BVI escapes direct rule. Government gets chance at reforms

Acting BVI Premier, Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley, MHA. Richardson
New BVI Premier, Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley, MHA. Richardson
For now, London will allow the British Virgin Islands (BVI) government to implement a series of good governance reforms, hold off suspending parts of the constitution, re-imposing direct daily rule, officials said Friday. Britain had threatened to take over national daily affairs in the wake of the arrest in Florida of former Premier Andrew Fahie, Ports Authority head Oleanvine Maynard and her son for allegedly plotting to set up a massive cocaine smuggling ring through the islands on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.
The three were nabbed in April after a protracted federal undercover sting operation. Fahie’s arrest had occurred just hours before British island Governor John Rankin had released a stinging commission of inquiry report on poor governance in the BVI including corruption in state lands, contracts and other forms of malfeasance. The report had recommended a two-year suspension of parts of the constitution allowing for direct daily rule, reverting this back to London.
But Rankin told reporters that rather than rule directly from London, the Boris Johnson administration has decided that it will go along with proposals from the BVI government to enact finance and other reforms in collaboration with Britain. To stave off being governed directly, new Premier Natalio Wheatley and opposition lawmakers quickly formed a national unity government, pledging wholeheartedly to work together locally and in collaboration with London to clean up bad governance practices and begin a new era.
Rankin and Wheatley met reporters jointly to make the announcement. There were real fears of a constitutional suspension along similar lines to the Turks and Caicos in 2008 following a probe that had unearthed widespread corruption and other poor practices. “Last week, following discussions, the government of national unity submitted a final proposal to the UK government outlining, with clear timelines, how they will deliver the commission of inquiry recommendations but without the need for a temporary partial suspension of the constitution. I can inform you this morning that UK ministers have agreed to the proposal submitted by the government,” Rankin said. He also said that authorities had demonstrated clear and strong political will to ensure improvements are made to local systems.
Premier Wheatley had in recent weeks admitted widespread malpractices and has suggested that the formation of a unity government was primarily designed to show London that locals are serious about improving the situation on the island. “It is only with the most anxious consideration that I have been driven to the conclusion that such a suspension (of the constitution) is not only warranted but essential, if the abuses which I have identified are to be tackled and brought to an end. These are abuses against the people of the BVI. If they are allowed to continue, then, in my view, they would put at severe risk steps towards self-determination as a modern democracy to which they are entitled and wish to take,” Rankin argued. If direct rule had been re-imposed, Rankin would have assumed executive powers akin to a premier or chief minister.

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