Beautiful Virgin Islands

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022

VI Gov’t will consider recommendations in CoI report- Premier Fahie

VI Gov’t will consider recommendations in CoI report- Premier Fahie

With the April 2022 deadline for the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in the Virgin Islands (VI) fast approaching, the Government of the Virgin Islands has reiterated that it has no disagreement with a transparent and independent inquiry that will yield a just outcome.

Further, Government has said it will be willing to consider whatever recommendations are made in the CoI report.

Issue was with manner & timing of CoI- Premier

“We continue to stress that we have no disagreement with a transparent and independent Inquiry that will yield a just outcome.

“The issue has been the manner in which the Inquiry was done and the timing of it given the hefty and complex challenges that the Government and our public officers and our people – all our Virgin Islands and residents – had to be dealing with in the middle of COVID-19,” Premier and Minister of Finance Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) stated during a press conference on Friday, March 25, 2022.

The CoI was called by ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who was known to be at loggerheads with Premier Fahie. This was also revealed during the inquiry stage of the CoI, where Premier Fahie detailed that Mr Jaspert was disrespectful and aggressive towards him.

Mr Jaspert then used unsubstantiated reports of irregularities in Government to form a major part of his reason to call a CoI, which was secretly planned by Governor Jaspert and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO now FCDO) and sprung upon the people of the VI.

And while even the United Kingdom (UK) media had knowledge of the CoI, the elected government found out the same time it was announced by Mr Jaspert, on Martin Luther King Day on January 18, 2021.

Many saw the CoI as a ‘parting gift’ and a ‘last lick’ by Mr Jaspert, who exited the VI mere days after the announcement.

The CoI came at a time when the VI and its Government were still reeling from the August 2017 floods, September 2017 devastating hurricanes and then faced with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A CoI was called in the VI in the height of the global pandemic despite the UK putting off its own CoI into its handling of the pandemic, citing it being an ill-opportune time.

CoI has taken an ‘financial & emotional’ on VI

According to Premier Fahie, the imposed CoI has taken a toll on Government financially and has also affected many of its people emotionally, “especially our public officers, in terms of the way that the CoI was initiated and due to the strenuous deadlines with requests for information that were at times very unreasonable.”

Meanwhile, Premier Fahie reasoned that everyone would agree that there is room for systems to be improved, and the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government has been willing and working on improving those systems since it took office.

“Whatever recommendations are made by the CoI report to further improve the systems of Government, we will take them under consideration, and move forward in a manner where there will be no retrograde steps as it relates to the democratic advancement, constitutional advancement, and institutional advancement of the people of the Virgin Islands and the aspirations of our people.”

Moving forward against the tide

The Premier and Minister of Finance said the challenges, including those brought on by the CoI, caused Government to have to adjust the priority on several projects and to redirect millions of dollars towards putting measures in place to address the public health threat and the safety of the people, to protect the economy from catastrophic damage, and to provide for the social needs of the VI people during this very difficult period.

“And just as we had started to see a balance in the situation – where the global travel and tourism industry was beginning to open up a bit more, our investments to help the local businesses to hold on and to stay afloat were generating positive results, and where economic activity was beginning to pick up; especially with the return of the cruise ships and other tourism business – then came the conflict in Ukraine.”

Government has since announced that in an effort to cushion the impacts of the Ukraine crisis on the VI people it will be seeking Cabinet’s approval to have all Customs Duties that are above 5 percent to be lowered to 5 percent.

Further, pending Cabinet’s approval, the import duty on diesel will be reduced by 50 percent – from 22 cents per imperial gallon to 11 cents per imperial gallon and the import duty on gasoline will also be reduced by 50 percent – from 32 cents per imperial gallon to 16 cents per imperial gallon.

The CoI was called by former UK appointed governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert (in photo), who was known to be at loggerheads with Premier Andrew A. Fahie.

Lone Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry in the Virgin Islands Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom is expect to deliver his final report on the CoI in April 2022.


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