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Thursday, Dec 07, 2023

Untrue! I didn’t have option of elections after COI report — Premier

Untrue! I didn’t have option of elections after COI report — Premier

Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has categorically dismissed as “untrue” statements by Governor John Rankin that he (Dr Wheatley) could have called early elections instead of forming the coalition Government of National Unity once the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report was released last year.
Governor Rankin had given that indication last week while dispelling the notion that the only choice left to elected leaders following the COI report’s release was to form the coalition Government of National Unity, as they ultimately did.

But in media statement Monday afternoon, February 20, Dr Wheatley suggested that Rankin’s comment was a means of deflecting criticism directed at him.

“I am highly disappointed by the untrue statement made by Governor John Rankin last week about the Virgin Islands having the option to go to the polls during the crisis. I can only assume that he said this to deflect criticism of him by the person who asked him a related question,” Dr Wheatley stated.

“The Governor knows full well, as he himself has previously said, that the UK Government had to be persuaded not to impose direct rule in the period following his early public release of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) Report on 30th April 2022. Minister Milling who traveled to the Virgin Islands for crisis talks, made it abundantly clear before she left the Territory that she needed an initial commitment by the Government to implement the COI Report recommendations, except A1, because there was very little to time to make a case to UK Ministers not to immediately suspend the constitution,” the Premier added.

He added that it is extremely important for the public to know that from the first day of Minister Milling’s visit right up until the departure of her advisors at the end of that week, discussions were ongoing between UK and BVI officials to persuade Britain not to immediately suspend the constitution.

He said these discussions continued even after the Government of National Unity was sworn in on May 5 last year.

“In fact, we were asked to submit a proposal on implementation of the COI Report Recommendations under continued democratic governance by 6th May, which posed a big challenge for us due to time constraints. We were reminded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that there was precious little time to make the case to then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and UK Ministers to not impose direct rule on the Territory and that an initial proposal by the Government of the Virgin Islands was urgently needed,” Dr Wheatley stated.

“In developing the Framework for Implementation of the COI Report Recommendations and Other Reforms, the UK insisted on including a provision on no early elections. In the final framework document agreed between the Virgin Islands and UK, you can find this provision on page 3 under the section on Cabinet. This is also another reason I am disappointed by the Governor’s statement that there was an option to go to the polls during the crisis,” the Premier added.

He continued: “I want to be clear, the Government of National Unity comprised of the elected representatives of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), National Democratic Party (NDP) and Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM) came together to save democracy in this Territory, which our foreparents worked so hard to achieve. The formation of the Government was welcomed by the UK and seen as the best option to deliver the implementation of the COI Report recommendations through collective responsibility by all the major political parties.

I again want to thank the members of the Government of National Unity for their sacrifice and hard work over the past 10 months.”

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