Opposition Leader Julian Fraser has argued that legislation imposed by the United Kingdom (UK) on the BVI is not always best for the territory’s residents.
Fraser was speaking at a community meeting in his district last week, where the issue of the controversial Police Bill was raised by residents. The Bill was withdrawn by lawmakers after sections of the proposed revised Act again attracted major concerns and public backlash.
Fraser commented that the United Kingdom had previously imposed “imperial legislation“ on the territory when members of the House of Assembly (HOA) declined to move forward with a bill on capital punishment, that was brought by a previous governor.
“We just refused to lift the death penalty but the British government said, well, it’s out of step with the norm, for the time that we are living in, and they will do it. And they did it,” Fraser explained.
However, the Third District Representative pointed out at the same time that the UK, through the governor, cannot simply pass any law it wishes without the agreement of the HOA. He said the governor can only pass a law on his own in the BVI – as per section 81 of the constitution, which speaks to the governor’s reserved powers – in instances where there are foreign implications.
According to Fraser, as far as imperial legislation is concerned, there are some laws that even he, as a legislator, would not touch. He cited the example of the Register of Interests (ROI) Act which was brought to the HOA by the governor in the wake of the Commission of Inquiry
) report. That Bill was withdrawn and revised by lawmakers before being passed after it saw pushback from civil servants.
Fraser implored fellow lawmakers that they too should not touch certain legislation brought by the UK. “If the British government wants [the laws], let them put them on us,” he stated.
You cannot know what’s best for me
In the meantime, Fraser argued that he considered himself a member of the community and just the same as ordinary residents who would ultimately be affected by any laws imposed by the UK.
“No matter how you talk to the British government about the people of the territory and what’s best for them, they always think that they know better — what’s best for you,” Fraser argued.
The Opposition Leader told residents that he explained this to UK Overseas Territories Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith in correspondence he exchanged when Lord Goldsmith visited the territory recently.
“I know you [Lord Goldsmith] and everyone else will be telling us that … they only want to do what’s best for the people of the Virgin Islands
,” Fraser said. “But I said to him, how can you know when we are the same people you’re talking about what’s best for? You cannot know what’s best for me.”
He continued: “If I say this is best for us, I can’t see somebody else coming from somewhere else telling me that something else is better for us.”