CARICOM opposes British moves in BVI

Natalio Wheatley
New BVI Premier, Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley, MHA. Richardson

All 15 Caribbean Community governments Wednesday said they opposed moves by London to re-impose direct daily rule in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in the wake of the recent arrest of Premier Andrew Fahie in Florida on suspected drug trafficking charges and in the aftermath of a 900-page report detailing poor governance and corruption in the archipelago near Puerto Rico.

The bloc of nations called a recommendation in a commission of inquiry report to suspend the constitution, handing over powers to British Governor John Rankin and away from the local cabinet as a “retrograde step.” The bloc also claimed that Britain’s history of colonial rule “was never intended to deliver democratic governance or to be an instrument of economic and social development of our countries and peoples. CARICOM supports the BVI government and people in their objection to this recommendation,” a statement said. The direct rule recommendation is for two years according to the report.

The report was released just hours after Fahie and ports authority head Oleanvine Maynard and son Kadeem were nabbed by federal agents on charges that they were allegedly plotting with Mexican drug cartel operatives to protect an international cocaine smuggling ring through BVI ports. Fahie is expected in court later Wednesday.

The report stated that “with limited exceptions, governance in areas under the control of government ministers is, at best, very poor, with principles such as openness and transparency not simply absent, but positively shunned. Proper procedures, checks, and balances are absent, or patently inadequate, or ignored or bypassed.” It also noted that since November 2020, the police force has recovered over 3.6 tons of cocaine, with an estimated street value higher than the annual BVI GDP. It is thought that huge quantities of drugs pass through the BVI undetected. There is also substantial evidence that, despite efforts such as those described briefly above, BVI companies are regularly used in the laundering of colossal amounts of illicit funds.”

The statement from the bloc came hours after locals in the BVI staged protests against direct rule, with acting Premier Natalio Wheatley calling the recommendation appalling

“We have the strong belief that the people of the Virgin Islands are capable of working collaboratively with the United Kingdom to implement agreed recommendations of the inquiry report,” Wheatley said in a social media posting at the weekend. “We are preparing proposals towards this end. The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at reforming and strengthening the systems of government in the Virgin Islands. In my view, this can be achieved without the partial or full suspension of the constitution in which direct rule would apply.”

Also coming out against the recommendation was the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a sub-grouping of the wider CARICOM bloc.

It made it clear that “it is ill-advised to impose direct colonial rule and the history of such imposition in the Caribbean has never delivered the desired result. The OECS concurs with the elected representatives of the people of the BVI that abolition of parliament with direct rule from London represents a retrograde step in the evolution of the democratic process that is inconsistent with the United Nations proclamation of human rights to be free of colonial rule,” the seven-nation body said in a statement.

Made up of a string of islands, the BVI is a well known international tax haven, a hangout destination for American and European retirees and rakes in millions from tourism. Its population is estimated at 35,000.

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