so what conditions allowed this to happen. The Commission said this will ensure that BVI’s governance is working fairly and transparently for the people of BVI.
But Premier Fahie has argued strenuously that the BVI can rectify its own failings without a proverbial microscope being directed at its problems for the world to see.
The Commissioner is expected to report his findings and recommendations to the current governor, John Rankin, in mid-January 2022. The COI has repeatedly stated that it is not a court, and therefore it will not make findings of criminality.