The Minister took the opportunity of the virtual Emancipation Service held over the weekend to comment on the matter, which has caused some unease across several sections of society, especially with the inquiry being held despite the upsurge in COVID-19 cases and the associated deaths.
“In addition to disease and natural disasters, we face threats to our ability to determine our destiny,” he said.
He continued: “The UK launched a Commission of Inquiry at a time when all our efforts should have been focused on saving lives and delivering progress for the people. The reality that Prime Minister [Borris] Johnson rejected calls for a CoI in the UK while allowing one to be imposed here speaks to the unequal partnership that exists with our administering power.”
The Minister further said any society placed under a microscope will have its flaws and weaknesses exposed, especially a society that has suffered great neglect and exploitation by its colonizer over hundreds of years.
“The UK, like other societies, is not immune to the alleged deficiencies being scrutinized right here,” the Minister stated.
He then quoted the Guardian Newspaper in the UK published an article titled ‘Under Borris Johnson, corruption is taking hold in Britain.’
“The subtitle reads, ‘cronyism is rife, our system of checks and balances is being dismantled, and ordinary people will soon start to suffer;” stating that while it is just one article, “similar scathing claims can be made of the US, Russia, China and all throughout the world.”
Minister Wheatley said residents must also reject the mentality that the UK should take over for a while in response to the BVI’s weaknesses.
“My people, I reject this mentality with every fibre of my being; let us continue the work of developing our institutions and educating our people. Let us use the tools of democracy, including public forums, responsible journalism, public protests, debate and even elections but let us not surrender to the archaic and colonial tools that the world should have forgotten about long ago, such as takeovers, impose legislation and impose administrators.”
He added, “Let us never forget where we were prior to 1950 with no proper health care, no proper education, no proper infrastructure. It is the advancement of our democracy and our local autonomy which have led to the gains in our society.”
He said persons should not take for granted the standard of living in the BVI that many would hope and dream of because: “As bad as some think we are, we are still attracting people from all over the world who choose to call BVI home. We can’t be that bad.”
The CoI has delved into many touchy subjects such as the controversial BVI Airways deal, the Elmore Stoutt High School perimeter wall project, the Tortola Pier Park Project, as well as the fact that many if not all legislators, both past and present were in breach of the Register of Interest Act.
In the meantime, according to a government press release, the Emancipation Service is held every year on the first Sunday in August and celebrates freedom from colonialism and slavery through prayer and worship.
“The following first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are holidays to celebrate the history and culture of the people with different activities ranging from musical and talent shows to cultural displays of food and games. On August 1, 1834, the Emancipation Act saw the abolition of slavery from Britain,” it further stated.