The tension currently being experienced in the territory has transcended the political sphere to also affect members of civil society who are beginning to speak up about the future they want to see moving forward.
Senior Pastor at the New Life Baptist Church, Bishop John Cline, in an exclusive interview with BVI Platinum News stated that the U.K’s (UK) “historical dealings” in relation to some overseas territories include the suspension of the constitution and the political affairs being directed from the U.K, as demonstrated in the Turks and Caicos Islands case.
He expressed sharp views against a temporary takeover by the U.K despite the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry
Bishop Cline noted that direct UK role had been referred to in a “white paper”, where it was discussed the likelihood of the Virgin Islands
meeting the same fate as Turks and Caicos Islands, which he fervently opposes.
“That would not be an acceptable position…for the U.K to take over. It is not acceptable regardless of the outcome of the CoI
. That should not be acceptable to the U.K and we don’t believe it will acceptable to the people of BVI, nor to the international community,” he reported to BVI Platinum News.
He continued, “When you consider the United Nation’s charter on decolonisation, it constantly pressures these former colonizers to completely release their colonies and we feel that if direct rule occurs, it will be a step back to 1949. So, we do not accept that as one of the recommendations.”
In 1949, over 1,500 Virgin Islanders took to the streets in protest of the political system, and this resulted in significant constitutional developments for the Territory, including the general election in 1950 and the restoration of the Legislative Council.
Bishop Cline also noted that if recommendations are implemented that do not reflect the will of the people of the Government of the Virgin Islands
, it will be considered to be a “high-handed move as a former colonizer, on the part of the U.K. If the current government is a government by the people for the people and of the people, then the people need to be involved”.
Similarly, Dr. Natalio Wheatley, Acting Premier, has expressed his concern about the recommendation emanating from the CoI
report for the officials in U.K to adopt a direct political rule approach in the Virgin Islands
He explained in a statement on April 29th that this would mean in real terms is that there would be no more elected representatives who represent the people of the districts and the Territory in the House of Assembly where laws are made for our society.
His comments are in response to a recommendation proposed in the CoI
report where Governor John Rankin
, a non-elected public official would serve as political leader.
Hon. Wheatley has also expressed that, “there also would be no government ministers to advance the public’s priorities or a cabinet to approve policy. All of this authority would be vested in the Governor”.